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Month: June 2020

Colorado Statewide Primary Election – Computer Assistance with Your Ballot

On June 30, Colorado will be holding a statewide primary election. The printed ballots for this election are scheduled to be mailed out on Monday, June 8. Starting on that day, any registered voter in Colorado who has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (blindness qualifies) will be able to retrieve a ballot, mark the ballot online, print both the ballot and the ballot application, and sign the ballot application. The ballot and signed application are then mailed together to the voter’s county clerk or dropped off at an authorized dropbox or polling facility. You will need a computer, tablet, or smartphone; access to the Internet; and a printer that can be reached from the computer, tablet, or smartphone.

You should point your browser to https://myballot.sos.colorado.gov. From this page, you can choose to vote a ballot or view your sample ballot. If you are an uncommitted voter (i.e., no party affiliation), you will be able to choose a Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian ballot.

  • To vote a ballot, you need to supply the following verification information:
    • Your first and last name,
    • Your date of birth,
    • Your county, and
    • Your State ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security Number.
  • Immediately after you have been verified, the ballot is presented on screen. You can then mark the ballot and ensure that all of the choices are correct using your screen reader.
  • Once the ballot has been marked and verified, the system will prompt you to print both the ballot and a ballot application form. The application form will already have been filled out by the system prior to printing. You must sign the application in the blank area at the bottom of the application page. If you forget this important step, your ballot will be rejected. If you cannot see the print on the page at all, you can be assured that the bottom half of the application page is blank. This is where you can place your signature.
  • You should place both the ballot and the printed application in an envelope, write “Official Ballot enclosed” on the envelope beneath the delivery address, and return the envelope to your county clerk either at a dropbox, voter service and polling center or through the mail. It is important that you include the signed application with your ballot; this is the only way that your county clerk will be able to validate your ballot.
  • You can insert the ballot and ballot application into the return envelope that you received in the mail as a part of the regular ballot mailing process, but if you do this, you must be sure to sign your name on the left side of the back of the ballot return envelope.
  • You can visit the website www.govotecolorado.com to update your voter registration information; this information needs to be current in order to access the online ballot marking system. You can also visit this website to find the nearest voter service and polling center and dropbox or to check on the status of your ballot.

Finally, if you want to know how to get in touch with your county clerk, you can download a PDF file containing the complete Roster of County Clerks and Recorders at this link: https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/Resources/files/CountyClerkRosterWebsite.pdf.

This file is accessible to screen reading technology for the blind.

Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition stands with the Black Lives Matters movement to bear witness to the pain of centuries of racial oppression, inequity and white supremacy intensified by recent brutal actions including but not limited to the murder of George Floyd, the flaunting of white privilege by Amy Cooper, and the recent executions of Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.    The anger is righteous and fueled by the exacerbation of racial disparities played out in the lacking response to the novel Coronavirus and some of the racist “dog whistle” rhetoric that goes with how we talk about “underlying conditions” which often involves victim-blaming rather than calling out oppressive policies of racism that permeates our health care systems.

This is not to disregard all of the cumulative behaviors/actions of the past.  The oppressive policies of racism (both their design and how we carry them out explicitly and implicitly) permeate life in America and around the world, including the disability community.  All of us who have benefited from our whiteness has a responsibility to actively engage in dismantling those systems. There are things white people can do and we must do so without making it about us.  We must work together with our brothers and sisters in communities of color.  Organizations led by marginalized communities must work against systemic racism. This is true for us even when disability is not the main issue. 

So, why is CCDC saying anything?   Because race and disability work together.  People of color, particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous people are more likely to have disabilities.   Every factual indicator of disparity including health outcomes, education, employment, accumulation of wealth, the likelihood of being in a congregate setting including prison, jail, nursing facility, or homeless shelter, rises when you mix race and disability.   People of color live with the constant stress of racism.  This “toxic stress” causes many health conditions that can lead to disability.   While there are no publicly know indications that the recent murder victims had disabilities many previous well-known victims did including Freddie Gray and Eric Garner. Moreover, Black people and other people of color are an important part of our organization.  But this must go beyond disability.  Our mission is to advocate for social justice and that includes being an ally even when disability is not part of the picture and even when it is not on the front pages.  We must support organizations led by people of color and show up when invited and make offers to assist when we know of a need or understand the issues.  It is up to all of us to dismantle the societal structures that got us to this place.   We must do our own internal work as an organization and community to build a culture of equity, diversity, inclusiveness, and belonging, and at the same time work on systems issues.  We need to increase the numbers of people of color throughout our organization and movement, especially in leadership positions.  We must do this work every day and honor the goals set out in our strategic plan that integrate racial equity into all of our work.

Discover What’s Possible When Information and Technology are Accessible

For six months; at no cost, we are sharing a tool designed to make information and technology more accessible. The tool, an Emergency Response Desktop Suite is available to 500 Colorado adults with developmental disabilities.

The ERDS:

  • Provides accessible information about the coronavirus and how to stay well
  • Empowers people with new ways to stay in touch with others
  • Encourages people to connect with the community

The ERDS makes information more accessible and computers easier to use by:

  • Simplifying navigation of a computer
  • Providing pictures or videos to inform, teach tasks, and support independence
  • Making email accessible with a text reader and audio recording feature
  • Including video conferencing through Skype
  • Sharing ways to relax and to have fun from home

The ERDS is available to Colorado adults with developmental disabilities who:

  • Participate in advocacy with Speaking For Ourselves of Colorado, or who
  • Do not live with family, or who
  • Are living with family temporarily because of the coronavirus, and
  • Have an email address and an internet connection, and also
  • Have a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer with Windows 10, or an Apple computer with a Windows compatibility layer

To get the Emergency Response Desktop Suite visit https://www.colemaninstitute.org/covid-19/and complete the engagement form. If you have questions please contact Joelle Brouner at joelle.brouner@state.co.us or Shea Tanis at Shea.Tanis@cu.edu.

“I still have not found the right words.”

Dear CCDC Members:

I have long admired the work of the National Federation of the Blind.  I have been at a loss for words and thinking about what to say that is meaningful in light of all that is going on.  I still have not found the right words, but the message from the president of NFB is important and I think this is relevant for all disability groups.

Julie Reiskin, CCDC Executive Director


From Mark A. Riccobono, President, National Federation of the Blind

I write this message to you as the elected President of the National Federation of the Blind. I also write it to you as an American who is struggling this week. I call upon members of our organization to recognize the solidarity we share as blind people and that the value we place on love within our movement is needed more today than at any other time in our history.

I watched the horrific video shot by a brave seventeen-year-old of the killing of George Floyd, a citizen of our great nation. Before I watched the video, I wondered what I could do and how I could contribute to healing the pain. I had no answers. After I watched the video, I realized I still did not have the answers and I was sad, angry, scared, frustrated, and without hope. Then I realized that we share tools in the National Federation of the Blind that can help. We can not look away and we need to share what we know from our experience in this people’s movement.

Our movement has been sustained for the purpose of serving as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of the nation to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind. While racial equality in our nation is not within our mission, we also recognize that blindness affects all races and that the society we live within has an impact on our membership.

The Federation’s Code of Conduct specifically emphasizes our commitments to diversity. In short “We respect differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross-section of society…In promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity also requires the individual to struggle with unfamiliar ideas.” This week, I have been struggling to comprehend the fear and anger that black members of my Federation family are experiencing. I do not, and never can have the authentic lived experience that you have, but yet I am also completely outraged by the hate and injustice that fell upon George Floyd on Monday. I recognize there are many centuries of painful layers wrapped up in that moment. I recognize that George is neither the first nor the last in a chain of injustices that need to be addressed. I want you to know I stand with you in facing the injustice that persists against you because of the color of your skin. I want you to know that I love you and I struggle with not being able to fully know your pain and fear. I want you to know I am prepared to be guided by you as to how I can make a difference. I cannot say that I have not become desensitized in times past, but I can tell you I will never turn away again.

While our organization is dedicated to advancing the rights of blind people, we should not act as though race does not exist. As our chapters attempt to do business, as we urge our members to take up our priorities, we should recognize that thousands of our members are impacted by the painful realizations of this week. As a people’s movement, we cannot pretend that our people only have one characteristic. Now is the time to let each member know we love them and we recognize their hurt. Now is also the time for us to recognize, as individuals, that we carry implicit bias learned from the society around us, and to seek the training that will enhance our awareness. Now is the time to give love to our black members so that we might learn how we can do better in building the understanding that powers the organized blind movement.

Now is not the time for us to use our organizational communication tools to offer position statements about the activities playing out on the streets of our nation. it is easy to write messages and posts of solidarity without having a true understanding of the issues. It is easy to suggest that we share the concerns of our black members. The harder thing for us to do is to consciously listen and seek understanding while supporting others in their pain and frustration. The Federation has never been known for merely doing what is easy. The priority today is to ensure all of our black members know they are welcomed and loved in this movement. In fact, we should extend that same truth to any others who feel the real pain sweeping our nation. Please do not use organizational assets to enter the dialogue around race. That is not our purpose as an organization and we may unintentionally make it worse. We need to continue to coordinate messaging and to be guided by the wisdom of our diversity and inclusion committee. As leaders of our movement, we should also be conscious that our public posts may be misunderstood as representing the Federation. Our personal feelings and misunderstanding around the death of George Floyd, the protests sweeping our nation, and the underlying systemic discrimination may hurt and divide members of the organization. We cannot let that happen and we must be careful as leaders not to add to the pain our members are experiencing. As it relates to our public messaging, let us stay focused on the priorities of the organized blind movement. As it comes to our cherished friends, let our priority be to reach out personally to listen and offer our hands in support.

I have had the opportunity to gather virtually with some of our top black leaders­a group who will continue to guide my actions related to these issues. I asked them for wisdom and love in finding ways that I could guide our membership during this trying time in our nation. Their message was clear. Our movement is built on love and love always conquers hate. The Federation family needs to shine a light for the rest of the nation by continuing to demonstrate that the love, and solidarity, that we share with each other in this movement makes all the difference. They also noted that our organization has always valued civil disobedience and the persistent pursuit of equality. They urged that we continue to pray for peace, justice, and equality. I could not agree more with these friends I have been blessed to learn from in our movement. Furthermore, I am thankful that we have a movement that provides us a meaningful opportunity to know people whose lived experience is so different from our own while sharing a common bond as blind people.

In the National Federation of the Blind, we know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future. Blindness is the thing that brings us together but it is not the thing that makes us want to stay together. That, in a word, is love.  We have love in our movement and we strengthen it by giving it. We have some wisdom and we strengthen it by continuing to seek greater understanding. We need more of both love and wisdom at every opportunity. Let’s continue to share love, hope, and determination with each other so that together we transform our dreams into reality. One of those dreams still left to be transformed is that of a nation where we can join together regardless of our unique characteristics. That is a dream I am struggling to help my own children understand so they may do better than I in making it come true. I speak for all of our national board members when I say we sincerely believe that the love and togetherness demonstrated in our movement can go a long way in contributing to that dream. It can be hard to remember that in this moment when so many of us are hurting, angry, frustrated, and scared. Let us continue to support each other in the Federation family. Let us avoid the harmful language that will only serve to divide us in this time. Let us go forward together, love one another, and change the world for the better.

Mark A. Riccobono


Please see and share our website on disability-specific issues related to COVID 19 in Colorado
Sincerely,
Julie Reiskin,  Executive Director
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
1385 S. Colorado Blvd. Suite 610-A   Denver*, CO 80222
Organizational Line 303-839-1775
If you do not have a seat at the table it is likely you are on the menu Elizabeth Warren (D).
Get involved in politics as if your life depends on it because it does!  Justin Dart (R)
*Denver is on the occupied land of the Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne people
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