Washington, May 16 – As voters head to the polls in Kentucky tomorrow, RespectAbility released its Kentucky Disability Voter Guide. There are 734,781 people with a disability in Kentucky, 399,100 of whom are of working age (between the ages of 21 and 64). There are an additional 21,400 people ages 16-20 with disabilities, many of whom are hoping to enter the workforce. Kentucky’s voters are looking to know where the candidates stand on important disability issues in order to increase opportunities for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.
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. They each have significantly different views on the issues.
Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has not yet filled out the questionnaire. However, several Republican candidates who have since dropped out of the race did respond to the questionnaire including former Gov. Jeb Bush, who addressed all of the questions, and Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. John Kasich, all of whom filled out parts of 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.”
Kentucky currently ranks 48th in terms of percentage of employed people with disabilities (27.3 percent), compared with 74.4 percent of people without disabilities. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
Despite these numbers, Kentucky still has the opportunity to improve outcomes for people with disabilities thanks to The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). RespectAbility has submitted comments for all 50 state’s drafts of the Unified Plan as required under Section 102 of WIOA, and Kentucky has the chance to build on innovative work that is already being done around empowering more youth with disabilities to successfully transition them from school to work.
In Louisville, the Transitional Learning Center is doing great work thanks to a public-private partnership between UPS, the school system and Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. At the Center, youth with disabilities receive the soft skills training they need to succeed. Likewise, the Best Buy Distribution Center in Shepherdsville is a model employer whose efficiency has been improved by integrating employees with disabilities into their workforce.
Another note of promise comes in form of accessible resources. Kentucky’s’ WIOA plan contains detailed plans related to accessibility and barrier solutions regarding career center services. The plan to have secure wireless services at comprehensive one-stops and allow services to be accessible from many locations is crucial for people with barriers to work, such as transportation, as it allows them to receive the necessary services they otherwise might now be able to access.
Kentucky also will be focusing on in-demand industry sectors as well as apprenticeships, which are an important avenue to self-sufficiency and higher wages for youth with barriers to employment. This is critical work and it is pleasing to see that progress is being made in this aspect.
However, the gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is 47.1 percent, the second highest in the United States. 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 Trump to submit his ideas for the disability community. When he does, they 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.