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Date archive for: July 2016

Celebrating ADA on the Sidelines of the DNC

Philadelphia, July 31 – Gathered in the city of brotherly love, more than a hundred disability activists celebrated the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on Tuesday.

Current and former officials touted the importance of the ADA and focused specifically on disability employment and economic empowerment for people with disabilities.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell talked about making employment for people with disabilities his platform while leading the National Governors’ Association – something he said other governors questioned.

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Clinton Shines Spotlight on Disability Issues

Philadelphia, July 30 — When Hillary Clinton took to the stage the final night of the Democratic National Convention, several disability activists had one question – will she include people with disabilities in a meaningful way in her speech?

The convention already had touched on disability issues – from Anastasia Somoza, a young woman with cerebral palsy delivering a speech Monday, and Sen. Tom Harkin highlighting the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Tuesday to discussions on mental illness and drug addiction and speakers such as Rep. Gabby Giffords and Rep. Tammy Duckworth addressing the convention.

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Updated DNC Platform Most Inclusive of People with Disabilities Ever

Philadelphia, July 29 – As the Democratic National Convention comes to a close, the disability community is celebrating a victory in the final DNC platform as important additions were added in the eleventh hour.

“This platform incorporates our community, our values, our issues and aspirations like never before,” stated Disability Action for Hillary, a volunteer group of people with disabilities working to elect Clinton to the presidency. “With over 30 distinct mentions of disability, ensuring the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities has moved from a section of the platform to a pervasive value infusing it.”

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America: Land of Opportunity for People with Disabilities

Philadelphia, July 29 – Rep. Tammy Duckworth offered a simple but powerful message of the American spirit and inclusion on the last night of the Democratic National Convention.

“I worked hard, but I had a lot of help from my community and country,” she said. “My story is not unique. It’s a story about why this country is the greatest nation on earth.”

Duckworth represents multiple groups who often are overlooked in American politics. She is the first Thai American to be elected to U.S. Congress, as well as the first woman with a disability to become a member of the House of Representatives in 2012.

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Giffords Serves as Role Model for People with Disabilities

Philadelphia, July 28 – When Gabrielle Giffords took the stage with her husband, Mark Kelly, they electrified the audience.

Speaking on the third night of the Democratic National Convention, Giffords used her time to both call attention to the rising gun violence in the country and give a rousing endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary is tough. Hillary is courageous. She will fight to make our families safer. In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby,” said Giffords, who served as a congresswoman from 2006 to 2012.

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Growing Disability Council Highlights Importance of 400 Delegates with Disabilities

Philadelphia, July 27 – With 400 delegates self-disclosing a disability, the Disability Council is growing. Along with Disability Action for Hillary, the Council is energizing Americans with disabilities during the Democratic National Convention.

“Our goal is to get as many people all over the country involved with the campaign,” former California Rep. Tony Coelho said at the first meeting on Monday. “It is important for our community that everyone knows that we are committed, we are involved and we can make a difference in this election.”

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Harkin Highlights ADA at DNC in Show of Disability Inclusion, Pushes for Competitive Integrated Employment

Philadelphia, July 27 – The second night of the DNC began with a tribute to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was celebrating its 26 years since it was signed into law. In doing so, it answered some disability activists’ criticisms that while the DNC has highlighted and included people with disabilities such as Anastasia Somoza on the first night, there had been little substantive conversation regarding disability issues on the main stage.

“We are a better nation because of the ADA. But we still have a way to go to build a truly inclusive America,” former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin said. “When, 26 years later, 70 percent of adults with disabilities aren’t in the workforce, it’s time to take action. That’s why Hillary Clinton wants to ensure people with disabilities are judged by their potential and have the tools to secure competitive integrated employment.”

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Frank Discussion on Mental Illness, Drug Addiction at DNC

Philadelphia, July 26 – The first night of the DNC had a section focusing on “Combating Substance Abuse” featuring New Hampshire mother, Pam Livengood, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and singer-songwriter Demi Lovato.

Livengood, a Keene, New Hampshire resident whose daughter became addicted to pain medication following the birth of her son, Francis, articulated to the audience that “[addiction] does not discriminate against age, race, gender or income. It affects all of us.”

Facing the possibility of her grandson being turned over to child services, Livengood and her husband – who is on disability – decided to raise Francis until his parents were able to receive the treatment they needed to recover.

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Disability Rights Advocate Anastasia Somoza Takes Center Stage at DNC

Philadelphia, July 26 – Following a video which highlighted what many see as Donald Trump’s mockery of a disabled New York Times reporter, disability activist Anastasia Somoza rolled onto the DNC stage in her power wheelchair and spoke about her friendship with Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family, a relationship which has lasted more than two decades.

Somoza, who, along with her twin sister, was born with cerebral palsy, first met the Clintons at nine years old. After being invited to a town hall meeting for kids, she boldly asked then President Bill Clinton why her sister, who is non-speaking, could not be in a regular classroom like Anastasia was. Her chat with the president kicked off a flurry of media coverage and her family worked with the Clintons to advance equal, inclusive education as well as healthcare for people with disabilities.

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Gov. Malloy Opens DNC by Owning his Own Disabilities

Philadelphia, July 25 – “I am here today to tell you a story of hope,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, before speaking about his life and experiences as a person with multiple disabilities.

“It’s a story of a young boy with physical and severe learning disabilities,” Malloy said.

He related his early experiences and how “reading and writing were almost impossible” for him.

“A child thought to be, as the term was used in the early 1960s, ‘mentally retarded’ as late as the fourth grade. A boy who could not tie a shoe or button his shirt until the fifth grade. Someone who knew the harsh words of bullies on the playground and discrimination in the classroom.”

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Kaine Has History of Working to Help People with Disabilities

Philadelphia, July 24 – Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her pick for Vice President, Sen. Tim Kaine, hit the stage for the first time in Miami on Saturday.

Kaine spent much of his speech during their first joint appearance highlighting both his and Clinton’s experience fighting for civil rights – in direct dichotomy with how they are portraying the Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

“Do you want a trash-talking president or a bridge-building president? Donald Trump trash-talks folks with disabilities. Trash-talks Mexican-Americans and Latinos,” Kaine said. “With Donald Trump, it’s me first!”

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How do Convention Goers at the RNC with Disabilities Feel about Trump and Republican Party?

Note: RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit, is attending both conventions. We sought out attendees with disabilities to hear their thoughts about the convention. In this piece, we take a look at their opinions about Republican nominee Donald Trump, the Republican Party as a whole and the policies they would like to see in the future.

Cleveland, July 21 – As the Republican National Convention comes to a close tonight, disability remains a little discussed issue. With just a statement by Eric Trump that his father is running for “families with special needs children,” the word disability was not mentioned a single time throughout the entire convention on the main stage.

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Who is Brock Mealer, the Motivational Speaker with a Disability, who Spoke Thursday Night at the RNC?

Cleveland, July 22 – “Mr. Trump, welcome to the club,” Brock Mealer said excitedly while standing at the podium of the Republican National Convention on Thursday night.

The club he is referring to is the group of people who can say they overcame one percent odds and achieved success. According to stats cited by Mealer, Republican nominee Donald Trump was given a one percent chance to receive the Republican nomination for President of the United States last year. Mealer’s story is different.

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RNC Delegates with Disabilities Talk Accessibility

Note: RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit, is attending both conventions. We sought out attendees with disabilities to hear their thoughts about the convention. In this piece, we take a look at physical accessibility concerns.

Cleveland, July 22 – While disability rights have not been discussed during the Republican National Convention, delegates and guests with physical disabilities have found the convention to be fully accessible.

“I’m amazed, they got ramps everywhere they need a ramp, and they have been overly protective and helpful,” said Kay Durdan of Florida, who uses a wheelchair.

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Eric Trump Says Father is Running for Families with Special Needs Children: Voters Waiting on Plan Details

Cleveland, July 21 – Eric Trump had one message to the Republican National Convention last night – his father is “running for you” – and, for the first time since the convention began Monday afternoon, his speech included America’s largest minority group – people with disabilities.

“To single mothers, to families with special needs children, to middle class families who no longer can afford medical benefits sufficient to cover their everyday needs, my father is running for you.”

Until Eric Trump’s speech, no other primetime convention speaker had mentioned disability directly in his or her speech. Yet one-in-five people in America have a disability, and more than half of American voters have a close family member or friend with a disability.

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Who is Margo Hudson, the Woman who Recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the RNC?

Cleveland, July 20 – Margo Hudson passed the GED test in 2012 on her sixth try after deciding to start studying for her degree when she was 45 years old.

Four years later, Hudson delivered the Pledge of Allegiance during the third evening of the Republican National Convention.

While Hudson was not given an opportunity to share her story, it is an important one to tell.

She grew up on the South Side of Chicago with little support from her family or school. Her learning disability went undiagnosed and she dropped out of high school in the tenth grade.

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Second Night of RNC Elects to Make Only Some of America Work Again

Cleveland, July 20 – Following Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” last night’s theme of the Republican National Convention was “Make America Work Again.” A more appropriate title might have been “Make Some of America Work Again,” as the employment of people with disabilities was entirely ignored. In fact, much of the night’s speakers focused extensively on attacking presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, rather than talking about the headlining issue.

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First Night of RNC Neglected Disability, Missing Opportunity for Voter Outreach

Cleveland, July 19 – The first night’s theme of the Republican National Convention was “Make America Safe Again,” but all of the speakers neglected to talk about the safety of America’s largest minority – people with disabilities.

This was especially evident in Melania Trump’s speech when she said her husband represented all people, but neglected to mention people with disabilities.

“[Donald Trump] offers a new direction, welcoming change, prosperity and greater cooperation among peoples and nations,” Melania said Monday evening. “Donald intends to represent all of the people- not just some of the people. That includes Christians and Jews and Muslims. It includes Hispanics and African-Americans and Asians, and the poor and the middle-class.”

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Blind Singer Marlana VanHoose Blows Away Republican Convention with National Anthem

Cleveland, July 18 – The first night of the Republican National Convention opened with a moving performance of the Star Spangled Banner by Marlana VanHoose, a young woman who has been blind from birth and diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two.

“I love this country. It is a complete honor to be chosen to honor my country on this platform at the Convention,” said VanHoose.

VanHoose was born with Cytomeglovirus and her optic nerve never formed. Her parents were told she would not live past the age of one. But she proved doctors wrong and by the age of two, she was singing and playing the piano.

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Kasich Boycotts RNC, Signs Two Bills Addressing Developmental Disabilities

Cleveland, July 18 – Ohio Gov. John Kasich is not attending the Republican National Convention, even though it’s taking place in his state. The former Republican presidential hopeful, who has not endorsed presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, says he is focusing on his state instead.

Kasich often talked about disability issues while on the campaign trail and recently signed into law two bills addressing developmental disabilities for the state of Ohio.

“Helping Ohioans with developmental disabilities has been a priority and I’m pleased to sign House Bill 158 and House Bill 483 to help us build upon our progress,” Kasich said in a Facebook post. “Thank you to Rep. Jonathan Dever and Rep. Ron Amstutz for their leadership. We are showing the nation the good we can achieve by working together, across the aisle.

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