#SOTU4PWD - 2016

Photo of a podium with two microphones and the Presidential Seal on the front, two flags behind

Once again, disability bloggers and activists dusted off the #SOTU4PWD hashtag, and live blogged the State of the Union Address, adding comments from a disability perspective. Alice Wong at Disability Visibility Project has also again provided a great Storify summary of the evening's Tweets:

Yes, I tweeted. I couldn't help myself, and the speech was so neatly structured that the tweets nearly wrote themselves:

As a citizen interested in politics, who proudly worked for President Obama's election both times, I thought it was a lovely speech. It felt like a fitting and even energizing summary of everything the Obama Administration has been about ... both what it wanted to be, and what it actually was.

As a voter with disabilities, I was again somewhat disappointed, insofar as the President never so much as mentioned disabled people, much less disability policy.

I am never quite sure how to feel about this.

On the one hand, I can't honestly foresee a day anytime soon, maybe ever, when a disability issue will rise to the top tier of issues that must be discussed in a State of the Union Address. I'm not even sure that's wrong. Nor am I certain that our issues would benefit from a significantly higher profile, given the ableism still rampant in society, and how quickly complex policy topics can be misconstrued and misunderstood. We may do better, in the long run, if our big policy issues remain the relatively quiet purview of disability activists and a handful of policy wonks.

On the other hand, that all seems like cynical, defeatist nonsense. At least a few of our issues are legitimately of national importance ... education for one, long term care for another. These issue overlap with the everyday concerns of people outside what we call the "Disability Community," to include everyone with a child and everyone over 65, or with loved ones over 65. Plus, there's nothing wrong with a significant minority, of, say 49 million people, asking the rest of society to focus for a minute on issues unique to us.

What really puzzles me this year is why "people with disabilities" have so far mostly been left off the list of "groups" politicians mention when they do those familiar rhetorical runs meant to illustrate the diversity of the American promise and experience. People of all races, genders, incomes, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations ... and people with disabilities. Except that people with disabilities have been left off this year, by Presidential candidates and by the actual, current President. We've always been an afterthought, but it seems like just a few years ago, it was de rigueur for politicians to give disabled people a shout out at that particular moment an the average address or stump speech. It might be a small matter, but that little omission gets louder each successive time. Is it just an accident that we've been left off the list lately? Or, is there something else going on?

I honestly don't know.

Links to past State Of The Union Address articles at Disability Thinking:

#SOTU4PWD 2015
#SOTU4PWD 2014