Elizabeth Warren May Be Out Of The Presidential Race, But We Still Need Her Disability Plan

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty

When Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she was suspending her presidential campaign, like many of you, I was deeply disappointed. I know some women were legitimately heartbroken when they learned that Warren was stepping away from vying for the title of our 2020 Democratic nominee. Warren, we felt, was our last hope because we weren’t totally on board with Bernie or Biden. (Though we can all agree that Trump needs to make like N’Sync and “bye, bye, bye.”)

One reason I became a fan of Warren is that she’s driven and strong. She’s also warm, empathetic, and authentic, but doesn’t put up with racist, sexist, ableist bullshit. One minute she’s calling out Bloomberg’s sketchy sexual-harassing past, and the next minute she’s on Saturday Night Live. She’s the kind of leader we need. Another reason I adore her is that she has a clear, detailed, comprehensive disability plan. As a person living with special needs, as well as a mom of kids who have developmental disabilities, I was all for a candidate who would acknowledge and appreciate us.

The current administration treats people with special needs like we’re a dirty little secret, cutting programs left and right that are essential to the well-being of society’s most vulnerable population. While we’re dealing with the daily Twitter rants of a president who openly mocked a reporter with a disability, I remain hopeful that maybe, just maybe, whomever our nominee is will choose to take a page out of Warren’s book and implement an effective disability plan. While Trump is wearing out his fingers typing hate to teen Greta Thunburg, a global environmental activist who lives with autism, I’m holding out that our Democratic nominee will step it up for those of us who are differently-abled.

What exactly is Warren’s disability plan?

Protecting the Rights and Equality of People with Disabilities is solid gold—and is downloadable. Please read it for yourself, but until then, here’s the condensed version. Senator Warren outlined several key areas of focus. First, she planned to create a National Office of Disability Coordination to make sure there were federal programs in place to support those living with disabilities. She wanted to help build safe and accessible housing and protect the tenants’ rights.

She goes on to share that she wanted to invest in accessible, safe public transportation and put rules into place that would ensure the financial security of those with disabilities, including raise the minimum wage. She also hit on climate change in terms of making sure those with disabilities would be safe in emergency situations.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Senator Warren also talked about what she would do to protect children with disabilities and help support their families. She outlined areas she’d focus on including early intervention, ADA compliant child care, support for English language learners with disabilities, and free public college and technical school. The one point that really got to me as a mom of black children was her commitment to “tackle discriminatory practices that harm students of color with disabilities.” Unlike the current administration, Warren cares about people of color and acknowledges the discrimination they face.

Last, but certainly not least, Warren planned to bring down the costs of common prescription drugs and improve on the current Medicare system, giving everyone the opportunity to have vision, hearing, mental health, dental, and long-term care at low-to-no cost. She added that it’s important we stop ignoring our seniors and those living with disabilities by denying them local, adequate services.

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The reality is that in the United States alone, one in four adults is living with a disability according to the CDC. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in six children—or about 18% of kids–have a developmental disability. These disabilities include ADHD, autism, a learning disability, or a speech disability such as stuttering. It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that a significant percentage of Americans are living with a disability that can profoundly impact their day to day lives.

The definition of disability or special needs varies from person to person. I live with type 1 diabetes, a chronic, autoimmune disease that requires insulin therapy every day, all day. I consider myself to have special needs, since I sometimes need accommodations. I’m also parenting four kids, two of whom have developmental disabilities which require accommodations and modifications in both the school and home settings. Warren’s proposed plan is personal for me and my family—and for many, many Americans.

Our other Democratic candidates do have disability plans on their websites, however, they are seriously lacking. If you are living with a disability or are parenting a child who has one, you can see a clear difference between Warren’s plan compared to Bernie’s and Biden’s. We don’t want to be an afterthought or be subject to tokenism. People with disabilities need to be at the forefront of our nominee’s mind.

Warren famously said, “I’m running for president to fight for a government that works for everyone—not just the wealthy and well-connected. Now is our moment to dream big and fight hard.” As a woman living with a disability and someone parenting children with disabilities, my fingers are crossed that our future Democratic nominee takes Warren’s commitment to the differently-abled to heart and puts a disability plan in place–ASAP.

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