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Votes

Services to People With Disabilities Not a Priority

To the Editor:

<bt>Call on your candidates and ask, "Do you want to make citizens with disabilities a priority in the commonwealth's agenda?"

Wherever you go these days, you can hardly avoid having campaign materials thrust at you. It happens at grocery stores, churches and Back-to-School Nights. Some of the common themes in the literature include No More Taxes and/or Tax Reform; Education; Environment; Traffic; Safety; and Health Care. Less common is any mention of the need to improve and pay attention to human services in our communities.

While several of our Northern Virginia legislators support services for individuals with special needs, it has not been enough to pull Virginia up by its bootstraps into a respectable position in relation to other states; we continue to rank in the bottom half-dozen states in the nation in our commitment to individuals with disabilities.

In his letter to the editor [“March on Richmond,” Oct. 1, 2003], Del. Ken Plum says that Virginia has not made services for individuals with disabilities a priority and that "as a community ... we must stand together to show a commitment" to improving the system that supports individuals with disabilities so that every Virginian can live a healthy, safe and satisfying life.

An election year like this one, when so many offices are up for grabs, is the perfect opportunity to secure a commitment from your candidates and later work with them to ensure that they follow up on their promises. Read the campaign literature you get and look for those candidates who are committed to building a better world for our citizens and families living with lifelong disabilities. Visit your candidates and ask them where they stand on the issues. Every special interest group is doing this, and it is time those of us with a vested interest in services for people with disabilities follow suit. Ask your candidates for their support, and hold them accountable. If you need guidance about what to ask, contact The Arc of Northern Virginia for information.

Every elected official should be committed to making the needs of citizens with disabilities a priority. This is exactly where government should be at work: providing opportunity and supports for citizens at risk. Learn where your candidate stands, and vote Nov. 4, 2003.

Nancy Mercer, executive director,

Kathy May, lead advocate,

The Arc of Northern Virginia