On November 13, Julián Castro became the latest U.S. presidential candidate to release a plan to address the needs of the disabled* community. Castro is not the first U.S. presidential candidate to have a disability plan, but his plan is the first one that I’ve ever read that truly addresses systemic issues that create barriers for members of the disability community.
There are two different kinds of policy recommendations in Castro’s plan.
The first type is addressing current systems that are supposed to be helping members of the disability community but are lackluster or failing. In terms of reforming education to better support disabled students, Castro said that he would increase the prevalence Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) programs and would invest “$150 billion in modernizing school infrastructure so every campus is ADA-compliant.”
His plan is the first one that I’ve ever read that truly addresses systemic issues affecting the disabled community.
As someone whose hearing loss was not diagnosed until I was in kindergarten, I cannot stress the importance of EPSDT programs.
As the hashtag #WhyDisabledPeopleDropOut explores, school systems are not made to help disabled students succeed. Other highlights in his plan include doubling the federal budget for mass transit to make it more accessible, 12 weeks of paid medical leave, and expanding Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I often force myself to work through bad chronic illness symptoms, so a plan that includes paid medical leave is a breath of fresh air.
The second point in his policy recommendations is to implement policies to address issues that exacerbate problems that disabled people face. For example, Castro brings up his plan to end chronic homelessness in his disability policy. In 2009, it was reported that more than 40 percent of homeless people in the United States have disabilities.
Unfortunately, many disabled people live in poverty due to rising medical costs, being unable to work, being paid inhumane wages, or a combination of the aforementioned reasons. If disabled people are going to be able to manage their disability or disabilities and thrive, they need to have housing.
The day after Castro released his plan, he had a Town Hall on Twitter with the #CripTheVote community. For people who don’t know, #CripTheVote hashtag brings awareness to issues affecting disabled people. Many disabled people, including myself, face accessibility barriers when attending in-person Town Halls. So, by having this event on Twitter, Castro ensured that disabled people are able to have our voice heard on disability issues.
I, for one, gladly participated until I had to log out of Twitter because my class started. I live in New York City, where there are a lot of political debates, Town Halls, and similar events, but this is the first time I’ve been able to attend because it was accessible to me.
It truly pains me that Castro is not polling better, as I believe that he actually cares about disabled people.
It truly pains me that Castro is not polling better in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, as I believe that he actually cares about disabled people. I’m disappointed that Castro did not qualify for the November debate because he truly seems to take steps to better understand and support the needs of marginalized people, from his disability plan to the time he visited a DC jail to discuss criminal justice reform with inmates.
Whether or not Castro gets the Democratic ticket, his disability plan brought many issues facing disabled people that often get overlooked by politicians to light.
For that, I am grateful.
* I am using the term disabled, not the term “with disabilities” in accordance with many members of the disabled community who dislike person-first language, including myself.