Election Day 2012: The Arc Helps Adults With Disabilities Exercise Their Right to Vote Today


Polls opened at 8 this morning in southern Idaho as citizens line up to decide how they should be governed and who should have the privilege to govern.

Among Ada County residents in line to cast their ballots today will be some clients of The Arc, which has assisted thousands of adults with disability since 1956.

"Absolutely. There's definitely a heightened awareness among some of our clients this year," Nicole Lang, The Arc's director of programs, told Citydesk. "We have spent a lot time talking about the candidates."

In 2011, Boise Weekly visited The Arc, where Lang shared a story of a 45-year-old woman with a disability.

"She comes from a very strict family with very strict political beliefs," said Lang. "Well, she wanted to vote for a candidate her family didn't approve of. At times, she ended up in tears after some pretty emotional political debates. She did her best to understand the issues and she made her choice. Her family certainly didn't agree with her, but her candidate won. It was the most empowering thing I've ever seen."

Lang and her colleagues at The Arc told Citydesk that this year, they've witnessed even more empowerment.

"A lot of our developmental therapy is done a group setting," she said. "Especially after each presidential debate, a number of our clients wanted to talk about the election."

Staff at The Arc had to walk a very fine line in helping to facilitate their client's desire for political engagement while remaining nonpartisan.

"The staff are pretty well-versed. They've done a lot of research," she said. "But their largest challenge is always to keep their own views outside of the conversation."

Lang said The Arc helped register a number of their adult clients, some of whom will vote for the first time.

"We even set up a mock polling place here at The Arc so our clients will be comfortable when they go to their polling places," said Lang.

Indeed, The Arc will be shuttling a number of adults who access services from The Arc to polling places throughout Boise today.

"We'll be helping some folks who live in our assisted living facilities and others who want assistance," said Lang. "But we definitely have some people who want to do this independently."

And come Wednesday morning, Lang said the conversations in developmental therapy will be just as robust once clients of The Arc know who won.

"You bet," said Lang with a laugh.