Saturday, November 14, 2015

New Hampshire disability advocates: now is the time to weigh in with the presidential campaigns

 As you know your presidential primary is February 9, 2016, a Tuesday. Presidential candidates are spending a lot of time in your state and Iowa, which has its caucuses on February 1, 2016. If you follow my blog posts you know that I did a similar list of campaign contacts for the state of Iowa. My source is  If you compare the two states you can see that the staff information is more complete in Iowa.

Nonetheless, the time is now for those of you who live in New Hampshire and care about issues that affect people with disabilities to engage campaigns of your choice. Do not wait for the field to shrink. Do not wait for candidates to decide on their own that disability issues are or are not important. Positions and policies on the minimum wage, the tax code, entitlement reform, access to healthcare, immigration, national security, the family, and veterans could affect your life or someone you know with a disability. By connecting with campaigns of your choice now you will be able to influence how these initial policies and positions are fleshed out.

Every campaign website has information about where the candidates stand on most of these important issues. Spend some time looking at them and talking to your friends. Check out This site tracks what kind of things candidates are saying about the top issues. There are many things that we need to know.  For example, in entitlement reform does any candidate plan to leave intact the benefits available now to people with significant disabilities who have a work history or are poor?  With regard to the minimum wage, if a candidate supports it, does she or he think that people with disabilities, regardless of where they work, have a right to it? If they don't support it, provide reasons why they should.

Now is the time to do our homework. Now is the time to do research. I urge you to go to events where candidates are present. Ask them questions. Tell them stories about how law and practice affect people with disabilities in good ways and in not so good ways. Read and talk about what they are saying. When we see evidence of candidates talking about and using stories concerning people with disabilities in connection to major issues, we will know we have had an impact and are not operating on the margins.

 N.H. State Director
Nate Lamb
David Tille

Matt Mowers

Mike Lacich
Ethan Zorfas

Lauren Carney
Joe Diron
No information available
Henry Goodwin
No information available
Simon Thomson
No information available
John Bivona

Alicia Preston

David Chelsey
@david chelsey
Karl Beckstein

Julia Barnes
No information available
Nick Pappas

Matt Ciepielowski
No information available

 Remember we are part of the mainstream of America. We are 56 million strong. We have friends and family, who care about our success and independence. Collectively we are very motivated. Campaigns will see us this way, but first we must engage them.

Thank you.

Common Grounder

Friday, November 13, 2015

Time to Think Strategically

We've never seen a presidential election cycle like this one. Those of us with experience and interest in the lives of persons with disabilities have a unique opportunity if we think strategically about how to approach presidential campaigns of our choice. The problem right now is that "disability issues" are seen as minority, niche issues. Most candidates do not see the value of talking about or including references to people with disabilities in their statements at this point. We need to change that. To do so they must recognize where candidates are and start there.

For example, the Democrats -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders talk about income inequality and the need to raise the minimum wage (O'Malley too). They talk about a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, how to provide greater access to higher education, and preserving and extending healthcare coverage to those who need it. We need to give them examples about how the policies they are talking about would benefit or hurt people with disabilities. We need to connect our issues to these broader themes. If we give them examples of how their policies would benefit people with disabilities they will use our examples in their stump speeches, debate answers, and in town hall exchanges.

The 12(?) Republican candidates talk about tax reform, boarder tightening, family supports, entitlement reform, job creation, threats from terrorists, over regulation that strangles the economy, and government not working for the people. Here too we must take on these broader issues and connect them to the lives of people with disabilities. For any policy they pose on these issues, how would it affect people with disabilities? We need to tell them. We have the opportunity to ask for a carveout, exemption, or clarification. If they agree with the idea, they will talk about it to show how much greater or smarter they are compared to their opponents or how different they are from them.

No one is going to elevate us to the "mainstream" unless we do it first. We are very adept about talking about our specialness. In this political cycle we must engage the campaigns in a smart way by talking to them FIRST about the issues that are in the forefront and how they affect us. By doing so they will see us as a vital voter block and not a niche group. Once we see candidates using examples concerning people with disabilities when talking about the benefits of policies they propose, then we can begin to introduce them to issues that are more disability specific.

I recommend that we all checkout There we will learn what all presidential candidates are talking about. Then sit down and discuss how we would approach them and what we would share about how the candidates' policies would affect people with disabilities.

Remember we are part of the mainstream of America!

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Iowans with Disabilities, Friends, and Families: Engagement Time Is Here!

Engagement time is here. I know you know that. I can’t believe we still have so many candidates– 16.  My source was RespectAbility USA and its presidential campaign blog – RespectAbility teams are on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire interacting with all campaigns.

Of course, being a political junkie, I found out a few things myself too. For example, there was a news clip, I believe on CNN, where Jeb Bush commented on how meeting and being educated by a parent with a child with a significant disability helped him understand and improve Florida state services to people with developmental disabilities. That story is also part of his bio. It’s available on his website – And lo and behold, five days (11/7/16) later on the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert, John Kasich included people with a developmental disabilities in a list of people government should assist. We are starting to see sign language interpreters at big events associated with the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. I am doing research on whether campaigns are captioning their videos.

What do these random points imply? Candidates are going to invest time and energy in groups who help separate them from the pack. We represent 56 million – that’s a pretty big group. We also have many friends and families. However, candidates will not “discover” us unless we engage them and share our concerns and priorities. In fact, if we were to hold a candidates’ debate on disability issues right now we would probably be seeing 12 or more “deer-in-the-headlights” expressions. So please take the time to go to town halls, other events to which candidates come, and to the caucuses (2/1/2016).  The Desmoines Register keeps a calendar on candidates' schedules –

Those of you who live in Iowa are very important to the rest of us. What you do to elevate issues that are important to people disabilities will affect the status of these issues in other states. Below is contact information for the senior person in Iowa for each candidate. Please connect with the campaigns in which you have a strong interest. Ask them questions and tell them what is on your mind. Weigh in on the economy, tax reform, the cost of college, raising the minimum wage, and immigration, entitlement reform and how their proposals would work or not work for people with disabilities. In reality we are not a niche group. We are mainstream America! Those of you in Iowa need to let the candidates know this.   The contact information is below, please use it.

 Iowa State Director
 E-mail address
Bush (R)
 Annie Kelly
Carson (R)
Ryan Rhodes
Christie (R)
Phil Valenziano

Clinton (D)
Matt Paul
Cruz (R)
Bryan English

Fiorina (R)
Chris Rants
Graham (R)
Tracie Gibler

Huckabee (R)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Jindal (R)
Matt Horihan

Kasich (R)
Cory Crowley

O’Malley (D)
Jake Oeth
Patacki (R)
No information found.
Paul (R)
Steve Grubbs

Rubio (R)
Jack Whitver

Sanders (D)
Robert Becker

Santorum (R)
Walt Rogers

Trump (R)
Chuck Laudner

Thank you.

Common Grounder