The world has turned around many times since I first posted this article. There have been fifty plus school shootings since the halls of Parkland echoed with gunfire and the cries of children. There have been hundreds more since Columbine and still we the people have done nothing. The bravery of one young person at a Colorado school has over aged us all and his name should not be forgotten while the names of the shooters must never be remembered. In the brave spirit of Kendrick Castillo let us all be just as brave in facing the duty we all have in the shadow of Kendrick’s sacrifice. The National Rifle Association (NRA) through their abuse of free speech is still a clear and present danger to the safety and security of the United States. Now quite proper questions are being raised about not only their tactics, but their tax-exempt status. Never have so few, endangered so many for so long. It is not just about the tragic deaths of children for whom we all grieve. It is also about the millions physically and mentally disabled by gun violence. Great companies are and should continue to sever ties with the NRA and the voices of millions of young people are not intimidated by the tactics of gun extremists. The disability rights movement should follow on to prevent millions of gun-related disabilities in the future. Let us find a compromise. The Second Amendment is a sacred constitutional trust between the American people and the government, we the people, established. Polls indicate that a super-majority want laws that make sense and at least attempt to keep guns out of the hands of the dangerous and deranged to help prevent deaths and disabilities through mass gun violence. We must all applaud Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, and others in the marketplace for having the courage to act where little is found among political leaders. The youth have it right when they say that the NRA is protecting the rights of gun makers and not the rights of gun owners. Cut up your membership card, no more death and disability for the sake of profit! We the people demand changes. The NRA has bought lawmakers, we must do it for ourselves. Drop NRA memberships, and boycott businesses who support them. No more death and disability for profit through mass gun violence.
Both technology and disability should be bipartisan at their very core. We all do or could benefit from technology and we are all subject to potential disability in our personal or family lives at any time. Many like to say that both are bipartisan, but we all know that like so many other things today they are not politics-free zones. The great debate over the effect of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media-driven technologies are having on the American political system is occupying much of our national discourse. For the past fifty plus years, the politics of disability have likewise consumed not only public debate but a growing part of local, state and federal budgets. There is not a great lack of funding that is denying peoples civil rights. There is a great lack of political will that is allowing technology to undermine the intent behind disability law and budgets.
It is not just the raw party politics that affect both technology and disability. There are many kinds of politics that put pressure on both subjects from a spectrum of positions. It is this spectrum of the civic, corporate, party and social-political pressure that is responsible for the alarms being raised about inaccessible information technology and the risk it poses to the civic, employment and social futures of millions of people with disabilities. There is a justifiable legal position to require that information technology be accessible to people with disabilities. The spectrum of political will does not clearly exist and that is why Access Ready has been formed. As a disability advocacy organization, it cannot ignore the political pressures from many directions that will come to bear on what is referred to as politechnobility.
Access Ready as an organization understands that it needs the best leadership on the subject of the political sciences. Leadership from a political practitioner who has worked at the local, state and national levels. A political player who has worked inside government, party, and lobbying mechanisms across a wide range of subjects. A family leader who understands the who, what, where, when and how politics of the moment effects average Americans. A political scientist who approaches every circumstance with a keen intent to learn, understand, analyze and strategize a short and long-term response to the most complex political situations. Access Ready is honored to welcome William L. “Chip” Smith, a 29-year veteran in the arena of government affairs to its Board of Directors.
The politics of information technology as it combines with a disability is a significant opportunity to set things on the right path. Much of the issue is related to a lack of understanding which requires education. Policymakers, enforcers, and developers have clearly not yet grasped how important accessible information technology is to the future of people with disabilities. Accessible information technology presents such a wide range of possibilities for the inclusion of people with disabilities across all spectrums of civic, employment and social life. Inaccessible technology, on the other hand, is a clear and present danger to the future of people with disabilities in our modern technology-driven society. Access Ready is in the business of educating everyone on the urgent need for a policy change that makes accessing information technology a matter of course and not an afterthought.
As an organization, we cannot and will not ignore the political realities that come to bear on Access Ready’s policy efforts. This politechnbility space is a reality and Access Ready is gathering the best Execution Team available to educate, guide and manage the policy path it must follow to reach the tipping point necessary to bring about a fundamental shift in the information technology universe. Anyone who does not grasp the global issue of how inaccessible technology will negatively impact the future of people with disabilities is a subject for educational efforts and many of them are in the political marina. Access Ready’s polotechnobility strategy is education across the entire spectrum of players that can affect the outcome of the global policy drive to make inaccessible technology a think of the past and the possibilities created by accessibility a reality.
Douglas George Towne
Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Access Ready Incorporated
When members of the disability community advocate for access to technology, education, transportation, or healthcare, why are people surprised?
Each time we open a new advocacy campaign on a subject not previously considered by those in power: They
always act surprised. They seem to think that people with disabilities should be happy with a bite of the apple
and should not want the whole pie.
Whether it concerns new election technologies, software that makes the workplace accessible or policies and
programs that include us in community life, We must keep speaking truth to power. America is our pie too.
Why is it that whenever people with disabilities or any minority group seek their rights under the constitution, we
have to force those rights from the very government that was established to guarantee them. Remember, “life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness” belongs to us all.
Having been recently in front of several Secretaries of State and Election Directors discussing the expansion of
access to elections through accessible poll books, I was struck by the attitude that we needed to convince them
why we should have equal access. We need to convince them, when it is their sacred duty to provide equal
access to all eligible voters.
Since the inception of the Americans With Disabilities Act and many other civil rights laws whose birth did not
come without painful debate: There have been those trying to undo the civil rights of other Americans. What is
it that fires such animosity toward minority rights?
In one way or another we are all part of a minority group. We all have friends or family who are touched by
disability, poverty or some other factor that by choice or chance imposes the heavy burden of the label minority.
There was a time when disability was thought to be a bipartisan issue. Now given the efforts of many that may
no longer be the case. The question is will we accept second class citizenship?
As a minority group people with disabilities are in a special position to bring understanding into many debates.
It can be fairly said that as the first and second generations of advocates have gotten older and passed that we
have not done enough to fire the energy, willpower and dedication of up and coming younger advocates. We
must do better.
We must seek a new growing national group of young zealots ready to yank the political pendulum back from
the extreme right to a place where outcomes are more evenhanded. Advocates who take the surprise of the
power brokers and use it to make the point that we want the whole pie and we will not be relegated to second
class citizenship under any circumstances.
What is amazing is that any public official in 2018 would even consider an action or inaction that would relegate
any American to second class Citizenship. Have we not fought those battles over tyranny and triumphed?
Perhaps it is only the giant providers of tyranny that have been defeated.
Perhaps it is the local, state and Federal officials of small minds and hearts that feel the rush of power in their
bellies when they get to put down the rights of others? All minorities must meet the small despots with the
same determination that defeated the giants of past tyrannies.
Douglas George Towne
Chair/Chief Executive Officer – Access Ready Inc.
Is the Disability Community Adequately Represented to the White House?
As we file our tax returns this week it is time for the disability community to take stock of our position in this Republic. Looking at the evidence, the picture is not good on many fronts where our participation in the life of the Republic is concerned. Parts of Congress, the Judicial and the Executive branches of our own government appear to have declared war on us.
Looking at elections, The General Accounting Office Report issued in 2017: found continued barriers and that 60% of polling places surveyed had one or more impediments to the participation of voters with disabilities. The Congressional response was to pass HR620 the ADA Notification and Education Act virtually stripping the teeth out of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On elections, approximately $380 million in funding for states (and hopefully local election authorities) was recently appropriated by Congress. These funds, administered under Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act, will provide a much-needed cash infusion into elections. The National Disability Rights Network is calling for at least 10% of this money to be spent on accessibility.
Accessible absentee voting is a hot issue. Ohio was just ordered to provide accessible absentee voting for the blind and other states will surely follow. Some have also pointed out that voter check- in systems or new electronic poll books may not be accessible for many voters.
The California Council of the Blind announced the final settlement of their federal lawsuit against the County of San Mateo and the State of California challenging the unlawful and discriminatory exclusion of blind and low vision voters from the County of San Mateo’s absentee voting program.
The National Council on Independent Living is celebrating a 12 million dollar increase in funding for Centers for Independent Living. Part of the most recent budget bill to pass Congress this money was a hard-fought victory.
At the White House, unlike many Presidents before him, this President still has no Special Assistant or recognized Policy Advisor on disability. Perhaps, like in all other things, he considers himself an expert on disability. That would explain why he believed gutting disability services in his budget proposal was the right thing to do?
The Presidents vast understanding of disability may come from his and his company’s history with the Americans With Disability Act. We have not had much public review of that history. Is that because there is none or is it because like in other “affairs” there have been gag orders put in place to keep plaintiffs silent?
With all the issues, questions and bureaucracy Americans with disabilities must face every day, we must admit that things are better than they once were. There are no more forced sterilizations or involuntary medical experiments. Children with disabilities go to the same failing public schools as every other American child and can incur the same level of student debt as well.
Many public office holders with disabilities ignore us with the same level of commitment as their non-disabled counterparts. With all that being said, we still have the same basic rights as every other American which allows me to write this article in the safety and security of the knowledge that I am protected by the Constitution as an American Citizen. May God bless America.
Douglas George Towne
Chair/Chief Executive Officer – Access Ready Inc.
NOW is the time to advocate for Disability Programs Like Independent Living.
Many members of the disability community have historically looked to the Presidency for understanding, protection and support when it could be found no
where else. In this Presidency, Americans with disabilities and many other minorities find no shoulder to lean on.
I am a fiscal conservative disgusted by a bloated federal budget full of half hearted programs designed to give
the allusion of action. However, MR President, minority communities like those with disabilities need help and your
protection, not to have programs cut with no replacement that would actually work. That is the opportunity.
The Budget Proposal Cuts Independent Living and other vital disability programs based on what I
must assume is a lack of understanding. I base this on the fact that to the publics’ knowledge he has no
qualified person with a disability advising him on these matters inside the bunkered White House.
MR President you are the most media aware person to ever sit in the Oval office. The disability community will
make you and the Congressional majority regret these cuts if they become reality. We are a tsunami of voters
sixty two million strong. Since the disability rights movement began it has been the consensus that our issues were non-partisan. This proposed budget has made disability a partisan issue for the first time in my memory. So be it. We must rise to meet the challenge.
Douglas George Towne
Chairman Disability Relations Group