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Calling All Disability Activists – Engage Your State’s Candidates to Complete #PwDsVote Questionnaire!

Image saying VOTE with O being an image of a person in a wheelchair
America has 56 million people with disabilities, comprising the largest minority group in America, and the only one that, due to an accident or illness, anyone can join at any time.

Washington, Aug. 29 – We’re calling all disability activists to join us in engaging candidates in open and competitive senate and gubernatorial races to complete the #PwDsVote Senate & Gubernatorial Disability Questionnaire!

Last winter, RespectAbility sent the #PwDsVote Presidential Campaign Questionnaire to all of the presidential candidates. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton responded in full. While several Republican primary candidates did, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has yet to return any answers to the questionnaire.

Now RespectAbility has adapted the questionnaire for down-ballot races, focusing on open and competitive senate and gubernatorial races. Each candidate has received a minimum of three emails in July and August and, with the exception of a few with unlisted numbers, a phone call from a RespectAbility Fellow.

However, many campaigns only respond positively to a constituent, which we have seen in North Carolina with two local volunteers who have taken lead in reaching out to their candidates with success.

We are asking for help from people around the country to call their states’ candidates and urge them to complete the questionnaire. Identify yourself as a constituent, but as we are a nonprofit, please do not identify your political party. The questionnaire itself has been written in a way that is acceptable for 501c3 nonprofits, is nonpartisan and is not electioneering. We will not be using this questionnaire to rate or endorse any candidate.

The linked excel list includes candidates’ email addresses, phone numbers, appropriate contact person (where we could identify) and Twitter handles. In the first column, if there is a note saying the candidate already said they are working on it, then please do not contact them as we do not want to upset them if they are already in process.

Our original deadline was Monday, August 29, but so far we are still waiting for many responses. However, we have had some amazing one-on-one conversations with candidates and expect to receive many more responses this week. We are extending the deadline to Friday, September 2, but we need to continue reaching out to them today.

All answers will be published in full on http://therespectabilityreport.org/ and emailed out to members of press who cover disability and/or politics in the candidates’ state in an effort for more coverage of the responses. Our goal is for all major candidates of each state’s race to respond so we can publish both (or all) of them together. If candidates do not respond by Friday but respond following the deadline, we will share their responses at a later date as well.

You may not find your state included because there is not an open and/or competitive gubernatorial or Senate race. If you think we missed one, please let us know. Otherwise, you can still be involved by tweeting at all of the candidates.

Here are some Tweet examples:

  • @ Please fill out @Respect_Ability’s #PwDsVote disability questionnaire: bit.ly/PwDsVoteQ. We’re 20% of country!
  • @ Don’t ignore 1-in-5 Americans! Fill out @Respect_Ability’s #PwDsVote disability questionnaire: bit.ly/PwDsVoteQ

Please do not hesitate to contact Lauren Appelbaum (laurena@respectabilityusa.org) with any questions or Twitter how-to tutorials.

These are the questions RespectAbility submitted to the campaigns. They also provided each candidate with a 10-page resource guide to help with answering these questions. View it here: bit.ly/PwDsVoteQ.

Please first start by answering YES or NO regarding if you have a plan/answer on this issue or not. Then include specific details of your plan up to 250 words for each answer. In addition, if you have more to say on an issue, please link back to the appropriate place on your website for people to learn more.

  1. Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If yes, please describe.
  2. Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
  3. Do you have a proven record on improving or a plan to improve the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
  4. Do you have a plan/commitment to reduce the stigmas about people with disabilities that are barriers to employment, independence and equality? If yes, please describe.
  5. Do you have a proven record on enabling, or a plan to enable, people with disabilities to have jobs, careers and to start their own businesses? Do you have specific strategies for youth employment for people with disabilities and/or sector strategies such as jobs and careers in STEM, hospitality, healthcare and elder care? If yes, please describe.
  6. Do you have a plan to enable students with disabilities, including those from historically marginalized communities and backgrounds, to receive the diagnosis, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and accommodations/services they need to succeed in school and be prepared for competitive employment? If yes, please describe.
  7. Do you have a plan to reform the benefits system (Medicaid, Medicaid buy-in) to enable people with disabilities to work to the best of their capacities without losing supports they need to work? If yes, please describe.
  8. Do you have a plan to ensure people with disabilities are eligible for affordable health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions? If yes, please describe.
  9. Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions, and have the community attendant supports they need to work? If yes, please describe.
  10. Do you have a plan to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive services that would prevent them from being swept up into the criminal justice system, divert individuals with disabilities who are arrested to treatment options in lieu of jail where appropriate, receive needed accommodations in the criminal justice process and while incarcerated, and offer appropriate re-entry support to help individuals with disabilities leaving jails and prisons re-integrate into their communities and secure jobs? If yes, please describe.
  11. People with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime as those without disabilities. People with disabilities also are far more likely to suffer from police violence, partially because manifestations of disability can be misunderstood as defiant behavior. Do you have a plan to address these issues? If yes, please describe.
  12. Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault. Do you have a plan to address this issue? If yes, please describe.
  13. Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian employment? If yes, please describe.
  14. Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work or are seeking work? If yes, please describe.
  15. Do you have a plan to address the lack of accessible transportation options that is a barrier to work for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
  16. Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e., assistive technologies, devices) that can help people with disabilities become more successfully employed, productive and independent? If yes, please describe.
  17. (SENATORS ONLY) In your foreign policy and national security plan, do you plan to continue America’s tradition of standing up for the rights of oppressed people, including people with disabilities, around the world? If yes, please describe.
Published in#PwDsVote 2016 QuestionnaireCongressGovernorsHow-To

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