Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy

Document Type



Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, people with disabilities and other historically marginalized communities experienced incessant attacks on their rights. From continuous attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to decreased enforcement of federal disability rights laws, to reductions to social safety net programs, to the intentional disregard of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump’s presidency threatened nearly every facet of disabled people’s lives. However, even before the Trump administration, people with disabilities experienced a range of pervasive and persistent social, economic, and health inequities. Moreover, many of these injustices endure today—nearly two years since President Trump left office.

The disability rights movement originated in the 1970s with the aim of securing civil rights protections for disabled people. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the disability rights movement’s many achievements, people with disabilities—especially those who live at the intersection of disability and other historically marginalized identities—continue to experience widespread and assiduous injustices. Consequently, elucidating the root causes of these pervasive and persevering inequities is essential to finally confronting them. Importantly, the Trump presidency’s further marginalization of people with disabilities illustrates the fragility of disability rights in the United States and underscores the urgent need to reimagine a more equitable approach to disability rights.

This Article critically examines the panoply of injustices experienced by people with disabilities and demonstrates why the prevailing approach to disability rights is insufficient for challenging the long-lasting and deeply entrenched subjugation of people with disabilities. Then, drawing from the tenets of disability justice, this Article proposes a vision to help activists, legal professionals, scholars, and policymakers conceive of and articulate the basic contours of a paradigm shift that supports reimagining the fight for justice for disabled people in a way that finally disrupts the widespread oppression experienced by disabled people. In particular, the Article suggests normative and transformative legal and policy solutions necessary for achieving and delivering justice for all people with disabilities. In light of the 2020 election and President Joe Biden’s professed commitment to people with disabilities, this Article offers essential and timely insights for reimagining the fight for justice for all people with disabilities by moving beyond the prevailing approach to disability rights and instead adopting disability justice.