I have a learning disability.
I grew up in a household of journalists. My parents and I watched the news every night and it was one of my favorite things we all did together as a family. As a young kid, I was encouraged to form my own opinions. When I turned 18, I felt that it was both an honor and a responsibility to vote.
As voters with disabilities, we have to remember that it is our right to vote, and to vote with accommodations. If we want to have an assistant/buddy or a family member to come with us to the voting booth, we can. My parents registered me to vote and my mom and dad would go with me — mostly my mom.
People with disabilities and learning differences can make a difference in our democracy. The numbers speak for themselves. Right now there are 62.7 million eligible voters who either have a disability or have a household member with a disability. In 2016 there were 35.4 million people with disabilities who were eligible to vote. Those are millions of potential voters in America whose voices are generally not heard and can often feel that their voice is not listened to. When discussion comes to being a voting bloc, we seem to be forgotten time and time again. Our voice matters because there are many more of us than you might think, and if every single one of us voted, we might change the outcome of an election. Yet, in 2016, only 55.9 percent of eligible voters with disabilities voted, and 41 percent claimed they didn’t vote BECAUSE of their disability.
Voting can be confusing, inaccessible, and hectic. I remember being at my voting location and looking around, it always seemed like everybody knew what they were doing but me. And voting isn’t consistent from place to place! Some states have ballots that are electronic, some use paper and computers, some do mail in voting, and for people with disabilities and LDs, this can all be daunting. Besides long lines, confusing ballots, outdated voting machines, lack of access to assistive technology, and inaccessible polling places which all prevent voters with disabilities from expressing their rights as voters, we are now facing a global pandemic with COVID-19. This year, to counteract all this confusion, I’m making a voting plan. I’ll be voting by mail and requesting my ballot early so I know my vote counts.
People with disabilities often feel disenfranchised, as if we are second class citizens and don’t deserve to vote. We sometimes lack the confidence to go to the polls. For me the most important thing about voting is knowing that my vote is equal to everyone else. In the voting booth, we all have power.
After I vote, I get a sticker which I put on my jacket and I wear it proudly for the rest of the day.
People with disabilities are critical voices that cannot be excluded in our democracy. I stand with all organizations in protecting and strengthening the rights of all voters with disabilities. I believe voting is the most patriotic act that an American can do. Let’s all make our commitment to patriotism this year and vote! If you are one of the millions of people with disabilities, I hope you will join me in voting in 2020.
Remember, people with differences can make a difference.
Quinn Bradlee is the Youth Engagement Associate for the National Center for Learning Disabilities where he has been a founder of the OUR TIME, OUR VOTE and FRIENDS OF QUINN initiatives. He is the author of a memoir, “A Different Life: Growing Up Learning Disabled and Other Adventures,” and “A Life’s Work: Fathers and Sons,” which he co-authored with his father. His next book, “Nose Down, Ass Up, Push Forward” is due soon. Quinn is the son of the late long-time Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and bestselling author Sally Quinn.