By Michael Rock
For many people, marriage is an important development over the course of life. Unfortunately, people with disabilities experience social, legal, and financial discrimination if they want to get married.
Stigma and misconceptions surrounding people with disabilities are just one reason why they have a harder time getting married than those without disabilities. Often, parents may be reluctant for their children with disabilities to date, and may need outside counseling for reassurance. In addition, people with disabilities should not feel the need to hide their conditions. They should also remember to be open-minded without compromising their own needs.
For those who rely on SSI benefits to stay afloat, getting married can cost them their main source of economic security. In some extreme cases, this can make divorce necessary for married people with disabilities to survive.
Some of the challenges SSI recipients face if they want to get married include having their benefits payments reduced if they marry another SSI recipient, or having their benefits cut off completely if their combined assets are as little as $3,000.
Still, there is hope to address this inequity. Just recently, U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) introduced the Marriage Access for People with Special Abilities Act (MAPSA). Co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass), the bipartisan bill would eliminate the provision in the Social Security Act that denies people with disabilities their benefits upon marrying.
As we combat stigma about people with disabilities and work to prevent the economic discrimination they face if they marry, perhaps we shall people with disabilities getting hitched at similar rates to their counterparts without disabilities.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.