Nothing about us without us…

Lives Worth Living,
Lives Worth Living,

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ~ Alice Walker

Here at New Horizons Un-Limited, a recent meeting turned to the overwhelming obstacles we face as disability advocates. It was a difficult and emotional conversation, particularly considering our recent defeat here in Wisconsin, when our elected officials, despite our outcries, upended our nationally renowned public long term health care system in favor of a privately managed system without input from the very people this system will serve.

It has become increasingly clear over this past year that a great many of our politicians no longer have the best interests of their constituents in mind. They fight, not for the people, but for special interests – for the dollars that will get them reelected. Lobbyists are barking wildly at our elected officials, pulling this string and that; creating a future that they paid for.

All the while, “we the people” have become a silent many. We stood by and watched it all happen. And, we continue to watch, silently as democracy slowly dies, freedom erodes, and our power as a people is lost. We cannot allow this to continue!

As advocates we continue to fight because you and the millions of other Americans with disabilities are worth fighting for! But here’s the thing – we can’t fight without you. We can’t fight for people who are unwilling to fight for themselves. You cannot rely on others to do the dirty work. You cannot expect your needs to be met if you don’t speak up. You must be an active part of the process!

Too many people, particularly those with disabilities, choose to ignore politics, or worse, go to the polls misinformed. This needs to change!

There is no better time than now to begin preparing yourself to vote! The 2016 Presidential Election season is off and running. The debates are already beginning! This is your chance to get ahead of the curve. Begin now so that you can determine, with confidence, which candidates are listening to you and which just don’t seem to get it.

This is how you do it…

First, you need to honestly evaluate what kind of voter you are. Odds are that you fall into one of the following categories.

•  The sometimes or non-voter (because it doesn’t matter anyway)

•  The misinformed voter (because political ads are all I see)

•  The impartial, uninformed voter (because it’s my duty)

•  The partisan voter (because my political party has all the answers)

If you do fall into one of these categories, we hope that you will make an effort to move towards the only category that will bring balance to our democracy “The Educated, Well Informed Voter.” As much as we would like to think so, most of us are not this type of voter.

Here’s why…

As we begin to develop our political “tastes” we tend to be drawn towards the media that supports our viewpoints. We nod our heads in agreement with nearly everything our respective media representatives have to say because we’ve lost our ability to see the gray area. We begin to draw lines in the sand and become incapable of seeing past our own points of view.

It’s called partisanship and it’s ruining our democracy!!

We need to stop relying on political ads and partisan media – opinion and self-serving agendas often override facts from too many news outlets.  Unfortunately, given the extreme partisanship in this country, we really cannot take much at face  value these days. We need to cross check and verify what we hear or read. We also need to look to our political candidates’ records. What laws have they passed that could impact us as advocates and Americans with disabilities? Perhaps more importantly, how have those laws worked for or against us?

It seems like a daunting task, but with technology at our fingertips it’s really quite painless!

A great place to start is Vote Smart, a non-biased, fact-based political outlet that can connect you to just about anything you need to know about the candidates vying for your vote.

Another excellent resource is Politifact, a fact checking website that separates fact from fiction among the dozens of statements made by our political candidates and their pundits.

As an American with a disability, The Respectability Report is a must use resource, providing non-biased political commentary as it relates to Americans with disabilities.

Remember, in a Democracy, majority rules! The only way to get noticed is to unite and move as one recognizable voting force…we can only do this with your help!

Now that you’re armed with all of this amazing knowledge, it’s up to you to spread the word. If you come across an important piece of information about a candidate, share it far and wide. Contact us, comment on our Facebook Page, our Twitter Feed or right here on this article. And of course, share it with your social network.

Don’t be afraid to contact the candidates directly. Let them know that you are here, that you matter, and that you are listening. Tell them what’s important to you. Make sure they hear you! You are the voice that carries!

This is how we get noticed! This is how we create a movement! We have 15 months to make waves, let’s get started today!

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