People with disabilities have been historically excluded from making decisions about our own lives. That is why it’s very important for us to make sure our voices are recognized.
There are several ways to go about this.
If you are an American citizen of 18 years of age or above, you generally have the right to vote. There are a few exceptions—for example, if the terms of your guardianship restrict voting, or if you are incarcerated or on probation. To be able to vote in South Carolina, you must be registered to vote. This can be done online or at your county board of voter registration. Different places in the community may also hold voter registration drives. You need a valid driver’s license or a DMV issued ID to register as well; these can be obtained at any SC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) building and cost money. For more information on how to register to vote, visit here.
To prepare to vote, pay attention to your local elections and not just the national ones. You can keep yourself up to date on the local news and even attend town hall meetings to stay informed with what is going on in your community. These events are helpful to familiarize yourself with the issues you can vote on. It is also important to know your rights as a person with a disability when it comes to accessing the voting polls. Some accommodations for voting include large print, curbside voting, having your service dog with you, or assistance in marking your ballot.
Contact your legislators
Voting is important; however, voting isn’t the only way to create change. You can write/call your legislator, or join an advocacy group or campaign. All of these actions have the intent of mobilizing people, especially those in power, to care about the issues that impact your community.
A legislator is someone who makes laws and helps make decisions on what becomes law. They are elected by and serve districts. To find out who your specific legislator is here in South Carolina click here and type in your address. If you want your legislator to vote a certain way on an issue you care about or bring that issue to the attention of others, you should write them. Generally, your letter or email should contain the following:
- What it is you’re writing about
- Who you are
- Why it’s important
- Something to personalize the letter
- A request for a response.
Try to get your friends and family to write about it, too. The more people in your district who show their interest, the better.
Join up with others
You can also join a cause and/or advocacy group! Get familiar with local movements and get involved. For example, if you are passionate about employment for people with disabilities, you could see what’s going on with Employment First initiatives in your area. You can also attend rallies centered on issues you care about (like Advocacy Day for Access & Independence). At them, you can learn about local groups who are addressing those issues. You can contact local resources and nonprofits or maybe even consider becoming a board member of an organization. If you have a local politician running for office that shares your concerns, contact them and join their campaign. Some of the tasks you may be asked to do are stuff letters or phone banking. These actions may seem small but are great steps to take in advancing your cause.