By Kim Niederst, Ohio Walk-Events Director, who represented Autism Speaks at Friday's National Forum on Disabilities Issues held in Columbus.
Our community needs your vote!
On Friday, September 28, I had the privilege of representing Autism Speaks at the 2012 National Forum on Disabilities. I do not have a specific interest in politics; my knowledge of the candidates and the election stems from the numerous political advertisements on television. I vote the party line and have for years. I will admit, I am one uneducated voter.
There I was, a very able-bodied person sitting in a room with others of varying disabilities, mainly physical. For the next three hours, I was completely engaged in this forum. I learned about the issues -- Medicaid and employment were the primary points of discussion, but also education, housing and the Affordable Care Act. No one disability was the focus, rather this was a general discussion of the community at large. It all applies – whether you have a physical or developmental disability – the challenges remain in accessible and affordable health care and meaningful employment. There are 57 million people with disabilities in the United States, meaning that roughly 1 in 5 Americans have a disability.
I sat in this room on Friday, empowered. Empowered to hear what Romney and Obama have to say in the upcoming presidential debates. Humbled to realize the determination of people with disabilities to vote, to make their voices heard. They need our support. They need us to educate ourselves on every candidate’s platform on disability issues and autism spectrum disorders. They need our voice, for our voice speaks for all those who cannot speak for themselves.
At the beginning of the forum, the moderator stated that there would not be an opportunity for questions from the audience. I was disappointed. My co-workers from the Autism Speaks government relations team prepared questions, but also told me one from the heart would ring true. I really wanted to know from each party what their plan was to support families who are transitioning their child with autism from adolescence to adulthood. Explain how parents are literally afraid to die because they are unsure of what will become of their child. Our nation will soon become overwhelmed with adults struggling with autism. In the next four years, what will they do to be prepared for it?
I did not have the opportunity to ask my question, but unless I watch the debates, educate myself and vote, I will never be satisfied in the answer. My voice is my vote.
This quote from Justin Dart, Jr. (father of the Americans with Disabilities Act) was mentioned several times throughout the forum. “Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.”
Make sure your voice is heard and vote on November 6th because 1 in 88 cannot wait!