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Which presidential ticket is the real advocate for disability?

Posted in Learning disability, Politics, Support services, Termination by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on October 5, 2008

Having commented on Sarah Palin’s nomination as the Republican VP candidate and the subsequent increase in the media’s coverage of Down’s syndrome I decided not to write about the election on this blog, mainly due to the fact that I didn’t want to be seen as an outsider telling people how to vote in their own election

However, as a parent of a child with Down’s syndrome, I cannot help following coverage of Palin’s candidacy, and have read a couple of articles recently that motivated me to comment. I hope Americans will appreciate an independent viewpoint.

Like Disposablebrain I have been surprised by the amount of “special needs advocates” who appear to have given Palin their support because she has a son with Down’s syndrome.

I’m not saying Palin doesn’t deserve respect for raising a child with Down’s syndrome but I am saying that is not a reason to to vote someone into the White House.

The suggestion that anyone with or involved with Down’s syndrome is somehow obligated to support Palin is also pretty offensive – like suggesting all women must support her, or all ethnic minorities must support Obama.

I also think that the eagerness of some to bow down to Palin leads to exaggeration. Witness this article that seeks to give credit to Palin (and more specifically her son, but I’ll leave the deification of Trig Palin for another post) for Congress passing the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act.

I wrote back in August that it was naive to think that Palin would push forward legislation and rights for people with disabilities if she were elected. Palin has done little so far to change my opinion.

She has of course promised to provide families with special-needs children “a friend and advocate in the White House” although as the report of that promise points out “Palin did not say what her White House advocacy would mean.”

While Palin’s candidacy has undoubtedly increased the quantity of debate about Down’s syndrome, this article makes the point that the quality of the debate hasn’t increased accordingly.

“What I want is a serious national conversation about raising children with disabilities — the way that government, schools, churches, doctors, HMOs, and most of all friends and families can help us… Let’s talk about the federal mandates that order, but do not fund, early intervention. Let’s talk about universal health care and special education. Let’s talk about how to help our children find meaningful lives as adults.”

All of these are issues that do not appear to be being addressed by McCain-Palin, as far as I can see. They do begin to be addressed by Barack Obama’s plan to empower Americans with disabilities, however. The plan aims to:

“First, provide Americans with disabilities with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.

Second, end discrimination and promote equal opportunity.

Third, increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities.

And fourth, support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities.”

If someone can point me to a comparable commitment to people with disabilities from McCain-Palin I’ll gladly link to it here.

Many Palin supporters have praised her decision to continue her pregnancy with Trig, noting that when it comes to her Pro-life beliefs actions speak louder than words.

I would argue that the same is true when it comes to supporting disability. So far we’ve heard a few words from McCain-Palin, but the action (PDF) is coming from Obama-Biden.

UPDATE – See also this article in the Huffington Post, which goes into much more detail on the respective policies – UPDATE

I understand that some disability advocates are disappointed with Obama’s track record on votes related to abortion, and I’m not claiming that either side has all the answers, but I do think that abortion and support for people with disabilities are different issues, and as the article above states, when it comes to disability the debate needs to be focused on the latter rather than the former.

I’m not going to tell people how they should vote, but I do want to make the point that if disability advocacy is a significant influence on your decision then people should look beyond family to policy and then make up their minds.

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4 Responses

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  1. Rickismom said, on October 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I think that very few of us vote on one issue. (Those who think before voting, that is…)
    If I was voting for disability rights, I would choose Obama
    If I would vote for who I feel for, I would choose McCain -Pallin
    If I am worried about age and the vice taking over, I would vote Obama
    If I would vote on the issue of Israel, I would vote McCain
    and as for economics, I haven;t figured out yet….

    Wish I had someone normal to vote for…….

  2. […] if McCain’s campaign had anything to say about children with special needs. As I have mentioned before, it does […]

  3. […] The first is disability as an issue in the US election. I compared the two parties’ policies here, ranted about Sarah Palin here, and gave her a (very) little bit of credit […]

  4. […] weighed up the policies of both campaigns, I ultimately concluded that while Palin talked a good game on […]


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