Devereux empowers adults to make their voices heard through voting
Voting is a way of making decisions and expressing views, and Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is committed to helping ensure adults living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
Each year, team members at Devereux centers across the country help those in their care learn about the election process and register to vote.
“We believe it is important for adults with disabilities to have a say in legislative decisions that may affect their lives, and in selecting candidates who best support their interests and personal beliefs,” said Devereux Vice President of Operations – Adult Services Stephen Bruce, M.Ed., BCBA. “All voices need – and deserve – to be heard, and voting allows these individuals to express their opinions about the issues that matter to them.”
The importance of voting
According to a recent report by the Program for Disability Research at Rutgers University, more than 38 million people with disabilities are eligible to vote in the November 2020 election.
AJ, who receives services through Devereux New Jersey, registered to vote when he was 18 years old, and cast his first ballot in the 2009 general election. This year, due to COVID-19, AJ voted by mail. Note: New Jersey is one of nine states, plus Washington, D.C., to mail ballots to all registered voters for the general election.
“I was excited about it,” AJ said. “I prefer to vote in person, but due to the coronavirus, we have to mail our ballots in.”
AJ participates in one of Devereux New Jersey’s self-advocacy groups, which help individuals feel empowered by their hard work and proud of their accomplishments. AJ understands the importance of voting, noting “If you don’t vote, you miss out. If you do vote, you give your voice. The choice is yours – but choose. You have the choice to do the right thing and vote.”
Learning about the election process
Recently, individuals in one of Devereux New Jersey’s self-advocacy groups participated in a 10-week voter education series.
“We used a curriculum developed by Rutgers University that included lessons on voting history; how to register; how to make informed voting choices; and voting rights, explained Devereux New Jersey Vocational Services Director Yasmin Qazilbash. “After one class, I spent some time with one of our adults, answering questions and helping him register to vote. Some of the individuals in our care never had the opportunity to vote before coming to us. We want to provide them with the tools and resources they need to make their own choices and speak up for themselves. We want to ensure they know they have the same rights as everyone else.”
Voting for the first time
Sixty-nine-year-old Alastair, who receives services through Devereux California, will be exercising his right to vote for the first time during the general election.
Alastair registered to vote before living at Devereux California’s Weisman Center. The residential care facility encourages individuals to make choices and maximize their unique potential. Alastair also is enrolled in the center’s greenhouse program, which is designed to enhance personal growth, independence and life satisfaction.
Alastair is excited to be part of the election process, and is familiar with the candidates. “I’m looking forward to voting,” he shared. “I want to see if I can do it – I’m looking forward to the whole experience.”Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.
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