Katie Arnold, SLN Executive Director, with her sister, Patrice Keiling
Executive Director’s column
Dear Siblings and Sibling Supporters,
My sister, Patrice, just registered to vote at the age of 30 and the upcoming Presidential election will be her very first time casting a ballot. As the middle of five children, she is the last of my siblings to register to vote. There are many reasons for this, including the details of daily life taking priority! Does that sound familiar? As November 6th draws nearer, however, my family is increasingly discussing political issues. We don’t all agree on these issues, but we do feel it is important to discuss with Patrice what voting means and how each member of our family can make decisions about casting a vote.
We as a family are figuring out along the way how we educate Patrice about the candidates and give her the information she needs to make her own choice in voting. Siblings are in a unique place to advocate for and with our brothers and sisters with disabilities, and just as my family has been on this journey, we invite all of the Sibling Leadership Network members to be a part of this process.
One of the ways you can be a part of this advocacy action is to use the Voter Education Toolkit, created by Project Vote self-advocate members. This is a great way to education yourself and your sibling about the candidates’ views on disability issues! In my family, we have focused on information without text, since Patrice has a hard time reading. These are just a couple of examples of ways that siblings can promote voting for our brothers and sisters with disabilities.
Patrice at the new universal voting machines!
Patrice also had the opportunity to experience voting for the first time at the Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) conference when she used a voting machine to vote for the SABE officers. At this conference, Patrice got to meet other self-advocates and hear their excitement about the upcoming election. She learned more about the power of the disability vote and the importance of people with disabilities to get out and vote. Some self-advocates she met had detailed understanding about the candidates while others thought that generally one “sounded better” or “looked nicer and more like a leader.” Diverse opinions are part of our democracy, and it is important that we promote non-partisan political advocacy, among our siblings and the SLN!
Siblings of people with disabilities are untapped advocates that can increase the power of people with disabilities as a group. With over 54 million people with disabilities in the United States, if most of these people have at least one sibling, the number of potential advocates grows exponentially. Through the sibling movement, there is a lot of potential for siblings to work with each other to advocate together for things important to them to improve the lives of their entire families.
In my new role as the Sibling Leadership Network’s Executive Director, I am excited about the part the SLN can play in encouraging our members and partners to get out the vote in the upcoming election. Our dedicated Board of Directors from across the country has been thinking of great ideas to share information and resources with siblings and sibling supporters on voting.
The Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) encourages siblings to support their brothers and sisters with disabilities to vote. Our organization has created a voting position statement sharing our view that all citizens have the right to vote, including people with disabilities. We also have a voting video on ways siblings can support their brothers and sisters with disabilities in the voting process, including helping brothers and sisters with disabilities get registered to vote, get educated about the candidates, and get to the polls.
Think about ways that you can support your brothers and sister with disabilities to vote. As disability advocate Justin Dart said, “Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.” This is an important election for people with disabilities and their families. My siblings and I will be voting on November 6th, though possibly for different candidates, and I hope you are your siblings will be voting too.
Sincerely, Katie Arnold
Sibling Leadership Network
SLN members help with Project Vote at SABE conference
SLN members: Pat Carver, Angela Martin, Bryon Murray, Essie Pederson,
Katie Arnold, and Patrice Keiling
Seven SLN members attended the Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) conference in St. Paul, MN, over Labor Day weekend. SABE is the national self-advocacy organization for people with developmental disabilities. SLN members volunteered throughout the conference with the Project Vote exhibit booth, which gave out information and helped people register to vote. Self-advocates from Project Vote developed the Voter Education Toolkit to increase the understanding of voting rights and responsibilities for people with disabilities.
The SABE officer elections were conducted using new universal design voting machines developed by students at Clemson University. These high tech voting machines were being piloted at the conference and self-advocates gave feedback on their experience so the machines can continue to be improved. Some features of the voting machine included photos of each candidate, touch screen selection, and audio description of each page for people who want the information read to them.
Bryon Murray, SLN Board member, elected President of SABE
Congratulations to Bryon Murray on being elected the new President of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE). Bryon has served on the SLN Board of Directors since 2010 as the SABE representatives. He has provided guidance to the SLN as we grow and develop. He has served as a liaison between the SLN and SABE which has helped strengthen our relationship and ensure that the SLN is working with our brothers and sister with disabilities.
At the SABE conference, Bryon led a roundtable discussion with SLN Executive Director, Katie Arnold, and her sister, Patrice Keiling on “Siblings Advocating Together to Make a Better Future.” The discussed the partnership between the SLN and SABE and shared stories of how siblings can support each other.
The SLN is excited to continue to work with Bryon in his leadership role as the new SABE President!
The Presidential Forum on Disability Issues:
Educate Yourself on the Candidate’s Positions!
The Sibling Leadership Network is a proud sponsor, with over 70 other organizations, of the 2012 National Forum on Disability Issues being held September 28th. This is a non-partisan forum where President Obama and Governor Romney have been invited to share their vision for disability policy over the next four years. This historic event is the only national forum to focus specifically on disability issues. Millions of Americans with disabilities and their families want to hear firsthand about the candidates’ stances on issues such as employment, transportation, healthcare, and education for people with disabilities.
What: Presidential candidates’ positions on disability issues!
When: September 28th 12:30-3:30pm EST
The forum will be held in Columbus, OH, where Tom Fish will attend as representative of the SLN. Our OhioSIBS chapter will be a strong representative of siblings to ensure our voices and perspectives are included. For those of us who will not be attending the forum in person, the event will be webcast live.
SLN state chapters are holding Viewing Parties where people can gather and watch the webcast together. Contact your SLN state chapter for more details. Here are the chapters that are planning to hold local Viewing Parties: Alabama, DC, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. You can register to watch the free webcast or host your own Viewing Party at www.nfdi.org.
The SLN thanks the Association of University Centers on Disabilities for its contribution toward our sponsorship of the National Forum on Disability Issues.
Sisters, Katie Arnold and Patrice Keiling, with an invitation to the
candidates to the National Forum on Disability Issues
Check out the SLN’s Position Statement on Voting here, and check out our video on how siblings can support their brothers and sisters with disabilities to vote.
Also, 3ELOVE just rolled out their new “VOTE” t-shirts!
The Riot is a newsletter written by and for self-advocates. They invited the Sibling Leadership Network to write a regular Sibling Corner in the newsletter to include the perspectives of siblings. The latest issue on Voting has the first Sibling Corner and shares the perspective of sisters, Stacey and Carrie Coffield. Check it out here: http://www.theriotrocks.org/.