DeVos and her attacks towards disabled youth!
Being comfortable in my own skin as a disabled Latina has been a ride and I am glad I have reached that destination. However, moments like today are triggering and unfortunate, especially when the disabled community has contributed so much to the advancement of our country. I was part of the Special Olympics in Rhode Island in 2001, I was fourteen years old and I did an overnight weekend at University of Rhode Island. It was a time where I learned to be myself and embrace and love my disability while being included in activities that I was not able to do with regular students in my public school. Integrated sports, or extracurricular activities were not a practice in our public schools.
Hearing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos try and defend the defunding of Special Olympics, and Special Education programs in Public Schools, National Technical School for the Blind amongst other important programs that disabled youth would benefit from was truly disappointing. I have never seen so much attacks from a secretary of education on civil rights like this woman has against not just on disabled children but also on children of color and those that identify as LGBTQ. DeVos should invest and create lasting opportunities to all students, not just those she believes are deserving. Last time I checked no child should be left behind, so why is she leaving behind a large population of students? It is a question that I do not know if we will get an answer to, Congressman Mark Pacon tried and of course we received a diverted answer. This is truly I woman not qualified for her role.
The lack of care for disability youth in our education system is a real thing. Not just on caring for the child and their safety in a school but also on how much and at what levels a child is properly educated. In Rhode Island students with special needs have the lowest proficiency rates in math and english. We are barely focusing on providing them with challenging yet adequate education. Cutting Special education funding, the special Olympics, book printing for the blind, is a travesty. The US Department of Education should be doing the opposite, they should be investing and creating programs and rules that give special needs youth proper education. They should continue to fund the Special Olympics and other organizations that focus on disabled children, we do not have enough programs that cater to those most vulnerable. We should see this department strengthening policies on civil right for marginalized students. The thought that 272,000 children will be impacted by this decision is painful, this is not where this country should be.
Imagine if candidates like Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and the other million candidates in the democratic party decided to tap into the 75 million disabled people in our country! I mean true intentional outreach for our community, not what candidates do to black women which is having them carry them on their backs, get them where they need and then forget that hardworking women that put them there! No, I don’t want that, black women disabled people, all those marginalized deserve better. If the disabled community, black women, latinx community, the LGBTQ community are tapped intentionally we can make the change this country needs, we are stronger when we work together.
It blows my mind that we are regressing so much. Let’s not forget that the ACA was saved because ADAPT activist day after day put themselves on the line. A disabled activist was being arrested carried out of Capital Hill, while another officer had her wheel chair, she wasn’t alone in that fight hundreds of disabled activists risked themselves for our healthcare. These youth that DeVos is looking to marginalized more, are our future.
I believe that our issues should be centered on these national conversations, the time is now. We were a country that had been respected and was leading on many fronts. We are now a country that when it comes to social issues we are regressing. I am hopeful that we will continue to mobilize, and that disability issues will be centered, we are a huge population in our country and one that every day continues to increase. 2020 is just around the corner, lets galvanize our people we have work to do! I urge all the presidential candidates to not sleep on our community, we are resilient intelligent hard-working people.
Author Bio: Stephanie Olarte is a Latina disabled advocate for Disability Rights, Reproductive Justice, Women’s Rights, Racial Justice, and Immigrant Rights. She is a Contributor to The Brown Girls Guide to Politics and founder of CaneIWalk