As A Blind Harvard Law Student, My Entire Life Has Prepared Me For Trump's America

My blindness is not a disability. If anything, it is an ability.

All my life, I have been told no. Blind children don't do well in math. Blind children don't march in the band. Blind children don't walk to school independently. I turned every no into a yes. I not only achieved a perfect score on the math section of my SAT, marched with my clarinet in the band, and got a stop sign installed at a dangerous intersection so I could walk to school independently, but I also hiked in the Peruvian Andes, graduated from college Summa cum Laude, and taught English for a year in Assisi, Italy. My blindness is not a disability. If anything, it is an ability.



Exploring Florence.
Exploring Florence.

Now I have almost finished my first semester at Harvard Law School. I worked hard to get here, but I would be lying if I said I did it all myself. My parents fought for me every step of the way and taught me to fight for myself. And my rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws gave me the power to fight for equal access. The discrimination I faced growing up in the States and while abroad in Italy pushed me to law school, but I want to fight for the civil and human rights of all people. I am particularly interested in policy at the federal government.

Or I was.

I was discouraged, disheartened, downright miserable about the election of Donald Trump. I am scared for our country. I am scared for my friends. I am scared for myself.

I have had several friends and family tell me that I have nothing to worry about from a Trump presidency or, worse, that my concerns are unimportant compared to the concerns of other minorities facing discrimination. This is simply not true. One in five Americans has a disability—the largest minority in the country, and the only minority anyone can join. If the Afordable Care Act is abolished, people with disabilities could lose health insurance because of preexisting conditions. If funding is cut, enforcement powers for laws like the ADA will dwindle, and equal access to education, jobs, stores and businesses, and other public facilities could easily be denied to us. Already Congress is trying to cut funding to the program that provides subsidized accessible textbooks to students who are blind and dyslexic. I have heard several distressing stories of friends with disabilities who have been mocked and sexually harassed because of their disabilities since the election. And this is saying nothing about the rights we are still fighting for—equal access to the internet, the rights of parents with disabilities to raise their own children without state interference, the right to a minimum wage for people with disabilities—which many do not know are even issues and which I fear we will make little progress on in the upcoming years.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, I still intend to work on policy in the federal government. It's why I came to law school, and now we all need good advocates more than ever. So I am going to do what I have done my entire life: turn a "no" into a "yes."

My guide dog, Mopsy, and I.
My guide dog, Mopsy, and I.

We are a country founded on the ideals of freedom and equality, a government by, of, and for the people. Right now, we all feel threatened. We have different fears, and we have different goals, but we must stand together. We must not devalue the struggles or the fears of any group not our own. We must force our country to see us, not as minorities, but as human beings worthy of the same life, liberty, and happiness as other American citizens. We must turn the "no" our country gave us with Trump's election into a resounding "yes," and we must do it together.

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