12/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Voting While Disabled: The Real "Functionals" In This Election

For those of us who are mostly home-bound and forced to watch this historic election from the vantage point of our various disabilities, there is one irrefutable truth: Screaming at the television is a form of volunteerism.

Sarah Palin complains often and loudly about not being heard through what she calls the "media filter." May I offer that those of us on the injured and infirm list are the media filter? We're the ones on the couch, tucked in under quilts and surrounded by medicine and equipment. Despite everything meant to soothe and heal our ailing bodies, our most important therapy item is the television remote.

We have the power!

During this dynamic election, some of the most informed and active volunteers are the ones who never leave their homes and live with a remote in one hand and a telephone in the other. We turn up the volume. We mute. And yes, Sarah, we filter. Then we call! We call our friends, our family members, and strangers on a call list provided by our local campaign offices. No one sees us, but we're engaged.

We listen. We lie with laptops as our bed companions and read news, opinion pieces, and follow daily poll numbers. Our invisibility has teeth, as we offer our own comments and opinions. We volunteer to be bigger than our infirmities.

Barack Obama has a plan to empower Americans with disabilities. His plan reads, in part:

Fifty-four million Americans -- roughly 1 in 6 -- personally experience some form of disability. And the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to increase those numbers. Yet seventeen years after Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Americans with disabilities still do not have an equal opportunity to fulfill the American Dream. In 2006, working-age Americans with disabilities were almost three times more likely to live below the poverty line than those without disabilities. While the average annual household income of individuals in the United States without disabilities was $65,400 in 2006, the average annual household income for people with disabilities was $36,300. And the employment rate for persons with disabilities in 2006 was at least 40 points lower than the employment rate of working-age individuals without disabilities. These dismal statistics offer evidence of severe shortcomings in our country's efforts to break down the barriers that exclude people with disabilities and deprive them of true equality of opportunity and independence.

Barack Obama believes the United States should lead the world in empowering people with disabilities to take full advantage of their talents and become independent, integrated members of society. Dozens of countries have adopted laws modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, but America's leadership in the world has faded in recent years. As president, Barack Obama will renew America's leadership by making the United States a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities -- the first human rights treaty approved by the UN in the 21st century and a vital foundation for respecting the rights of people with disabilities worldwide. He will urge the U.S. Senate to ratify the Convention expeditiously. Barack Obama has a four-part plan to provide Americans with disabilities with the greatest possible access to the same opportunities as those without disabilities: (1) providing Americans with disabilities the educational opportunities they need to succeed; (2) ending discrimination and promoting equal opportunity; and (3) increasing the employment rate of workers with disabilities; and (4) supporting independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities. And Obama will work closely with individuals with disabilities and disability rights advocates to achieve this vision of a society where all can live with dignity and respect.

On July 26, 2008, McCain addressed a disabilities forum by saying, "We must clarify the definition of a disability to assure full protection for those the law is intended to serve." Although McCain was a co-sponsor of the Combating Autism Act, he does not support the Community Living Assistance, Services and Supports (CLASS) Act that Obama co-sponsored. The measure would provide a cash benefit to help obtain services and supports, while providing those with disabilities more choices on community participation, education, and employment. John McCain receives $58,000 a year in disability income, yet he would seek to limit opportunities for others living with disabilities.

Yes, we may be challenged by injury or illness. Using today's meme, you can even refer to us as "Joe the Disabled." But it's a huge mistake for John McCain to dismiss millions of voters who wield the power of the remote!