Disabled people have the right to vote. Unfortunately, not all of them can. There are three general reasons why disabled people don't vote.: First, they can't get transportation to the polls. Second, they need personal assistance and can't get it from anyone to get to the polls and vote. And finally, they've given up and don't vote anymore.
Since disabled people are more in need of government services than the average person, they should vote for government representatives. The fact is that disabled people are a population that is growing. Cutting edge medicine and the right to life movement, ensures that more and more people are born with disabilities that in the past died or had very short lives. Still, this group of disabled consists of only 3 percent of births and a small proportion of 36 million disabled in America, 12% of the population (US Census, 2010). This group includes the mentally retarded and autistic. Autism is growing among young people and the cause is not fully understood. A second group of people with disabilities are those that have physical disabilities ranging from moderate to severe. The active lifestyles that people live these days results in many debilitating injuries from amputations to brain injury. These people are the ones that most often work and vote––at least before their injury. The third group of people are those with aging and lifestyle problems such as diabetes, arthritis, and strokes. This group of people is the largest and growing at the most rapid rate because modern medicine has lengthened their lives and eating habits and sedimentary lifestyles is causing more and more of these types of disabilities to occur.
I recently attended the Abilities Expo in Houston. I was amazed at the vibrant thousands of disabled visitors that came to the show and were actively involved, as were their families and assistants. There were also hundreds of suppliers of medical and unfortunately, uninsurable, goods and services that disabled people need to live comfortable and productive lives, mostly in their homes. I have provided a link to a video that shows some of the show or you can go online and view it. What I'm trying to say is that disabled people are a vibrant lot with a lot to say and a lot to offer, if we only let them be a part of the general community and not be isolated by their disability.
I also recently attended a focus group on how the greater Houston community could serve the disabled. The number one complaint among the disabled attending was the lack of jobs for disabled persons. The economy has become an excuse for the private sector to totally block disabled people from employment. Everyone complained that the spirit of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) had become one of legal denial rather than acceptance and accommodation. Meeting ADA requirements has become mostly physical, like how many disabled parking spaces are available (most disabled people don't drive--70% of working disabled do), and wheelchair access through doors, hallways, and restrooms with braille signage for the sight impaired and warning lights for the hearing impaired. Most disabled people are not in wheelchairs. Most disabled people need accommodation when it comes to job descriptions, interviews, and tolerance of their disability within the working environment of the workplace. Disabled persons have been proven to be loyal, hard-working, and dependable––much more than their counterparts in the general working population. Executives always have executive assistants. Employers will tolerate a service dog. But providing an assistant for a educated and skilled disabled employee is out of the question. However, in today's job market, the disabled can't even get their foot in the door unless they know someone that will give them a break. It is a sad commentary on business that places more value on its bottom line than on its workers.
Disabled citizens of voting age, whether they have cerebral palsy, mental retardation, are illiterate, or unable to leave their beds to go to the polls should be able to vote. There is a certain segment of the population that is trying to enact laws that would restrict these people from their right to vote. There is also a certain segment of the population that would take away the insurance provided for the disabled through the Affordable Health Care Act. The Act will provide preventive care that most often is unavailable for the disabled until they have a critical condition that requires hospitalization under Medicare, Medicaid, or welfare. Preventive care has been proven to be less costly than critical care in every way. The Act also provides for removing pre-existing conditions, a way that insurance discriminates against the disabled and the uninsured. By providing insurance for all, including those who, because they are in good health and their employer does not want to provide it, do not have insurance by their own choice, the overall cost of insurance is reduced for everyone. Health insurance is like planning. If you don't plan now, you will have to plan later at higher cost. Providing insurance for the disabled saves money because it prevents expensive critical care later.
If you know someone that's disabled or have a disabled family member, please pass this on. If you can help a disabled person get to the polls and vote you are doing a service for your country. If you don't know any disabled citizens, you still might consider passing this on to your friends and relatives anyway and get to know a disabled person you can help get to the polls.
Ronald W. Hull, Ed.D.
August 15, 2012