Washington, May 23 – As voters head to the polls in Montana next month, RespectAbility is releasing its Montana Disability Voter Guide. Montana’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 on 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.”
Montana currently has the twelfth highest percentage of employed people of disabilities (40.5 percent), compared with 77.7 percent of people without disabilities. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
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) and expects outcomes to improve even more for people with disabilities in Montana as their state plan is well done and covers a number of issues regarding people with disabilities and employment. From the language of the Combined State Plan, there is a lot of innovative and dedicated work being done on workforce development in Montana.
Geographically, Montana is in an employment hotspot for people with disabilities. It is bordered by Wyoming and the Dakotas, three states who have some of the highest rates of employment in the country for people with disabilities. This gives Montana the opportunity to closely communicate and collaborate with its neighbors to identify and employ best practices and improve outcomes for people with disabilities.
Despite these positive numbers from Montana, the state will soon be undergoing a talent shortage and loss of employment as baby boomers retire and Montana’s economy evolves. There are almost 69,000 working-age people with disabilities in Montana and just under 60 percent of them are outside of the workforce. Many of those who are working are only working part time and/or are under-employed. A recent detailed study by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire shows the 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities are striving for work.
Furthermore, the gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is nearly 37.3 percent. While this is lower than 40 other 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 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.