Because The Disabled Vote Doesn’t Matter

“Senate Republicans have thwarted an attempt to pass a U.N. rights treaty aimed at advocating equal rights for disabled people, a strategy that Democrats said is simply centered around scoring political points.” – The National Monitor

I have a really big question for Senate Republicans. Why on earth would rights for disabled people NOT score you political points? Contrary to what many people seem to believe, disabled citizens actually do have the same rights as able-bodied citizens. We vote, just like you do. And we will choose to vote for whomever supports us in the goal of being more equal to our able-bodied peers. Perhaps that doesn’t mean that I’ll ever drive a car, but it does mean that I have hope for the future that this country will become more accessible for us all.

Part of that requires this U.N. Treaty to pass. Which, would be fantastic if it did, apparently even the republican parents of developmentally disabled children cannot foresee a better future without slamming “unelected forces” which would actually make the United States treat their children better than it currently does. Oh, which political person was this?

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, although the parent of a developmentally disabled child, came to Washington, D.C., to lobby against the treaty — claiming it to be an attack on American sovereignty. – The National Monitor

So, not only is he against it because it would stop America from being America, he actually went to D.C. to lobby against it? Seriously, guy? Furthermore, other republicans have stated that this U.N. Treaty would prevent parents of disabled children from making good choices for their children by stopping them from say, homeschooling. RIGHT. The treaty doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism, it’s just there as a set of guidelines! Jon Stewart covered this as his opener for the show last night – and while I felt like a lot of his comments were totally spot on, I was very disappointed that Mr. Stewart only made comments about wheelchairs.  I know wheelchairs are the easy target, but seriously? We could have used some more humor.

“We are disappointed that the overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans today blocked the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which would enshrine American standards that have been developed through decades of bipartisan cooperation.  Ratification would require no changes to U.S. law, as the United States already leads the world in promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities,” said Carney. “However, it would position the United States to support extending across the globe the rights that Americans already enjoy at home. This in turn would improve the lives of Americans with disabilities — including our wounded service members — who wish to live, work, and travel abroad.” – The National Monitor

Well. We sort of lead the world in terms of treatment for people with disabilities. Some of the most compassionate treatment I have received as a disabled woman has been while traveling abroad. In France, I cut lines and didn’t have to pay for entry into any historic places — hell, I even got to touch statues at Versailles because I have a visual impairment. I have felt up things which were once owned by French Royalty. I am okay with this. At the Centre Pompidou in Paris, they even have works of art which have been translated into black and white, and then made into tactile art – in this way, blind and visually impaired patrons can experience artwork by the masters when they couldn’t see it.  In London, I was able to sit in the front row for multiple large-scale productions – and I could bring a companion with me to see the show at half price as well. I could actually afford these ticket prices.  I saw “Equus” I saw many shows at the Globe, I saw “Wicked” for $50, US and I sat in the front row.

I know these seem like small things compared to such issues as ADA accessibility to buildings, or how we access things like parking spots – but the fact of the matter is, if you’ve got a disability you may not be able to access art in the same way your able-bodied peers do.

In the US, I’d love to go see an opera at the Met, or see Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway. But front row seats are over $300 in most places, and are entirely inaccessible to me. They provide concessions for the hearing impaired, but for the visually impaired there is little in the way of accessibility.

The reason why I bring all this up is as follows: If we’re going to be a leader in terms of equality for the disabled, we have to stop patting ourselves on the back. We have to start legislating for what is right, even if it scares the bejeezus out of the republicans. And that starts with signing treaties to protect the rights of the disabled across the globe – by standing with other nations, we are able to confirm that disabled people aren’t just citizens of our own country, but of the world.

The point is, voting down a U.N. Treaty based on a bill which a Republican President signed into law because you’re afraid it’ll cost America its sovereignty is bullshit. The Senate knows better than that. And they knew it.  I’m tired of being told I’m not equal, and that other disabled people around the world are told they aren’t equal more often and more vehemently than I am.

We have to have full and equal access. To public transit (I’m looking at you, New York City and the PATH), to theater (Hi Broadway), to education (AHEM many academic institutions), to politics (TAMMY DUCKWORTH!!), to healthcare (many people with disabilities are denied transplants based on their disability), to housing (Hey, UK. get your head out of your ass), to many many other things.

So here’s the deal. Sign the treaty, and stop using lofty political ideals to block rights for people with disabilities. We can hear you, we can see you, and we can vote you out of office.

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