People with disabilities have big potential as a voting bloc

November 5, 2012 by Storee

While the media speculates at what group will ‘decide’ the 2012 election, the public would do well to remember the power of one of the largest and often ignored voting bloc: people with disabilities.

The U.S. Census Bureau data indicates that there are 57 million people with disabilities, or about 19 percent of the population.  This group also includes veterans, a group that is increasing. One in four veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan has acquired a disability. Factor in the aging population, which it is estimated that one in three seniors has a disability, and it is clear the power people with disabilities hold.

Cherissa Aldredge is the region one coordinator for Utah GAP (Grassroots Advocacy Partnership), which covers Box, Cache and Rich counties. She has a visual impairment, and works to get the disability community voter-mobilized.

She said, “If people with disabilities, including in Utah, would unify as a voting bloc, the potential is significant.”

Unification on the disability front is a problem in Utah, Aldredge said. While many issues that Americans with disabilities face are nonpartisan, the disagreement comes over where and how to fund organizations that serve the population.

“How can we find areas where we align, so that when we go to the legislative sessions next year we can show our power in numbers?” Aldredge said. “There’s a finite pot of money from the government to give to disability organizations, and while increasing services for people is generally agreed upon, how and who gets the pie is where we compete against each other.”

Aldredge, along with Jeff Sheen of the Center for Persons with Disabilities, and Logan OPTIONS for Independence are working to change that – at least in Cache Valley.

“Getting together is the first step of progress, next is realizing our power in numbers,” Aldredge said. “There’s merit in having a unified front, and we need to focus on similarities rather than our differences so we can educate those unfamiliar with disability to advocate for us in the legislative process.”

No voting inaccessibility issues in Utah have arisen yet, Aldredge said. But if voters encounter issues with polling accessibility, they should report to the Disability Law Center.

“If individuals in Cache Valley can organize, they have a potential to make their voices heard with the Utah legislature so that they understand needs of people with disabilities,” said Aldredge.

For those who need transportation to the polls, the Cache Valley Transit District will have buses going to the polls. Also, people with disabilities can contact Logan OPTIONS for Independence at 435-753-5353 for alternative transportation options.

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Utah Grassroots Advocacy Partnership wants to help the disability community in advocacy

October 17, 2012 by Storee

Utahns looking to influence public policy and advocate for disability-related issues have the support of Utah Grassroots Advocacy Partnership (GAP).

The goal of GAP is, “To provide education and support to the disability community that allows individuals with disabilities, their families, and professionals to proactively advocate for the policies and services needed though the interaction and engagement in the making of public policy.”

Utah is divided into eleven regions, each region having its own organizer. To see regions and contact information for organizers, visit utahgap.org/blog. Region 1 organizer, who oversees Cache, Rich and Box Elder Counties, is Cherissa Alldredge.

Alldredge tries to use her own experience with disability to help those who haven’t experienced disability.GAP regional organizer, Cherissa Alldgredge

“My interest in disability advocacy is a result of my own experience with disability.  My disability – visual impairment – is due to an acquired brain injury,” she said. “Because of my brain injury, I have come to understand on a personal level some of the social, economic, and accessibility challenges that individuals’ with disabilities face.”

Before Alldredge’s brain injury, she was working as a human resource professional, so she is particularly interested in improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.  Currently, she is a student in the Disability Disciplines doctoral program at Utah State University.

Disability is a relevant national issue for policymakers. A recent, weighted survey found that 51 percent of respondents either had a disability, or had a family member or close friend with one. Advocacy for disability services and policy is particularly important with the upcoming 2012 election and 2013 U.S. budget resolution, when programs may be facing cuts.

Earlier this month, the CPD participated as a viewing site for the National Forum on Disability Issues, where representatives for the presidential candidates addressed concerns from citizens.

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