MoveOn.org is an organization for progressive political activism in U.S. politics. It includes both an online component and in-person events. The first line of the about section reads “The MoveOn family of organizations brings real Americans back into the political process.” Recently though it was brought to my attention that some “real Americans” are being left out of the process.
Ethan Ellis, President and Chief Organizer of Next Step reports,
Throughout the Presidential campaign, MoveOn.org invited me and other of its members who belong to Next Step to dozens of local Obama campaign events at private homes. After the elections, MoveOn sponsored local training events to teach people how to mobilize others to support the Obama agenda, to which we were also invited.
Some invitations indicated up front that the locations were inaccessible. Others did not, but when I was able to contact the local sponsors, I found none of them were. Carole Tonks checked out 6 in the Jersey Shore area and found only one that was accessible. Zinke McGeady checked out all within a thirty-mile radius of her home in South Jersey, none of which were accessible. Luke Koppisch made similar inquiries in the Camden-Burlington area with similar results.
Attempts by Ellis to contact MoveOn.org about the accessibility concerns have been met not with the democratic response one might expect from an organization that supports human rights, but with “thanks for your comment” type form letters!
I’m not meaning here to pick on MoveOn.org exclusively (and they have done their share of good work), but this situation points out the larger issue of the enormous amount of effort still to be done to make activism accessible–to enable people with disabilities to participate fully in public policy. This is critical not just from a human rights and legal (ADA) standpoint, but because public policy decisions can affect us deeply: Nothing about us without us!
I am reminded here of a situation that I’m in myself where most of the disability activist groups in my area meet in person, require members to be able to use the telephone, and assume a level of interpersonal communication, which, without considerable assistance, I frankly do not possess. It’s been a huge struggle for me, still unresolved, to figure out how I can assist with the work these organizations are doing, and which I care deeply about, without being afforded the accommodations I need to be an effective advocate.
What is needed here is greater awareness of the access needs of people with disabilities in general and in the arena of activism in particular. Activist organizations need to pay more than lip service to inclusion. It’s time to see some real change, not form letters.