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“Special needs”... 6 times in under 60 seconds

“Take this burden off of the communities”...
I heard this last night.

My pain level was so high, I was wishing I had *safe* access to an emergency room where I wouldn’t be labeled as “drug-seeking” & discharged in worse condition. But I don’t, because chronic pain patients aren’t treated with respect or dignity.
So instead, I tried to watch the debate, as a distraction, in between pain so intense it was making me vomit and doing breathing exercises so I wouldn’t pass out.

I couldn’t watch the debate. The moving background made it inaccessible.
I listened as best I could. And that ableist garbage is what I heard.

Disability was *finally* mentioned during a debate, and *that* is what we got. So much for #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs, I guess.
Disabled people are consistently pushed aside, talked over, and dismissed, to have the voices of “progressives” who DO NOT LIVE OUR EXPERIENCES amplified and applauded.

We push back, and push back, and push back some more.
We educate, we explain, we expose the most personal, private parts of our lives. We remind people over and over that being disability-adjacent is not the same thing as being disabled. We fight that fight every day.
And then in walks @AndrewYang, with his horrendous disability policy, using outdated, infantilizing, derogatory terms like “special needs,” and he centers his answer not around us, actual disabled people, but around the people who know us.
To then tweet that out, like it was some glorious moment of heroism, was one of the most (if not THE most) terrible judgment calls I’ve seen from a Democratic candidate and their team during this election cycle.
I watched as the replies filled with:
“I’m a caregiver of...”
“I’m a teacher for...”
“My son...”
“My brother...”
“My neighbor...”
“My cousins...”
“My daughter...”

I watched person after person tell their heart-wrenching (🙄) or inspirational (😬) story... of someone else.
Someone who didn’t consent to having their story told. Someone who didn’t get the opportunity to tell their story themselves.

Because, as always, we’re not supposed to speak for ourselves. Our experiences don’t matter, except in relation to how they affect those around us.
But we must, as a country, come together to figure out how to ease the burden that people like me place on people like Yang.
(Large bold italicized underlined highlighted sarcasm font used here.)
Disabled folx have been talking about this all day. And abled folx have been shouting us down, particularly abled Yang supporters.
Telling us that language doesn’t matter. “Special needs” isn’t insulting, because their third grade teacher’s sister’s son had “special needs,” & that’s what *she* said to use.

Guess what. She’s wrong. Language matters, and it evolves.
(I especially love the vitriol being thrown at the #CripTheVote hashtag, telling us that we can’t possibly be offended by “special needs” while using the term “crip.” Guess which one is a term we’ve *reclaimed for ourselves* and which is the infantilizing label slapped onto us.)
Yang has shown, time and again, that he’s not listening to the disability community. He *still* doesn’t even understand the difference between SSI and SSDI. That’s *basic*.
To say “special needs” instead of “disabled,” & to use the word “burden”...

He just left me speechless. Infuriated. Hurt. Disappointed. Disgusted.

And it’s just further compounded by the reactions of self-proclaimed progressives to disabled people’s legitimate criticism.
I’ve got news for you. If you’re shouting down disabled people talking about disability, you’re not progressive.

I don’t make the rules. That’s just the way it is.
Something I’m definitely grateful for, however, is #DisabilityTwitter. Just like I watched Yang’s tweet fill with replies *about* disabled people last night, I watched it fill with replies *from* disabled people today.
People explaining why he’s wrong. Why his framing is harmful. Why the people in the replies need to engage more with *actual disabled people* and LISTEN to what we have to say.

And even though I’m exhausted & in pain, that helped give me a little boost to voice my thoughts.
I’d like to articulate them better. I’d like to go through Yang’s disability policy point by point to explain the problems. To respond to each person in that thread who’s arguing with disabled people about what we need & how we’re treated. But I’m not up to it. So there’s this.
There are also many, MANY breakdowns of this out there, written by *brilliant* disabled activists, authors, lawyers, and advocates. Check those out if you want more info. They’ve *forgotten* more about disability rights & policy than most people will know in a *lifetime*.
If anyone’s wondering why I’m going so hard after Yang here:
• This is *mild* compared to what I’d like to say.
• As I already stated, he’s shown that he *does not listen* to disabled voices.
• It is beyond frustrating that his voice is given a national platform to discuss
disability, while @JulianCastro, who has a much more progressive, inclusive disability policy and has actively worked with members of the disability community to shape his policies, is not.
And if you’re wondering why I’m not hitting back at @ewarren for her “the least of thy brethren” trash, it’s because I can only fight one battle at a time, & Warren has shown she is *willing* to listen, learn, & adapt, so calling out Yang is the place to start.
My needs aren’t “special.”
I’m disabled. #SayTheWord
I’m nobody’s “burden,” nor am I “the least” of anything.
Any time I feel that way, it’s not because of who I am; it’s because of the way I’m treated.
Disabled people aren’t the problem here. Ableism is.
#CripTheVote
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