Politics & Media
Feb 17, 2017, 07:00AM

A Cruel Trick For People With Disabilities

What happens when a resource for the disabled disappears?

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The Trump administration is a traveling troupe of magicians. Their gimmick is focused on making webpages disappear. There’s been a decent amount of coverage regarding the disappearance of pages such as LGBT and climate change from the White House page. However, with the confirmation of the controversial Betsy DeVos, there’s been another digital casualty.

SeattlePI reported that the U.S. Department of Education website that offers information to parents, educators, and administrators regarding disability education and legal rights has been removed. The site simply redirects to a different page that belongs to the Office of Special Education Programs. This has irked Washington State Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. They’ve spoken about the lack of information because of this decision, stating that access to this information and its related resources is important for the public to understand the issues at hand. But there's an additional layer to this issue that it serves to highlight.

The public is aware of the incident when President Trump mocked a disabled New York Times reporter. Clearly, the administration does not consider the needs of the disabled important enough to warrant preservation of this information. What does this say about the political attitudes surrounding the disabled? Furthermore, does it cast a shadow on a larger problem with the treatment of the disabled in America?

A lesser-known cousin of the terms “sexism” and “racism” is “ableism.” A common sentiment in America is that sexism and racism are somehow “over,” making discussions to deal with the more subtle forms of discrimination extraordinarily difficult. Ableism is often dismissed. The public doesn't really know what ableism is, and many are hesitant to apply the terminology (though they will often acknowledge the behavior it is meant to call attention to).

What this decision, and the reaction of the public, could potentially signal is a need to re-examine our cultural attitudes towards the disabled. We have to ask how much we actually care about these issues and if there’s any room for improvement. Advocates could list many potential changes, but they all hinge on the willingness of the public to accept the imperfect nature of how we handle these issues. Until then, the rights of the disabled just become another tick in a long tally of removed pages. One may wonder how far this would go, but I'm sure that whatever answer came back would be uncomfortable. For the disabled, that luxury of being able to wait for events to unfold simply doesn't exist.


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