Americans are fortunate to live in the U.S.A. where we determine who our leaders are and who represent us. As with every election, there are those who are cheering and those who are mourning. We need to give each other time for celebration, mourning, and reconciliation.
That said, the peaceful and respectful transfer of presidential power, divisions of governmental authority, and legislative processes resulting in checks and balances have historically poised America to be a true role model of democracy, given its imperfections. Winston Churchill proclaimed, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
I take this opportunity, on behalf of Yad HaChazakah-The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center to help to put closure on this very contentious election season and to acknowledge and bless each candidate.
Hillary Clinton, the Jewish disability community deeply appreciates all your work to advance our interests. You have evidenced your commitment to weaving people with disabilities into the fabric of American life by:
1. Leading efforts to guarantee a free and appropriate education for students with disabilities.
2. Ensuring that people with preexisting conditions are not barred from acquiring health care insurance.
3. Advancing long-term care initiatives and disability access to polling places and voting machines.
4. Prominently showcasing people with disabilities during your campaign and our issues on your agenda among other initiatives.
May you continue to attend to and remedy the concerns of those who are not yet seen or heard.
President-Elect Donald Trump, we congratulate you on your election to the post of President of the United States. You bring new energy, vision, and ideas to the position. That said and as you know, it's an awesome responsibility where you consistently need to review your vision and guiding principles in light of new facts, information, and understandings.
People with disabilities have fought long and hard and continue to fight to be recognized in and contribute to America. In order to contribute to this great Country, we rely on laws and regulations to ensure that we can enter and use public spaces; be employed based upon our knowledge, merits and talents; participate in the education system; and access services, such as long-term care and other community supports via the Medicaid system.
Now that you are in the highest American public office, please:
1. Personally converse with disability leaders and members of the disability community.
2. Acquire a deep understanding of our issues and history.
3. Ensure equal access and opportunities for Americans with disabilities by protecting and advancing disability-related laws and regulations.
4. Make it possible for all Americans with disabilities to easily acquire access to necessary government-funded community-based supports and services regardless of personal income and resources.
5. Publically recognize the disability community as a defined constituency that matters to you and tell us how people with disabilities are part of your vision for America.
6. May you and your administration be blessed with the receptiveness and wisdom necessary to ensure that people with disabilities are valued threads in the American fabric.
Sharon Shapiro-Lacks, Founding Executive Director of Yad HaChazakah – The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center, Inc., envisions Jewish communities where people with obvious or hidden disabilities are sought and valued for the strengths they bring. In her vision, leaders and community members will want to improve physical, communication, and attitudinal access to shuls, yeshivas, batei midrash, workplaces, shops, and family life — not only for the benefit to specific individuals, but also for the enrichment of entire communities. She has worked in the disability policy and human services arenas for over 25 years.