Newton, Iowa, Jan. 3 – Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee says just because a person has a disability, it does not mean he has a disability to serve. More than just talk, he walked the walk by hiring people with disabilities while governor of Arkansas.
“I hired a number of people in my office who are disabled,” Huckabee said during a town hall on Saturday. He listed his chief of constituents services, who was blind since birth, assistant director of legal services, who was deaf, and director of human services, who was a paraplegic.
“My experience was this a person who had a physical disability, did not have a disability to work, did not have a disability to serve,” Huckabee said.
One-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work, though 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities do not have jobs. Often this is due to stereotypes against people with disabilities.
“The best way we can help overcome prejudices and attitudes toward people with disabilities is to give them the visibility and to show that their disability is not a disability of function in terms of their career and their abilities,” Huckabee said. “And that’s one of the things we did, and I’d love to see that done at the federal level as well.”
The former governor was asked how he would change the statistics that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of violent crime than people without disabilities, while people with disabilities between 12-15 and 35-49 are three times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
“People think they can take advantage of persons with disabilities,” he said. They are “more likely to be mugged or robbed because they doubt that you are going to chase them down the street.”
None of the presidential candidates has a plan on this issue. In recent interviews with presidential hopefuls Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Marco Rubio, both pledged to learn more. Like O’Malley and Rubio, Huckabee did not have a plan on how to curb this.
“Honestly that is a figure I was not aware of, but I’m not surprised,” he replied.
The Republican presidential hopeful then shifted focus, touting a project his wife personally supervised when he was governor, ensuring the Arkansas governor’s mansion is accessible to people with disabilities.
“This is a public building,” Huckabee said. “It should be accessible.”