Disability Rights and Racial Justice

Disability Rights and Racial Justice

The shared struggle for equality faced by people with disabilities and people of color persists today. Individuals with disabilities, particularly those from other marginalized communities, experience compounded discrimination and exclusion due to their disability and race, religion, and more. They encounter significant barriers in healthcare, education, employment, and access to public spaces. Black people with disabilities are also disproportionately incarcerated, experience higher rates of poverty than other racial groups, and are at higher risk of violence and abuse.

People of color with disabilities also face heightened threats to their voting rights. For example, the Legal Defense Fund is currently challenging a Texas law, S.B. 1, that greatly restricts access to voting, making it harder for Texans to vote, particularly Black and Latinx voters and voters with disabilities.

As LDF’s press release announcing the Sept. 7, 2021 filing outlined, in addition to arguing that the law violates multiple constitutional amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by “intentionally targeting and burdening methods and means of voting used by voters of color,” it also claims that S.B.1 violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. S.B.1, the lawsuit argues, “impos[es] voting barriers that will discriminate against voters with disabilities and deny people with disabilities full and equal opportunities to participate in the state’s voting programs,” the press release described.

All of the systemic issues described above are rooted in societal biases, racism, and ableism, leading to the disproportionate exclusion of people of color with disabilities from mainstream narratives and opportunities. The disability rights movement continues its fight to dismantle these barriers and secure equal access and rights for all individuals.

To achieve true equality and justice, it is imperative to address the issues facing people of color with disabilities. This requires a multifaceted approach that includes policy reforms, community engagement, and intersectional advocacy. Efforts should be directed towards dismantling barriers to healthcare, promoting inclusive education, addressing economic disparities, and amplifying the voices of people of color with disabilities in decision-making processes.

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