By Michael Rock
In American society, one of the most effective ways members of marginalized groups can advocate for the needs of their communities is to run for elected office. For people with disabilities, this is no exception.
While Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Governor Greg Abbott of Texas are two of the most prominent contemporary American politicians with disabilities, more are attempting to join their ranks. Disability Action for America is the first such political action committee dedicated to electing candidates with disabilities, aiding such campaigns as that of Reyma McCoy McDeid, a woman with autism who ran as a Democrat for the Iowa House of Representatives’ 38th District, and Billie Sutton, a wheelchair user and former South Dakota Democratic state senator who was also the 2018 nominee for governor.
Such candidates are important, especially after a recent Rutgers study showed that in a country where 15.7 percent of adults have some sort of disability, only 10.3 percent of politicians do, a meaningful gap in representation. The sub-groups that are proportionally represented are Native Americans with disabilities, Americans aged 18-34 with disabilities, and veterans who have served since the Gulf War that have disabilities.
While the progress made so far is admirable, there is still much work to do to make sure that people with disabilities are properly represented in the halls of government.
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.