Does my vote count? Only if you want it to. We can create a very large and powerful voting bloc but, most of the time, we continue to work separately in condition and/or age related associations or disability rights groups, when we need to be working together with a unified voice.
The most consistent message we hear every year in DC is that Congress wants and needs to hear from us to understand how policies and laws are affecting us. We, the disability community, had our big hurrah with the 25th ADA celebrations last summer, but now we need to let people running for office know that just being able to enter most government/public buildings is not enough. We want to work. We want to be able to get around our communities safely. We want to be able to save money and not worry that we will lose the services that keep us healthy and able. Even though we are a minority, we matter and our voices are strong, and ready to speak up and out, if necessary.
Within the last 100 years, we have gone from a hidden community – tucked away in institutions or family homes – talked about in hushed voices, if at all, to a community who is struggling for equal access to housing, transportation, employment, education, and the right medical equipment and community supports despite the rules that the ADA has laid out. We have struggles that only those with disabilities truly understand BUT what we need to be doing is making our struggles understandable and meaningful to the general public.
We need to educate our policymakers and the political candidates on why their support makes a difference to our quality of life and to that of our families and our children. If we don’t, they will continue to be uneducated on the issues that matter to us. You may think my voice, my story doesn’t matter. Well it does. We need to make them understand that it is NOT our wheels that stop us from doing things, it is the environment, both physical and social. Tell your story and make it matter!