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Opinion: Thom Tillis, Republicans No Friends to People with Disabilities


 

(Image courtesy of liberalamerica.org)
(Image courtesy of liberalamerica.org)

It is a dead heat in the North Carolina Senate election. Senator Kay Hagan and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis have been running neck and neck since the start.

Right-wing groups have recently tried to court a demographic that has often been at odds with the Republican Party: Parents of people with disabilities.

In a recent ad, Carolina Rising touted that Tillis helped get a bill through the State House that would have required health insurance companies to cover Applied Behavorial Analysis therapy for kids with autism. While ABA itself is a thorny issue in the disability rights community that I have no desire to get in the middle of at the moment, many parents who have used it say it has vastly improved their child’s functional skills.

It is certainly commendable that Tillis tried but the kicker is that the Republican Senate Speaker Phil Berger refused to let the bill get to the floor.

Though it was a commendable gesture on Tillis’ part, parents of kids with disabilities should not be fooled. The Republican Party in its current form is opposed to people with disabilities in almost every way imaginable. Let’s count the ways.

The Affordable Care Act has one important feature for people with disabilities: Insurance companies were no longer able to turn down people with pre-existing conditions. Why is that important? Almost all disabilities qualify as pre-existing conditions. The refrain is that such a mandate is unfair to insurance companies and that people should take “personal responsibility” and get coverage before something happens but how can one take personal responsibility for stuff that happens to them in utero?

The Republicans have no answer beyond “people with disabilities are on their own” and the old “charities will step in” canard. Sorry but rugged individualism and hoping against hope that you’ll find a charity to pay for a wheelchair is not going to cut it if you’re quadriplegic. For the  record, most half decent wheelchairs can cost as much as a used car.

They also have a record of opposing almost all disability rights legislation. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and many state level laws were passed in spite of opposition from “small government” conservatives.

They’ve also opposed legislation like the Keeping All Students Safe Act, an act that would prohibit restraints and seclusion of kids with disabilities absent a danger to themselves and others in schools on the basis of state’s rights, which in their minds overrides the rights of kids to not endure abusive practices.

It was the same deal with H.R. 911, otherwise known as Stop Child Abuse in Residential Facilities for Teens Act. Abuse, sometimes even death, occurs on a wide scale in facilities for teens with severe emotional disturbances.

The House passed it but the Senate refused because they were concerned about state’s rights. Going strictly by this bill, the Republicans think the “right” of states to ignore torture trumps the rights of kids with disabilities to not be tortured.

Republicans are also staunchly opposed to funding public education in almost any significant way (unless the funding being discussed is for sports). They’d rather it, like everything else, be privatized and preferably unregulated in any significant fashion. This is a huge problem for kids with disabilities. The thing with private schools is that they can pick and choose their students.

If given the choice between a regular student and a student with autism or something, you’d be hard pressed to find a private school that would take the latter student. If the current iteration of the Republicans had its way, public education would be slashed to the bone.

The kids without disabilities can flee to private and charter schools. The kids with disabilities will be left in the lurch.

It was a nice gesture on Tillis’ part to support therapy for kids with autism. However, people with disabilities should not kid themselves into thinking Tillis and the Republicans have their interests at heart.

In spite of all the faults of the Democrats, the fact is that the current iteration of the Republican Party is after a Randian Objectivist government with no regulations, laws, or domestic programs of any kind.

They are no longer the party of Lincoln but the party of Ayn Rand. People with disabilities are just obstacles in the way.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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