People with disabilities are ‘invisible by exclusion’ in politics, says Assemblyman running to be first openly autistic member of Congress
New York Assemblyman Yuh-Line Niou could go down in history as the first member of Congress to openly have autism.
Niou told Insider that the representation of Americans with disabilities needs to be improved.
Niou also said being more open about being autistic has helped de-stigmatize the disability.
The halls of Congress have yet to see an openly autistic lawmaker, but New York Assemblyman Yuh-Line Niou could change that.
Niou, who was diagnosed with autism at 22, said she was “surprised” to learn she may be the first openly autistic member of Congress, but also said it showed a lack of representation from communities with disabilities in policy-making.
“I think we hear a lot about the former and only sometimes,” Niou told Insider. “Although it’s an amazing thing, I think what’s most important is that there are people who understand that it’s also a really lonely thing. And I think it’s really important to have representation because you need that lens to talk about any politics.”
Niou, a progressive Democrat and Taiwanese immigrant who represents New York’s 65th District, announced her candidacy for Congress this year in a high-profile race against Bill de Blasio and Mondaire Representative Jones.
Niou’s diagnosis became well known after Refinery 29 released an article discussing in 2020. After parents and children reached out to her about her, she realized how talking openly about her autism helped “drive the stigma away.”
Among full-time politicians, Americans with disabilities are underrepresented. People with disabilities are 6.3% of federal politicianscompared to 15.7% of all disabled adults in America, according to a study by Rutgers.
“People with disabilities can only achieve equality if they are part of government decision-making,” Lisa Schur said in the 2019 Rutgers Report.
The number of Americans with disabilities may have increased over the past two years. Estimates show that 1.2 million additional people may have become disabled due to COVID-19.
Niou also said she knows what it feels like to be left out of the government process. In 2016, Niou became the first Asian to be a member of the Assembly in her districta large Asian district that includes New York’s Chinatown.
People with disabilities have been “invisible by being excluded from the policy-making process”, said Niou. Her disability status helps her put into perspective a host of laws ranging from transportation to housing, and she wants to ensure that neurodivergent people have more of a say in the legislative process.
“We don’t take into account all the different perspectives, especially when you talk about neurodivergence [issues] or when we talk about disability issues,” Niou said.
They are also more likely to need access to health care and also have the most difficulty accessing it. Congressional Republicans had repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act under the administration of former President Donald Trump, even though repealing the ACA would have reduced access to health care for many disabled adults.
Niou said she hopes other politicians will consider disability issues in their legislation as well, because disability issues can affect all Americans at some point.
“One of the things I really like to say is that when you put up a ramp, we’re all less likely to trip,” Niou said. “Consider each other, we all do better.”
Read the original article at Business Intern