Why I Support Hillary Clinton: A Disabled Woman's Perspective

HiIlary Rodham Clinton, right, listens before signing a copy of her new book for a wheelchair-bound woman on Tuesday June 10,
HiIlary Rodham Clinton, right, listens before signing a copy of her new book for a wheelchair-bound woman on Tuesday June 10, 2014, at Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York. Clinton said Tuesday that she and former President Bill Clinton "fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans," seeking to refine remarks she made about the pair being broke when they left the White House while on a high-profile media tour for a new book. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

I am an unapologetic liberal, and in may respects, I suppose I am a Democratic Socialist. But I support Hillary Clinton rather than Bernie Sanders because she gets my issues -- and he does not.

You see, in addition to being a lifelong liberal, I am also a disabled woman. These identities matter to me. Unlike Sanders, Clinton has a long and distinguished record of fighting for the disability community. Early on in her career, Clinton played a pivotal role in pushing for the first special education law, ensuring children with disabilities had the right to free and appropriate public education.

As Secretary of State, Clinton appointed the first Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the U.S. Department of State. During her tenure as secretary, Clinton also vigorously fought for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These examples are only a few of the many reasons I believe Clinton is the better candidate for my community -- the disability community.

Since the beginning of her campaign, Clinton's website has included a page dedicated to disability rights. While this may seem small, this gesture demonstrates her commitment to our issues. To be fair, Sanders recently added a similar page to his website. Neither is perfect, and I wish both were far more detailed. But it is more than a webpage that matters.

Unlike Sanders (who has admittedly mentioned the disability community on occasion), Clinton regularly discusses disability rights in her speeches. Even during her Super Tuesday speech, she mentioned fighting for the rights of people with disabilities! More importantly, she engages with disability leaders and the broad disability community for advice on how to address our issues. For example, Clinton's autism plan was the result of significant discussions with the autistic community. In contrast, I am unaware of any similar conversations between the disability community and the Sanders campaign.

Intersectionality matters. As demonstrated most recently by Clinton's support among people of color in Nevada and South Carolina, she is attuned to race issues. Indeed, Clinton has been endorsed by a number of prominent civil rights activists, such as Representative Jim Clyburn, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus. A strong supporter of LGBT rights, Clinton has also been endorsed by the Human Rights Committee. Race, gender, and LGBT issues matter to the disability community. In fact, recent data from the CDC indicates that disability is more prevalent among people of color as well as women. Moreover, some people with disabilities also belong to the LGBT community. People with disabilities who are also African American, women, or LGBT face multiple levels of discrimination. We need a president who can be a champion on all of our issues.

The Affordable Care Act is important to people with disabilities and should be strengthened, not undone. Sanders and Clinton agree that health care is vital, but Sanders believes we need Medicare for all whereas Clinton supports strengthening Obamacare, which has greatly improved access to health care for the disability community. Sanders' plan would disrupt our successes and, more importantly, put the disability community at risk of decreased health care access. For instance, Medicare, in its current form, offers little coverage of long-term services and supports or durable medical equipment. Without these important services, people with disabilities will suffer.

Planned Parenthood is vital to women with disabilities, who often experience significant barriers to obtaining quality and accessible reproductive health care and are at an increased risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases because of limited access to education, information, and prevention services. Clinton has long fought for Planned Parenthood and we need a candidate that recognizes its importance.

Conflating gun violence with psychiatric disability is offensive. Comprehensive gun control is sorely needed. Expanded, community-based, mental health services, including peer support services, is also needed. However, these two issues are unrelated. Indeed, research shows that people with psychiatric disabilities are far for more likely to be victims of violence then perpetrators. Unfortunately, Sanders doesn't seem to get this. Each time he is confronted with questions concerning gun violence, he immediately turns to issues of mental health care, thereby further perpetuating stigma against those with psychiatric disabilities. In contrast, Clinton has recognized the importance of not conflating gun violence with psychiatric disability.

Ableist language is unacceptable. Language matters. Sanders, a passionate speaker, regularly describes things like the economy and campaign finance as "insane" and "crazy." To be fair, many Republican candidates also use these offensive terms regularly. Most candidates know not to use the "R" word. Why can't the same be true for derogatory words that offend people with psychiatric disabilities? Bernie - yes, the economy and campaign finance system is outrageous, but please think before you speak!

Free public higher education sounds wonderful but Sanders' plan will not truly help all of the disability community. Many in the African American community have expressed frustration that his plan for free public higher education would harm Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Interestingly, there has been less attention to the similar impact it could have on colleges and universities aimed at expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.

For instance, Gallaudent University is a federally-charted private university for the Deaf Community. Several private colleges and universities also have programs tailored to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Sanders' plan would not pay for Gallaudet or other private colleges and universities. Yes, we need to make college more affordable and lower student loan debt, but let's make sure we do so for all!

In another life, were I not a disabled woman, perhaps I would support Sanders. After all, at first glance, he has a lot of great ideas! However, I cannot in good faith support Sanders given his many short-fallings when it comes to the disability community.

As the disability community, 56.7 million strong, approach election season, I urge all to ask the simple question: Who better gets our issues? Hopefully, the answer will be obvious: Clinton.