Persons with disabilities constitute the world’s largest minority. In the United States alone, approximately 49 million citizens live with a disability, around 20 percent of the population. Despite this staggering figure, disability is rarely identified as a public policy issue in the United States, persons with disabilities are not recognized as a voting bloc, and worst of all, most public policy and human rights groups don’t even identify disability or persons with disabilities as a demographic to be researched. When these institutions neglect to identify disability as a demographic in the United States, disability is left almost completely out of important conversations—most notably, the 2016 election.
It is time for persons with disabilities and their supporters to take a stand and demand that public policy institutions and organizations representing American policy interests recognize and devote resources to studying disability as a policy issue.
The following institutions play a vital role in researching American public policy, bringing attention to crucial political issues, and helping to find solutions to these issues. Unfortunately, these organizations fail to recognize disability as a demographic:
The Pew Research Center is one of the United States’ leading research organizations on both domestic and international politics. The breadth of its research covers 225 topic areas, including race and ethnicity, generations, sexual orientations, religions, and gender. Disability is not recognized as a research area.
The Center for American Progress is a progressive think tank located in Washington, DC that produces a significant amount of research on domestic social issues. Among their research topics are LGBT, Race and Ethnicity, Religion and Values, and Women. Disability is not recognized as a research area.
On an international level, Human Rights First plays a crucial role in promoting American human rights values around the globe. Their 28 research and advocacy topics include women’s rights, LGBT rights, and fighting anti-Semitism and Xenophobia. Disability is not recognized as a research area.
When these organizations do not contribute research on the disability community, they send the message that the disability rights movement is not on par with women’s rights, racial and ethnic equality, religious liberty, and sexual orientation as social justice and policy movements. Politicians have heard this loud and clear: the disability demographic, despite being so massive, has not been mentioned in the platforms of 2016 presidential candidates despite the fact that many issues affecting persons with disabilities, including health care and Social Security, receive significant attention and debate. Legislation important to the disability is sidelined in Congress and receives little press.
To reverse the neglect of the disability community, it is vital to demand that think tanks and other policy organizations recognize and research the largest minority demographic in the world. Now is the time for disability rights to be given equal footing with all other social justice movements. This simple addition by these organizations could make an extreme difference in terms of greater research on and for the disability community. Join me in calling on these institutions to finally give Americans with disabilities equal recognition and research for public policy.