This year, New York is holding a gubernatorial election. Activist Cynthia Nixon is challenging Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination. Traditionally, the New York Disability Community has turned to the Democratic Party to promote our rights. However, today we must acknowledge the fact that not all Democratic candidates are created equal, and that the Cuomo administration has not prioritized the needs of disabled New Yorkers. We need a new option, and Cynthia Nixon could make herself that option.
If Nixon wants the vote of New Yorkers with disabilities she could give people with disabilities an actual voice at the agency level of state government. Disabled New Yorkers desperately need someone in power to turn to with their problems. The Cuomo administration has not made efforts to fill or fund the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities a position established by his father. By supporting the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities, Nixon could give our community a place in the state government, elevate the importance of removing barriers that keep our community institutionalized and impoverished, and help the state navigate implement Community First Choice.
A new administration could also help turn the tide of a state government that seems committed to healthcare policies that are at odds with the ideal of home and community based services and supports. A carve-out of nursing homes from Managed Long Term Care (MLTC), proposals to limit consumer choice among managed care plans, and limitation on qualification for MLTC only serve to limit options and feed institutional bias. We need a Governor who does not look at Medicaid policy as a source of efficiencies and revenue-savings, but rather as a tool for achieving compliance with the Olmstead plan. A commitment to community integration would clearly differentiate Nixon from a Governor who has tried to incentivize our institutionalization.
Improving transportation is already a part of Nixon’s platform. Showing an interest in repairing and building a transportation system that is accessible to everyone would benefit our community which relies on public transportation. This would distinguish her from Governor Cuomo who has been more than happy to allow our exclusion. He introduced a ridesharing system that denies us access, and only 20% of the MTA subway system is accessible, It would be very easy to improve on Governor Cuomo’s record. We need someone willing to fight for transportation for all.
Disability affects the lives of many New Yorkers, and our voting power should not be taken lightly. The 2016 Disability Status Report compiled by Cornell University and partners found that in 2016, 11.5% of New Yorkers of all ages are disabled and a study by Rutgers University found that 1,923,000 New Yorkers or 14.2% of eligible voters have a disability. When you consider that we have friends and family, it is clear that the “disability vote” is worth winning.
Today, we are more attentive and responsive than ever to candidates’ platforms through the #CriptheVote campaign, REV UP, and the Disability Action for America Fund. We are voting smarter and better, and our day-to-day experiences continually remind us of the numerous barriers we need to be addressed to achieve equality in society. When offered a more progressive choice on “disability issues” in Cynthia Nixon, we might want to stop hoping for change from the incumbent when none is clearly forthcoming.