Note from ST: Here, at last, a national disabled people’s coalition in the US has publicly decried the repeated invocation of the expression “special needs” in the discourse about disabled people that has surrounded the upcoming election. Disability activists and members of the disability studies movement internationally have long eschewed this expression, arguing that it individualizes and depoliticizes disabled people’s entitlement to social resources and medicalizes their disenfranchisement. What follows is a recent press release from the US National Coalition for Disability Rights:
National Coalition for Disability Rights
1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006
October 31, 2008
Disability Rights Organizations Express Outrage Over Attacks at McCain-Palin Rally
(Washington, DC) The National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR) pushed back today against the McCain-Palin campaign for ridiculing the legal rights of people with disabilities. News reports describe McCain-Palin campaign representative Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), joining Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin at a rally in Rush Limbaugh’s hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, mocking Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama for stating that he’s looking to nominate judges who empathize with “disabled.”
“It’s Halloween and it seems that Sarah Palin’s mask of support for people with ‘special needs’ is slipping. Despite past pandering to people with disabilities, McCain-Palin are actually opposed to vital disability legislation like the Community Choice Act and they want to appoint judges who will further roll back the civil rights protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” declared NCDR’s founder and president, Jim Ward.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg has reported that McCain-Palin’s “most oft-mentioned prospects for nomination to the Supreme Court” include Ohio Judge Jeffrey Sutton. Sutton was opposed by hundreds of disability organizations when he was nominated by President Bush after successfully weakening the ADA with states rights arguments. As a sitting judge, he has recently supported the execution of criminals with developmental disabilities and has undermined the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
Disability rights advocates are further incensed that the McCain-Palin campaign has reframed this civil rights struggle, one founded in concepts of equality, dignity and self-respect, as an issue of “special needs.” Disability rights advocate, Steve Gold states, “Yes, we need support services. Yes, we need inclusive education. Yes, we need integrated employment. Yes, we need equal rights. This not “special.” These needs are based on us, people with disabilities, equal members of our communities. We are not inspirational nor are we “special.” We are PROUD PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES who should push back when anyone describes us as anything but equal members of our communities.”
The National Coalition for Disability Rights is a nonpartisan nonprofit that does not endorse political candidates. We are a coalition of national, state and local disability, civil rights and social justice organizations united to protect and promote the human rights of children and adults with physical and mental disabilities.