The following is the text of a speech I gave at the rally for the Americans with Disabilities Act 26th anniversary rally hosted by the National Council on Independent Living.
My name is Emet Tauber and I am 21 years old. The ADA was created before my lifetime.
26 years ago, disability activists stood here as President Bush signed an act that was praised as a landmark piece of civil rights legistlation for disabled people.
And yet we know that wasn’t enough. More than 2 decades later our siblings are still stuck in nursing homes with no end in sight. They are confined to their homes due to broken equipment. They are being denied benefits, the right to marry, and the right to adequate healthcare.
Routinely, in the media we are told that we are better off dead.
Intersections of identity are still denied. Our disabilities are our only definining characteristic, we are unable to have nuanced identities
And yet i stand here, and I am not just disabled.
I am transgender, I am queer, I am Jewish, I am a student, I am an advocate.
There is more to me than disability.
But I am better off dead.
Our lives matter. They matter not because we are there to be pitied or used as inspiration for abled people. But because we are human.
And it doesn’t matter if we have a condition with a set life expectancy, because that does not define us,
It doesn’t matter if we need personal care services to live, because that doesn’t make us less independent.
I am thankful for the ADA because without it i would have not been able to graduate college, or persue a career.
BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH.
We NEED to pass the Disability Integration Act NOW. We NEED people to be able to live in the community. We NEED to have our lives valued and recognized by those who think they are not worth living.
So please join me in continuing the fight, not just for the basic needs and rights of our community, but for true liberation and justice, and for the capacity to move freely though the world independently and on our own terms.