Washington, Aug. 30 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream, has asked Senate candidates on both sides of the aisle to fill out a questionnaire on disability issues. Democratic Senate hopeful Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania has completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for Senate and Gubernatorial Candidates for people with disabilities.
RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.
There are 1,689,123 Pennsylvanians with disabilities, 831,700 of whom are between the ages of 21-64. There are an additional 59,000 people with disabilities between the ages of 16-20, many of whom are looking to enter the workforce. Pennsylvania’s Governor, Tom Wolf, recently issued an extremely positive executive order to expand job opportunities for people with disabilities.
But Pennsylvania ranks just 31st in the percent of people with disabilities employed (34.5 percent). Furthermore, these statistics include those employed in sheltered workshops and/or only working part time. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
Pennsylvania also has a large employment gap between people with disabilities employed versus people without disabilities employed – 42 percent. 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.
Therefore, RespectAbility sought out answers from both McGinty and her opponent, Republican Pat Toomey, the current U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania. RespectAbility will publish Toomey’s responses when they are received.
We are presenting McGinty’s answers in full below.
QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. My campaign has a group of advisors who are able to consult on a variety of issues, ensuring that we are putting the best policies forward for all Pennsylvanians, including the over 1.6 million with disabilities.
QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. My campaign works hard to ensure we are putting forth policies that are beneficial to all Pennsylvanians, including people with disabilities. We welcome all Pennsylvanians, including people with disabilities, to join with us in our campaign and to have a voice in how we can make Pennsylvania and our country a better place with greater opportunities for working families.
QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving or a plan to improve the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. As Chief of Staff to Governor Wolf, I was proud to help fully expand Medicaid to provide health coverage to over 625,000 Pennsylvanians. This critical expansion is helping thousands more Pennsylvanians receive affordable healthcare – including Pennsylvanians with disabilities.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. Every American should have equal rights and the ability to live freely without stigma – regardless of sex, race, disability or any other factor. People with disabilities are the same as every other all Americans – looking for a fair shot at success. In the Senate, I’ll stand with Pennsylvanians with disabilities to combat stigmas and the barriers that still stand in the way of access to quality healthcare and education and employment opportunities.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. Barriers to employment and discrimination are all too real for people with disabilities. We can and we must take steps to tear those barriers down – both to combat inequality and grow our economy, because it just makes plain economic sense to have people with disabilities fully engaged in our workforce. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act took important steps towards expanding on the Americans with Disabilities Act by expanding access to quality job training programs for people with disabilities. We can do so much more. I support smart ideas like the Transition to Independence Act, introduced by my friend Senator Bob Casey, which would create a multi-state demonstration program aimed at increased involvement in integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. In my hometown of Philadelphia, we’ve seen in recent years how students with disabilities can be impacted when the funding is scarce and guidance counselors and support staff are cut. As the mother of three teenage daughters, I understand how important it is for teachers and administrators to be aware of students’ unique needs in order for them to provide a complete educational experience. In the Senate, I’ll fight to ensure that all schools have the funding they need to give kids adequate support.
QUESTION 7: Do you have a plan to reform the benefits system (Medicaid, Medicaid buyin) to enable people with disabilities to work to the best of their capacities without losing supports they need to work? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: It’s important for lawmakers to remember that living with a disability often means taking on more costs than those who are not disabled, and that your salary doesn’t change just because you have more bills each month. I believe we should explore options relating to work for people with disabilities, and would be open to options that allow the disabled to work while also receiving support from programs like Medicaid.
QUESTION 8: Do you have a plan to ensure people with disabilities are eligible for affordable health insurance regardless of preexisting conditions? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. I support the Affordable Care Act the progress it made towards ending healthcare discrimination against pre-existing conditions. In the Senate, I will defend the ACA from partisan attacks that try to weaken or repeal this critical legislation. Our job now is to build upon and improve the ACA, including improving the provisions that relate to people with disabilities.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. I am a strong believer in giving seniors and people with disabilities the option of receiving care in the comfort of their own homes, while also better supporting their caregivers. In the Senate, I would work to make it easier for people with disabilities to live at home by supporting proposals that incentivize homecare, increase wages for homecare workers, and dedicate resources to the training of homecare workers.
QUESTION 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 reentry support to help individuals with disabilities leaving jails and prisons reintegrate into their communities and secure jobs? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. I believe diversionary and re-entry support programs are critical to reducing recidivism and should include procedures that are specific to people with disabilities. I am hopeful that as our nation begins to stop using private contractors to run federal prisons, we can increase oversight and work to stop rights violations that are rooted in misunderstanding and ignorance.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. As we’ve seen all too often recently, we have some work to do when it comes to the relationships between police officers and the communities they serve. My father was a cop who walked the beat for over 20 years in Philadelphia, and in that time he worked hard to get to know the members of his community and understand their lives and backstories. I strongly support community policing initiatives in that same spirit and de-escalation training for police officers, and believe that training should include disability awareness and training. In the Senate, I will work to double funding for the COPS hiring program – increasing our national investment in police officers committed to the goals of community policing.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. Nationally, initiatives like the It’s On Us campaign have shed light on the scope of rape and sexual assault in our country. To begin to make progress it’s important to recognize that people with disabilities may face additional barriers to reporting assault, or being taken at their word when they do report. We should ensure that we’re giving victims the support they need and a platform to continue to reduce the stigma surrounding assault.
QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian employment? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. My brother served in the Marines for a number of years and I saw firsthand how difficult it can be to transition back into civilian life. I support increasing services for veterans—from healthcare to housing and job support, to getting a handle on day-to-day things like paying bills. All of these services should have special provisions for those veterans with disabilities, ensuring that the transition is smooth for vets across the board.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. We should ensure that new housing development includes affordable housing units, and that all units are accessible to those with disabilities.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. In cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, public transit is accessible, and authorities like SEPTA offer additional Alternate Acceptable Service for people with disabilities, providing a freedom of movement. I support increasing funding for transportation infrastructure so that seniors and those with disabilities have access to transit services across states like Pennsylvania, including areas where a robust public transit system may not already exist.
QUESTION 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.
ANSWER: Yes. I strongly believe in the innovative spirit of Americans and think that Congress and the federal government broadly should be doing all it can to encourage technological advancements that improve the daily lives of people across the U.S. We should increase our investments in advanced technologies while also encouraging smart partnerships between the private sector, non-profits and disability community to promote innovations.
QUESTION 17: 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.
ANSWER: Yes. I feel that the best way for America to show our support for people with disabilities internationally would be to ratify the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and encourage all nations to adopt the standards set forth in the ADA. In the Senate, I would absolutely vote to ratify and would encourage my colleagues to do the same.
RespectAbility has asked all the candidates for Senator on both sides of the aisle to complete the same questionnaire. We will share responses from additional campaigns as we receive them.
The RespectAbility Report is a nonpartisan political commentary on the 2016 U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues. The RespectAbility Report has covered all of the Democratic and Republican candidates for president and has begun coverage of down ballot candidates. Coverage can be found at http://therespectabilityreport.org/. The RespectAbility Report is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates.