An Open Letter to Politicians About Mental Illness, Developmental Disabilities, and Voting

This letter is addressed to every politician from Donald Trump and Joe Biden down to the local mayors and town councils of the smallest towns in America.

This is to remind you that even though we are almost always overlooked as a group and written off because our brains are different and you consider us weird, stupid, or both.

But guess what? We aren’t stupid.  And maybe YOU are the one acting weird. 

Either way, we are a force to be reckoned with, both when you’re in office and at election time.Many of us can vote and we will vote for those who support the rights of the disabled and mentally ill.

Some of us are too young to vote or we can't vote, but guess what? We all have family and friends who can and will vote those out of office who have shown us time and again that to you, we're throwaways.

Why do people in general, and for the subject matter of this piece, politicians, treat us like we’re yesterday’s garbage?  Something you can just throw away and move onto the next one. 

In my opinion, it’s because people (and politicians are among the worst at this) are afraid of what they don’t understand.  They don’t understand us, so they fear us because we’re different.

Different doesn’t necessarily = bad 

Working as an advocate for the autism community and those who suffer from mental health issues, I can tell you that on more than one occasion I’ve booked time with a state politician.  Once I arrived I was told I had 10-15 minutes with him/her. After I identify myself as an autism advocate, someone who pushes for the rights of other developmental disabilities and mental health, my meetings were almost always over. 

They don’t want to talk to us, because in their minds, we’re not really their constituents, we’re a bother to their regular day.If we’re a bother to their regular day, let's show them how much power we yield and vote them out of office.  I’m pretty sure their schedule would open up quickly with no job.

The other thing we can do is talk to the ones still in office and remind them that we vote, and our families vote.  When bills and amendments come up about disability rights, remind them how many people in the community they represent are affected by those bills.  Also, remind them that we keep track of who supports disability rights and who doesn’t and that they don’t have an indefinite term.

If we, as a strong group, want to be taken seriously by our politicians, then we have to show the politicians that we’re serious about these bills and that people in their community NEED these bills to be passed.

On this Election Day and all future election days I beg you to look up voting records on the politicians representing your hometown.  If the politician supports disability rights, vote to keep them and send them an email, card, or letter thanking them for all they’re doing and ask them to please keep up the good work.

If they don’t support us as a group, do what you can to show them the door.   And maybe provide them with a box for their personal belongings.

I have one final thing I ask of you.  Take a little time to look at the bills coming up for a vote on the local, state, and federal level.  Contact your representative and make it known how much this bill would mean to your community and ask them to please vote for the bill. 

I know that we all can’t do this, but if enough of us can, we WILL get our message across.It’s way past time that we show politicians that we mean business, that we ARE part of their constituency and that we are more of a force to be reckoned with than they think we are.

Thank you in advance for getting out there and doing your part.  Together we can make the United States a place where the disabled feel wanted, cared for and a true part of their community.


J.R. Reed, for everyone with a developmental disability or mental illness

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