Concord, N.H., Feb. 10 – During last night’s victory speech celebrating his win of the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders excited the disability community when he included a shout out for disability rights.
“We must pursue the fight for women’s rights, for gay rights, for disability rights,” Sanders said to applause.
Disability leaders tweeted it out, happy for the mere mention of the phrase “disability right.”
— Jay Ruderman (@JayRuderman) February 10, 2016
— Marissa Stalvey (@CurlyMarissa) February 10, 2016
This addition to Sanders’ stump speech is worth noting, and important. Though, as @elizabethadrina pointed out, “we’re all just happy to be included which isn’t a good place to be.”
Sanders was the first candidate to complete the #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaire. Yet he rarely talks about these issues on the campaign trail unprompted.
In his answers to the questionnaire, Sanders says, “for my entire career in politics, I have gone about legislating in a grassroots manner, and that includes fighting to ensure that our society is one where persons with disabilities can live full and productive lives.”
His solutions, as outlined in the questionnaire, include helping people with disabilities become small business owners, yet he has not discussed this on the trail.
At a July rally with the National Council on Independent Living, Sanders said, “In the year 2015, it is unacceptable that over 80 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed. People need work. They need jobs.”
Sanders also called for expanded opportunities for people with disabilities including educational and housing options.
But little has been discussed since the summer.
In response to a question on this topic in December, Sanders called for the end of bigotry and discrimination of people with disabilities.
“That is discrimination against people whose skin may be different than ours or the nation they were born in, or they may or may not have a disability,” he said in Knoxville, Iowa.
Recently, democratic rival Hillary Clinton also has adjusted her stump speech in order to include people with disabilities on a regular basis beginning at the MSNBC Democratic debate Thursday evening and repeated several times including at a town hall with New England College students in Henniker, New Hampshire. Yet Clinton did not include the disability community in her speech following the New Hampshire primary results last night.
As all of the presidential candidates vie for their parties’ nomination, reaching out to the disability community can meant the difference between winning or not. More than 50 percent of Americans report having a family member or close friend with a disability. Fifty-two percent of Democrats report that they or a loved one have a disability, and for Republicans, a smaller number of 44 percent report they have a disability. Surprisingly, Independents have the largest number of voters who say they have a disability, with 58 percent saying yes. This shows that swing voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs.