Open a search engine, type the word “disability” in the search box, and hit enter. What do you get? Without fail the first five results will include several links to government program websites, i.e. Social Security Administration, and Wikipedia. There might be one variation among the different search engines but they are all pretty much the same.
As I was scrolling through one of the searches I came across an archived newspaper article from the March 27, 1957 edition of the St. Petersburg Times entitled, “Ike Drafts Plan on Disability Problem.” Of course I click on the link, and suddenly find myself transported to a moment in time that, ironically, remains reality for some in the disabled community.
In this article President Eisenhower advocated for a clear plan that would assist carrying out the Office of the President should a President become disabled. He wanted three questions to be clarified by Congress: 1) who determines when a President is unable to carry out his duties? 2) How makes that decision? 3) Does the Vice-President take the “office” or only the “duties” of the President should he become disabled? In one suggestion a panel would be convened to determine the disability status of a President and would include Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members, and the majority and minority leaders of both houses of Congress.
Take away the titles and you have a panel of people making a determination that will affect a person for the rest of their life, the experience of almost every person with a disability. But what are the implications of this decision? In the case of a sitting President, and arguably any person with a disability, they will lose power. This is not a reference to the power gained through the Office of the President, but rather the power to exercise personal control.
This is our next great moment.