Accessibility in its fullest sense is the right to be seen and not be forced to live on the margins of our communities.

 

We must challenge and help transform the stigmatization faced by people living with disabilities. Disability rights advocates speak passionately about the waves of suspicion, blame, and judgment they face on a daily basis. The Massachusetts State Senate must be a watchdog for this insidious reality, making sure that state policy not only does nothing to perpetuate it, but helps alleviate it.

 

Attached to the stigma is the pervasive challenge regarding expectations. That’s why the Legislature must lift the horizon on expectations for what people living with disabilities want, need, and can achieve so that government is not adversely limiting what’s achievable.

 

We must also recognize the broad continuum of people living with disabilities and ensure that policy reflects government’s nuanced responsibility across abilities—from physical to developmental to emotional to cognitive.

 

And, we need to proactively create legislation that makes it easier for people living with disabilities to be present and to engage deeply. Joannah Whitney, a disability rights advocate living in Greenfield told me, “We’re building a world that makes it harder for people with disabilities to be present.” This heightens the risk of isolation.

 

Bottom line, we have to focus across issues—education, housing, employment, public transportation, infrastructure, and health care—that robustly breaks down barriers to full engagement and provides the resources needed to fulfill the mission of associated programs and initiatives. And this focus must not be an afterthought, we have to lead with it as central.

 

Please click the button below to look at the disability rights-related bills I co-sponsored this session.

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