On July 26th we will be celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act ( ADA). Enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a golden moment for the disability community. We worked together like never before. An enormous coalition of disability, parent, provider, religious, and civil rights organizations came together at the national, state and local levels. We organized, we wrote “Discrimination Diaries”, attended grassroots hearings, and met with our Congressional members at home and in DC. Most importantly, we spoke with one coordinated and powerful voice: any attempt made to exclude different classes of people with disabilities (for example HIV/AIDS) from the bill, everyone said NO!; “Discrimination is Discrimination no matter what your disability is.”
Everyone’s voice mattered – whether they were testifying before Congress or making phone calls to their local Members of Congress. It affirmed what former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil said years ago: “ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL”
We worked together as the DISABILITY COMMUNITY committed to each of our civil rights and we won! In 1990 Congress passed the landmark and most comprehensive civil rights bill in the history of the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It put in legislation what the disability community and our allies have been saying for decades: Disability Rights ARE Civil Rights
Today 32 years after the signing of the ADA, the disability community is confronting challenges not only to the ADA but to the foundation that the ADA was built on: COMMUNITY INTEGRATION.
Attacks on physical and mental health care, home and community based services, affordable, accessible integrated housing, integrated employment, inclusive education, durable medical equipment, assistive technology and useable communication services are taking place in Congress and in states across the country.
We need to take the lessons we learned from our national and state advocacy strategies that got the ADA passed and use them to fight back against the attacks on our civil/disability rights.
One part of our strategy must be to exert our influence at the ballot box. Like all other civil rights movements we must organize and show the candidates that if they want our vote they have to support disability issues that promote community integration. This influence must be exerted not only in national but at state and local elections.
How can we make the DISABILITY VOTE a powerful influence at the national, state and local levels? We must build state by state disability voting infrastructures to coordinate the diverse organizations and individuals that make up what we call the DISABILITY COMMUNITY in each state.
These Disability Voting Coalitions can be the catalyst for Registering people with disabilities and our allies, Educating people on the important disability issues and most importantly getting the DISABILITY VOTE out on election day.
REV UP Texas (Register * Educate * Vote – Use * Power) www.revuptexas.org was established in 2014. It was the first REV UP disability voting coalition in the country. There are now over 30 REV UP type coalitions coordinated by the American Assn of People with a Disabilities (AAPD) www.aapd.com/REVUP
Candidates in each party must not take the DISABILITY VOTE for granted. It is our responsibility to hold them accountable.
So as we celebrate the accomplishments we have made since the passage of the ADA, let us also commit to continue building the DISABILITY VOTE in every state to exert the political influence at the ballot box in 2022, to protect and advance Community Integration for all people with disabilities.
Written by: Bob Kafka – REV UP Texas