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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama and Disability

I am not impressed by any candidate running for president. The Republicans are, well Republicans and will not be getting my vote. As for the Democrats, I dislike Hilary Clinton for a host of reasons. The only candidate that intrigues me is Barack Obama. He is obviously a gifted speaker and writer. As a fellow Columbia graduate, I liked his book and overall am impressed with how well he is able to articulate his views.

This morning I decided I needed to become a bit more educated about Obama and what he stands for. Readers of this blog will not be surprised to read that the first thing I wanted to know more about was his position on disability rights. I went to and came away impressed and annoyed. A well reasoned position paper is available entitled "Barack Obama's Plan to Empower Americans with Disabilities". I liked the title and the four point plan that is both forward looking and reactive. There is also a short personal video statement about disability as well.

Given my positive reaction to Obama's plan to empower disabled Americans, I decided that I should try and see the candidate at an event. I also thought going to an event would be a good experience for my son who in a few years will be old enough to vote and has repeatedly told me not to vote for Hilary Clinton. The Obama website is very professional and easy navigate. I clicked on "Find Events", plugged in my zip code and multiple events popped up in less than a second. I then went to event details and this is where things broke down for me. I went to each and every event listing within 100 miles of my home and not once was any information about wheelchair access included. No information about interpreters for the blind--not a single word about accommodations for any disabled people. Obama and his staff have written a good position paper but missed the point about real inclusion. Sure Obama may support the rights of disabled people but neglecting to include information about access at each and every event is more than just a mistake. It is a slap in the face to every disabled person aware of their civil rights. I am angry and this morning I sent two firm but polite emails to the Obama campaign. My vote will now hinge on the reply I get. Is Obama a poser? Does he really support disabled people, want their vote, and support equal access? If so, someone from the campaign will reply to my email and the gross oversight on the website will be corrected. If Obama is a fake and simply seeking to garner votes via position papers I will get no reply. I will keep you posted. And if you want to be part of this experiment in the democratic process send the Obama campaign an email too. Let's see if he is for real--a man of words and actions.


Erika Kreider said...

I am also a huge democrat supporter. I was researching about the candidates and clicked on the disability paper as well. That is unfortunate that he actually did not follow through with what he said he stands for. Good for you for e-mailing them and not just sitting back and not taking part of a 2-way communication. I'm interested to see what comes of it.

Susan said...

I sat in a long line on a cold day to see Obama.There was a sign language interpretor at the rally. I then went home and read his disability policy. I'm impressed that we'd have a president willing to support human service programs rather than cut funding for them. I summarized it into a one page flyer. I've been sharing it with others who I think would care. I really need help doing this. I'm at Thanks.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Why would a blind person need an interpreter?

Don't you mean, interpreter for *deaf* people?

Yes, he should have them. He also should put captions on his on-line videos. Good for you for sending them an email.

Meghan said...

One of the biggest reasons I'm voting for Senator Obama is because he empowers us as Americans to BE the change that we wish to see in this world.
If you are wanting to see an event for Americans with disabilities, then by all means, go right ahead and host one!!! I'm sure there are other people out there that would like to see the same event as you and it could make a very big impact in your community.
If you navigate the Obama for America website, you will find all the tools to plan and organize such an event and to even network with other people who have the same concerns over issues.
A friend of mine hosted a "dial-athon" during the primaries to talk to voters, and the event turn out was great. We met other people in our community who were concerned about the same issues as we were and I feel that we really got the word out to some people who were undecided on certain things.
We as Americans need to get off our duffs and stop being so reactive. Instead, let's be PROactive.
Cheers and good luck!
Golden, CO

william Peace said...

Meghan you are absolutely correct I could host my own Obama event and his website provides explicit and easy to follow steps on how to make this happen. At a grass roots level, this is great. But this does not solve the larger issue of the total disregard for the rights of disabled people that was the point of my post. I think Obama's policies as they relate to disabled people are on target and progressive. Yet, this does not help me one iota if I cannot get any information on whether campaign events are accessible. When I required about wheelchair access directly, emailed replies were far from informative and direct phone calls a disaster. I think this approach is proactive and feel as though I hit a brick wall of exclusion.

ESK said...

Obama seems to be the only candidate that has addressed issues surrounding disability. I completely agree that his campaign events should be completely accessible. I noticed recently that Obama has come on to Disaboom site posting his positions, bio, blogs and is accepting questions from everyone regarding these issues. Here is the link:

Disaboom is encouraging all candidates to participate in this dialog (i guess they were talking with McCain, but I haven't heard any update). We'll see that leads...

Randi said...

I am so sorry that your experience was not positive, but I can assure you, Senator Obama is nothing but extremely committed to the cause of Americans With Disabilities. I am sure you will receive other responses even more detailed than mine, but we are all, as a disability community working together to effect real change in this country and we believe in Senator Obama's promise and every single word of his disability policy. Please don't give up hope, we are out here and support you and every other American With Disabilities to be a part of this change in moving our country forward in positive directions!

Unknown said...


I do not know to whom you sent your e-mail to the Obama campaign, but I read your blog post and try to respond here.

You question whether Senator Obama is truly committed to empowering Americans with disabilities. The answer is yes, Senator Obama is truly committed to Americans with disabilities, as evidenced by his consistent and strong support for government actions empowering Americans with disabilities. For instance, Senator Obama voted to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, voted to increase health benefits for veterans (both those with and without disabilities), and voted for full funding of IDEA. Senator Obama is a co-sponsor of the Community Choice Act (which Senator McCain does not support), the CLASS Act and a measure authorizing approximately $350 million in new federal funding for key programs related to services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Senator Obama supported the $150 million increase in the Social Security Administration's budget (vetoed by President Bush) that would have reduced the backlog of 755,000 disability claims. He supports the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments and the Fostering Independence Through Technology Act and supports amending the Medicare homebound rule so that individuals with disabilities have the freedom to leave their homes without fear of having Medicare benefits taken away. As President, his health insurance plan will cover all Americans, and he will
cause the federal government to meet a mandate of hiring an additional 100,000 federal employees with disabilities in 5 years and invest $10 billion per year in early intervention educational and developmental programs for children between zero and five, greatly benefitting children with disabilities.

On the issue of accessibility that you raised, Senator Obama's staff has worked throughout the country to make sure the official Obama events are accessible and that Obama campaign offices are accessible. For instance, I paste next in this e-mail a letter to the editor of the Raleigh newspaper that a North Carolina resident wrote to the Raleigh newspaper about the accessibility of a recent Obama event in North Carolina:

"I was privileged to have been a guest at Sen. Barack Obama's economic policy speech at the N.C. State Fairgrounds. The Obama campaign has reached out to citizens with disabilities in an earnest effort to include all Americans in the political process.

Many thanks to Obama's advance team, which worked with representatives from the disability community to ensure access and promote inclusion. The N.C. State Fair Police worked hard to solve problems: providing both a secure environment for Obama and an accessible environment for participants. We appreciate everyone's sensitivity and graciousness.

Obama is the only presidential candidate ever to have a comprehensive plan to empower Americans with disabilities. One of the central tenants of his plan is to end discrimination and promote equal opportunity. His campaign staff has demonstrated that these are not just words but core beliefs that they put into specific actions.

It is refreshing to see a political candidate who has a real commitment to this often-marginalized group of citizens.

Cindy E. Block, Ph.D."

With respect to official events, Senator Obama's campaign attempts to have all such events accessible,including providing interpreters at such events, so there would seem to be no need to distinguish between official events.

With respect to local events that volunteers schedule at their own homes, I understand your concern is that when an event is scheduled that is not an official campaign event but which is advertised on the Obama website, the person scheduling the event should be prompted to indicate whether the event is accessible or not. I do not know if that prompt is currently made, but I will ask media people in the campaign about this and get back to you.

Thanks for raising your queston, and if I misunderstand your question, please let me know. Thanks.

Doug Rogers
Disability Vote Deputy Director

william Peace said...

Doug, There is still a total lack of information about wheelchair access at any Obama event on the Senator's website. Policy statements are great and the Senator is a gifted writer and speaker. But I for one would like to know if I can actually get in the door to a event held by the Senator before I leave my house. This is especially true as gas in my area cost about $4.50 a gallon.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thanks for your post about Obama's lack of accessibility info. Someone once said to me, "there is no such as thing as disability, just lack of accessibility." Imagine a world where people accommodated all levels of ability, from a place of love and eagerness. We could do anything.

Loolwa Khazzoom
Dancing with Pain