What Does Election Day Mean for Adults with Disabilities?

On November 8, millions of Americans will head to the polls and cast their thoughtful, informed vote for the nation’s next president. But adults with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities can face immense challenges when exercising their right. One local self-advocacy expert sheds light on how we can help

Contributor: Justin Deitrick, Program Manager and Advisor for the Self-Advocacy Focus Group at Bancroft
Monday, November 07, 2016

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Unless you don’t own a television, smartphone, car radio, mailbox or homing pigeon and have zero confrontational relatives, you’ve likely heard about a small event on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Of course, it’s Election Day, and millions of Americans will head to the polls to cast a vote for our next president. Fortunately, for average voters, exercising our right is relatively easy! But for adults with autism or other intellectual or developmental disabilities, the simple act of participating in this election poses immense challenges – but it shouldn’t!

As a Program Manager and Advisor for the Self-Advocacy Focus Group at Bancroft, the largest organization in our region providing services to children and adults with autism, I’ve seen firsthand the trouble this population faces when trying to participate in the democratic process. From difficulty understanding how to correctly register to overcoming physical obstacles of identifying and traveling to their correct polling place, adults who are interested and able to vote often don’t. And, with more than 5 million adults with disabilities throughout the U.S., we have an obligation to advocate for them, and to help them advocate for themselves and make their voices heard this year and every year.

Once individuals with developmental disabilities are empowered, they become passionate about issues that directly impact them. They care about who leads this country and they get informed about the policies, funding, and laws that can shape the future for adults like them.

Most importantly, this population largely understands they represent many who do not have a voice or cannot physically vote – and they take this responsibility seriously. Many have a strong desire to represent others, help others, and advocate to leaders on their behalf.

What you can do

If you have a friend, neighbor or acquaintance with a disability, you can empower them to vote this year. Ask what you can do – from a conversation about the issues to an offer of transportation to and from a polling place – it’s everyone’s responsibility to enable and encourage participation in this election.

This year, remember that voting is a right of EVERY citizen of this country. We should all be passionate about helping individuals with disabilities represent themselves. We need to teach them to lead, to help others, and to help themselves, because we will all reap the benefits of an informed voting population.

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Bancroft is a leading nonprofit provider of specialized services for individuals with autism, other intellectual or developmental disabilities and those in need of neurological rehabilitation.

If you or a loved one with autism or other intellectual or developmental disabilities might benefit from Bancroft’s innovative adult supports, or for information about enrollment in other programs, dial 1-800-774-5516 or visit www.bancroft.org to connect with an Access to Care specialist.

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