Do Obama and Romney Have Deaf Issues In Their Binder?

Posted by: Staff Writer on Oct. 25, 2012

Mark your calendars! November 6 is election day. Today, we are 12 days from the most important civic duties: Voting. Anyone - hearing or deaf, knows that this election is … well, different. Maybe it’s  because of the pesky 14-figure debt monkey on our back. Or maybe it’s because many of our unique rights within the deaf community could be at stake.

Deaf culture politics is usually in an internal context; we debate about the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) elections, argue about appointing a hearing successor to Gallaudet University, and we are debate-ready about the perceived VRS monopoly. The stereotype of “deaf militant” is still here.

But make no mistake about it: Right now national politics is going full-bore on all fronts. You can’t shield your deaf eyes from Big Bird memes, avoid the 3-5 daily fundraising emails, or eat dinner without arguing with your aunt Sally about the upcoming elections.


On September 28, deafREVIEW watched a riveting series of debates – yes, the debates before Bird, malarkey, and the binders – at the 2012 National Forum on Disability Issues. We learned that we can’t afford to turn a deaf eye to politics. We can’t separate “hearing people politics” from “deaf people politics”.  Lastly, we can’t turn this into a bipartisan spat. Here are the issues you should consider before marking your vote:


Where do we begin? Let’s start with deaf education. "The Reform Movement: Changes For Deaf Ed Imminent," says that not only do deaf/HH children gain only 1.5 years in literacy between ages 8 to 18; only 8% graduate from college. According to Politifact, even though Obama supports full Congressional funding (40% of each state's 'excess cost') of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the reality is that federal payments actually are only half of that. But Obama's 2012 budget adds an extral $200 million to IDEA grants. In contrast, the Romney/Ryan budget would slash federal spending to IDEA by an additional 20%. Lastly, consider how Republican privatization may shake up deaf schools. Gallaudet University, for example, is a "congressionally created corporation that serves governmental objectives." That means all the diplomas are signed by the current U.S. President, and annual reports are sent to the Secretary of Education. Would deaf schools perform better if they were privatized and not managed by the U.S. Department of Education?


Like the Virginia Slims motto says: “We’ve come a long way, baby.” We’re software developers, actors, ASL teachers, social workers, entrepreneurs, and even aerospace engineers. But that doesn’t dismiss the troubling fact that many deaf/HH people remain crushed by the recession. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1995) revealed that only 6.8% of the Deaf federal employee population has reached professional levels. That’s low compared to 23% of all federal workforce employees in professional positions. It takes a miracle to solve the job creation issue, but we do credit Obama for the recent sub-8 percent unemployment rate. Now we just need to figure out how to move the needle even further, and the Deaf glass ceiling higher. Can Mitt – a corporate raider who promises to create 12 million new jobs,  fulfill his claim? Will these new jobs be within the U.S., for that matter?

#3 - THE ADA

Remember #captionTHIS? Remember when it was impossible to order a pizza via phone? One baby step at a time, the ADA has taken us a long way. Fun fact: In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by Republican president George Bush Sr.   “The ADA passage was a bipartisan effort,” Sen. Tom Harkin wrote of the ADA’s 20-year anniversary. “The final Senate vote, 91 to 6, sent a resounding message that this nation would no longer tolerate isolation and second-class citizenship for people with disabilities.” But today’s conservatives are a different animal. For one, Romney is reportedly “hostile” to the ADA’s elevator requirement. He vetoed legislation that would have improved elevators for the disabled. Why? He calls them “pure pork” (funding for government programs which benefit a small group but cost all taxpayers). Never mind that he has a personal elevator at home. You must wonder: Would Romney consider your request for an interpreter “pure pork?”


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with disabilities are almost TWICE as likely to be self-employed compared to the general population. As of 2005, 14.7 percent of Americans with disabilities are self-employed, compared to 8 percent of the general population. Being your own boss means you can set your own schedule, save a commute, and in some cases continue to draw from SSDI or SSI. This is the potential Catch-22 of Obama's platform. A recent CNN Money headline says it all: "Obama's tax plan aims at rich, but catches small employers too." High-income earners also make up 24% of small businesses with employees, so theoretically higher taxes could stunt growth and hiring. Likewise, will Mitt live up to his promise of making it easier on “job creators”, or will he cater to Wall Street’s whims? We won’t even go into the supposed tax break for the wealthy.  Quick poll: How many self-made deaf millionaires do you know?


Medicaid and Medicaid: Two hot topics for Romney’s “47 percent”. SSI and SSDI, which many Republicans label “entitlements,” profoundly affect the lives of many deaf/HH people.  It’s hard enough to pony up over $3,000 for hearing aids that insurance doesn’t cover. Let’s not forget the population that vastly outnumbers the deaf: The elderly. Obama's plan: Expand Medicaid coverage, and save tax dollars by creating incentives for states to use personal care attendants instead of nursing homes (which can cost upwards $250 a day). What would the Romney/Ryan budget do? It would cut Medicaid by a third, replacing it with block grant. Said Romney’s surrogate, Cathy Morris-Rodgers at the forum: Governor Romney recognizes that Medicaid is an important program. It is a very important program. It is a program that costs us a lot, but it is a program that does a lot. The Medicaid program is currently funded 50% by the federal government, 50% by the states.” Is this 50-50 split a good equation for your parents, your children, yourself, and your grandchildren?

Oh, did we forget to mention that you should V-O-T-E on November 6? Whether you’re smitten by Mittens or think Barack’s got your back, do your civic duty and get thee to the polls!

For a deaf-friendly tutorial on voting, check out PahVote. It’s here to empower deaf/HH Americans to get involved in our national political processes.


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We’re aware that issues facing the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Community can become quite passionate and divided. What can we say, we’re a group of passionate people! While we fully support a community full of passion, we also require that comments are respectful. We think negative attitudes and disrespect are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with people, you just need to do it respectfully. We reserve the right to delete or edit any comments we feel are judgmental, rude, or of attacking nature.


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