Why does your vote matter? As employees and employers with and without disabilities, voting for candidates who will move policies forward that encourage inclusive hiring is vital. We have the power to elect candidates who will listen to the disability voice and act on behalf of this voice, especially when it comes to improving the state of disability employment in Tennessee.
Our state’s employment rate for workers with disabilities ranks 44th in the nation. We have one of the biggest employment gaps between people with and without disabilities. This needs to change, and it can. It all begins with your vote, which in turn affects the final vote on policies that impact people with disabilities.
U.S. Congressmen from Tennessee were asked to place a crucial vote in 1990. Voters who elected them to office then watched as they passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. The ADA, which proved to be a historical landmark for disability rights, is a law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, which includes employment.
In 1993, another important piece of legislation was passed in part through the work of the representatives elected from right here in Tennessee. That year, Congress sent President Bill Clinton the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to sign into law. Also known as the “Motor Voter Act,” this law enhances voting opportunities for all Americans. The act was aimed to remove barriers that resulted in low registration rates of minorities and people with disabilities.
In Tennessee, an Executive Order signed in 2013 helped pave the way for more coordinated efforts to decrease barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities. Who knew that our choice in the 2010 gubernatorial election would so directly impact the state of disability employment in Tennessee? Three years after his election, Governor Bill Haslam signed Executive Order No. 28, adding Tennessee as an Employment First state and creating the Tennessee Employment First Task Force. This happened because we elected a leader who heard Tennesseans with disabilities and their frustration with the lack of equal job opportunities and did something about it.
All three of these policies were the direct result of our election of leaders who listened to the disability experience. Think of how much we can achieve with representatives who understand the complex issues surrounding disability employment. It all begins with this year’s elections. The 2018 midterm elections will result in many new legislators at the local, state and federal levels to represent Tennessee.
Use your voice. Vote for candidates who will support and push for policies that will decrease the employment gap between workers with and without disabilities. Elect representatives who will listen to the needs of every community.
For more information on the candidates running in this year’s August 2nd elections, visit https://www.tndisability.org/article/find-your-local-candidates-2018-primaries. If you would like more information on how to register to vote for the November 6 elections, visit https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/register-vote.