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
Chairman Disability Relations Group