Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is a disabled veteran, who has spoken honestly and eloquently about how the Americans with Disabilities Act has enabled her to live and thrive. She expressed profound concerns about the willingness of President-elect Donald Trump's Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to protect, defend, and advance the rights of disabled Americans.
In a powerful statement on Attorney General-designate and her Senate colleague Jeff Sessions, Senator Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraq veteran, shared her deep reservations about Sessions’ commitment to protecting disability rights.
As an American living with disabilities, my life isn’t like many of my colleagues’ in Congress. Getting around can be difficult; you saw what I had to do to get into this room today. I can’t always get into restaurants or other public spaces, and I have to spend a lot of time planning on how to get from one place to another.
And I understand that not everyone thinks about these things, and for most of my adult life I didn’t either. But after I became injured in combat during my service in Iraq, I learned how important the protections of laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are to ensuring millions of Americans with disabilities can live and thrive with dignity.
Without them, Americans like me wouldn’t be able to get to work, go to school, hold a job, pay taxes, go shopping, or do any of the things people take for granted. And that’s why I’m speaking out today, because it matters deeply to me who the Attorney General of the United States is.
The Attorney General is charged with protecting disability rights and deciding whether to enforce or erode the protections countless Americans depend on — in the critical areas of health care, education, employment, voting, and others. And we have a nominee who has a record of speaking up against disability issues.
He’s called the protections for people with disabilities — and I quote — “unnecessary” and even — and I quote — “dangerous.”
He called laws requiring public schools to accommodate students with disabilities — and I quote — “the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.”
He voted against expanding hate crime protections to people with disabilities. The hate crime against an 18-year-old man with disabilities recently in Chicago should remind us that hate is not limited to any skin color, and that civil rights laws — from hate crimes to voting rights to disability rights — protect us all.
I’m speaking up because I think it’s important for Americans to understand that disability rights is a civil rights issue, and it’s an issue that my lawyer, the Attorney General of the United States, should be committed to advancing.
And if Senator Sessions is confirmed, I am deeply concerned about what will happen to citizens with disabilities, to citizens with different racial backgrounds, to citizens with different sexual orientations, and to other marginalized Americans. Thank you for coming here today.
Duckworth’s concerns take on even greater urgency in the shadow of Republican threats to rescind healthcare access to disabled people, which, for countless disabled persons, would stand to complicate or exacerbate their disabilities.
Additionally, as many as half of the people killed by police are disabled. With police killings across the nation increasingly warranting the attention of the Justice Department, an Attorney General hostile to disability protections stands to undermine justice for these victims.
Sessions’ record on civil rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, and disability rights are of grave concern, leaving every marginalized American at risk for abandonment by the office meant to protect us.