Democracy Matters brings visibility to disability rights

Photo courtesy of Sinn Féin, Flickr

On Wednesday, March 31 at 5 p.m., Ramapo’s Democracy Matters club hosted an event titled “The Intersection of Money in Politics and Disability Rights.” The event began with a presentation.

Nikolas Bykov began the presentation introducing how large corporations and billionaires hold influence over policy.

“Really one of the spheres that politics, and money in politics involves, is disability rights,” Bykov said.

Kimberly Santana delved more into how disability rights are affected by politics. She gave examples of The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act and policy under the Fair Housing Act that affect disabled people. Santana says that recently proposed GOP legislation is threatening voting accessibility.

A large part of this issue, Bykov said, is the lack of representation of people with disabilities in U.S. politics. The number of disabled congresspeople is proportionate to only 1/6 of disabled people in the U.S. being represented.

Nazli Tiyaloglu went on to explain how the pandemic has also affected people with disabilities. The most obvious way is that many people with disabilities are more at risk should they contract COVID-19, but other issues are less visible.

Due to economic hardships, many disabled people who require caretakers have not been able to afford this care. Accessibility to proper healthcare has also been a challenge.

“We can’t ignore the fact that those who are not disabled do have this privilege, and we have to be focusing on helping the disabled in any way we can,” Tiyaloglu said.

Another area of discrimination Tiyaloglu mentioned was the unequal access to vaccines in the U.S. People with disabilities may struggle to get vaccines even when they need them most.

To conclude the presentation, Michaela Zabel spoke about the political issue of pork-barreling, and how this practice of politicians making legislation to please big donors silences the voices of Americans. While there are some rules barring this, loopholes allow it to continuously happen at Americans’ expense.

The way this affects the disabled community is that legislators will include laws in packages that must pass that are not favorable for constituents, but are for big corporations or wealthy supporters.

Presenters then opened up the event for discussion, where attendees discussed accessibility in ways of transportation, income and homelessness. They discussed how lack of funding for Medicare and Medicaid often forces disabled people into debt, when their healthcare is imperative.