Deaf Community Hears "Change" Message

CHICAGO -- One of my many reasons why I celebrated when I voted for Sen. Barack Obama two weeks ago -- stems from my social service passion in areas of mental healthcare, homelessness and communities where things are not equal in the best of circumstances. As Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin stump speech began to move into the realm of referencing Sen. Barack Obama as a socialist and other unmentionables, I am traveling and meeting folks all over Chicago interviewing for the Huffington Post -- which is my goal to showcase unique social communities that somehow gets overlooked, when daily tracking polls are being taken. Meet a group of deaf co-workers whom have very strong viewpoints on why Sen. Barack Obama would make a better President for the whole country.

Note: Sign language was used to conduct this interview, some comments had to be condensed as a group -- to make my comprehension easier - all parties have been referenced below.

I met James Cable and Bobby Rawalji on a commuter train heading to work a month ago. We connected because I have worked in the past with deaf children and I'm always trying to brush upon my training in the art of American Sign Language (ASL). In our greetings, the election has been a constant discussion regarding all the candidates. Topics ranged from the effigy of Sen. Obama , this past week -- to why American people can't vote for Sarah Palin, regarding her lack of experience; to how we can get a ticket to the Chicago Rally coming up on Nov. 4.

I've learned a lot about what is happening to key social services, particularly for the deaf communities -- whether it's dealing with healthcare benefits for Hearing Aids, Cochlear implant, to basic communication tools for television programming, using Closed Caption (CC) or transportation for the deaf and people with disabilities.


James Cable and Bobby Rawalji

OffTheBus: First of all, let's get the question out of the way for the record, are you or have you voted for Sen. Barack Obama?

Bobby: I'm voting this Tuesday for Obama.

James: I've already voted this past weekend.

Why do you think the deaf community is voting for Sen. Barack Obama?

Bobby: Because Obama is going the help the deaf community and with people with disabilities, and with our rights.

James: He's going to help us with disabilities, and help with reducing equipment, the deaf community uses i.e., Cochlear Implant and Hearing Aid.

What are some issues the Deaf Community face? What do you want the next President to do for the deaf community and persons with disabilities?

Bobby: Social Services cuts thought-out the United States, programming slashed for Closed Caption [local and international news] and deaf school closings. We want Obama to help keep these programs active.

James: We need help with Social Security Benefits - there are many deaf people who can not get employment and we feel John McCain will only cut these programs --especially because McCain and Palin feels Obama is a socialist.

Do you think Obama can win?

Bobby: Yes

James: Yes, because John McCain picked Sarah Palin, not for the country but for political reasons.

What things do you like about Sen. Barack Obama?

Bobby: He cares for all the people.

James: Also we [Deaf community] like Michelle Obama because she went to the same school I did Whitney Young High School and knows Sign Language. She understands the deaf.

Why do you think this election is important to the deaf community and anyone who has a particular disability?

Bobby: We think education is the most important thing. If we don't have services for us and our children, then we will be shut out of the world politics. Many news and media stations have cut funding to provide these services for our community, and we need the next President to take on these challenges -- we feel Obama will be that person.

James: So the most important thing is to not reduce Social Security benefits for the deaf, because of the unemployed issues surrounding the deaf community, and not to reduce programming with Closed Caption, because the deaf community needs it to communicate with the world.

I joined a lunch discussion with a larger group of deaf co-workers, Mohammad Faisal was reliving his voting experience -- Mohammad (who is Pakistani) was concerned with being profiled because of his ethnic background. In fact, nothing happened of that nature, but Mohammad did have some trouble with the new touch screen booths, here in Chicago. He signed, there were a lot of questions and he had to review many sections. He found he missed a few questions, and had to go back to recapture them. He also was discussing to the others, how the new machines worked. The new machine uses a touch screen, which you have to complete one section -- before you can save your vote. At the end, you are shown a paper copy that gets saved inside the box. Before it saves, you have to review each question -- to make sure you are satisfied with your choices, and to make any changes, before it's completed and captured.

The group continued to discuss Sen. Obama reaching out to the deaf community, why Sen. Barak Obama had to win, not only for their community -- but for the world, continuing with peace efforts and making sure social services are not cut for people with disabilities. They feel these topics are getting overlooked and "not having basic healthcare for Hearing Aids are not fair," Jessica Hecht, stated throughout the discussion.

Note: All are voting for Sen. Barack Obama by Nov. 4, 2008.

Thanks to: James Cable, Bobby Rawalji, Mohammad Faisal, Mary P. Lowe, Jessica Hech , Marilyn and Dennis Russell

Reference: Daily Kos -- Obama Campaign Phonebanks The Deaf Community!!! []