Washington, March 31 – As voters head to the polls in North Dakota tomorrow, RespectAbility released its North Dakota Disability Voter Guide. The #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaire was designed for people with disabilities (PwDs) and those who love them to know where candidates stand on the issues. The questionnaire asked all of the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to comment on 16 disability questions. Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders responded by addressing all of the questions, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich filled out parts of the questionnaire. They each have significantly different views on the issues. Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, the campaigns of Sen. Ted Cruz and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump have not yet filled out the questionnaire.
RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls.
Fully one-out-of-five voters have a disability, and 52 percent of likely voters have a loved one with a disability. Only 34 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities have jobs, despite the fact that the vast majority want to work. More than 11 million working age people with disabilities are now living on government benefits in our country.
RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said, “Our community is looking for jobs so we can achieve the American dream, just like anyone else. It is vital for us to know where the candidates stand economic, stigma, education, safety, transportation, housing, healthcare, foreign affairs and other issues. The candidates have hugely different ideas about how to deal with the issues. Thus, it’s extremely important to read their full answers so you can understand their vast differences.”
North Dakota has the coveted distinction of being the state with the second highest rate of employment for individuals with disabilities, employing 49.9 percent of their citizens with disabilities, coming in closely behind South Dakota at 50.1 percent. Fully 49.9 percent of the 38,037 working age people with disabilities are employed in North Dakota. The 2,100 youth with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 21 living in North Dakota have increasing chances to successfully transition into the world of work.
RespectAbility has submitted comments for all 50 state’s drafts of the Unified Plan as required under Section 102 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The North Dakota WIOA draft is very well done. It creates a win-win-win strategy and system for vital improvements for North Dakota’s workforce system and its ability to serve people with barriers to work, employers and taxpayers alike. North Dakota already is leading the nation in terms of expanding competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.
North Dakota is part of the Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) Grant, a collaborative effort that promotes career achievement as a means of gaining economic self-sufficiency and a diminished dependence on public benefits among youth who receive Social Security Insurance (SSI). The PROMISE Grant enables states to develop curricula and projects that will improve education for youth with disabilities, thereby equipping these youth with the tools to succeed in the workforce.
Vocational Rehabilitation has long played a critical role in empowering people with disabilities to pursue the transformative power of a job. In 2012, North Dakota’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation obtained employment for 708 people out of an applicant pool of 1,521. While direct service is critically important, VR is doing much more to ensure that the people of North Dakota see the talent in each individual and are willing to give people of ALL abilities a chance to succeed. Recently, the Division launched a website called ND Advantage, which provides employers information about the financial incentives for hiring vocational rehabilitation referrals such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credits. Another benefit that ND Advantage highlights is Disability Access Credit, which provides expenses to companies who employ individuals with disabilities to cover such services as sign language interpreters and assistive technology. Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s leadership has led to a more prosperous state and opened the American Dream to many people with disabilities.
While North Dakota may be seeing a dip in its employment number due to the evolving challenges of the energy, the state has worked hard to achieve improved outcomes. Outside observers might discuss the case study of North Dakota as being a small state with a tiny population who got lucky with a booming energy sector with little relevance to disability policy. However, states like the Dakotas has achieved increased results in terms of jobs for people with disabilities by putting best practices into places. North Dakota has been blessed with the dedicated leadership of Gov. Dalrymple who has been focused on creating a positive business climate and committed to tapping into the talents offered by individual with disabilities.
The nearly 50 percent rate of employment for North Dakotans with disabilities is much higher than the national average – 30 percent. In addition, North Dakota has the smallest difference in the employment gap between people with and without disabilities – 32.1 percent. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
However, the gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is still too large around the entire country. This lack of employment for people with disabilities creates poverty, powerlessness, and poor health. Polls and studies show that people with disabilities want the opportunity to have the dignity and independence that jobs provide.
America has 1.2 million youth with disabilities, between the ages of 16 and 20. Each year 300,000 of them age into what should be the workforce, but stigmas and lack of knowledge about the capabilities of people with disabilities means that most do not find employers willing to hire them. Young adults with disabilities in all of these states are hoping to find work. They have high expectations and deserve the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Young people with disabilities may simply need some thoughtful help to transition into the workforce. See data on all 50 states here: State Data.
RespectAbility will continue to urge Cruz and Trump to submit their ideas for the disability community. When they do so, we will update the guide. The questionnaire is being distributed to more than 50,000 people who care about disability issues, more than ten thousand of whom live in the early primary states and the heads of more than 100 national disability organizations, many of whom will share with their own lists. RespectAbility also has placed online ads sharing the questionnaire.