While watching the Republican and Democratic presidential debates, Gregg Beratan says he noticed one issue was continuously omitted from discussion — disability rights.
"After watching the twelfth debate without a mention of disability, I had to do something," said Beratan, a disabilities rights activist, told The Washington Post. "I was struck by how many other people in the community felt the same. This silence is leading to a lot of frustration."
Beratan, and fellow advocates Alice Wong and Andrew Pulrand, wanted to start a dialogue to empower voters with disabilities and to discuss the issues that matter the most to them. That's why they founded a social awareness campaign called #CripTheVote on Twitter.
They utilized their hashtag for a Twitter chat just before the presidential debates.
All three co-founders insist that their grassroots organization is nonpartisan and that they won't endorse a candidate.
"Disability rights and equality in general isn't a partisan issue, especially when it comes to respecting basic human rights," Wong told ThinkProgress. "People need to be reminded that it was a Republican president who signed this major civil rights bill for people with disabilities."
One in five Americans identify as having a disability, according to the latest U.S. Census. There are numerous issues that the community cares about, but voting access continues to be the dilemma that is preventing them from voicing their concerns at the polls. Only 30 percent of polling places in the US are completely accessible for people with disabilities.
The hope is that #CripTheVote will give the community the forum to make their voices heard and respected.
"There are so many haters out there about hashtag activism, but it can spark major change," Wong wrote to A Plus. "I've seen it with #CrippingTheMighty and currently with the non-partisan campaign #CripTheVote. My partners Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan and I are three disabled people who have never met in person. We don't have media budget or formal organization. Social media brought us together and we're using our platforms to start conversations driven by the experiences of people with disabilities. While there are still barriers to technology and voting for people with disabilities, this type of civic participation feels powerful and meaningful. Every political issue impacts people with disabilities, but most people don't realize it. Everyone is welcome to check out #CripTheVote, join the discussion, and share our stories to a broader audience."
Cover image via Shutterstock.