On February 4th, 2016, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in their final debate before the New Hampshire Democratic primary. That night, Clinton’s closing statement followed a script that resembled her stump speeches and previous debate appearances: She listed specific groups that experience discrimination and for whom she’s spent her career fighting. Until this point in the campaign, she had listed women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ Americans, but on that Friday night, she added “people with disabilities” to her litany.
Clinton would go on to run a campaign that set new standards for the inclusion of disability as a major political issue. She featured disabled leaders at the Democratic National Convention, gave an entire policy speech on disability inclusion, came out against paying disabled workers a sub-minimum wage, released a detailed plan about supporting autistic people, and supported better wages for caregivers, while her campaign produced document after document detailing policy goals around health-care access and disability rights. Meanwhile, Donald Trump ran the most ableist campaign in American history, from his infamous mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski to (more importantly) supporting policies that would harm disabled Americans in many ways. For the first time in my political life, I thought, disability might even swing the election…..