Election Day and the Disability Vote

It isn’t often that I indulge in the excitement that permeates politics but today it is difficult to remove oneself from the tension. Election 2008. The entire nation is churning with the excitement and energy of an election that many call historical. (Just as a quick note – It was pointed out to me by one of our Public Affairs experts that it is usually considered melodramatic to call something “historical” as it is difficult to guage whether something truly is historic or not until well after the fact). But I refuse to let that dampen the mood.

This is it! In an election that has been dynamic and electrifying, where the disability community has, perhaps for the first time been actively courted as a constituency, tonight is the night. This is when wheelchairs will roll up ramps to polling stations, visually impaired voters will have the ability to use electronic voting machines, individuals dexterity issues, individuals developmental disabilities, all of the community, will be speaking out and their votes will be counted. The disability vote will be cast.

For the first time, a candidate had a specific disability platform, for the first time candidates stepped beyond health care and attempted to address other disability issues such as the rampant unemployment and concerns with special education. Although I cringe at the term, “special needs,” for the first time, they are trying to get it right, and for the first time candidates for the Presidency of the United States are listening to the disability community.

They hear what is needed and for the first time are considering that this is a community whose needs should be addressed. Not out of pity, or out of any moral social obligation but because these individuals with disabilities are VOTERS! They are constituents with the power to affect the voting outcome on a national level.

Tonight we will see exactly what a difference it will make.

4 comments for “Election Day and the Disability Vote

  1. admin
    November 5, 2008 at 12:56 am

    And it is official! Obama wins!

  2. yosemitesam
    November 7, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    President (elect) Obama & Vice-President (elect) Biden,

    The issue of providing access to government officials and government offices for Americans who happen to be deaf, must not be allowed to fall into the category of a “special interest”. This issue is NOT a special interest, it is a fundamental issue that says, as an American, who happens to be deaf, I have a right to have full access to everything that MY elected officials do and say in the execution of their duties. This means, providing TDD/TTY phone numbers for Americans who happen to be deaf, like your campaign and the Democratic National Committee failed to do throughout the entire election.
    This means making it law that anytime an elected official appears in public, be it on television or an online video, everything he/she says MUST be captioned, without exception.
    This means that every government office and every elected official, be it Federal, State or Local, must provide access to their American constituents who happen to be deaf.
    This means that anytime an elected official appears in public, a Sign Language Interpreter MUST be present. If you held a rally and then someone came in and picked out some people and said, “you can’t listen to this speech”, you would be outraged, and rightly so — and not providing access for Americans who happen to be deaf, is tantamount to just that.
    This means that every single PUBLIC service message MUST be captioned for Americans who happen to be deaf. By way of example, there has been a huge campaign lately on behalf of the American Lung Association, to encourage people to get flu shots. The spots are never captioned. They will not answer me when I ask why. But I know why — it is a matter of not wanting to spend the money to caption these ads. If this message is important enough to spend that kind of money to get the message out to Americans, isn’t it also important enough to spend a little extra to get the message out to Americans who happen to be deaf?
    Your election, to the highest office in the land, sends a new, clear message to every American child who happens to be Black, that they too can achieve anything they set their mind to. Let your election also send a new, clear message that American children, who happen to be Deaf, can also achieve anything they set their mind to.
    You told Republicans, “I will be your President too.” I need to “see you say that you will be MY President, too.
    So today I am posing a question to you: “Will you be MY President too?”
    I have asked my own elected officials about this issue many times, for many years now. I have received an answer from only one of them who said, “it’s not my problem”. I plan to ask you this question every single day of your administration, until you tell me that you will address this issue. There are new ads out now on television, encouraging people to ask their elected officials whatever questions they might have, and DEMAND an answer. (The ads are not captioned.) This is what I plan to do — demand an answer.
    Let me reiterate by saying, this is not a special interest issue. I'm not asking you to caption my favorite movie. I am asking for total access to my government; the access we afford everyone else.
    Your campaign and the DNC failed every American, who happens to be deaf, this election year by not providing even one TDD/TTY line for us to contact you. Election Protection failed us by not having even one TDD/TTY line, so Americans who happen to be deaf, could get help understanding their rights as voters.
    Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee failed us again. His first message to the American people after your election, was not captioned for Americans who happen to be deaf.
    You know how disheartening it can be when you are excluded. Your lovely wife mentioned in an interview, how African-Americans have heard no for so long, they began to just expect that the answer would always be no. (I'm paraphrasing) So you can you imagine how Americans, who happen to be deaf, after standing in line for hours to vote for you Americans like me, felt when they clicked on Howard Dean’s message and saw only his lips moving?
    €œThere is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.
    But unfortunately, there is a Hearing America and a Deaf America Please help us end this disparity, forever, so that we too can join you in the task of moving America forward.
    So I would like an answer to my question: Will you be my President, too?
    Sincerely,
    Samuel Hayes

  3. admin
    November 9, 2008 at 3:22 am

    Samuel,
    You make a very good point. Captioning is something that is not difficult to do and for an event as important as the presidential election, there really is no excuse. I have to admit some surprise as to the fact that Election Protection did not have a TDD/TTY line available and am definitely checking in to that. Thank you so much for your comments, they really highlight some of the things that are missing with regard to real access for individuals who are deaf!
    Best,
    Day

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