By: Scott Burlingame, Executive Director
On Thursday June 22, 2017, the disability rights movement
went mainstream in America. On that day, several dozen protesters with
disabilities were arrested after they gathered and chanted outside Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell's office over the GOP health care bill. As the proposed
changes to health care law is a hot topic right now, the arrests were covered
by CNN, MSNBC, and many other national media outlets.
As I watched this, a few thoughts came to my mind. First
off, it is amazing the amount of pride it must take to allow yourself to get
arrested on TV. You cannot be a person who is ashamed of yourself or afraid to
take a strong stand for your beliefs. Without a doubt, the people getting arrested
are on the front lines of the disability rights movement and are working hard
to protect the services that make independent living possible for so many of
our brothers and sisters with disabilities.
My second thought was you don’t need to get arrested on TV
to be an effective disability rights advocate. Right here in North Dakota, we
have a couple of potential “swing” votes on changes to health care law. If
North Dakotans with disabilities want to get involved, you can do so by
contacting Senator John Hoeven and Senator Heidi Heitkamp and letting them know
how services like Medicaid have made it possible for you to increase or
maintain your independence.
Doing so will take the same type of pride that it takes to
get arrested on TV. In order to reach out to a US Senator and talk about how
Medicaid has benefited to your life, you have to be comfortable enough with
your disability to talk about it without shame.
For far too many of us, doing so is terrifying. We have been taught to hide from our disabilities
or to say how strong we have been in overcoming them. However, it can be
uncomfortable to make a public declaration that we are a person with a
disability and discuss how our disabilities have affected our lives.
Disability Pride is all about visibility and voice. In July,
Independence, Inc. will be focusing on promoting disability pride at our annual
“Celebrating Independence Picnic”. We hope you will join us in this effort.
I also hope you will use your pride to reach out and let our
Senators know your thoughts on the changes to the health care laws.