Like most forms of online activism, its primary function (to my mind) is to thicken networks. We tweet, we use the hashtag, we encounter each other and find the depth and breadth of our community. Twitter is a more accessible space than most, so it's particularly well suited to the diversity of the disability community.
For hashtag activism (not a dismissive term from me) to jump beyond the platform requires help from the media. It's beginning to work, perhaps.
Valerie Payne for HLNtv.com writes:
A new hashtag surfaced Thursday night during the PBS "NewsHour" Democratic debate, which was simulcast on CNN. Amidst the debate between presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, disability advocates are demanding their voices be heard and their issues addressed during this election cycle, so they developed that hashtag: #cripthevote.Washington Post feature writer Caitlin Gibson writes:
It’s a safe bet that certain hot-button issues will be addressed in the next round of Democratic and Republican presidential debates this week: unemployment, health care, gun control, the economy.Best of all s.e. smith, one of my favorite journalists who writes on disability, got a piece into The Guardian on disability and politics more generally:
But will the candidates talk about how the unemployment rate among the disabled is more than double that of non-disabled Americans? Or that people with disabilities are far more likely to be victims of violent crime? Will there be any mention of the many disabled people whose struggles are compounded by poverty and inadequate health care?
Probably not, say disability rights advocates — so they aim to change that. As the candidates take the stage, and a vast audience follows along on social media, disabled voters plan to make their voices heard by rallying under the Twitter hashtag #CripTheVote.
Disabled people are also very worried about police violence, says Pulrang. “The police killings that have garnered so much attention in the last few years include people with disabilities, who were killed in part because of poor understanding of how to communicate with people who have various kinds of disabilities.” That could be another point of collaborative organizing, as the black community is similarly concerned with the issue – notably, many victims of police violence are both disabled and black, in an intersection of injustice.
RespectAbility is one group that’s hoping to promote voting in the disability community with outreach on these issues. The group is surveying and educating candidates on disability issues and conveying responses to disabled voters and other interested parties. Their hope, as with other disability activists, is to increase voter participation and push candidates to do better on disability issues – ultimately, that may include promoting bloc voting, with initiatives like#CriptheVote and RevUp! doing voter outreach as well. Wong is cautious about turning the disability community into a monolith, though, preferring to focus on uniting people behind common issues like social services.
It’s not enough to mobilize as a group, Pulrang, Schur, Cruse and Dickson all argue: We need more data on disabled voters to learn more about barriers to voting access, how people are voting, and which sectors of the disability community should be targeted to increase political engagement.Let me know if you see more mainstream media articles like this (not diminishing blogs. Blogs, like hashtags, thicken networks and sharpen arguments. I'm interested though when disability pieces get through mainstream media editors and possibly reach new audiences).
My recent pieces on the subject:
- A Reporting Project Puts Disabilities on the Political Agenda (The Atlantic, 1/25/16)
- Autism: Can other candidates match Hillary Clinton's plan? (CNN.com, 1/10/16)
- Politicians are Ignoring Americans with Disabilities (Al Jazeera America, 11/10/15)