Disability Advocates Feel Ditched By Palin

Posted by | February 25, 2010 10:27 | Filed under: Top Stories

Dana Goldstein at the Daily Beast profiles the problems disability rights groups are having with Sarah Palin.  She attacked Rahm Emanuel (but not Rush Limbaugh) for bad language and attacked “Family Guy” for a joke she didn’t like, but that doesn’t address the issues and needs that advocates really care about.

…leading disability-rights organizations in Alaska, Washington, D.C., and across the country tell The Daily Beast they view Palin’s increasing outspokenness on the issue with skepticism, noting that on most of their policy priorities—from health-care reform to increased federal funding for community services—Palin is either out of step with many national disability-advocacy groups or has yet to articulate a clear position.

Palin pledged that if she became VP, special needs groups would “have a friend and advocate in the White House.” But since then she’s been missing in action, according to those at the forefront of the issue.

“Since the end of the presidential election, we haven’t heard Sarah Palin articulate any specific policy proposals [on disability],” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, a Beltway lobbying group representing people with intellectual disabilities. Like nine other national disability-rights leaders The Daily Beast spoke to, Berns pointed to Palin’s excusing of Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word “retarded”—even as she hammered Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, for the same sin—as evidence of her lack of seriousness. “It has unfortunately politicized the issue in ways that are not productive, and it has converted what really are bipartisan issues into partisan ones,” Berns said.

Palin’s opposition to President Obama’s health care overhaul and invoking her special needs son to scare people about “death panels” hasn’t sat well with these groups, who mostly support the reforms being discussed.

…the various proposals would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions, a common problem for people with disabilities. The Senate version of the reform plan also contains a provision that would provide states with extra Medicaid funding if they agree to give disabled patients the option of being cared for at home, instead of in institutional settings such as nursing homes and mental-health facilities. Called the Community Choice Option, it is a top priority for disability activists.

In response to the Daily Beast, Palin’s spokesperson emailed links to stories about Palin, but offered no specific responses or policy positions.

Referencing Palin’s Feb. 6 appearance at the National Tea Party convention in Nashville—where tax-cutting was akin to religion—Alaska legal advocate [Dave] Fleurant [of Alaska’s Disability Law Center] asked, “Are the rights of the disabled in sync with the Tea Party movement? What’s their position on full funding or placing people with disabilities in the community? If they’re aligned, more power to them, but I haven’t seen that.”

Bruce Fletcher, founder and CEO of the New York-based National Association for the Developmentally Disabled, was harsher, saying, “I think having a celebrity as an advocate is a very good idea. But I don’t think she’s the right person to do that given that there’s a cloud over her in terms of her credibility.”

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By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.

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