Although the disability community has often found itself neglected as politicians rattle off the constituencies they care about—we call this ABD for “all but disability”—a growing shift on the progressive side of the aisle has started to take shape, resulting in a more inclusive table being set as policy agendas are decided. This is thanks in large part to the leadership of ADAPT and other disability activists who worked to preserve disability rights in the Affordable Care Act.
At the same time, we are seeing the GOP move in the other direction, away from what people with disabilities need to live and thrive in society. President Trump’s budget is just the latest example of that. If enacted, these policy decisions will have a devastating long-term impact on the one-in-three families that include people with disabilities, a category that encompassed one in every four adults.
But first, the good news: Legislators, including Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sens. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), made history with their inclusion of “long-term services and supports” provisions in their Medicare for All proposals. Long-term services and supports, which were also a significant feature in the Center for American Progress’ Medicare Extra for All proposal, ensure that people with disabilities can access what they need to live in the community. As proposed, they would be integrated into the mainstream health-care system, not included as a segregated system like Medicaid currently does.
On the democracy front, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced HR 1, the For the People Act, a clarion call to expand democracy. With the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reporting significant access issues at polling places around the country, this legislation would establish automatic voter registration and increase funding for accessible registration materials and training of poll workers to ensure the rights of voters with disabilities are upheld.
Meanwhile, the civil rights of parents with disabilities take center stage with the Child Care for Working Families Act introduced last month by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). This legislation acknowledges that while we know child care is inaccessible and unaffordable for the average family, the impact is exponentially greater for families that include parents or children with disabilities. Knowing the disproportionate levels of poverty faced by the disability community, Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Reps. DeLauro and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) introduced the American Family Act of 2019, which could result in more than 4 million children escaping poverty.