Today, The Century Foundation’s Disability Economic Justice Collaborative launched a new initiative to further its mission of achieving economic justice for all disabled people in the United States. The Voices of Disability Economic Justice Project, which will run as an ongoing TCF commentary series, brings the voices of disabled writers and advocates front and center, showcasing their first-person perspectives on the economic issues that matter most to them and uplifting the myriad ways in which the U.S. economy leaves disabled people behind.
The collaborative, launched in April 2022 by The Century Foundation, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, brings together forty leading think tanks, research groups, and disability rights and justice organizations to learn from each other and work in partnership to bring a disability lens across economic policymaking in the United States. The Voices of Disability Economic Justice Project is the collaborative’s newest initiative as part of its larger efforts to achieve economic justice for all disabled Americans, more than thirty-two years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law.
“As the collaborative works to bring awareness of the long-standing economic crisis facing the U.S. disability community, centering the voices and perspectives of disabled people in media is an essential step,” said Rebecca Vallas, co-director of the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative and a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. “As our collaborative members work together to bring disability into the economic debate, people with disabilities who have experienced our broken systems firsthand are uniquely positioned to articulate what better public policy would mean for their lives.”
The series, which is being edited under the leadership of Emily Ladau—a longtime disability rights activist, writer, and editor, and author of Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be An Ally—launches with three original pieces by disabled writers and advocates who tell the stories of economic injustice in their own words. Steve Grammer, a Virginian born with Cerebral Palsy, writes about his struggles accessing home- and community-based care, which has been essential to his ability to live a free and independent life. Steve also discusses how antiquated eligibility rules in Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary earlier this week, prevent people like him from working and building savings.
Other featured Voices of Disability Economic Justice commentaries highlight the contributions that disabled workers make to the economy, and how inclusive policies can make a huge difference in their lives. Nicole Froio, a reporter based in Brazil, writes about how remote work, which has become increasingly available over the past few years, has changed her life by allowing her to better manage her PTSD symptoms. Kim Kelly, a Philadelphia-based journalist, author, and organizer, also focuses on the link between disability and labor in her piece for the project, such as how policies like the subminimum wage continue to oppress disabled workers.
The series will continue through the fall and into 2023, featuring additional pieces from disabled writers on a broad range of topics at the intersection of disability and economic justice. For more, read the collection on TCF’s website and follow the collaborative on Twitter at @DEJCollab.