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Direct Support Voices
By: Robin Carlson

Voting is an opportunity....
I am a direct support worker and you can bet your bippy I vote.  I certainly have an agenda which is heavily flavored with social justice and I seek out candidates and politicians who are sensitive to the needs of vulnerable citizens.  As a direct support worker, I typically work for people who are not rich and rely on public assistance - not because they want to but more because they need to for survival.  Many people I support are healthy only when they receive the proper healthcare and medications with Medicaid assistance.  And people with disabilities and our elders can lead productive, contributing lives in our communities with the proper support from family, friends and paid human service workers.
I take great pride when I speak with politicians about the civil rights movement for people with disabilities and my part in it as a direct support worker.  If it weren't for millions of us throughout this country helping people get out of bed in the morning, taking care of bodily hygiene, helping with meals or supported employment, volunteerism, and other civic duties then we, as a society, would be missing out on some great talent that people on the margins behold.
Disability is a natural condition in the human species whether by birth, accident or illness so it doesn't matter if you are a democrat or republican because disability doesn't discriminate. When we can have conversations about universal issues that affect everyone then we can come to some common ground about how to best help each other with our collective resources.
The political season can be viewed as a bloody battle ground or a fantastic opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with local politicians and fellow citizens.  All we need to do is tell good stories about how people with disabilities thrive because of the good support they receive from people who are called to serve and family and friends who love them.  Remind your politician about the Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan story and they will understand and maybe, just maybe, be inspired to vote with a conscience.  It's worth a try!