And then as the line snaked its way into the polling place, I could hear the beeps of the "scantron" machine (OK, I know that's not what it is, but it's the closest analogy I could think of) and heard people talking about being able to vote electronically. That brought Miss Doris to mind.
Miss Doris was a consumer at one of UCP's adult service centers. When I met her, she was in her late 60s. She had Cerebral Palsy and some other issues that left her unable to speak. She used a Dynavox 3100 to communicate, using a pillow switch. I had the pleasure of programming her scanning vocabulary on the device when I was in graduate school. She also accessed a computer's word processing software using an Intellikeys keyboard and a homemade keyguard.
Miss Doris was stuck in a nursing home for years without the ability to communicate her wants, needs, thoughts, frustrations, or considerable sense of humor. She was overjoyed at the prospect of coming to UCP and, because of technology, was able to share her thoughts with all of us. She was very active in writing her representatives and advocating for services for people with disabilities. She once told me (with a twinkle in her eye and grin on her face) that it came in handy that her father had taught her to swear many years ago.
I learned a lot from Miss Doris. As my job changed, I didn't get a chance to visit with her as much as I would have liked. In 2004, because of the availability of an electronic voting system, Miss Doris was able to vote for the first time in her life. She was 72. When she was asked what she was thankful for that year, she answered,
"I AM THANKFUL FOR BEING BORN IN AMERICA AND HAVING THE FREEDOM TO SAY WHATEVER I PLEASE AND GO WHEREVER I WANT ESPECIALLY LEVINSON SCHOOL IN OAK PARK.
FOR HAVING A WONDERFUL FAMILY,WHO EXCEPTED FOR WHAT I AM.
AND MOST OF ALL, HAVING THE RIGHTT TO VOTE FOR THE CANIDATE OF MY CHOICE."
Miss Doris passed away last year, and I think of her often for the many things she taught me. When it comes to election time, I think of her words, and am all the more grateful for having known her. It makes me appreciate the freedom to vote a little more. We may have trouble with technology that frustrates us, but for Miss Doris, it was technology that allowed her to fully participate in her freedoms as an American.
Cheers, Miss Doris. And thank you.