There is so much at stake for our country on November 8th—and for me, as a mom of a thirteen-year-old son with severe autism and intellectual disabilities, I will enter the voting booth knowing that the outcome of this election affects the policy that will be in place when my son transitions from the protection of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that will last through age 21 to the time when he becomes an adult in need of housing, job coaching and ongoing therapy supports that are not mandated by a national law. In Pennsylvania, where we live, there is currently a waiting list of over 13,000 people with intellectual disabilities in our state who need supports. While we push our son to learn as many life skills as possible, it is also clear that he will need supports for his entire life. While my husband and I are pro-active about planning for our son’s future, we are also keenly aware that we need public policy that honors the dignity of and provides supports for people with disabilities in order for our son to have the meaningful life that we dream of for him.
While many Americans express their ambivalence about Hillary Clinton, I am an emphatic supporter, based on her experience, plans and policy history. I am thankful that she comes to this election with a track record that has consistently supported disability rights. Here are 5 of my reasons that Hillary has my vote:
1. Her autism plan: The Center Disease Control now cites that 1 in 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism. This decade alone, there will be 500,000 people with autism leaving the school system at age 21 (my son will be one of them).To date, there is no national plan for supports for these individuals. Hillary Clinton is the first politician propose a comprehensive autism plan, focused on screening and supports for children through adults.
2. Her support of the Affordable Care Act: During last Sunday’s Town Hall debate, I was following the hashtag #cripthevote and reading an outpouring of fearful reactions from people with disabilities in response to Donald Trump’s disavowal of the Affordable Care Act. “Before ObamaCare, I couldn’t get the seizure medication that I needed…” one person tweeted. I relate. I am a person living with Type 1 diabetes, a breast cancer survivor and mom of son who has autism. My family is not alone—1 in 2 Americans has some kind of diagnosis that equates to a pre-existing condition. If the Affordable Care Act isn’t protected, all of us are vulnerable.
3. Her experience: I don’t look at years working in politics as a negative thing—it is clear to me that Hillary Clinton knows how get things done. From the time that Clinton graduated from law school and worked for the Children’s Defense Fund finding out why children with disabilities weren’t in school, she has advocated for the education of children with disabilities. Through her career, Clinton has worked for policy that honors the rights of people with disabilities.
4. Her convention: I was on a high watching the DNC—it was groundbreaking in showcasing so many different types of people and bringing a number of people with disabilities into the spotlight. From Gov. Dannel Malloy publicly acknowledging his own disabilities to a presentation by Ryan Moore, a health care advocate with spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia dwarfism who has corresponded with Clinton since his childhood, so many advocates were featured through the convention, communicating the importance of disability issues to Americans who may not be aware of their importance.
5.Her consistent, inclusive message: I am blessed to work as an educator and writer focusing on disability awareness issues and am consistently seeking creative ways to teach young people about honoring differences. In our discussions, we acknowledge times that we’ve witnessed someone making fun of a person with a disability, using the R-word or otherwise being unkind. So often, children and teens have shared that adults didn’t intervene to model repsect for people with disabilities when those situations occurred. We can no longer tolerate making fun of people because of disability or any other difference. When Donald Trump mocked the reporter with a disability, he displayed both his entitlement and lack of remorse. We need a leader who models respect–and Hillary Clinton continues to acknowledge disability issues with understanding and dignity whether in her debate responses, on her website and through her campaign events.
For me, these issues are real and my choice is clear. Before heading to the polls, you may also wish to check out a blog that originally appeared at Complex Child that looks at Clinton, Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in five categories or issues and the candidate positions for each one.
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer directs Jewish Learning Venture's Whole Community Inclusion and loves writing/editing for "The New Normal" and for WHYY’s newsworks. Her latest book The Little Gate Crasher is a memoir of her Great-Uncle Mace Bugen, a self-made millionaire and celebrity selfie-artist who was 43 inches tall.