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Women’s March expected to be largest gathering of people with disabilities in US history

Anastasia Somoza, a disability rights advocate, speaks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. She is sitting in a wheelchair.
Anastasia Somoza, a disability rights advocate, speaks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
Paul Morigi/Getty

What happens when a man who now has the keys to the highest office openly mocked people with disabilities? They fight back.

According to organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, people with disabilities will be participating in droves, with a number expected to shatter any previous records of past rallies for people with disabilities.

In 2016, disability was at the forefront of the election — unfortunately, at times, for all the wrong reasons. Although there was no shortage of offensive comments from the mouth (and tweets) of Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, his brash imitation of a reporter with a disability, according to a Bloomberg poll (conducted before the Access Hollywood tape leak), was his most egregious and inexcusable act for all voters regardless of ability.

So while his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton presented a platform that focused on disability issues, with important proposals such as closing the loophole that prevents disabled workers from receiving paid minimum wage, Trump’s shocking portrayal of disability became infamous.

His actions (and later, his refusal to admit it), followed by his patronizing rhetoric on the campaign trail toward a community that represents nearly one in five Americans, was enough to galvanize them to rally together. The number of demonstrators with disabilities expected at the protest on January 21 is expected to be larger than any other assembled protest in the movement’s history.

“This is going to be massive,” Ted Jackson, the logistics team accessibility lead at the Women’s March, told Vox on Thursday. “Estimates are that [there] are at least 45,000 people with disabilities showing up, which should be the largest assembly of people with disabilities in US history.” He said this would exceed some of the most significant demonstrations on record, like the one organized by disability advocates after the Senate passed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which garnered around 8,500 protestors.

Mia Ives-Rublee, the founder and coordinator of the Women’s March on Washington’s Disability Caucus, credits the passing of this very law with creating a foundation for a strong movement of educated and empowered citizens to take on a president-elect like Trump. She also believes the contrast between the spotlight of people with disabilities at the Democratic National Convention and Trump’s dismissal of the community laid an obvious argument for mobilization.

“People with disabilities got so much visibility during the 2016 campaign,” she said. “To have someone [like Trump] totally ignore our needs and priorities is a step back, and they will stay active even after [the inauguration.]”

Whether voters will forgive the president-elect for his mocking of a disabled person is still up for debate, but if the numbers are any indication, disability advocates are not close to letting him forget.

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