In 2008 our country reached the 18th anniversary of

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					                             CCAR Bulletin
                              October 2008
                           Getting Out the Vote


     This year, our country marked the 18th anniversary of the Americans

with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). As a rabbi with a disability, the 18 th

anniversary held special meaning for me. The ADA literally gave new life

to Americans with disabilities by tearing down physical barriers, making

discrimination illegal, and creating new opportunities for education and

employment. But as Senator Harkin (D-Iowa), an original sponsor of the

ADA said at a summer ADA celebration on Capitol Hill, “With the ADA,

we have climbed the mountain and reached the top, but we still have not

fully arrived at the Promised Land.”

     In other words, we have much to do.

    Among the immediate priorities is making sure that Americans with

disabilities, who number more than 50 million people, get out to the polls on

election day. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was followed by the National

Voting Rights Act of 1965, ensuring that Americans of color were not

prevented from voting. Although the ADA was followed with similar

legislation, greater effort must be devoted to enforcement of the law.

    How can we as congregational or community-based rabbis help?




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    In reality, many polling places are still inaccessible in various ways.

One of the most significant accessibility problems is ill-informed poll

workers who do not know how to use the accessible voting machines or are

unaware some people with disabilities are allowed to have an aide of their

choice accompany them into the booth. It would be a real service if every

rabbi appealed for people to volunteer to be poll workers. Volunteers just

need to contact their local election board. It is not too late for this

November’s election and just about every jurisdiction is still short of poll

workers.

    All rabbis should read the URJ Commission on Social Action’s “Get

Out the Vote 2008 Guide.” Pages 6 & 7 in the guide are devoted to

assisting voters with disabilities, listing practical suggestions and vital

information. This PDF document can be found at

http://rac.org/pdf/index.cfm?id=2850.

    A crucial first step is encouraging trustworthy people to check in

advance that local polling places are fully accessible to individuals with

disabilities. Keep an eye out for elevators, lifts, ramps, disability-accessible

parking spots, etc. Where such accessibility aids do not exist, contact your

local Board of Elections to address these issues.




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   Some synagogues have developed a list of volunteers who will drive

people with disabilities and/or seniors to polling places. Now is the time to

create such a list; then, by means of emails, fliers and Web sites, publicize

that rides are available and detail how they can be ascertained.

    The number of Americans with disabilities is staggering, an invisible

minority. If these Americans were able to vote, they could have a significant

and tremendous impact on each party’s agenda for the next presidential

administration, as well as on the 111th Congress.



Submitted by:

Rabbi Lynne Landsberg
Chair, CCAR Ad Hoc Committee on Disability Awareness & Inclusion
Senior Advisor on Disability Issues
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
URJ Department of Jewish Family Concerns

202-237-5620
lynneflandsberg@starpower.net

"Treat no one lightly and think nothing is useless, for everyone has a
moment and everything has a place." --Pirke Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers,
3:4




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