REV UP has officially joined the ranks in Florida. It is a campaign aimed at eliminating barriers to voting that exist for people with disabilities.
The REV UP Campaign is a project that was started by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in 2015. The acronym stands for “Register Educate Vote” and “Use your Power.” REV UP encourages each state to have a partner coalition but prior to the summer of 2018, Florida did not have one.
REV UP has three purposes. The first one is to bring people with disabilities and people who care about disability issues together. The second aims to make candidates aware that people with disabilities matter. The final purpose is to advocate for favorable positions on the issues that matter most in the lives of people with disabilities. With the support of AAPD behind it, REV UP will serve to support other voting initiatives in Florida targeted to people with disabilities, such as Project Vote, which is concerned with voter training and Access the Vote, which focuses on getting voter information out to people with disabilities.
Through REV UP’s efforts, politicians should gain a better understanding that people with disabilities are an important part of the voting population and have an impact on election outcomes. The campaign also concerns itself with the accessibility of polling places and ensuring they are a welcoming environment for all voters with and without a disability. Ultimately, the REV UP Florida Campaign would like to make sure politicians in office vote for legislation that helps people with disabilities.
Rev UP Florida started this summer with the work of a self-advocate and disability agencies. Jason Hahr, a self-advocate from Marion County, a Florida Self-Advocates Network’D (FLSAND) member, and FSACentral writer, got it all started by composing a letter to Disability Rights Florida, which was able to assist in this endeavor due to a grant they had received to support voting awareness. Around the same time, Debbie Dietz, executive director of the Disability Independence Group, a Miami-based advocacy organization, had also reached out to Disability Rights Florida in the hopes of forming a partnership between agencies to work together on this issue.
REV UP conducts bi-weekly telephone conferences with self-advocates and other stakeholders throughout the state. The calls have been very informative as well as educational. Topics of discussion have ranged from coming up with a uniform set of questions to be submitted to Florida’s U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates, to brainstorming remedies to reported inaccessible polling places.
The REV UP Campaign summarizes the importance of this movement on its website in the following way: “National and local elections will be affected as REV UP increases the political power of the disability community by getting more people with disabilities registered and committed to vote on election day while simultaneously engaging candidates for public office and the media on disability issues.”
FSACentral sent questionnaires using REV UP questions to all the major gubernatorial candidates prior to the August 28 primary and recently sent questionnaires to Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott, and Bill Nelson related to their positions on key disability issues. Their answers will be published here when and if the questionnaires are returned.
Self-advocates are encouraged to join the bi-weekly calls to become more informed in all aspects of the election process. Please email Dietz at Debbie@justdigit.org to find out about upcoming meetings. Remember, your vote makes a difference and has a long-term impact on the direction in which politicians take our country.