It’s Election Day, everyone! This annual rite of passage has been special to me since I cast my very first ballot. Decisions are made by those who show up, and on Election Day, we show up at the polls to ensure our community and its leaders reflect our hopes, dreams, and ideals. Your vote, be it for President of the United States or Cambridge City Councillor, is important. It helps shape a community you can be proud to call home.
Still, the voting process isn’t always easy. Registering by the deadline, trekking out to the polling location, and finding time to vote during a busy workday can present barriers for even those with the best intentions.
The people we serve here at Vinfen face even greater challenges. Individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities have a 6% lower voter turnout nationwide. The reasons are many: insufficient transportation, physical limitations, and inaccessible polling locations are major factors. Social isolation and the belief that public officials won’t respond to their needs are also harmful contributors. But in my experience, the greatest impediment by far is education.
At Vinfen, we talk a lot about self-determination and self-advocacy. For the people we serve, this can mean everything from having a voice in their treatment to choosing how to spend free time. Many of us take for granted these opportunities to make our own choices, especially when those choices occur at the voting booth. But voting is an important way for the people we serve to exercise voice and choice.
This is why Vinfen recently launched an initiative to help individuals make their voices heard. With input from Director of Communications and Development Erin Tighe, President and CEO Bruce Bird, Senior VP of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Susan Abbott, Senior VP of Developmental Services Joe Gomes, and Director of Service Asela Jayasinghe, I developed a Vinfen Voter Advocacy Guide and training plan aimed at supporting the people we serve to register, vote, and address the issues that matter to them.
Last month, we rolled out this training with Asela’s self-advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I had the chance to help several individuals register to vote in time for today’s election, and spoke about voters’ rights and what to expect at the polls. The guide will soon be available company-wide, with more trainings to come for persons served and staff alike.
Voting is one of the most valuable ways we can make our voices heard on the issues that matter. I hope you all had the chance to make your voices heard today. At Vinfen, we will continue to fight so that all the people we serve can do the same.