My Vote Preserves My Rights

Published in the Observer-Reporter, 10/17/2010

My husband and I have disabilities and we plan to go to the polls and vote on election day. With so many pressing economic issues facing our country, it is imperative that we exercise our civil rights. We are two of more than 1.6 million citizens in Pennsylvania who live with disabilities and have the opportunity, indeed, the responsibility to vote in the upcoming election. We will cast our vote to elect officials who will represent our perspective on the issues that have the greatest impact on our country and our lives.

Continued funding for home and community-based services will provide the resources necessary for people with disabilities to live in their own homes instead of a nursing home or other institution. Additional units of affordable, accessible housing in community settings will release our colleagues who are still living in institutions because they don’t have housing options. The transportation program for persons with disabilities offers independent access to people and services in the community.

I am legally blind and my husband uses a wheelchair. We know, perhaps more than most, that our lives hinge upon each stroke of a pen made by every public official who represents us.

We will report to our local accessible polling place and personally cast our votes. We will not cast absentee ballots. We will do so because over the past several years, advocates with disabilities throughout the state have exercised their right to work with local elected officials and boards of election to increase the number of polling places accessible to people with disabilities. Their efforts have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of accessible polling places. The voting machines are now designed to be adjustable to accommodate individuals with disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired.

We have a vote. And we will use that vote. We will do this just as we have always exercised all of our civil rights as free citizens. We urge all people with disabilities to do so.

Denise Lorence