Monday, October 4, 2010

ADA Voters - A Key Constituency

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 “To me the ADA means I have my civil rights and liberties back.” These words quoted from one survey respondent of 870 persons with disabilities from a non-scientific survey conducted by a University of Texas professor showcases the profound influence of the American Disabilities Act, now 20 years old in June. The survey found that over two-thirds of respondents reported that the ADA had more influence in their lives than any other social, cultural, or legislative change. 

 The ADA established a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities, guaranteeing equal opportunity for individuals living with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. For the estimated 400,000 living with multiple sclerosis, the ADA has become a tool of empowerment for many living with the disease.

While over 51 million Americans (18 percent of the population) are classified as disabled, 30 million Americans with disabilities are of voting age, a rather large and significant figure. Very rarely do many politicians and political analysts consider this population as an influential constituency group during campaign season, yet according to a Government Accountability Office Study 15 million turned out to vote in 2008.

Mark Mellman, one of the nation's leading public opinion researchers put the numbers in perspective in his recent article covering this issue writing that “the “disabled vote” is nearly as large as the African-American vote (16 million), 50 percent larger than the Latino vote and many times larger than the Jewish vote” constituency groups that receive substantial attention during national and state election campaigns.

As employment and health care reform, key priorities for MS Activists, are being pushed to the forefront of issues for the 2010 midterm elections, also important are lawmakers and campaigns need to devote greater attention to an influential segment of the American population.
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