Dear President Trump,
I’m writing on behalf of disabled Americans—roughly 20% of our total population—and also on behalf of my 26 year-old daughter on the spectrum. Mr. President, I want you to know that I go to sleep every night terrified of what might happen (or not happen) to my lovely, vibrant Samantha—who graduated cum laude from Pace University in 2014, but still has no job and no vocational or life skills support (other than what I personally can offer her), despite my continuous efforts.
I love my daughter every bit as much you love Ivanka and your 4 other children. In your role as father and with your experience as a successful businessman, I bet you would do everything in your power to enable your children to reach their full potential. Now that you are one of the most powerful leaders in the world, I beg you to open your mind and heart to the disabilities population. Many people with disabilities have valuable skills and talents, if only others would take the time to see them. A helping hand would enable people like my daughter to earn their own living and become productive taxpayers, instead of COSTING Americans billions in disability payments. Please believe me when I say that investing in the ever-increasing number of young adults with autism and other disabilities NOW will lead to huge SAVINGS long-term. Isn’t that ultimately aligned with the Republican goal of providing fewer hand-outs?
The White House site on support services for those with disabilities vanished as soon as you took office. What do you have in mind for individuals with disabilities who are seeking information on housing, life skills and vocational support? Taking down the website and offering NOTHING sends the message that people with disabilities don’t matter, have no value and deserve to be invisible. See The New York Times article by Melissa Blake, “Disabled, Shunned and Silenced in Trump’s America”. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/opinion/disabled-shunned-and-silenced-in-trumps-america.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170215&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=11&nlid=70466041&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0
Imagine (if you can, Mr. President) how frightening and infuriating it must be for people with disabilities and their families to be confronted with a blank page. If you and your fellow Republicans are willing to repair Obamacare before abolishing it, why not offer the same consideration for people with disabilities, who depend on government agency funding for their very SURVIVAL?
In addition, logic dictates that if you, support making abortion illegal, you must be prepared to deal with many more babies born with disabilities. If these babies have a “right to life,” don’t they continue to deserve that same right as they inevitably develop into children, adults and elderly people?
Since your new Education Secretary Betsey DeVos appears to have no understanding of the needs and rights of people with disabilities, I suggest conducting town hall meetings with disability advocates and families of children with disabilities. Thoughtful, coordinated efforts will be necessary to help individuals with disabilities move through early intervention, grade school education, college accommodations, vocational training and life skill support.
Would you consider offering greater tax incentives to businesses that train and employ people with disabilities? I urge you to go beyond supporting the current enlightened corporate philosophy of hiring people on the spectrum for clerical duties and software programming. I’d like to see greater support for people with disabilities in the arts, entertainment and advertising. Young adults (like my daughter) who succeed could serve as spokespeople and role models for other special needs kids. You have ambassadors to most countries in the world. Why not add an autism ambassador? (I know at least one attractive and enthusiastic candidate….)
Let me also appeal to your self-interest. Doesn’t it make political sense to have some disabled people and their families vote Republican? If 20% of the current population is disabled, and 1 in 68 kids are born on the autistic spectrum, we’re talking about a significant potential constituency.
Don’t dismiss disabled people as incapable or disinterested in voting. I gave Samantha a rudimentary crash course on Republicans and Democrats, and she had no trouble deciding who to vote for. If you help Samantha and others like her get the support they need to find jobs, pay taxes and live independently, that ever-increasing demographic is likely to vote for your reelection.
Thank you for the possibility—however remote—that your administration will support the rights of the disabled.