On Monday, January 23, I learned who Edward Roberts is when Google paid tribute to him on what would have been his birthday. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know of him before, considering he was a pioneer in the disability rights movement. It turns out there are others I need to learn about as well.
I know there have been people fighting for the rights of the disabled for many years, and I’ve directly benefited from their hard work. Until recently, however, I’ve taken it for granted. I’ve never really studied the history of the struggles these individuals went through to make things better for all of us. Now I’m beginning to see that we have too much to lose if we become complacent.
People with disabilities and the elderly – who often become disabled with age – are still human beings who deserve the same dignity anyone else would demand. We have the same right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Do these rights come at a greater cost for the disabled? Unfortunately they do in many cases but that doesn’t mean we deserve them any less than you. That’s where programs like Medicaid try to fit in. At this point, it’s the best system we have to ensure we retain our right to life. In some situations, federal programs are the most reliable way to accomplish the task of covering the large and unpredictable cost of protecting people across the country. Just like the military is funded to protect all Americans and our freedom (Most US citizens will never be soldiers), the Medicaid program has been providing the medical resources so many of us need in order to survive each day. That may change any day now.
The new changes the GOP and Trump have proposed for Medicaid in their “American Health Care Act” to replace the “Affordable Care Act” will severely limit the amount of money available to care for the disabled. This could create devastating side effects. Once the funds are gone, disabled people stand to lose access to personal care, medication prescriptions, access to doctors and nurses, access to preventative medical care, medical devices (wheelchairs, prostheses, breathing, dialysis and other related machines), medical supplies for incontinence and other related disabilities. If Medicaid cannot cover the cost of in-home caregivers, many more disabled people will end up in institutions. That would also lead to the loss of many caregiver jobs across the country, perhaps even nurses to a smaller extent.
The disabled community is not like other protected minority groups because many of us were not born disabled. In just a moment, any one of you could become one of us. I was an athletic 5 year old boy riding a 10 speed bicycle when it happened to me. With such uncertainties in life, we need to make sure there is a strong support system for people with severe physical and/or mental disabilities. It could be a service you or someone in your family could need some day.
With that being said, I hope you will share this with everyone you know so we can keep the conversation going. We need to find a better solution for our disabled citizens than what’s being suggested presently. I hope it’s not too late but please call your legislators and tell them not to make cuts to Medicaid and to vote no on the “American Health Care Act” until proper assessment and reform can be made. I would also encourage you all to join me in the study of the disability rights movement. If we can take the time to learn about other people’s struggles in any human rights cause and understand why we take action for change, then maybe we can gain the support needed to make this country greater for everyone. Your participation is appreciated.