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My Voice: Summer 2017

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.

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