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Disabled finally have a place at the DNC

She was beautiful. She was magnificent. And in four riveting, I'm-not-playin' minutes, she schooled the world that disabled people don't want the able-bodied to speak for them.

She was beautiful. She was magnificent. And in four riveting, I'm-not-playin' minutes, she schooled the world that disabled people don't want the able-bodied to speak for them.

They want the able-bodied to listen to them and respect their equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If you missed Anastasia Somoza's speech at the Democratic National Convention, Google it and grab the Kleenex. You'll be moved by the dignity and ferocity of Somoza, 32, a disability-rights advocate who was born with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia.

The tiny Somoza owned the Wells Fargo Center from the instant she rolled onstage in her motorized wheelchair to declare her belief in Hillary Clinton and to reject Donald Trump's limited views of people who are different.

"I fear the day we elect a president who defines being American in the narrowest possible terms, who shouts, bullies and profits off of vulnerable Americans," she said. "Donald Trump has shown us who he really is, and I honestly feel bad for anyone with that much hate in their heart."

Then came the line that brought cheers so loud, they must've busted windows.

"Donald Trump doesn't see me, he doesn't hear me," she said, "and he definitely doesn't speak for me!"

All the moment needed was a mic drop. But - damn! - Somoza was wearing a clip-on.

She might be the most visible disabled participant at DNC2016, but Somoza (whose twin sister shares her disability) is hardly the only one

This year, 400 delegates with disabilities are at the convention - 35 percent more than attended in 2012. And more disabled non-delegates are part of the four-day extravaganza, too.

You see them using walkers and white canes, wheelchairs and scooters, at the caucuses at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and at festivities around town. They're claiming their front seat to history as America nominates its first-ever female candidate for the presidency.

Disability visibility is having a beautiful moment at this convention, and here's why: This is the most accessible convention the Democratic National Committee has ever produced.

There are more ramps and wheelchair-seating areas this year, more mobility support in the form of scooter rentals and power-chair charging stations.

Information materials are available in Braille and large print for those with vision problems. For those who need more help, sighted guides are eager to help. For the hearing impaired, the proceedings are being translated into American Sign Language or live-captioned.

There are guide-dog relief services, a text-alert system for assistance requests, step-stools and tactile maps and medicine-refrigeration facilities.

I could go on, but you get the picture. The DNC Committee is kicking aside obstacles that once kept people with disabilities from participating in an event that is otherwise open to all.

Call it the "Inclusion Revolution." The words were hand-printed on a big poster at the convention's Disability Council this week, hosted by Disability Action for Hillary, where participants shared passionate anecdotes and reasonable wish-lists regarding things like employment, transportation and job wages.

If it all seems like overkill (as it too often does to able-bodied people who take their physical luck for granted), just remember that Congress delayed the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act because members believed its mandates were overkill, too.

But you know what? We needed those sidewalk curb cuts and automated doors. We needed wheelchair-accessible voting booths, restrooms, buses, movie theaters and trains. We needed elevator buttons numbered in Braille and auto-enabled ATM machines.

The accommodations brought disabled people out of homes where they were often stranded and into the public realm, where we all have a right to be.

"The aim of the ADA was broader than just, 'Can I get in the door?' " said Carl Webster, executive director of the Easter Seals of Southeastern Pennsylvania, when I interviewed him about the passage of the ADA. "It was, 'Can I get into society?' "

Yesterday was the ADA's 26th birthday. In its honor, former Sen. Tom Harkin, who sponsored the bill that became the law, sang its praises from the DNC podium. But he was emphatic about how much farther we need to go if America is to be the inclusive country it is supposed to be.

"When, 26 years later, 70 percent of adults with disabilities in America aren't in the workforce, it's time to take action, " he said. "When employers are still allowed to pay people with disabilities below the minimum wage, it's time to change the law."

Anastasia Somoza's moment on stage was a powerful reminder of what's possible when we take on that hard work.

Before the ADA, no disabled person could've imagined that one of their own would one day speak at a convention to nominate an American president.

Yet there was Somoza, describing to a rapt audience how she is living "boldly, with a courageous heart."

Somebody drop a mic.

215-854-2217 @RonniePhilly