By ZACK BUDRYK, THE HILL
(Published January 7, 2020)--Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) on Tuesday held a Twitter town hall with disabled activists in the #CripTheVote hashtag, which was created in 2015 to discuss the intersection of policy and disability issues.
During the discussion, Warren confirmed her 2020 campaign includes disabled staffers, telling activist Alice Wong, the co-founder of the hashtag, “We have staff with disabilities across the campaign. Their lived experiences and talents help foster an inclusive and accessible campaign.”
“We also have a volunteer working group of leaders in the disability community who help us connect with the larger community. My campaign — and my administration — will always seek the input of the community as we govern,” she added.
The Massachusetts senator also addressed a question from Kyla Patterson, who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party Stonewall Caucus, about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
“People with disabilities deserve financial security,” Warren tweeted. “My plan increases SSI to the federal poverty line, revises income limits, and ends rules that force people to choose between critical benefits and financial independence, saving, or marrying the person they love,” referencing SSI’s “marriage penalty,” which reduces the amount a couple may receive if they are married.
The hashtag trended on Twitter during Warren’s Q&A.
Warren also addressed accessibility issues that may interfere with voting rights as they pertain to disabled voters, telling activist Sarah Blahovec that as president she would work to ensure polling locations and ballot machines are accessible in addition to making Election Day a national holiday and expanding voting hours and voting by mail.
“We were thrilled with how it went. We hope that it is just the first of many with all of the candidates. Our community deserves to hear from all of them,” Gregg Beratan, co-founder of #CripTheVote, told The Hill.
“We were hoping for what we got: genuine engagement from the candidate. I also like that she got to see so many of the questions from the community even if she couldn’t answer them all. Over the five years we have been doing this, the people participating have consistently pointed out that all policy issues are disability policy issues,” he added. “To hear that come back to us from a major candidate was fantastic.”
“Today, Elizabeth Warren made the time and took the effort to come to the disability community in one of the places we gather — the #CripTheVote twitter chat — to tell us that she knows that ‘all policy issues are disability policy issues.’ That is huge,” Matthew Cortland, a disabled disability rights lawyer based in Massachusetts, told The Hill.
“Disabled Americans are 25% of the population, there is no issue that is not a disability issue. I’m incredibly proud of the #CripTheVote team and Senator Warren,” he added. “I believe that Warren’s responses during the Town Hall reiterated her commitment to ensuring that the lives and experiences of disabled people are not an afterthought to her, but a steadfast priority she aims to uphold as President,” Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, a social worker and disabled activist and a member of the Warren campaign’s Disability Policy Group, told The Hill.
Warren also recently earned praise over a comprehensive disability policy plan she released that included reforms to SSI, including doing away with the marriage penalty and de-escalation training for law enforcement. It also highlighted the benefits she said her “Medicare for All” proposal would provide for disabled people.
Medicare for All, she said, would “be particularly impactful for people with disabilities whose frequent interactions with the healthcare system make consistent, affordable access to care all the more crucial.”