Three weeks ago today I had the immense honor of speaking at the Women’s March in Des Moines, Iowa.
Transcript of my speech:
Hello, my name is Hannah Soyer, and I am a current student at the University of Iowa. I am speaking here today to represent the millions of Americans with disabilities, whose voices are often silenced, overlooked, or, in a new low in American history, ridiculed and mocked.
I would like to first offer a quote from the wonderful book and movie series, Harry Potter. Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, tells this to Harry and his friends during a discussion about a certain member of the wizard government: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors.”
I want to make it very clear that I am in no way whatsoever suggesting that people with disabilities are inferior to those who are currently holding positions of power in our country. However, in many ways, inferior is how we have been portrayed and treated in society for far too long. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t incensed by the current leader of our country mocking a disabled reporter; however, the fact remains that there are numerous other barriers facing those with disabilities that have been shoved under the rug and need to be brought to light.
In my opinion, one of the most difficult obstacles facing Americans with disabilities is getting proper coverage of the care we need. Personally, I require nearly around-the-clock care in order to be healthy, which in turn allows me to contribute to society, something that I believe is my right, and the right of every person with a disability. To say that my family and I have had to often fight tooth and nail to make sure my care has been covered is an understatement. It shouldn’t have to be this way.
Although this is something that the vast majority of our society fails to understand, every single person has the possibility of becoming disabled in their life. In fact, I would say you have an incredibly high possibility of this happening to you – it’s called getting older. And so if taking care of your fellow Americans is not enough of a reason to begin thinking and talking about disability rights, then here is a more personal one: One day, the barriers I am facing will be facing you as well.
In Emma Watson’s speech on gender equality to the United Nations in 2014, she invited men to join her cause, famously saying, “Gender equality is your issue too.”
And so, to echo Emma, I would like to invite all of my able-bodied listeners to step on board with me in fighting for disability rights, which to me, means first and foremost, adequate access to healthcare. I assure all of you: Disability rights is your issue too.
I firmly believe that the fight for one minority is the fight for all minorities. I would never pretend to know the issues facing minorities that I do not belong to, but I do know that there are similarities – having our voices silenced and resources barred from us, to name a few. This is why I take human rights very seriously, and why all of you should too.
I would like to ask all of those who are listening who have perhaps not given much thought to disability rights to start thinking about it now. I would like to ask all of those who are listening who have perhaps not been vocal about human rights to consider being so now. Everyone here, and indeed, everyone across the country, even those who may have voted for the current political climate, has the potential in the next four years to become involved in speaking out for what is right. As Sirius Black also says, “The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”