Group hopes disabled voters turn out

October 5, 2008 9:41:33 PM PDT
Approximately 40 million Americans with disabilities are eligible to vote.The upcoming presidential election is critical for many voters with disabilities.

Like most Americans, the economy, unemployment and taxes are big worries. For people with disabilities, there's more.

"There is a serious lack of housing, and there is a lot of rejuncitification going on. And people are kind of being forced to move into housing situations that they can't afford or out of the city," said Deidre Brewster, Access Living.

"My big thing is, the Community Choice Act. And the Community Choice Act would give people with disabilities the opportunity to receive service in their own homes and community," said Carol Lavy, volunteer and a person with mental illness.

"There are a number of Supreme Court decisions which really narrowed the scope of Americans with Disabilities Act, which really eliminated some of the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act that were originally intended under the law," said Gary Arnold, Access Living.

The staff at Chicago's Access Living not only voiced concerns about specific issues, it's something they deal with every day, both personally and professionally.

Brewster is a member of AL's housing team.

"I have at least 30 phone calls a day of people looking for housing, people looking for rental assistance, people needing their units to be modified," Brewster said.

Lavy said she was forced to live in a nursing home.

"There are many different people like myself who live in nursing homes, who need different services," she said.

Arnold says there's so much more.

"Education is another issue, still in Chicago and other cities around the country, you know, students with disabilities are still struggling," he said.

Seventy percent of people with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 64 years are unemployed.

"Everything from asset limits to accessibility to just attitudes about people with disabilities, so we'd like to see some more initiatives and the continued work to really look at raising the number of people who are employed and reducing the unemployment rate," Arnold said. "Long -term health care is a big issue for people with disabilities because we want to make sure that people have long-term care options for their own communities and their own homes rather than being forced to take long-term care options only in institutions."

To make sure their issues are addressed, a number of disabled organizations across the United States are actively getting people with disabilities to vote.

"People with disabilities who are eligible to vote, less that 50 percent of us actually turn up on Election Day, and we've got to do a lot to increase that in order to flex our muscles as a disability voting bloc," Arnold said.

And that is important to Jacquelyn Northington.

"I'm trying to make sure that people with disabilities have a chance to get out to vote, primarily, and I'm concerned about people in nursing homes, you know," she said. "It's hard for people in nursing homes to get out to get to the voting booths."

For more information on Access Living and accessible polling places, visit www.accessliving.org


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