St. Louis voters with disabilities working to be heard - KMOV.com

St. Louis voters with disabilities working to be heard

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"Take Note I Vote!" pin (Credit: KMOV) "Take Note I Vote!" pin (Credit: KMOV)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

A St. Louis group was closely watching Monday night's presidential debate, hoping the candidates would address issues close to the disabled community.

This minority voting block is bigger than many people realize. The nonprofit group dedicated to empowering people with disabilities, Paraquad, estimates one-fourth of the electorate has a disability or lives with someone who does.

While there a millions of votes up for grabs within the community, the candidates are doing little to address the issues they care about. 

"I think making the assumption that the votes in the bag and people with disabilities are going to vote a certain way is just wrong," said Aimee Wehmeier, president and CEO of Paraquad. "I think people can be influenced and they do care about what the politicians have to say."

Wehmeier said many people are still weighing which candidate really understands the need for well-paying jobs and the economic self-sufficiency piece that's at issue.

"What makes it really interesting for people with disabilities is that often times people have to make a decision between getting up in the morning and going to work. Medicaid is the only opportunity for a person to get support and services to get up in the morning and in order to be eligible for Medicaid you have to be poor," said Wehmeier.

That creates a poverty trap with no incentive to work and a dependence on public programs. Groups like Paraquad are waiting for the candidates to do more to address this issue in their platforms.

"There has to be focus and emphasis on opportunity or creating opportunity for people with disabilities to work and be employed and be able to have the opportunity to make decisions about the future to not be poor," said Wehmeier.

Now, Paraquad is making a push to give people with disabilities a voice. Just in time for National Voter Registration Day, they are reaching out to make sure people with disabilities are registered to vote and have a plan for November 8, including how they will get to the polls.

 "We've done phone calls - old school phone calls - over 700 phone calls, six trainings, and we just got 50 new voters registered so we are very much out there getting people interested and excited about the election,” Wehmeier said.

Between now and election day, they'll be waiting to hear the candidates speak up about the issues they will base their vote on.

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