Valerie Jarrett, Democratic Strategist and friend of President Obama, then the Honorable Tony Coelho, author of the ADA.
October 30, 2012 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Joyce has two honored guests.  Democratic Strategist and friend of President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, then, the Honorable Tony Coelho, author of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and former California congressman is on the show.  Ms. Jarrett and Mr. Coelho will discuss the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to encourage people with disabilities to be engaged in this campaign, and vote, as well as the Obama Administration’s commitment to hiring people with disabilities in the federal government.

» Listen
» Transcript
« Back to Schedule






October 30, 2012




>> Welcome to "Disability Matters," with your host, Joyce Bender.  All comments, views, and opinions expressed on this show are solely those of the host, guest, and callers.  Now the host of "Disability Matters."  Here's Joyce Bender. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Hey, welcome to the show.  Oh, you are going to be so excited.  You are going to be so excited!  Can you tell I'm excited?  Because we have from the campaign office in Wisconsin a true hero, one of the most powerful women in the United States, someone that is a champion for all Americans with disabilities, someone that is absolutely a blessing to all of us, and can you imagine that Valerie Jarrett would take time for us to be on this show?  Welcome to the show, Valerie. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Joyce, thank you so much.  You know I am delighted to come on your show.  We've been talking about it for a while.  We thought it would be really important to do, as we enter into the home stretch with seven days to go till the election.  And you're right, I'm here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a group of volunteers who have been showing up day after day after day knocking on doors and making phone calls on behalf of our President and our country.  So I'm delighted to be with you. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Well, we're delighted to have you.  And I know that President Obama is very busy in this country with this tragedy that has come from Sandy, this terrible hurricane, and as you might guess, this impacts everyone.  But you know, for some people with disabilities, this is very hard. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Yes.  President Obama is moving absolutely all of our federal resources to meet the needs of the people who are in the states who have been affected.  He's coordinating very closely through our FEMA office, with state and local government elected officials, many of whom you've probably heard or seen on television over the course of the last 48 hours. 

   The President is working tirelessly to make sure that we're doing everything humanly possible to help people, particularly those who are most vulnerable at a time such as this, including people with disabilities. 

   And so, of course, our hearts and prayers go out to those who have been hurt by this devastating, devastating hurricane, but everyone should be very confident knowing that their President, President Obama, is doing everything possible to make sure that we're there to help. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: And I know that he is.  And you know, Valerie, as everyone listening to this show knows, I mean, you are just -- you're so famous!  You're so -- I see you on CNN and every show in the world constantly, and yet you take time, only a few days before this Presidential election, for our community, the disability community.  And frequently in all these campaigns, we are not mentioned.  We're not included.  But in this campaign, President Obama has included us. 

   I wonder if you could share with our listeners why you believe President Obama is so committed. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Well, thank you, Joyce, for those kind words, and, of course, it's always an honor for me to be able to speak with you and for me to have a chance to come on your show and talk to everyone about why the President cares so deeply about the disability community. 

   And so let me just kind of take a few minutes to describe it from my perspective.  Much of his perspective comes from the fact that both he and the First Lady were raised by humble families who dreamed that if they sacrificed, their children would be able to do better, no matter what their challenges, and reach their dreams. 

   And the President often talks about the First Lady's dad, Fraser Robinson, and he was stricken with MS when he was only 30 years old.  And by the time the President met Mr. Robinson, Mr. Robinson had to use two canes in order to walk.  He had a blue-collar job in the water filtration plant in the City of Chicago, and he got up very early in the morning to get dressed because he wanted do dress himself every day. 

   And even with his MS as it got worse and it took him longer and longer to get ready, Mr. Robinson never missed a day of work.  That was his attitude.  It was so what?  So he had to do everything he needed to do to provide for his family.  He didn't miss his daughter's dance recitals or his son's basketball games.  And he was so proud when both of his children were accepted to Princeton University. 

   And even though they both received scholarships, Mr. Robinson paid a share of their tuition because he wanted to contribute to their education. 

   And the President knows that everybody -- everybody, Joyce, in your listening audience -- has a story like that about someone in their family.  And when the President hears those stories, every single place he goes, it just reminds him of how important it is to focus on those who have disabilities, because if those who have disabilities want to reach their full ability -- and that's what the President's all about, providing everybody the opportunity to reach their full ability. 

   And it reminds him of what makes our country so exceptional, what makes us so special, is the basic idea, Joyce, that in this country, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is, no matter what your setback, your challenge, your disability, your experience, that in this country, if you work hard and if you're willing to take responsibility, then you can make it if you try.  You can get ahead. 

   And that's what's been the driving force behind his presidency, laying the foundation for an economy that's built to last, where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where everyone -- and I mean everyone -- gets an equal shot at success. 

   And so, Joyce, you know, I've known the President now for 21 years, and I know -- I know him well, and I know that the qualities, the personal leadership qualities that he possesses are the ones that we all want in a president, and they are character, integrity, compassion, a core decency, a moral compass that only points towards true north.  That's what matters of most.  That's why he's so committed to supporting everyone, including people with disabilities, and we know that we can trust President Obama to look out for each and every one of us. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, well, I know.  He is all about inclusion, and that's why this is so important to all of us with disabilities.  And I will tell you that even through this stormy weather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Valerie, all of my employees with disabilities were the first ones in the building, and I bet that doesn't surprise you. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: No, of course not.  It reminds me of the story, Joyce, of Jamie, who you helped, who has a severe disability but is smart as a whip and keenly able to work with technology, and when you first met him, if I recall correctly, he had a resume that said I'm Jamie, and I'm willing to work for $10 an hour because I have a disability.  And you snatched that resume away from him and tore it up and told him how to write a resume that marketed his strengths and his amazing talents. 

   And now he's featured where?  Money Magazine? 

      >> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT:  Absolutely.  Employee with superb skills making it happen.  And that's what the President's all about.  People have so much potential, they just need a leg up.  They just need a little bit of help.  And you want a President who is committed to doing just that. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Yes, that's right.  Well, you  know, one of our generals that passed away that is so famous in the disability community -- and I know you met his wife, Yoshiko, is Justin Dart Jr., who is the disability community's great civil rights leader. 

   He had a saying that you'll see a lot of places, and it was, "Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does."  He also said, "If you don't vote, you don't count."  

   Why do you think those words are so important to our community today? 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Well, they really resonate with me.  And Joyce, I think back to the fact that it's now been 22 years since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  We have made significant progress working together to give all Americans the freedom to make their lives what they will.  And the President marked the 20th anniversary of the ADA by signing an Executive Order to make our economy fairer and increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  And he set a goal of employing an additional 100,000 people within the federal government within the next five years, and we are on track for that. 

   And he launched the "Add Us In" program to create models and strategies that can help be replicated across the country for businesses and employers. 

   Obamacare -- you know we are calling it Obamacare, Joyce, because Obama does care -- will do more to give Americans with disabilities control over their own independent lives than any piece of legislation since the ADA.  So today, insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions, including disabilities. 

   Starting in 2013, no insurance company will be able to deny coverage or charge more based on a preexisting condition for people of all ages.  And insurance companies will no longer be able to impose lifetime dollar limits or coverage, and Medicaid will continue to cover many people with disabilities now and provide insurance to even more Americans in the future. 

   And President Obama is just so deeply invested in enforcing Olmstead and to help people with disabilities live independently in their own homes and communities, and that's why the President declared back in 2009 Year of Community Living, affirming his commitment to civil rights for Americans with disabilities.  And it's why it's so important to him, as it was to Senator Kennedy, that the Affordable Care Act include concrete steps to improve access to community living. 

   Pardon me, Joyce.  Go ahead. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: No, I was just going to say to those of us living with epilepsy and all disabilities, I hope you all heard what we're talking about here.  Because many of you, many of us, have been denied insurance because of those chronic, preexisting conditions, disabilities. 

   Imagine what this would do for us.  Imagine. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Just imagine, as great as our country is, you should not have to worry about whether or not you're going to have the health insurance you need. 

   The President also expanded programs like Money Follows the Person, and he created new programs, like Balancing Incentive  Program and Community First Option.  These opportunities are helping people move out of institutions, back into their communities, and to stay in their communities in the first place. 

   Now, Governor Romney's message, Joyce, is very different to people with disabilities.  It's basically the same message he has for all Americans:  You're on your own.  He said he would repeal Obamacare.  He even said he would kill it dead on his first day, taking us back to the days when insurance companies wrote the rules and denied coverage to people with preexisting conditions. 

   And the Romney-Ryan budget would gut Medicaid, endangering coverage for people with disabilities.  The President is not going to balance our budget on the backs of the disabled or the poor or senior citizens.  That's not the kind of country we are.  And the Romney-Ryan budget would mean fewer services and reduced access to care. 

   As a governor, for example, Governor Romney gutted funding for disability programs, calling one of the provided disabled citizens essential personal care rehabilitation and recreation, he called it frivolous, Joyce, frivolous.  He even vetoed funding to improve elevators for people with disabilities, calling them -- oh, yeah, he called them, quote, pet projects that would be, quote, nice to have, even though those measures are required under ADA. 

   And so the choice here is so stark, and as we come down to this final stretch towards election day; the road's becoming shorter and shorter.  We only have seven days left.  As thoughts turn towards our loved ones and to the future that we want for our country and what the choice we have before us in this election, I believe it's just crystal clear that we cannot afford to go backwards.  We have to go in one direction, Joyce, together, and that direction is forward. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: That's right, forward, not backward. 

   Once again, if you are listening to this -- and by the way, you are able to download this on iTunes.  You are able to listen to it again, anyone can listen to it again, by going to or  You have other friends listen to this in the disability community.  This is personal.  This is personal.  Always remember what people would say.  If my child is in an automobile accident and has quadriplegia, I might as well give up my home and claim bankruptcy before I would be able to provide healthcare.  Remember, that would change. 

   So Valerie, do you have a message that you would like to leave with our listeners today?  Because I know how busy you are out there at the campaign in Wisconsin. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Yes, thank you, Joyce.  I would say this to all of your listeners, that this election is about choice.  On disability policy, the choice has just never been clearer in our nation's history.  And as the President has said, equal access, equal opportunity, the freedom to make our lives what we will, these aren't principles that belong to any one group or any one political party.  They are common principles.  They're American principles.  And that's why we need your voice in this election.  Everyone who is listening to this terrific radio show, let your voices be heard.  And we also are asking for your help. 

   And so I'm going to ask you to do a few important things.  Join us for more information, just go on to a website,  That's

   If you live in a state that has early vote, please don't wait until election day.  I am here in Wisconsin, our early vote ends here on Friday, and I am saying to everybody take advantage of that early vote.  You don't know what might come up between now and election day.  So don't wait until the last moment.  All kinds of things come up.  So vote early if you are in a state that has early vote. 

   Finally, please just reach out to ten people, ten people who are your friends, and tell them why it's so important that they support you and support our President. 

   In North Carolina last time, we won North Carolina by 14,000 votes, Joyce.  That's five votes per precinct. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Wow! 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Five votes per precinct.  We know -- I don't believe in polls so much because the only poll that really matters is the one that closes on election day.  But our expectation is that this race is going to be really close, and so every vote counts.  Every voice needs to be heard.  And wouldn't it send such a powerful signal if the entire disability community, the entire community, got behind the champion for people with disabilities, President Barack Obama?  That would be such a wonderful message to send around our country. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, wouldn't it?  I mean, this is what I tell everyone.  We are the silent majority.  And listen, we all want to have a voice.  This is your chance to have a voice.  But we can't do it if we don't vote.  We have to vote.  Everyone has to vote, and you have to tell everyone else to vote because President Barack Obama has included us; and to underline that, with an exclamation point, Valerie Jarrett took time to be on this show today, right before the election, because she cares about our community, and that comes from the President. 

   Valerie, I cannot thank you enough for spending time with us. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Joyce, it was my privilege to be on your show.  I hope you'll invite me back again when the President has a second term. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: I will do that, and we all --

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: All right. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: -- thank you so much, Valerie.  Forward together.  Forward together. 

   >> VALERIE JARRETT: Forward together.  Take care, Joyce. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Okay. 

   Wow!  And with that, we're going to get ready to go to break.  If you just joined us, this is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters at  We'll be right back with our next superstar guest.  Don't go away. 



   >>  If you have a question or comment, call toll free at 1-866-472-5788.  Now please welcome back the host of "Disability Matters." Here's Joyce Bender. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Welcome back to the show.  What a show.  We just had Valerie on, and we just go from one superstar to the next because who better to talk about employment of people with disabilities and how important this election is to us than the man that everyone knows is a superstar in politics, and may I say he is the king of disability, the author of the ADA, former congressman, my friend and yours, Tony Coelho.  Welcome. 

   >> TONY COELHO: Thank you, Joyce.  What a show.  My God, that's fabulous.  Valerie is absolutely spectacular, and she shows how much she cares and how much the President cares by being on the show today.  So that's great kudos for our community that she would be on the show today, calling in from Wisconsin.  So kudos. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Not only that -- and I know you know this, Tony, because you've run Presidential campaigns.  I mean, you know politics at this level.  Don't you agree that that would be unusual for someone at her level to be on the show this close to the election? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Yeah, with a week to go -- not even a week, actually, because election day, campaigning is pretty much over -- to set aside time to be on a show for our community tells you how much they feel our community is important to the outcome of the election. 

   So we have arrived, and exactly where the disability community should be in the equation of a winning campaign.  So I think it's fabulous.  

   The disability community for years has just not been considered that important in regards to presidential politics.  The presidential campaigns have not paid that much attention because they don't think we deliver in regards to vote and that we don't deliver in regards to political strategy and so forth.  But it's pretty obvious that the Obama campaign is really paying attention to us. 

   They have paid attention in regards to developing strategy.  They've paid attention in regards to policy.  They've paid attention in regards to politics.  And so forth.  So it's -- I think that in regards to the power of us as a community that we've arrived, and I think that's great for us in regards to getting things done that are important for those of us that are in the disability community.  So I think that Valerie appearing on your show today is the acclamation of that.  So I'm really excited that she was on the show.  She's a tremendous person, but obviously, she wouldn't have been on your show today if the President and his team didn't want her to be on. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Right.  Well, Tony, you heard -- and I know you know so much about this -- you heard her talk about the Affordable Care Act and how Governor Romney would want to repeal that as soon as he gets into office.  How, in your opinion -- what would that do? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Well, Joyce, one thing I heard her say -- and I happen to like it.  I like Obamacare.  I think, first off, he deserves credit for getting the healthcare bill passed, so it should be named Obama.  And in fact I like the idea that she said it means Obama cares.  And so I like the fact she endorsed it by saying Obama cares. 

   And so I don't use the reform -- I don't use any of that fancy stuff.  I just call it Obamacare. 

   And so Obamacare basically, it affects the disability community more than, really, any other community.  It -- if we just think about it, those of us with a disability, you and I with our epilepsy, it means, you know, I'm 70 years old.  For 70 years, my epilepsy precluded me from getting healthcare because I have a preexisting condition, which meant that an insurance company legally -- legally -- could deny me healthcare, could deny me healthcare because I have a preexisting condition.  And no -- no way could I get health insurance. 

   Now, under Obamacare, the insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against me.  But that's true with any preexisting condition.  You cannot discriminate against a person with a disability.  I mean, just think of how significant that is.  And that's true across the board. 

   The other thing that's important about Obamacare is it says that today, or before Obamacare was put into law, it says that the insurance companies could say, okay, we'll insure you, but if you get cancer, there's a limit.  At X point, when you've spent X amount of dollars, we will kick you out.  And after that, you have to pay for your healthcare.  We're not going to cover you anymore because you spent too much on -- we've spent too much on your healthcare. 

   Well, you know, wait a minute.  I thought we paid for insurance to -- to cover us in case we had a healthcare problem.  So you mean, health insurance company, that we're only supposed to pay when we're healthy, and if we get sick, then you kick us out?  That's what health insurance is all about?  So it's only we're paying health insurance premiums only for you to make money?  And not to provide for protection for us?  Obamacare says, whoa.  Stop.  You're not supposed to discriminate at all.  You're supposed to cover us when we're healthy, but also if we get sick.  And there's no limit. 

   And so finally, Obamacare takes care, and it's fair for everybody.  And so that -- Obamacare takes care of all of us when we're healthy, but also when we get sick.  And so for all those people out there who are healthy who think, well, we don't need Obamacare, you never know.  And so you never know when you are going to get sick, and you never know how much insurance you're going to need. 

   And so Obamacare comes in and takes care of all kinds of people, and what Romney wants to do, he wants to repeal Obamacare.  And he wants to, in effect, say that you're on your own.  Sorry.  You're on your own.  And so for those of us with preexisting conditions, we go back to the old game, where we're no longer covered.  And you go back to the insurance companies putting a cap and saying, sorry, we're only going to cover you to a certain amount, and after that, you're on your own.  Sorry. 

   That's what Obamacare does, and it is such a major difference, and it's those of us with disabilities that Obamacare makes a huge difference for.  And I think that's what those of us in the disability community have to understand and appreciate and understand that for us as individuals, but for family members and friends and neighbors, the huge impact that this has and the difference it makes.  And we just can't afford to go backwards. 

   This is something that started off with Roosevelt over the years and that Johnson and others, Clinton and others, have tried to get done.  And Obama used all of his political will, all of his leadership to get done, and he got through.  And do we want to permit Romney and his minions to turn it back?  It would take us decades to get something like Obamacare back in place. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Just like you said, Tony, when you talked about the cap, imagine now -- and I mentioned this to Valerie -- if your child, husband, spouse, partner, whatever it is, is in a terrible accident, left with quadriplegia or paraplegia, as they often say, if the accident is devastating, you can plan on, if you don't have a lot of money, going bankrupt because, you know, it's so expensive before even Medicare kicks in. 

   So there's another example of what you're talking about. 

   >> TONY COELHO: It's not even if you don't have a lot of money.  Even if you have money, Joyce, with the -- with the cost of healthcare, it'll take away everything.  And so this doesn't just protect the poor; this protects middle class.  Middle-class folks, they can be wiped out with a healthcare crisis or an accident or whatever.  So Obamacare is -- it helps a lot of folks, middle class and the poor and so forth, so that I think people have to understand just the significance, the significance of what Obamacare has done and how his leadership has changed the way that people are protected and what they can plan on and feel protected against and the huge significance that this makes and so forth.  And that's what I get concerned about when people don't appreciate just how much they have -- what Obama has done for us, as citizens, by putting all of his political will and all of his political power to get this done without the help of Republican support, except for a couple of senators, and that's all it was, and no support in the House.  He used all of his political will to get this done.  And we now have it, and our community, our -- the disability community is the one that is the great beneficiaries of it. 

   And we need to come out en masse.  And I will say, Joyce, I've been involved, as you know, in politics for 40 years, and no president -- and I was a great friend and admirer of Jimmy Carter, and I was very involved in President Clinton's eight years and activities with the President and appointments by President Clinton, and so I've been very involved with the Bushes and so on.  But no president -- no president -- has done more for our community than President Obama.  No president in the 40 years that I've been involved. 

   And I don't think people really appreciate all the things that he has done.  I can tell you that I've been involved in getting the President to make high-level appointments in the federal government, political appointments, and he has made more high-level appointments in the last four years than any president in the history of this country.  In just the four years.  And the next four years, he'll even make that many more.  And he's already committed to making 100,000 federal employees of people with disabilities in the next four years, this year and the next four years. 

   But I'm talking about the top political employees that he's made, but he's going to make 100,000 federal employees.  No president's done that.  President Clinton made that commitment at the last year of his administration, in his eighth year, but Bush -- George W. -- did not carry it out. 

   But Obama not only made the commitment of 100,000, but then he set a target for each of the federal agencies and the departments and said they had to comply with it, and it's published in the Federal Register every month as to what they're doing.  And so they have to comply with it.  And so those goals are set. 

   So not only did Obama set the target, but he's making sure that every department, every agency is following through, and we can monitor it.  So if you go through all these things, we can see what he's actually following up with and the difference that is being made. 

   But one of the more significant things, as the author -- original author of the ADA, the one thing that we have seen that is very significant is that the Justice Department -- and I think this will be one of the huge legacies of this administration -- the Justice Department has enforced the ADA more than any administration since it was adopted.  You can -- every week, you can see on the record of Justice Department filing a suit against a state, against a city, against a county, against a company, enforcing the ADA.  There has been -- it's unprecedented what they have done, enforcing the law, making sure that the governments and corporations, so forth, are complying with the requirements of ADA. 

   As the author of the ADA, I love it because finally you're seeing the teeth of the ADA being enforced and complied with.  And what they're doing is they're getting agreements by these different agencies, these governments and these corporations.  And the difference that that is making is, is just unprecedented, and that, I think, is one of the legacies of this administration just in these four years. 

   So I don't think we, as a community, really understand and appreciate just what this President has done. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Right, I agree with you, Tony.  And you were talking about, you know, how Obamacare, if it was repealed, how that would hurt us.  What about this former budget of Ryan that wants to really reduce Medicaid?  What would that do? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Well, if you listen to what Romney has said, he basically appointed Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate, and then, of course, the Ryan budget was approved.  Ryan is the Chairman of the Budget Committee in the House.  It was approved by the House representatives but rejected in the Senate because it's Draconian, and -- but Romney has said that he doesn't necessarily agree with it, but you know for a fact that if -- if Ryan were to become the vice president, that is exactly what Romney would present.  He's never denied it. 

   And basically, what they would end up doing is doing away with a lot of the services and the programs of Medicaid.  Medicaid would be cut back severely.  When you talk about that, what do you mean?  You're basically talking about a lot of the disability programs.  It goes right after disabilities.  And so again, when -- who gets hurt but us? 

   And if you look at what a lot of the members in the Senate are doing, they basically are starting to go after the ADA as well.  And so basically, with Paul Ryan and some of the senators, we're going to be hurt with the ADA, Medicaid, and that Ryan budget.  So we're going to be hurt across the board with the Ryan budget plan. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Well, Tony, you know, the disability community, we have a large community, but as you said, finally we're being recognized.  But then we, too, have to do our part. 

   And do you have any suggestions, people listening to the show, what suggestions do you have to get them getting others out there to vote? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Well, I think first off, Joyce, we have to recognize, as individuals, that this is important.  And we have to recognize that if we don't understand that this is critical, that this man, this President, is really the best that our community has had -- as I've said, in the history of our country as far as our community is concerned -- if we don't understand that, then we won't get out and do what needs to be done. 

   What we need to do is to recognize that, then get our family, our friends, our neighbors to get out and vote and vote now.  There's early voting in lots of states.  We need to get out and vote early.  And then we need to get our friends to vote early or on election day. 

   It is a critical election for us because it's not only whether or not the opponent wins and there's some question about what they would or would not do.  Mr. Romney and particularly Mr. Ryan, they've said what they're going to do.  Mr. Romney says that he's going to repeal Obamacare.  He has said it.  Mr. Ryan has said it as well.  Mr. Romney has said what he's going to do with Medicaid.  Mr. Ryan has said what he wants to do with Medicaid.  I mean, they have openly said what they want to do with those programs that affect our daily lives.  They have been aggressive about it. 

   So it is  -- it isn't a question of us trusting.  It's a question of us reading, listening, and understanding what they want to do.  And so it's a -- it's a wide-open, plain choice.  And then when you want to look at the Supreme Court, there's going to be at least one opening, maybe two, but one opening, and if you permit an appointment to come to the Supreme Court, the ADA is now -- cases are going to the Supreme Court.  There are -- they're very open about trying to repeal ADA.  What would that do to us if the ADA were repealed? 

   So you have some of these Republican senators who now say the ADA is unconstitutional.  So I think the attack on our community is very much in the open, well talked about, and so those of us in our community need to understand that this is the time to take action, and we should take it now. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Right.  And Tony, even that one thing you just mentioned about the Supreme Court judges, as you just said -- and I guess a lot of people don't realize or talk about that -- but wow, that could really hurt us in reference to the ADA. 

   >> TONY COELHO: Absolutely, Joyce.  I mean, one -- there are several senators now who are saying that the ADA is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, and there's a couple that -- senators, Republican Senators, who, in my view, will get elected this time, that are part of that group, and so they will be pushing hard if Romney were to get elected to get somebody who is of that view. 

   And so what we need to do is to be smart about this.  This is something for us in our community to recognize as a real threat.  So it isn't something for us to be passive about and to say, well, it doesn't make any difference if I vote.  It doesn't make any difference how I vote because of this or that.  It's critical how we vote.  It's critical that we recognize that, one, we have a real, true friend who understands, who has our back, and that we need to make sure that we get out there and vote and we vote now.  And so if we don't understand that, we make a huge mistake.  We've got to protect our friend who has our back and make sure that the people who don't appreciate us, who don't understand what we're all about and don't want to protect us, don't get in.


   >> JOYCE BENDER: Right.  That's right.  That is so right.  And Tony, Valerie talked about the early vote.  And I notice you just brought that up.  There are certain states that have the early vote, and others that do not.  But if your state does have that, why is that so important? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Well, it's important from several points of view, Joyce.  First off, it's important because if the state has an early vote, get out there and vote because something may come up between now and election day that prevents you from voting, some personal thing or, you know, you just can't get there for whatever reason.  So get out and vote.  Vote now.  Because that makes sure that you can vote, number one. 

   Number two, then what you do is then you should try to get other people to vote after you vote. 

   And number three, your vote counts early, and they take polls of that, and then people get out there, like now in some states, they're showing that Obama is ahead, and that creates a very positive feeling that Obama is doing well and so forth.  And that's what we want.  We want people to understand that people are turning out, people are voting, that the President is doing well, the President is winning, and that's what we want.  We want people to understand that people are coming out and supporting our President. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Right, and you heard Valerie say how in North Carolina that was amazing last year how there were so few votes, you know, that -- how they won. 

   >> TONY COELHO: Five per precinct is what made the difference in North Carolina.  Five people per precinct.  Five votes per precinct. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: Think about that.  That's why, you know, this is Congressman Tony Coelho you are listening to.  This is the man that wrote with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This is our national, really, disability leader everywhere, let alone throughout the world.  But listen to him about the power of that one vote.  Don't get in your mind it doesn't matter.  It does matter, just by Tony and Valerie telling us about that.  If you get out and vote, as Tony said, then you could get other people out to vote. 

   And Tony, what advice may you have -- there may be people that have a hard time because, you know, they are in a wheelchair or have other disabilities.  Do you have any advice in that case? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Well, you can -- you still have time to do absentee ballot.  You can request one, you can go and vote, early vote, but you can do absentee if there's no early voting in your state.  You can go get an absentee ballot and vote.  But you've got to -- you've got to commit yourself to make a difference.  Don't let us lose by just a couple of votes. 

   Look, I was chair of the Gore campaign, and you know what happened in that situation.  We lost just by a few votes.  I take the position that we won, but the Supreme Court took it away from us. 

   But the point is, is it was that close.  If we had more people voting in a couple of states, the Supreme Court couldn't have taken it away from us.  But that's how close these elections are, and this is going to be a close one.  And our community can make a difference.  Our community can make it not close.  Our community can win this for the President.  And in effect, we can say thank you, Mr. President, we have your back.  Thank you for having our back for these years.  Thank you for making a difference for our community.  And as a result of that, we're going to have your back.  We're going to vote early, we're going to make a difference.  We're going to say thank you, and we want you to help us now for the next four years in making our lives better, getting us the jobs that we need, helping us in 503 and making sure that contractors, federal contractors, and subcontractors, provide those jobs that we need and so forth.

And he is committed to that. 

   We just need to get him reelected so that we can make a difference in the jobs for those of us with disabilities.  There's a lot yet to be done, and I'm working directly with he and his people to try to make a difference in those areas as well, but we need to get those next four years. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: That's right.  We need to get those next four years, and as Valerie said, go forward, not go backwards. 

   >> TONY COELHO: That's right. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: And when do you ever remember, Tony, someone that high in administration saying that we could I can make the difference, as you just said? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Yeah, I mean, the point is, is that we have Valerie as our surrogate.  I mean, this is what's exciting, that we have somebody who is the friend of the President, the closest confidant to the President in the White House, who has been a friend of the President for 22 years, who actually is one who gave Michelle her first job, who has dinner with the President and First Lady several nights a week, who travels with the President and Michelle all the time, and who is our surrogate, who is the confidant to the disability community.  She is the one who meets with us and so forth.  And so this is a tremendous asset for us, and so this means that we can get a lot more done of things that are needed.  We work with her very closely on so many issues, and we can do that in the next four years.

So this is why it's so critical that we get the President reelected so that we can continue to work with the President and with Valerie to get 503 done and to get so many other things done that are needed for our community. 

   This is the most access that we've ever had as a community.  Just think the progress that we've made and the progress that we can make in the next four years with this relationship.  As opposed to the relationship that we wouldn't have with a Romney administration, who attitudinally just doesn't believe that we should have the opportunities that we have now.  Basically, who want to support legislation that peels away a lot of the protections of the ADA, who want to cut back on Medicaid, who would not support the breakthroughs that we have just gotten on homestead, who want to do away and repeal Obamacare.  All those things that we've made great progress on in the last few years, all those things that have moved our community forward, that other communities have benefited from, and that we are the last community finally to make a breakthrough with this administration, with this President, we are finally getting what we should have as part of this great American dream, we're finally getting there, and to get a major setback and to go to the back of the bus again, we just don't want that, and that's why it's so important to give this President four more years to get our community where it should be.


   >> JOYCE BENDER: Well, Tony, first of all, I just want to say it is an honor to have you on this show, and it is -- everyone should know he is out there fighting for us every day.  He does have our back all the time.  But I hope that you not only listen to him and Valerie Jarrett, but that you tell everyone else to listen to this show.  You can download it on iTunes.  You can get it from or  VoiceAmerica is going to keep it out there.  You've got to go back and listen and listen and get it out to the disability community. 

   So Tony, before we close the show, do you have a message you would like to leave with our listeners? 

   >> TONY COELHO: Joyce, I would.  First off, thank you for your program.  Thank you for your commitment.  And I hope people understand just how committed I am on this.  I generally don't get so emotional about something as I am about this election.  I am very, very committed because I've worked so many years to get the community where we are today, under both parties.  I've worked, as I've said, with -- going back to President Johnson's day and I've worked with both Papa Bush and W. Bush and Carter and Clinton, and now President Obama.  And I really feel strongly about where we are and the progress that we've made.  And I just feel very, very strongly that we have to take advantage of the opportunity that we have now and the progress that we've made in the last four years.  And we just can't turn back right now.

   And where the Romney administration wants to take us back is just a huge mistake for our community.  And this is a very, very close election, and our community can make a difference.  And I just hope our community turns out in big numbers and that we vote and vote early.  And so I plead with everybody to let's make a difference.  Let's just make a difference in this election. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER: And I certainly agree with that.  This is so important.  Get out and vote, vote early, tell everyone else to vote, tell everyone to listen to this show because we can -- we can -- be the group that has made the difference in the reelection. 

   I will repeat the quote I told Valerie earlier that our friend and Tony's late friend Justin Dart said repeatedly, "Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does."  Never has that been so appropriate as in this election. 

   You are listening to Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters, at  Talk to you next week. 

   >> VoiceAmerica would like to thank you for tuning in.  Please join us next Tuesday at 11 a.m. Pacific Time for another installment of "Disability Matters," right here on the Internet leader in talk radio,