Politicizing Disability – The How and the Why

I find the New York Times “disability” column on lives and identities, all written by disabled people, important and fascinating. It’s created a silo for disability on the page, which is better than no place at all, but still shows a lack of more systematic engagement with disability rights. But the NYT byline is a good one, and every disabled writer should try to place a piece there, if they have the energy.

Yesterday they ran one on politicizing disability. There’s a lot of good in it. Like many others, it says don’t focus on the Kovaleski incident, but move on to policy. The author then writes:

In addition to greater participation in the public sphere, true progress for citizens with disabilities will require a willingness to confront the issues head-on, even when — especially when — citizens disagree on competing solutions. We must politicize disability — not in the cable-news, grandstanding kind of way, but in the term’s more formal sense.

I think about this a lot. There are lots of disabled folks and their families who voted for Trump – millions of them.  And of course every Trump voter will, if they are lucky, become disabled in time. Disability intersects with other forms of identity, ableism intersects with other forms of oppression, but neither is like the other forms of identity or oppression.

Which is to say rich white Republicans also have to address disability in their lives. Politicizing disability is a good idea.

Where the piece falls down, as many were saying on Twitter yesterday, is the how. I know, as well as anyone, the limitations of the op-ed form. No single essay can do everything. But there are a lot of folks deeply engaged in the how. For me, I focus on “Crip the Vote,” because I know the folks running it, but there are lots and lots of others.

So let’s get to the how.

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