The day after election day many Americans woke up to the unexpected results of an election upset. For some, the news has been frightening and confusing while for many others the result was the culmination of a cry for dramatic change in our body politic.
For those of us who care about, work in, who may have disabilities or be the parent or sibling of someone with disabilities, the future feels uncertain.
What changes will the next Administration bring forth? How will services and supports be impacted? How will the many members of our work force, many who are women, people of color, immigrants or family members – struggling to do good in a confusing world – be impacted?
My sense, as a former elected official, a member of two Presidential Administrations and one Gubernatorial Administration, is that change will not be rapid. Our federal structure is not known for speed. Current laws cannot be immediately replaced without new laws ready to go. There is a tremendous difference between running for office and governing.
For specific change to disability based policies, I sense a slowing down of empowerment based change and potential digging in of current models of care rather than recent transitions we've seen in I/DD program evolution.
The likelihood of repealing healthcare for millions of Americans who gained it through the Affordable Care Act is remote at best. Returning to a system that restores pre-existing conditions to insurance policies is a non-starter, even with the fiercest critics of the ACA.
My advice to those who embrace the election results is to honor those who may not agree with you, and include all of us as new policies emerge. And for those who may be frightened of the future, remember what a sturdy group we are.
Our community is composed of people with disabilities who have defied all odds to succeed in building inclusive lives in the community. We come from families who have fought against rejection, exclusion and segregation as we have radically changed the face of our nation through the enactment of the ADA and IDEA.
Many of our workers have fought against being marginalized while receiving poor salaries and are demanding fairer wages and health insurance. They were listened to by both Democrats and Republicans in the Massachusetts Legislature; and Governors such as Mike Dukakis, Paul Cellucci, Bill Weld, Jane Swift, Deval Patrick, Mitt Romney and Charlie Baker from both parties in the Commonwealth.
Some of our workers come from immigrant communities who have succeeded in finding freedom from oppression, poverty and war.
Many of our community have lived to see their lives enriched by cultural changes that now allow them to be who they are regardless of who they love, where they live or the God they worship. We have worked diligently to cause many progressive changes and have lived through many scary moments.
Our work must and will continue.
We will move forward together to protect each other and to continue to be a beacon of hope for the world. Our system will only work if we stay involved and if we respect each other. May our leaders embrace all of us as we move forward.