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13 People With Disabilities Talk About Life Post-Election

“I just hope we all can survive the next four years.”

BuzzFeed recently asked people with disabilities about their feelings on the Affordable Care Act’s possible repeal, and other issues that will impact their lives over the next four years. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Alice Wong, Researcher, Activist, and Consultant

Alice Wong

“Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) allows me to live in a community with personal assistance services that I self-direct. For disabled people like me, going to a nursing home has always been a possibility, depending on what state you live in and the availability of Medicaid waivers.

“This is why I am terrified about block granting Medicaid. States will have more freedom to use this funding in other programs, potentially dismantling the hard work by disability advocates that led to the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision. All of these efforts to give disabled people the freedom and human right to participate in society may be rolled back. I’m also disappointed at how many people still don’t see us as a distinct cultural community that’s at risk under the new administration.”

2. Kati Gardner, YA Author and Speaker

Jessica Rotenburg Photography / Via Kati Gardner

“A week before the election, a woman began berating me in a parking lot for using the ‘disabled parking’ area. When I asserted I had a right to park there, she said, ‘When Trump is president, he is going to lock all of you useless people up.’ This broke me in a lot of ways. I know people feel like those of us who are disabled are a drain on society — that we are the reason that insurance premiums are so high.

“I’m nervous. I feel like I should stockpile my medications because they could become too expensive. My insurance already limits a lot of my mobility aids. If Trump does away with the Affordable Care Act, many people with chronic health problems will have to pay more. We are already unpaid or underpaid for our services and find it harder to gain full-time employment — taking away our insurance or pricing it out of our reach will only ensure that our health is worse.”

3. Keah Brown, Journalist, Essayist, and Activist

Keah Brown

“As a black disabled woman, I am simply scared. There is a lot of talk about further privatizing insurance, which would raise the prices of the services I need to survive as a disabled person. I’m exhausted, and I’m angry with myself for believing that America would not elect Trump, but I shouldn’t have been surprised.

“There’s also a resilience already that comes from being black in America. I recognize this fear, which doesn’t make it fair, but I already have ways of coping with it. The election definitely put a fire under me to write as much as I possibly can and to get my work out into the world, because I don’t want to be erased from history. My story matters, and who knows what’s going to happen?”

4. Dominick Evans, Film Director, Writer, and Activist

Dominick Evans

“I want to be shocked by the election, and I was at first, but then I remembered: People have always treated me horribly because of my disability — why would they care now? Those of us with multiple intersections of identity (for me, as a LGBTQ disabled person) are used to being excluded, even from the communities we are a part of.

“If Donald Trump does all of the things he says he is going to do, such as reducing access to health services and jeopardizing Medicaid and Medicare, a lot of people with disabilities (especially those with chronic health disabilities) will die. I hope that my son, who also has disabilities, will not suffer as a result of this presidency. I know the vast majority of those of us who are disabled will suffer, not because of our disabilities, but because of the archaic ableism Trump and his cabinet embody and represent. I just hope we all can survive the next four years.”

5. Lizzy O., Fashion/Lifestyle Blogger and Disability Advocate

Damell Photography / Via Lizzy O.

“My spinal cord injury made me really interested in political matters concerning the disabled. I picked myself up after my car accident, went back to school, got a degree, and started working because life goes on. My biggest fear about Trump’s presidency is simply not knowing — aside from his widely publicized derogatory remarks about disability, I have yet to actually hear his plans for disabled Americans.

“I can no longer qualify for SSI income or Medicaid because of my other income, and because my life is not sedentary enough. Since America thinks I’m not poor enough to qualify for disability help while still needing health insurance, the Affordable Care Act was my next best option — but knowing that Trump is in support of repealing it brings me great worry.”

6. Emily Ladau, Writer, Speaker, and Activist

Emily Ladau

“I felt a bit defeated before we even reached the election finish line. The only way disability factored into any presidential campaign rhetoric or media coverage was through mention of Trump mocking disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski and heartstring-tugging Clinton ads. What I really wanted to see was nuanced discussion of policies meant to support disabled people.

“What concerns me most is the realization that the idea of a ‘disability community’ isn’t as ubiquitous as I want to believe. About 56 million Americans have disabilities, and since Trump received over 60 million popular votes, simple math reveals that plenty of disabled people voted for him. There are disabled people who voted against the rights of disabled people, against preserving and protecting the laws and programs that provide health care, services, and supports so many of us need to survive. And that frightens me, but I am here and ready for the next four years of hard work and activism that needs to be done.”

7. Lydia X. Z. Brown, Activist/Organizer, Writer, and Speaker/Educator for Disability Justice and Collective Liberation

Kelsey Kent / Via Lydia X. Z. Brown

“I expected that a Trump win would be the most likely outcome of the election; after electing a black president, it only made sense that many white people would choose the openly racist Trump after interpreting the election of a black man and increased public conversation about privilege, power, and oppression as threats to whiteness. I’m now turning my attention to the work I need to continue, since regardless of who won the election, oppression would not have suddenly crawled to a halt.

“I am most worried for my friends, comrades, and colleagues who are undocumented, deaf or disabled, formerly incarcerated or currently locked up, black, indigenous, queer, trans, and/or Muslim — the policies that Trump and his proposed appointees thus far have put forward (such as repealing the ACA or expanding stop-and-frisk) may endanger real people’s lives, as well as embolden his most openly violent supporters to harm many more people.”

8. Shain M. Neumeier, Attorney and Activist

Shain Neumeier

“Trump and the alt-right have taken social Darwinism and renamed it ‘political incorrectness.’ They’ve created a vision of the world that is and should be harsh, at least to groups of people they believe are unworthy. I worry about the effects this will have on our culture and policy decisions. Trump’s positions on the Americans With Disabilities Act and workplace sexual harassment will likely be reflected in his decisions on enforcing federal civil rights protections, and failure to enforce will only encourage people who would harm others. That, and very little will stand in the way of gutting (funding for) laws and programs that protect many people with disabilities from institutionalization or death through medical neglect.

“The threat to disabled people (and every other marginalized community) is very intimidating. We must defend the rights we have right now, but it’s not enough. Ideas that we have previously dismissed as too fringe to win elections or sway the opposition are necessary; there is no use in seeming moderate and reasonable to people who have no intention of returning the favor. I believe we need to be unapologetic about social justice. That will allow us to be great like we haven’t been before.”

9. Imani Barbarin, Blogger, Accidental Activist, and Board Member at Break the Roof Ministries

Imani Barbarin

“Work that offers insurance is difficult to find as someone with a disability, as employers often calculate the cost of insuring disabled people along with what’s on their résumé. If qualifications for disability benefits become more stringent, the working disabled may need to leave their jobs and reduce assets in their name, and/or divorce their spouses to qualify, should states not roll out the ABLE Act in any meaningful way.

“I am also deeply concerned about education becoming more privatized under Betsy DeVos — as private institutions, schools could turn away disabled students and ignore requests for accommodation, making school dangerous if not entirely inaccessible — and unconstitutional law enforcement policies like stop-and-frisk and broken-windows policing. Between 30 and 50% of people killed in altercations with police are disabled, which I worry will increase if community/law enforcement communication efforts are abandoned, and if police aren’t given training on interacting with disabled citizens. Still, I have hope, both because of the people within the disabled community who refuse to remain silent, and because disability doesn’t care who you voted for; your survival will depend on who won.”

10. Linden Gue, Disabled Activist, Assistant to the Board of Psychiatric Service Dog Partners

Linden Gue

“I have psychiatric disabilities. I am afraid for myself, and for other people with disabilities, under the Trump administration. I fear people losing the health insurance they depend on for their lives; I am concerned with revision of the Americans With Disability Act, which is our civil rights act. Any dilution of the act translates to a loss of our rights to have open access to places, to employment, and to participating fully in living in our country.

“I am even more concerned for people with disabilities who are also black, brown, and LGBTIA+. The rhetoric of Trump and his surrogates before the election, and staff appointments and cabinet choices since the election, demonstrate a need to maintain a protective stance in advance. I use a service dog to enable me to be as independent as possible. I receive SSDI from working most of my life before I became too disabled to work, and I depend on this income. Without it and without medical treatment, my ability to maintain my health and function are impaired.”

11. Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, Disability Rights Consultant, Writer, and Advocate

Vilissa Thompson

“My deepest concern is the winding back of the clock of progress under Trump, which will mean grave consequences to those who live within multiple margins of identities like myself as a black disabled woman. I have been thinking about my grandmother, who lived in rural South Carolina under Jim Crow. Her realities — racist, offensive politicians dominating public office, and having her civil and human rights belittled — have now become mine. I worry that programs disabled people rely on may be dwindled or dismantled altogether. The fear of us dying if our lifelines disappear is real.

“I am still processing it all, but I will not be silenced or intimidated. Now more than ever, I am charged up to do what is needed, and will continue to make good trouble as an advocate for black disabled women and other women of color. My disabled existence matters, and I will steadfastly proclaim that for the next four years and beyond.”

12. Michele Kaplan, Intersectional Activist, Artist, and Disabled YouTuber

Michele Kaplan

“I’ve been trying for over two years to get a safe motorized wheelchair through Medicare that will also support my spine — and this is before the upcoming presidency. Still, I am ‘lucky’ as I know many disabled people who could die if their insurance is cut and/or privatized, or if they are shipped off to institutions and nursing homes against their will. So many people have no idea how vulnerable we already are, let alone what will happen to us in the near future.

“People will take a stand against racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, sexism, homophobia — which is fantastic and needed — but they don’t even know the word ‘ableism.’ When Trump discriminated against Serge Kovaleski, it was referred to as mocking and bullying, but not once did they say what it really was. I hope that by educating people on ableism and giving them a first step toward being an ally, the disability community will see a rise in solidarity.”

13. Steve Way, Comedian and Motivational Speaker

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

“I am scared. I am really scared. I am scared my Social Security will be cut and make me live even further below the poverty line at a time when I depend on it most. I am fearful basic government assistance programs will be cut at a time I am hoping to live on my own. I am terrified my health insurance will be cut at a time when the next cold I get could kill me.

“However, life must go on as it always has, and I refuse to let my fears get the best of me. I am hopeful because I know I am not alone, and I will have many more people fighting by my side. I have a voice and intend to use it along with anyone that decides to join me to create a loud, powerful and defiant message that says we are here and will never go away. Just because I cannot stand up, does not mean I cannot rise up.”

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