Anne-Elizabeth Straub: Advocating for People with Disabilities
Anne-Elizabeth, who is also a member of the Civics League for Disability Rights (CLDR) and a licensed social worker with a private practice, recently gave a presentation on disability rights and justice to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Ohio Chapter.
Anne-Elizabeth recently spoke with ICS about her advocacy, about the many challenges people with disabilities face, and the false but widespread belief that they contribute little to society.
Tell me about your activism.
I’ve been involved in advocacy efforts for years, beginning with protests during the Vietnam War and during the civil rights movement.
With the Civics League, we have worked a lot on calling for an end to Medicaid cuts. I’ve definitely been vocal about concerns surrounding Electronic Visit Verification. I’ve been involved in letter writing campaigns and legislative advocacy. I am on the Voter Engagement Task Force and Transportation Task Force at Downstate ADAPT.
I’m also involved in advocacy surrounding animal issues. I am the current chairperson of Social Workers Advancing the Human-Animal Bond, a group that focuses on educating and supporting social workers in recognizing the benefits of the human-animal bond and promoting healthy integration of animals in our society.
I’m glad to see within the past five to seven years, there’s a lot more cooperation, with coalitions forming with groups like United Spinal Association, ADAPT, and other disability groups. It helps to amplify our voice and that’s important.
You’re not only a disability rights advocate but a social worker and an educator. People view those with disabilities as not being contributors to society. Why do you think this perception exists?
I have a private practice, and haven’t stopped working during the pandemic. I’m also a consultant for the MS Society.
In every letter I write protesting Medicaid cuts, I note that we’re not just sitting here with our hands out. We are parents, grandparents, friends. We work. We’re involved in our communities. And our contributions go beyond monetary value. People are valuable, just by being.
I believe there are psychological reasons, financials reasons, and just plain ableism and inertia for the negative attitudes about people with disabilities. A lot has to do with perceptions—of people not wanting to look at disability because they’re afraid. The fear is not conscious, but they prefer not to see anyone different. This is very similar to racism—“it’s different, so it must mean it’s dangerous.”
I frequently make the point that disability is the easiest minority group to join. Whether by human action, illness, or accident, anyone can become disabled like us. It can happen at any moment.
What was the response to your recent presentation for the NASW Ohio Chapter?
It was very positive. Forty people attended the workshop. I discussed people with disabilities, disability rights and justice. I had an hour and a half, and had a vast history to cover, but people wanted to hear more. They were very receptive and open to future presentations. Raising awareness, it’s something we have to do.
Do you have any personal goals for yourself for 2021?
I’m ready to invest more time in my advocacy and vary the way I do my advocacy, making a difference with workshops and talks. I would like to do more in the way of public speaking and writing. I do it well and I think it’s something that should be done. I’ve held back and waited to be asked. Now, I’m willing to offer.
How important is it for people with disabilities to take action, to ensure their voices are heard?
It’s absolutely crucial. Public hearings are excruciating. I’ve gone and done it but they’re exhausting. We’ve been trained not to demand stuff. We have to unlearn that. You don’t have to be raucous, but you do have to state your case. I deserve to be able to get on the bus, to do things the same way everyone else does. My vote should not be handled differently. We all have to step up and say what we need proudly, then say it again, and again.
You’ve been a member of ICS for many years—an organization that works to ensure people with disabilities can live healthy, independent lives. How has ICS made a difference in your life?
ICS has been incredible. The sense of knowing that when I talk about my problems, it’s not foreign. There is a sense of community. There are always supportive programs available—I am enjoying the new online yoga program, which has been great. And I have so many connections with people there. Together, in a wonderful way, we’re supporting each other, while also being advocates.
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The Independent is ICS’ official newsletter, featuring the latest stories around ICS, its members and staff, as well as news on what’s happening in the disability community at large.