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Santorum Values Dignity & Contributions of People with Disabilities, Seeks Engagement in Political Process

Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA, speaks during the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA, speaks during the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines, Nov. 24 – “We have a little girl with a severe disability and we treasure her,” former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum said following the Presidential Family Forum on Friday.

“We believe she’s every bit as important a member of our family and contributing to society as any one of our kids,” the presidential hopeful said. “She does it in a different way, but it’s no less a valuable way. I think the big thing is to recognize contributions don’t come down just to dollars and cents, they come down to a lot of different things – and to respect that and to make sure that we can maximize that.”

In response to whether he would engage people with disabilities in the political process and his campaign, Santorum said he would “love input from people with disabilities as to some thoughts and ideas that we might be able to push forward to better address some of these issues.”

Santorum has gone on the record with ways to help Americans with disabilities gain employment.

“We have to start doing something about training and employing people who are sitting on the sidelines because they don’t see a path,” Santorum recently said in response to how he would get America back to work again. “People need to go to work and we need to provide opportunities for them to go to work out of high school.”

Project SEARCH, a nationwide initiative to employ individuals with disabilities, is one example of such a program. This one-year, school-to-work program immerses interns into a structured environment by combining education with career exploration and worksite-based training and support. The goal for each program participant is competitive employment. With programs in 45 states, and more than 2,700 young adults served each year, Project SEARCH has proven to be one of the nation’s most effective programs in transitioning young people with disabilities into the workforce.

Santorum is best known in the disability community for his opposition to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (CRPD) treaty, which is supported by hundreds of disability organizations as well as former Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole.

Santorum has gone on the record that he does not support the treaty because he feels it does not actually have the needs of persons with disabilities in mind.

“The reason I have so strongly opposed CRPD is also simple,” Santorum wrote in a Daily Beast op-ed. “Karen and I have experienced first-hand as we care for our little blessing, Bella, that parents and caregivers care most deeply and are best equipped to care for the disabled. Not international bureaucrats.”

“CRPD gives too much power to the U.N., and the unelected, unaccountable committee tasked with overseeing its implementation, while taking power and responsibility away from our elected representatives and, more important, from parents and caregivers of disabled persons,” Santorum continued.

The treaty came to light again in 2014, and Santorum continues to be outspoken against it, claiming it does less for people with disabilities in the United States than what has already been done, and even less for those around the world.

Earlier this year, Santorum also lashed out against AbilityOne, an organization supposed to be helping people with disabilities find jobs, after an investigation conducted by CNN found corruption, financial fraud, and contract steering.  Every year AbilityOne and the nonprofit agency it manages, SourceAmerica, takes $2.3 billion of taxpayers’ money for its programs to employ those with disabilities.

“A nation is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable in society,” Santorum posted on his Facebook page in response to the allegations. “If true, anyone associated with the suspected fraud and corruption should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We are better than this and I urge the Attorney General to take all necessary steps to get to the bottom of these repulsive charges – immediately.”

Published inRepublicansRick Santorum

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