I've been trying to do this since Friday morning. Damn Mitt Romney's RNC speech...it's given me a nice case of writer's block.
I know you're probably all sick to death of hearing about Mitt Romney's RNC speech, but indulge me a bit. Regular readers will know that I'm an American politics junkie, despite my Canadian citizenship, and I've been very restrained about writing about Election 2012 for quite some time.
I watched most of the evening coverage of the Republican National Convention, last week, despite some moments during the speeches that felt like they were causing me physical pain. Mitt Romney's RNC speech actually had only a few fleeting seconds where I felt that way, which surprised me. Actually, Thursday night was relatively pain-free. I admit that I was getting a little bored by the time Clint Eastwood showed up, so I wandered off to make a snack and missed the full effect of Invisible Obama...and I started channel-surfing halfway through Marco Rubio's speech...but I listened to everything in Mitt Romney's RNC speech.
Halfway through Mitt Romney's speech, I tweeted, "But what are you going to do for people with disabilities, #MittRomney?"
Nothing About People With Disabilities in Mitt Romney's RNC Speech
Not that it surprised me mightily to hear nothing about people with disabilities in Mitt Romney's RNC speech. I don't expect to hear anything about us in Obama's speech next week at the Democratic National Convention. Canadian politicians don't talk about us either.
But I feel like there should be some concerted thinking going into how to win the vote of people with disabilities and the people who love them/work with them/are concerned about the issues affecting them. After all, US Census data shows that approximately 20% of Americans have a disability. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/miscellaneous/cb12-134.html That's a lot of voters, Mitt Romney, especially when you consider that the families of these people and people that work with people with disabilities will be evaluating your position on disability issues as well.
As Powerful as the US Gov't Is, It Still Has *Some* Power
Discussing Mitt's plan to bring the USA back to prosperity with a friend, I pointed out that I've heard nothing, in Mitt Romney's RNC speech (or in anything else he's said) about what he's going to do about the fact that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is nearly twice what it is for people without disabilities. He said that he that there wasn't much that the government could do about that.
I take issue with that. You can't legislate what people think and feel, no. But you can certainly legislate that they can't discriminate or cause harm on the basis of it, and there's precedent for the federal government stepping in on cases where this is happening:
- Declaring that groups have protection against discrimination in the workplace, hate speech, and hate crimes.
- Recently, sending the Department of Justice to investigate whether New York City's extremely low number of accessible taxis was in violation of the ADA.
- Even more recently, starting the process to phase out sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
Just something to think about.
Matters of Employment
In Mitt Romney's RNC speech (in all his speeches, in fact) is, he's talking about getting people back to work and cutting entitlements. If he wants to get people with disabilities working and off income supports, he's going to have to acknowledge that employers are going to have to be willing to accommodate needs. When I worked in special education classrooms, the schools had to work around the fact that I couldn't assist with lifts and transfers when working with students in wheelchairs. Sometimes this was a struggle to coordinate, but I was good at my job in all other areas, so schools didn't mind moving things around for me a bit - but they did need to be willing to work with me, or the job wouldn't have worked. Employers will need to keep in mind that they need to approach hiring people with disabilities in this manner - they can get very good, very qualified people, but may need to bend on things like permitting extra breaks or allowing an employee to work from home once a week, allowing a nurse to come into the office for half an hour once a day to assist an employee with health needs, or doing a staff education session on how to respond when someone is having a seizure.
Some people are going to need supports if they're going to work. Look at Anthony in my previous entry. He's started his own business (and I've heard from Mike that they're swamped with requests!), but he needs some support to keep things going. And speaking from my experience, most of the people with intellectual disabilities with whom I've worked need either some agency or one-on-one support to get and keep a job. If Romney's goal is getting them employed and off income support, he has to be willing to spend some money on supports somewhere else.
And some people have disabilities that simply don't allow them to work. Unless the US government is prepared to have them starve/freeze to death, there has to be money for them to keep themselves alive. They didn't ask to not be able to support themselves, and charity/churches/community simply can't handle all the needs of these individuals (in addition to those of all the other individuals in communities who are living in poverty). Besides, not everyone has a family or community to support them, and faith won't keep you warm and fed.
There was a promise in Mitt Romney's RNC speech that he would "help you and your family". I just don't know if, for families that have people with disabilities in them, that would be the case if Mitt Romney were elected. But this is all conjecture. Since there was no talk about people with disabilities in Mitt Romney's RNC speech (or any of his other speeches) how's anyone to know what his position is?
We'll see how Obama fares this week at the Democratic National Convention.