League helps turn disabilities into abilities
By GLENDA WOLIN
Too often, when people think of those with disabilities, they think of people incapable of doing what “normal” people can do.
But think about it: Our governor uses a wheelchair. Andrea Bocelli can’t see, but his operatic voice is among the best. Of course there was Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind person to receive a bachelor’s degree, who wrote many books, helped found the ACLU, and accomplished much more. San Antonio’s own Larry Johnson writes a monthly column in the Express-News, was a top disc jockey in Mexico for more than 20 years, and wrote a book about his adventures in that country.
People with disabilities are capable, but sometimes they struggle – often because obstacles are put in their way by people who don’t think about how they created them. The Americans With Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, solved many of the problems, requiring equal access in public facilities. But it didn’t go far enough, and people with disabilities still find barriers to accessing even their Constitutional rights, like voting.
First of many
One attempt to remedy that came in July, when the LWV of the San Antonio Area held an event in cooperation with Deaf Link, Vital Signs, Nobacomm.org and Lighthouse for the Blind, to educate and register people with disabilities. It was just the first in what is hoped to be a series of get-togethers that will serve to educate people with and without disabilities about the issues and inspire them to vote.
There were informational pamphlets, some in Braille thanks to the Lighthouse for the Blind, and videos with ASL interpretation and captioning. ASL interpreters were there to interpret speakers and assist individuals, and large captions were projected on the screen for low-vision individuals.
Brochure turned into video
One of the videos was of the League’s “Vote: It’s in Your Best Interest” brochure,with Larry Johnson narrating. It appears on the home page of our website.
The League had voter registrars there as well as applications for mail-in ballots and requests for disability exemption from the Voter ID requirement. VIATrans offered free rides to all its customers to the event, and many took
Our next event with the disability community is Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 6-8:30 p.m. at The Brick at the Blue Star Arts Complex, 108 Blue Star. Conversation 360 is a bi-monthly interactive dialog sponsored by disABILITYsa. The topic this time is Voting & Disability, and the League will be offering voter registration before and after the discussion.
advantage of it.
The event, held at San Antonio College’s Eco Centro, drew more than 50 people from the community to share an evening of conversation, learning, making new friends, and a speech by state Sen. José Menéndez about the necessity of voting. He pointed out that whether you like things the way they are or you want change, you need to vote to make your voice heard. If you don’t vote, he said, you are leaving those decisions to other people.
Many problems encountered
Kay Chiodo, owner of Deaf Link and Vital Signs, explained that many don’t realize that users of American Sign Language often don’t read because ASL is not rooted in English. So handing a deaf person a paper to fill out or trying to communicate by writing a note is insufficient. In Bexar County, Deaf Link, a connection to an on-call ASL interpreter who can help a deaf person vote, is available at only one polling site, and only during early voting, which limits the ability of deaf people to vote. But interpreters are expensive, so solutions are not easy to find.
Even registering is a problem because so many can’t read the form without the help of an interpreter.
Ramps are required at polling places so people in wheelchairs can get in and out of the buildings, but sometimes people unintentionally block the way or space for maneuvering is tight during busy elections.
The League’s goal is to not only help people with disabilities get registered and vote, but to raise awareness among all people of the problems and come up with solutions so everyone has equal access to their vote.