The general election season for the Presidency is officially open with more than 122 million people viewing the Democratic National Convention across digital platforms. I, for one, remain awestruck by the powerful message delivered by our Democratic candidates, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They convincingly made the case that this election is a battle for the soul of our nation and the candidates exemplify the moral character Americans value. This message is a clear-eyed statement about the fight ahead in the next several months and the very real chance, if we do not get every vote out, that Donald Trump will be re-elected. And if that happens, like Michelle Obama said, “things will get worse.”

That Trump and the Republicans will stoop low in order to continue to disrespect and threaten the lives of Americans with disabilities requires no further proof than the blatant falsification of an interview of Joe Biden conducted by disability advocate Ady Barkan. Republican Congressman Steve Scalise tweeted the doctored video that inserted words that were not spoken by falsely impersonating the word synthesizer that Barkan uses to communicate. In doing so, he blatantly tried to mislead the public regarding Biden’s emphatic support for peace over violence, and his position that he will not defund police forces across the nation.

The disability community will not stand for this! There are many reasons that every person with a disability should support the Biden/Harris ticket and that every one of us must do everything we can to not only vote for them, but convince everyone we know to do so.

You see, more than 61 million Americans are challenged by disability. We are present in one out of every five families, represent almost 20 percent of the population and may cast as many as 35 million votes. If we add the votes of our family members, caregivers and networks, we could well carry Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House.

We need a President and Vice President who understand the absolute need for inclusion of people with disabilities, and all Americans, in the path forward towards recovery from the current pandemic, economic recession, civil unrest and climate emergencies. We need leadership who will act with empathy and compassion. And we need leaders who will fight for the rights of every American to exercise their power and reach their full potential.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the clear choice, for the disability community and for America. Joe Biden shared his values and life story with us during the Democratic National Convention, the challenges he faced when he was bullied for stuttering, the heartbreaking losses of his wife, daughter and son, as well as the close-knit family that Jill and he created. I was lucky to see that empathy in action. At the 25th anniversary celebration of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I stood at the rope line next to a woman who came from Scranton. As Joe Biden moved down the line, she reached out to him from her wheelchair, and I witnessed a moment of such great tenderness between them, as he leaned over, took her hands, smiled, and spoke with her about their hometown, that it brought tears to my eyes. In his speech to the nation at the DNC Convention, Joe Biden promised to fight for every American, and I have no doubt that he has the wisdom and tenacity to fight for every one of us, including Americans with disabilities.

The same is true for our Vice Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris. When our family’s home was broken into in the middle of the night over 20 years ago, Kamala was the attorney assigned to prosecute the case.

Like Joe Biden, Kamala embodies the empathy and compassion that the disability community values. Last October, as my family gathered in the hospital after my husband was injured in a car accident, I received a text message that said, “Janni, this is Kamala. Please give Lenny my best. Tell me what I can do to help.” That phrase sums up Kamala Harris. She laughs and cries with us. She worries about our 3 a.m. concerns that keep us up at night. She reaches out to see what she can do to help. She is also a fighter. Kamala has made it clear that she will prosecute the case against Donald Trump. She has called this case, “open and shut.” No group knows that better than the disability community, because for the last four years Donald Trump has bullied us, demeaned us, and attempted to rob us of our dignity.

As Joe Biden speaks to saving the soul of this nation, with his wisdom and experience, Kamala Harris speaks to the conscience of this country, always seeking truth and justice. Well, Joe and Kamala, we in the disability community are fighters, too! Members of our community occupied federal buildings and crawled the steps of the Capital to secure passage of the ADA. We will fight against this blatant disrespect for our dignity leveled by Trump and his cronies. We will fight until Americans with disabilities achieve full inclusion and equality and we know that you can deliver on this promise.

So now we need to stand together as a community to help carry Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House. Come November, I want to be sure that there was nothing more that we as a community could have done to ensure the vote for inclusion and equality for all Americans with disabilities. I hope that you will join me, right now, to do everything you can to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to lead us into the future.

A picture of Janni and Kamala Harris smiling and Janni and Joe Biden smiling

Disability rights advocate; two term appointee by President Obama to National Council on Disability; Senior Policy Advisor to HFA; wife, mom, SF resident!