Action Winning at the Ballot Box

As a member of the disability community, I have been treated to numerous get out to vote campaigns,
projects, and efforts. Recently I observed another such effort just getting started in one of the states as
a spin-off of a national campaign. It appears to me that these efforts generally include the same
 Lots of materials telling people the why, when, where and how of voting
 Candidate forums at which few if any candidates show up except for those who by the numbers
have no chance of winning
 Fancy logos and tag lines that come and go with little impact
 Committees, oh yes lots of committees
 After the election, they die and disappear
Then as the next election approaches, they begin again having done nothing in the interim to bolster
their effectiveness. They do not:
 Maintain contact
 Build new contacts
 Hold events to question elected officials
 Issue report cards on how the elected are treating our issues
They, in short, no longer exist.
The question is do we want to win and be taken seriously?
Why don’t candidates respond to our forums or questionnaires? Simply put they do not count us as an
important voting block. People with disabilities and their friends and families as a group are a larger
voting block than any other minority group. To be a voting block though we must act like one. We must
organize and make our presence felt. We must be blamed for the defeat of candidates and the victory of
others. The organizational efforts mentioned above are great but ineffective without instilling the fear of
what we can do. I do not fault the organizations who spend funds on such efforts, but to be truly
effective we must organize differently. We must put emphasis on the kinds of organization that matters
and will make us winners at the ballot box.
Once we become a true force to be reckoned with then we can expect attendance at our candidate
forums, to be equally treated in the media coverage and put people in office who respect our views.
How do we do this, you’re asking? In my opinion we:
 Organize as a long term network that works constantly.
 We create voter teams that are all about supporting and helping each other vote. We recruit
team leaders from among disability and voting advocates so they can then build local teams.

 We connect with the parties to help with registration, transportation, and candidate
information. Let the parties do their jobs for their members.
 We utilize our teams to assist in supporting each member of the team in the act of casting their
 We utilize these teams to inform voters, but never interfere with their choice of party, candidate
or the other choices that are part of the sacred responsibility of voting.
 We maintain these teams long term with regular contact and engagement efforts to grow and
expand the network.
 We connect with other groups who are holding candidate forums to get our issues included. Let
them carry the load of organizing such efforts.
 We set aside the we must be seen at the polls and get the votes however it is convenient for
each voter. Yes, I am a big proponent of accessible voting, but not at the expense of winning.
 We utilize accessible technology when and wherever possible and depend on national, state and
local advocacy organizations to enforce accessible voting requirements.
 We centralize the effort at the national level with network teams in every state and local
 We self-fund by asking every team member to contribute a small amount of money to be used
to support the networks activities. One dollar a month should be sufficient. Twelve dollars a
year should not be too much to ask to protect our rights and needs.
 We should work with nonprofits who have funding to support our efforts in the ways that they
This is a first blush take, but we need an ongoing effort and network like the one outlined above.
The kinds of efforts utilized so far are good, but they are not enough. In some cases, they are also a
great way to make some organizations look like they are doing something. We can collectively fix this
and become a force in American politics.
Now some will read this and be angry, so be it. Be mad at me if you wish. My opinions are that of my
own and not that of Access Ready.
Be as angry with me as you like. Then lets move past the issues raised and do something that will make
us a force in the outcome of the 2020 election and beyond.

Strategic Point of Play

Traveling over the past two months to various conventions and meetings has clarified one major
point to me. It is a strategic point of play behind Access Ready.
Our meetings in Tennessee are a great example. In our meeting with Jeff Roberts, the Davidson
County Elections Administrator, where I was joined by two great advocates. Carol Westlake,
Access Ready’s Chair of Coalitions and Chip Smith our Chair of Political Science, this glaring
strategic point of play came to light.
We were there to discuss accessible check-in at the polls. As the discussion went on it became
clear that our overarching message of building Access Ready Environments would have a more
sweeping effect.
This concept became even more clear in our next meeting with Commissioner Turner of the
States Department on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
While we have known this in an oblique subconscious way, the global effect of adopting an
Access Ready policy that cuts across all departments can have a more sweeping effect.
The reasoning is that since information technologies also cut through all levels of business,
government and the non-profit sectors that such a policy would have a dramatic trickle-down
effect on everything.
Advocating for changes in elections, education, social services, and points of sale, the
employment process and so forth put us in too many struggles with important, but small gains.
So many advocacy tracks are difficult to manage, and stretch resources.
All of the above examples and many more are supporting elements of why an Access Ready
policy should be adopted at overarching levels.
Yes, we should support divisional, departmental and programmatic adoption of an Access Ready
policy, but it should not be our focus. It is too much effort for too little gain.
Once businesses, government, and nonprofits have adopted an Access Ready policy at the global
level within their scope of influence then we will need to turn to guidance, education, and best
practices at the downstream levels.
At the downstream or local levels is where we must provide the tools necessary to assist IT
departments, ADA coordinators, and program managers as they begin applying the adoption of
the policy.
As we begin applying this strategic point of play we will also continue to develop the tools and
resources needed at those most important local levels.
Now some will say that engaging at the upper levels of business, government, and the nonprofit
sectors will be harder than the local level advocacy efforts. Yes, but the result is so much greater.
Voting against an Access Ready policy that is well-timed and has cost-effectiveness designed
into it, would be saying that twenty-five percent of the population does not deserve access at the
information technology level. Like the tools mentioned above such proposed policy changes
must be thoughtful and timely so they can take effect in the most efficient ways possible.
The point is not how fast things get done, but that they are on track to get done.

We are not saying delay without cause, but rather act as needed when needed in the most
accessible and economic ways.
We do not expect anyone in the business, government, or the nonprofit sectors to adopt our
sample Access Ready policy, but that it will be used as a guide for the drafting of their own
policies. The important part is that they contain the same elements. We are not as concerned
about how it is said, but rather that it is done in the long run.

NCIL Resolution on Access Ready Enviroments

National Council on Independent Living
A Resolution on Access Ready Environments

Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973, as amended, and other federal/state laws require that all new or updated
buildings meet federal and state physical accessibility guidelines;
Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that government services and
places of public accommodation meet accessibility guidelines;
Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that places of employment make
reasonable accommodations to provide for the employment of people with disabilities;
Whereas, the courts including the Supreme Court of the United States have upheld all
the above requirements;
Whereas, the cost of retrofitting or upgrading both buildings and technology is often held
out as a reason not to provide accessibility;
Whereas, many potential employers give lip service to the law and the concept of
employing people with disabilities, but these intentions are undermined by hiring
managers who quietly fear the cost of making a workplace accessible;
Whereas, modern technology driven workplaces are often not readily accessible to
potential employees with disabilities;
Whereas, accessible twenty-first century information technology has proven the ability
to level the workplace playing field;
Whereas, this same technology has proven the ability to make public facing portals to
service, retail, and information delivery accessible to people with disabilities;
Whereas, inaccessible twenty first century technology creates unreasonable, punitive
and costly barriers to people with disabilities;
Whereas, information technology is clearly the lifeblood of twenty-first-century
employment and commerce;
Whereas, the cost of accessible technology, if required in advance, is marginally
different from inaccessible products; and

Whereas, legal and moral precedent exists for the advance planning and
implementation of Access Ready Environments;

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the National Council on Independent Living assembled
this twenty-third day of July 2019 herein request and require that;
Federal, state and local governments, business and places of employment and public
accommodation voluntarily implement all steps necessary to require that information
technology managers, departments, developers, and providers take actions to impose
accessibility requirements in advance of their need in the same way that structures are
required to be accessible in advance of their need; and
That the Congress of the United States and the legislative bodies of the various states
take legislative action to require that Access Ready information technology
environments be imposed under the appropriate titles of the Americans With Disabilities
Act and supporting state statutes; and
That the Congress direct the United States Access Board or other appropriate bodies to
set Access Ready information technology standards where none exist designed to
create employment and public-facing environments that are or can easily be accessible
to people with disabilities; and
That Federal, state and local government purchasing departments, along with those of
business impose Access Ready requirements on respondents to requests for proposals
and other solicitations related to the purchase of information technology; and
That government and business information technology managers, departments,
developers, and providers at all leadership levels engage with disability technology
experts to review their current employee and public-facing systems to ascertain the
necessary upgrades to create an Access Ready environment; and
That disability organizations and experts begin to examine public facing information
technologies in order to inform the government and business owners of those systems
of the issues found, and further to take appropriate actions to bring about changes that
will provide Access Ready environments; and
Be it further resolved that the United States Department of Justice is hereby requested
to review, investigate, monitor, report on and take action against employers and places
of public accommodation who have a proven track record of avoiding, refusing to
implement, and/or failing to otherwise provide for Access Ready information technology
environments by policy, unreasonable budget restrictions, and/or supporting an
atmosphere of institutional discrimination against people with disabilities; and

That individuals with disabilities, with the support of their friends, families and civil rights
organizations, begin a grassroots campaign utilizing existing complaint and legal
avenues to bring to the attention of government and business the need for immediate

action to alter the course of technology development and implementation to include
accessibility from the outset and not as a case by case afterthought.