Upper East Side disability advocate and former City Council candidate Rebecca Lamorte is putting disabled political hopefuls front and center with an upcoming free educational webinar.
‘Crafting a Campaign & Policies Rooted in Disability Rights,’ next week’s event, will teach attendees about the unique challenges of running for office as a disabled person, and how to prioritize justice and human rights for disabled voters.
“It’s very personal to me because I know how alone I felt as a candidate with a disability while running for New York City Council,” Lamorte told Upper East Site of her 2021 campaign. “I didn’t feel I had a place to go that would embrace me, support me, uplift me as I am.”
Sponsored by Disability Victory, a social welfare organization committed to nurturing the political power of disabled people, the event will educate prospective candidates on using their campaigns to promote and protect the rights of disable people while staying true to the needs of their communities.
While there are many affinity groups helping women, people of color, and other groups get elected, Lamorte sees a lack of similar organizations for disabled people, and is proud to serve on Disability Victory’s board.
“[My disability] completely shapes how I interact with politics, because politics is everyday life, and my everyday life is that of a disabled woman,” Lamorte, who became disabled after a subway accident 10 years ago, said.
Moving around NYC, she not only sees infrastructure challenges that an able-bodied person would not notice, “I also see pitfalls where disabled people are being sidelined in the political process, being left out of political campaigns, where disabled candidates aren’t taken as seriously as non-disabled candidates.”
For Lamorte, this is the missing piece she wants to add.
“My entire political ethos is to center disabled people — not just myself, people with other disabilities [too] — and have our voices, have our lived experiences guide changes in politics and in policy.”
Disabled people are the fasted growing minority in the country, with up to one in four Americans having some sort of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As millions continue to grapple with the symptoms of long-Covid, more and more previously able-bodied people are finding themselves part of a vastly under-represented group in politics.
To make campaigns and political events more accessible, candidates should start by hiring disabled staffers, Lamorte contends. Like her webinar, campaign ads should have captions, rallies should have ASL interpreters, images on websites and social media posts should have alt text so that materials are accessible to everyone. Events should be held in accessible spaces, she added, remembering invitations she’s received to spaces she could not physically enter.
“Disabled people are completely ignored in politics,” the Upper East Sider said, driving home the need for her event. Free to attend, the webinar will occur live on Monday November 20th, at 8:00 pm. Registration is available on Disability Victory’s website.
While she acknowledges that disability representation has been gaining ground in recent years, “It’s not enough,” she believes.
“Crumbs aren’t enough. We want the whole cake.”