Democracy Issues brings visibility to disability rights

Photo courtesy of Sinn Féin, Flickr

On Wednesday, March 31st at 5:00 pm, the Ramapos Democracy Matters Club hosted an event entitled “The Intersection of Money in Politics and Disability Rights.” The event started with a presentation.

Nikolas Bykov started the presentation and introduced how big corporations and billionaires influence politics.

“Really one of the areas where politics and money play a role in politics is the rights of people with disabilities,” said Bykov.

Kimberly Santano delved into the policy implications for the rights of people with disabilities. She gave examples of the Act on Accessibility to Voting for the Elderly and the Disabled, as well as guidelines under the Act on Fair Housing that affect disabled people. Santano says the recently proposed GOP legislation is jeopardizing the accessibility of voting.

A big part of that problem, Bykov said, is the unrepresentation of people with disabilities in US politics. The number of disabled congressmen is proportional to only 1/6 of the disabled people in the United States who are represented.

Nazli Tiyaloglu went on to explain how the pandemic has also affected people with disabilities. The most obvious way is that many people with disabilities are at higher risk when they contract COVID-19. However, other problems are less noticeable.

Due to economic difficulties, many disabled people who need caretakers have not been able to afford this care. Access to adequate health care was also a challenge.

“We cannot ignore the fact that those who are not disabled have this privilege and we need to focus on helping the disabled in every possible way,” said Tiyaloglu.

Another area of ​​discrimination that Tiyaloglu mentioned was unequal access to vaccines in the US. People with disabilities may have difficulty getting vaccines even when they need them most.

At the end of the presentation Michael Zabel spoke about the political problem of the pork barrel and how this practice of politicians enacting laws to please big donors silences the voices of the Americans. While there are some rules that preclude this from happening, loopholes allow it to happen continuously at the expense of Americans.

The way this is affecting the disability community is for lawmakers to put laws in packages that need to be passed that are not favorable to constituents but are beneficial to large corporations or wealthy supporters.

The speakers then presented the event for discussion, where participants discussed accessibility in terms of transportation, income and homelessness. They discussed how lack of funding for Medicare and Medicaid often forces disabled people into debt when their health care is essential.

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