First, we have to keep the pressure on campaigns by contacting and sharing suggestions with them continuously. If we delay our communications to a later time with the 20 plus campaigns out there, we will not become a first-tiered niche to which candidates respond. We need to test ideas now and see if they have traction, in essence, to see if they show up in speeches and questions asked at debates. As the candidate field narrows and if our issues stay in the mix of what is emphasized, we will know we have become a higher-tiered niche.
Second, we must ramp up our efforts up. Hillary Clinton has added a website page on disability rights (https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/disability-rights/)? A PAC supporting Bernie Sanders has a page on disability issues (http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-people-with-disabilities/). The topics of mental health, medical use of marijuana, vaccinations and autism surfaced in the last debate (http://therespectabilityreport.org/ ). At a minimum we need to let candidates know how we feel about what was said on these topics, and what we think their positions should be on these topics. These topics could also be a link to other important topics that we could raise.
Third, in communications we need to reflect outcomes that we expect on websites, in speeches, and answers to debate questions. Any communications with campaigns should include what we want them to talk about on their websites, at campaign stops, and in debates. There are many things on which people with disabilities are united and other things on which they have varied opinions (http://www.dailydot.com/politics/disability-voters-2016-election/). Candidates need to learn about these differences and develop responses to them that makes sense and attract voters with disabilities and their families.
Fourth, with the volatility in the polls it is important for candidates who want to be in for the long-haul to take the disability vote seriously and understand its complexity. If 3 million people with disabilities, who registered to vote, but did not vote in 2012, had voted, they could have changed the outcome.
The candidates are not going to increase their attention to issues important to us unless we start interacting with them now. I am optimistic. TheRespectAbilityReport.org is sponsoring/coordinating web-based town halls with candidates. Please check out its website and stay tuned. RespectAbility will be giving us a platform, ALL OUR OWN, to reach presidential candidates (http://therespectabilityreport.org/2015/09/17/disability-groups-to-host-presidential-town-hall-meetings/). Be part of these upcoming events and contact campaigns directly. We can influence the future if we adopt an engagement policy immediately. Are you in?