To Individuals Running for Office:
What we are addressing here is not a partisan issue; it is a human issue.
Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent, you are likely ignoring the largest minority group in the world: the disabled population. It’s a minority group that each and every one of us could become a member of every single day. The disabled community is the most marginalized group that needs your passion, voice, and support.
Almost 20% of our population lives with a disability, and that number continues to rise. Think about that percentage for just a minute. African Americans make up 13% of the population, Latinos and Hispanics make up 17% of the population. The disabled population makes up 20%. Now think about how much the media (and politicians) love to talk about getting the “Hispanic vote” or “the support of the African-American community.” And, while it’s great to have their support, why are you completely ignoring our country’s largest minority group?
Unfortunately, most politicians’ statements on disability are vague, outdated, and most of all patronizing. Yes, patronizing.
Addressing and advocating for the needs of the disabled (and their families) will help make our country a better place for everyone, regardless of ability or disability. It might also get you elected. Here’s why:
- Disabled votes matter! In 2012, the U.S Census Bureau estimated that nearly 1 in 5 Americans had a disability, totaling over 56 million people. In the 2012 election cycle, 15 million disabled people voted, according to the 2013 Research Alliance for Accessible Voting survey report.
- Disabled communities mobilize! The disabled population has been fighting hard to have access to the voting process, and now they are showing up to vote. Groups such as AAPD, Disability Matters, Rooted in Rights, and Nonprofit Vote are actively advancing policies that allow people with disabilities to participate fully in the political process. These communities are a growing force, and exciting the disabled population to show up at the polls. Their vote makes a difference.
- #CripTheVote movement creates a united voice. Leveraging social media, #CripTheVote is a nonpartisan campaign to engage both voters and politicians in a productive discussion about disability issues in the United States, with the hope that disability takes on greater prominence within the American political landscape. Led by Alice Wong, Gregg Beratan, and Andrew Pulrang of the Disability Visibility Project, these monthly chats are connecting the disabled communities to have a collective, united, and powerful voice.
- Autism numbers are on the rise – so are their votes. In the 1990’s, 1 in 2500 kids was being diagnosed with autism. In 2016, the number increased to 1 in 45; many experts believe the number is actually 1 in 38. Families and individuals living with autism are advocating both at the local and national level, and want to know what YOU will do to improve their quality of life. The autistic community is organized and working tirelessly to advance the needs of this growing population; these groups and advocates include Autism Society, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), The Autism Project, Autism Moms Support Network, and Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.
- Disabled votes don’t lean left or right. A poll sponsored in 2013 by United Cerebral Palsy found 30 percent of disabled voters identified themselves as Democrats, 23 percent as Republicans, and 30 percent as independents. Their voices and votes are waiting to be heard – and they’re ready to help win (or lose) an election.
- 72 percent of those surveyed voted in the 2012 presidential election
- 61 percent planned to vote in upcoming the House and Senate election.
- 84 percent said a candidate’s record on disability is “somewhat” or “very important”.
- 87 percent said they would “actually vote against candidates they otherwise support if that candidate supports cuts to services.”
- Voting-age Americans with disabilities are a population of 34 million up for grabs. 34 million represents almost 11% of the entire electorate. That 11% is constantly ignored and marginalized. And when these individuals aren’t ignored, many of you simply offer meager praise of the (incredibly outdated) Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The disabled population is an afterthought, just another tagline to stick onto a jam-packed “So-and-So On the Issues” page. And they know it.
- It’s time to ACKNOWLEDGE the disabled population! According to Huffington Post, “The Pew Research Center is one of the United States’ leading research organizations. Pew does a significant amount of research on domestic and international policy and has an astounding 225 topic areas. There are many demographics represented: African Americans, Gender, Homosexuality, Hinduism, Judaism, the elderly, Hispanic/Latinos, Evangelicals, Millennials, and Baby Boomers are all represented. However, not one of those 225 topics is disability.” It is time for you to help acknowledge and elevate topics of disability, and gain our support and vote.
If these numbers aren’t staggering enough, know that as families with disabled loved ones, we put a much higher priority on the stability and safety of our son, daughter, brother, or sister. We are demanding candidates have disabled issues and lives on your radars and are voting for those who make the disability agenda part of the platform.
During this election season, where aggressive attacks and vitriolic bullying dominate our news channels, addressing the disabled community in a respectful and thoughtful manner would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate some elementary kindness. Today, more than ever, we are all in desperate need for more kindness and compassion in this world.
So, politicians and elected officials, listen up! 56 million people and their families want you to speak to them. Not about them, to them. Believe us, we are anxiously waiting with open ears and votes. The ball is completely in your court. It’s finally time for you to acknowledge us, fight for our issues, and make this the country we can all thrive in – together. We are counting on you to make a difference.
About Magical Bridge Foundation
Magical Bridge Foundation furthers the promise of Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground by advocating for and creating inclusive and innovative playgrounds in other communities. Led by Magical Bridge Playground founder and visionary, Olenka Villarreal, and co-founders Jill Asher and Kris Loew, the formation of Magical Bridge Foundation is responding to the global need for innovative and inclusive parks. We are pouring our seven years of research, fundraising, development, design, and construction strategies into building Magical Bridge Playgrounds across the nation.
If you are interested in bringing a Magical Bridge Playground to your community, kindly contact Olenka Villarreal at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jill Asher at email@example.com.