Washington, Jan. 14 – Eight RespectAbility Report employees and fellows have been crisscrossing New Hampshire and Iowa for the past month, asking candidates to talk about a variety of disability issues – from low employment rates and high crime rates to basic accessibility issues.
When James Trout, a fellow with Asperger’s syndrome, asked presidential candidate John Kasich a question earlier this month, the Ohio governor interrupted him to give him some accolades.
“Would it be too much to ask if you could explain why you are such a strong advocate?” Kasich asked.
“It’s a personal issue,” Trout responded. “I’m a person with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of Autism.”
“Let me tell you something. This is heck of a guy here. He’s a heck of a young man.”
After a round of applause from the audience for Trout’s work, Kasich answered the question at hand – that some of the Iowa caucus sites for both Republicans and Democrats may not be accessible for Iowans with disabilities.
“Let me tell you, that’s just ridiculous if they’re not accommodating the disabled,” Kasich replied, speaking at Inspired Grounds Cafe in West Des Moines, Iowa. “This would not be right, to not accommodate the needs of the disabled.”
Kasich then went on to say he believes people with disabilities should be “fully integrated as much as they possibly could be into our society.”
Some politicians address disability issues from a pity framework, and RespectAbility has worked hard to educate all of the presidential candidates that this is not the proper way to address the issue.
At his town hall, Kasich showed he has internalized that lesson when he self-corrected himself.
“For many years, there were people who suffered,” Kasich began, before correcting himself. “I shouldn’t say suffered, but experienced severe disabilities.”
The Ohio governor then explained how he is working in his state to take people out of sheltered workshops, where people make much less than minimum wage for doing jobs beneath their skill levels.
“We’re now taking them out,” he said, and Ohioans with disabilities are finding competitive integrated jobs in places like hospitals and grocery stores, where they can be “respected and given a purpose in their life.”
Before finishing his answer, Kasich said his team would get in touch with the Iowa Republican party to fix the caucus site issue and told his staffer MaryAnn, “I’m telling you, so go fix it.”
The Ohio governor has defended the Common Core education standards written by state education superintendents and local principals and has criticized its opponents as politically-motivated. Kasich has long pushed ideas for education reform , including promotion of occupational choices earlier starting in elementary school and a plan to dramatically overhaul funding formulas to give poor districts and charter schools more resources. In crafting his state’s budget, Kasich used his veto power to cut more than $84 million of funding from public schools.