At last, the issue of disability has surfaced in a presidential race.

Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin has repeatedly pledged to be an advocate for parents of children with special needs.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Biden has voiced his concern for children with disabilities.

Yet neither campaign is addressing the issues — from health care to education to employment to access to technology — that are of vital concern to people with disabilities, like myself.

We often have the greatest need for medical care, but the most difficulty obtaining health care coverage.

Frequently, we can’t obtain (individual) private health insurance because our disabilities are considered pre-existing conditions. Millions of us depend on Medicare or Medicaid (two troubled, underfunded government programs) for our health care.

Others who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid end up being uninsured.

Parents struggle daily to obtain health care coverage for their children with special needs. They worry about how their offspring will get the medical care they’ll need when they become adults.

Yet the candidates aren’t talking about what can be done to address the health care struggles of people like us and our families.

Nothing is more important to anyone’s development than education. This is especially true for people with disabilities.

Many of us would not be part of society or the workplace if we had not had the chance to obtain an education. I wouldn’t be a writer today if my mother hadn’t fought for my right to an education when I was a child.

Today, years since the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was passed in 1975, people with disabilities still face discrimination in schools – from kindergarten to high schools to colleges. To combat this prejudice, the act needs to be fully funded and enforced. But I don’t hear the presidential campaigns talking about how to do this.

Though many of us are able and willing to work, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities is 70 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Frequently, we’re unemployed because of prejudice (some employers don’t want to hire disabled people) or barriers (such as the lack of wheelchair ramps or other forms of accommodation). Neither Sens. John McCain nor Barack Obama has spoken on the stump about how to remove these barriers.

Internet-based technologies such as social networks are rapidly changing how our culture operates. Yet, because many of these innovations are inaccessible if you’re blind or deaf, people like me are often being left behind in this technological revolution. Even the Web sites of the presidential candidates aren’t accessible to disabled people, according to the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet.

There are 51 million Americans with disabilities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In this presidential campaign, the candidates have an opportunity to pay more than lip service to our issues. I hope they will seize it.

Kathi Wolfe is a legally blind writer and poet in Falls Church, Va. Her chapbook “Helen Takes the Stage: The Helen Keller Poems” was recently published by Pudding House Press. She can be reached at

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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