By John M. Williams
Regardless of your party affiliation â€“ Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent â€“ people with disabilities must become involved with the presidential campaigns either as professionals or volunteers. The skills you develop, and the contacts you make will benefit you over your lifetime. Your future is on the line, and so is the future of millions of other people with disabilities.
I reported earlier that calls and e-mails to all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on where they stand on issues related to people with disabilities have yielded call backs only from Democrats. Despite not having received a single call from the Republicans on disability, it is difficult for me to believe that the Republicans, as a whole, do not care about issues impacting the lives of people with disabilities.
I have called and faxed all of the candidatesâ€™ national campaign offices in both parties these questions:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Do you have any campaign literature on issues related to people with disabilities?
2.Â Is there any one on your national staff with a physical disability?Â
3.Â Are you printing any campaign materials in Braille? Large print? In any other format benefiting people with disabilities?Â
4.Â Is there anyone on your staff assigned to working on issues related to disability?
5.Â Are you familiar with The ADA Restoration Act?Â
6.Â Â Â Â Â Is there a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf in your office?
7.Â Â Â Â Â Is there a sign-language-interpreter working on your national campaign?Â
I received calls from the headquarters of every Democrat running for the presidency. All of them told me either they had campaign literature on disability issues or were collecting and invited me to visit their campaign headquarters to see what they had.Â
None of the callers could tell me if a person with a physical or sensory disability worked on the national staff. They thought maybe locally, but they could not be sure.Â All of the responding offices were familiar with the ADA Restoration Act and said their candidate supported it. Â
Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Governor Bill Richardsonâ€™s (D-NM) campaign offices said they had TDDâ€™s in their offices, but their numbers are not listed on their web sites. Â Every Democratâ€™s office said they could reach a sign-language interpreter when needed. Â Â
The campaign offices said they were not producing any materials in Braille or other formats so people with either vision or cognitive disabilities could benefit. Â My sense is the campaigns are not appealing to voters with disabilities because voters with disabilities (VWD) are not active in campaigns, at least nationally. Consider the long term benefits to future campaigns if a person requiring a text to speech product or another technology was working on a campaign.Â Other campaign people could see the benefits of this technology to the user and their campaigns.Â
Â VWD are not telling the campaigns what their concerns are. TheyÂ are not giving their opinions on the Iraq war policy, on the lack of jobs for people with disabilities, on global warming, on the war on terror, on health care and the escalating costs of healthcare, on lack of services for returning war veterans, on the lack of communication technology they require from the campaigns, etc. Â The fact that there are more than 15-million voters with disabilities with disabilities in this country should raise the candidatesâ€™ interest level in VWDâ€™ concerns. Voting as a block, more 15 million votes can determine the 2008 presidential election.Â Â Â Â VWD are qualified to hold the highest political, legislative and judicial offices in the country. They will never achieve them until they become active in campaigns and show their abilities. Their voices must be heard and their vision clearly enunciated on where they want the country to go. When their voices are heard, their vision accepted, their leadership demonstrated, and their presence accepted they will make a difference. To make that difference they must get involved now. To comment on this article write to: email@example.com.Â