Spellers & Allies Advocacy Network
The time has come again, leaves are falling, pumpkin spice lattes are a-brewin’, and the donkey and elephant are frolicking (ok, more like battling) as November 3rd draws nearer. That’s right folks, we are in the countdown to the end of the 2020 presidential election season and the Spellers & Allies Advocacy Network (S&A) want to encourage all nonspeaking people eligible to vote to participate!
“Voting is highly important because your voice should be heard by your elected officials. It is your right and also your duty.” Divyesh, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
“The upcoming election represents more than a partisan battle. It is about human rights and dignity! We are, as spellers, particularly familiar with the dangers of prejudice and bigotry against marginalized people. We who can vote should use our power to shape this country into a more equitable and empathetic and open-minded space. It is a right to cherish and use! If you are overwhelmed by all the options, many organizations post their recommendations and explanations for what to choose! See if organizations you trust and relate to have any such posts or any guides on their social media or websites.” Danny Whitty, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
This year has a sense of urgency like none other. Here are five reasons why disabled people are fighting to have our voices heard in this election. Spellers and Allies explain why voting matters:
1. Our Numbers
Disabled voters are a HUGE portion of the American population. According to the CDC, 25% of American adults (61 million people!) have a disability. Additionally, a report released Wednesday by researchers at Rutgers University found that “if people with disabilities voted at the same rate as similar people without disabilities, there would be 2.35 million more voters.” This means significant potential for the disabled vote to carry more weight than ever before.
“Nothing is more important than the right to vote. You will have a voice in who will be president. I love nonspeakers they are the smartest people I know. Please vote my friends.” Arun Chand, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
“There is power in this number and the nonspeaking community contributes to this power! While it is always always essential to vote, this is a particularly impactful year due to the struggle many people with disabilities face due to coronavirus. Nonspeaking adults are less likely to have conditions compromising their immune systems compared to many others in the disability community; therefore, there is the responsibility to be a voice for the greater community. There is a responsibility to get out and vote, for there are many who cannot.” Maggie Armstrong, Ally Member of S&A
2. Our Families and Allies Amplify Our Vote
Information from the same Rutgers report referenced above indicates that in 2018 there were 10.2 million voters that lived in households with a disabled person- family members and friends who have a vested interest in supporting disability rights. Considering that an estimated 33% of eligible voters are Millennials and Gen Z-ers (aged 18-35) – , the potential for measurable support is gargantuan. This demographic is active in fighting for social justice and equal access for minority groups including the disabled community.
“I have spent my entire adult life around voting and elections. And while every election will always be important, I think this one carries more weight than usual. The USA is truly at a breaking point of what the Constitution can handle without being completely ignored. If everyone stays home and does not vote, there is no telling what will happen next. Voting is one way that we communicate our wants and needs to our government. As nonspeakers and allies, we understand how important it is to communicate and what happens when we are unable to. We must communicate what we as a community need from our government and for many of us, voting is the best way to do so.” Aman Afsah, Ally Member of S&A
“Every person in this country deserves a voice— our vote is the platform by which our opinions and experiences are legitimized and given consideration. It is absolutely essential that all eligible voters exercise this civic duty, which has been granted to many of us only after decades of struggle. As allies, we must do everything we can to empower our nonspeaking heroes to vote. Louder voices have spoken over them for far too long, and now is the time when those who can vote, must vote, to ensure that our elected officials are truly representative of the sum of our voices.” Samyukta Rao, Ally Member of S&A
3. Access to Voting Alternatives Continues to Grow Accommodations are Available
Obstacles definitely still exist which make the voting process difficult or impossible for many disabled and neurodiverse people. Voter ID laws, waiting in long lines, and inaccessible polling places and/or voting machines sit at the top of the list. BUT, the good news is there are many ways to make our voices heard. Online voter registration can be completed in a few minutes, and options like early voting and mail-in voting can reduce or eliminate some of the barriers that make voting on election day difficult. Check your local county rules to see if this option is still available (resources below). Those of us who are able to use this access should speak up for those who cannot to further increase accessible voting options. .
“As a nonspeaking person, I spent 25 years with no means to express my opinion. I voted today by mail-in ballot and it felt great to have my voice counted. I am now able to join all other voters in selecting the leaders of our local communities, states, and country and hold them accountable for their performance.” Ben Crimm, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
Our allies at Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) have put together resources to help disabled voters get the information we need to vote. Here are a few helpful articles:
4. Democracy Can’t Function Without FULL Participation
Other than physical obstacles to voting mentioned above, the biggest reason people do not participate in an election is because they believe their vote won’t matter. Many might not see themselves represented in politics, and thus feel distant from the process. But votes add up, and hold weight. Even if neither candidate woos you, the votes from the neurodiverse and disabled community give politicians the message that disabled voices ARE present, we DO have power, and we MUST be heard when considering laws and policies affecting our communities.
“It is imperative for any eligible, registered nonspeaking autistic to vote so that our voices can truly be heard and our societal needs and supports be known and recognized. Voting is not only our RIGHT but our RESPONSIBILITY as U.S. citizens!” Ben Breaux, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
5. We Need to Show Up
Last year’s midterms saw historic turnout overall, with large jumps among every major racial and ethnic group. Even so, only 49.3% of disabled people cast a vote. Imagine if EVERY disabled person had the opportunity to vote, and believed that their vote counted? We may not get to 100%, but 2020 is a year of reckoning, and we, people of the neurodiverse community, the spellerverse, the disabled community, must wield our power and VOTE!
“Go out and vote! It is critical for all individuals with disabilities to have their voices heard. Nonspeakers need to be represented in this election. By voting you can have your voice heard by many.”
Sarah Ackerman, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
“Voting is a freedom not to be taken for granted. Just do it!” Noah Seback, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
“It is important to exercise your right to vote. Voting is the highest form of advocacy. It is both a privilege and an obligation to those who fought and died for the right to vote.” Benjamin McGann, Nonspeaking Member of S&A
Thoughts and Words from The Spellers & Allies Advocacy Network. Spellers & Allies is a group of spellers and allies between the ages of 18- 30 who advocate together around issues that concern nonspeaking people, such as agency, autonomy, and access.
Image 1: Picture of a black and white sign that reads “Polling Station” and an arrow pointing left
Image 2: Group of people standing and holding a banner that reads “Disabled Vote”
Image 3: A Black man in a wheel chair and a ball cap casts a vote into a white ballot box
Image 4: Activists stand at a women’s suffrage information booth in New York City encouraging people to vote “yes” for women’s voting rights in 1914. (Credit: Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)
Image 5: Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King lead a black voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. (Photo: William Lovelace /Express/Getty Images)