casting my ballot

“hey lady! hey lady! they have curbside voting!”
a group of 15 or 20 people stand on the sidelines and shout at me as i get out on the lift of my van.

“i know, that’s great, but I’M going to vote INSIDE!” i yell back loudly, annoyed at having to have said this allllll morning already (i have some serious health issues going on & it seems as though everyone and their mother had a personal investment in making sure i did not go out in the rain).

i expect the crowd to be embarrassed or something but instead they erupt in cheers, clapping, and you-go-girl!s.

what’s more american dream-y than the disenfranchised stepping to the polls, right? i walk by, waving at all of the people like a star.

just kidding. the totally fun moment turns serious when one of the folks breaks the line and approaches me:

“i just want to say thank you.”
she says all big eyed

“for what?” i ask pretending like i don’t know. i’m about to be really annoyed if she’s going to go inspirational crip on me and ruin my big first-time voting moment.

“for coming out to vote.”

oh great. she really is going to ruin my moment! damn! i brace myself for the on-coming pity party.

she continues:
“my husband is handicapped. he just began riding an electric chair and i couldn’t get him to come volunteer with me. a few weeks ago he was at a store and after knocking out a whole aisle of candy, he is too embarrassed to come out. plus with transportation being the way it is, everything set up against you, you know?”

i nod and explain that for the first year that i used a powerchair, my specific expertise was in knocking down store displays, particularly large pyramids of shoe boxes. she smiles in shared understanding and continues to open up, telling me more about all the issues her husband is facing as someone who has just acquired a disability. we brainstorm solutions and exchange phone numbers. i go inside, vote, wave to her, and leave.

i’m not much for electoral politics but moments like these really remind me how important policy and participating in the political process can be as tools for the advancement of disabled people. as disabled people, our lives are intertwined in the system. the stakes are high and bad policies play out in intimate, real ways for each of us. i have hope that next time elections come around, she and her husband will be out on the sidelines together.

“Vote as if your life depended on it. It does.” Justin Dart.

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7 Comments

Filed under disability, politics

7 responses to “casting my ballot

  1. I voted early today, but the experience was like pulling teeth!

  2. i’m not much for electoral politics but moments like these really remind me how important policy and participating in the political process can be as tools for the advancement of disabled people. as disabled people, our lives are intertwined in the system. the stakes are high and bad policies play out in intimate, real ways for each of us.

    Yes! YES! I so agree that this is the key. The process is always most important, and especially so for anyone for whom participation, historically or now, is not a certain right.

    I’ve been writing on this point from a wonky perspective (voting machines, HAVA, etc.), but you hit it exactly from a personal perspective. And thanks for the Justin Dart quote, which chokes me up every single time I read it.

  3. I blogged about it on my site, but here’s the short version. When I got there, the accessible machine was not ready. They would only allow pwd’s to use the machines, which in NY, is illegal. Although the board of elections claims that everyone got 4 hours of training on the BMDs, none of the pollworkers knew how to operate them. One pollworker called her husband to guide her through the process. It took more than an hour for me to vote. Oh, and here is the clincher-the accesible voting machine was placed less than a foot from a flight of stairs! Two pollworkers had to stand by the stairs so that I wouldn’t fall. Needless to say, I let everyone know that I was reporting them to the board of elections, which I did. Later, my partner was driving a friend to the polls. This friend also works for CDR, and was being trailed by a local TV station, and she took the opportunity to tell the media about what happened to me. I didn’t get a call, but it was mentioned on the news.

  4. Julia

    Oh man that woman telling you about her husband. So much better than the “YOU INSPIRE ME” bullshit.

    Last year my polling location was CRAP with no braille accommodations I could find, and the voting area for people in wheelchairs wasn’t properly set up (no privacy curtain).

    This year (and a new polling location) there was a well set up area for PWD and someone was standing by it ready to offer assistance.

    AND all of my local friends with disabilities were able to vote without shenanigans.

    Awesomeness.

  5. Pingback: “Vote as if your life depended on it. It does.” « trollhare

  6. love this. loooove this.

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