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Ohio Senate Race Offers Opportunity to Highlight Disability Rights

Washington, Oct. 16 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Ohio, Respectability is releasing its updated Ohio Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming senate and presidential elections. Green Party candidate Joe DeMare, who is running against Democrat Ted Strickland and incumbent Republican Rob Portman, for the senate seat, completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for people with disabilities. Portman and Strickland have not yet responded to the questionnaire.

Twenty-four additional candidates for Senate, as well as nine candidates for governor, from both sides of the aisle (20 Democrats, 13 Republicans, 1 Green Party) have responded so far, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. The responses also are geographically-diverse, coming from states all around the country, as politicians are paying more and more attention to the disability community. On the presidential level, Democrat Hillary Clinton has completed the questionnaire while Republican Donald Trump has yet to do so.

The #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaires were designed by and for people with disabilities (PwDs) and those who love them to know where candidates stand on key issues. RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaires are purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls.

The presidential questionnaire was created during the primary season and asked all of the presidential candidates to comment on 16 disability questions. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded by addressing all of the questions. Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, the Trump campaign has not yet filled out the questionnaire. The American Association of People with Disabilities and the National Council on Independent Living also has a nonpartisan presidential questionnaire, which both Clinton and Trump have completed. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have not filled out either questionnaire.

The down-ballot survey was adapted from the presidential questionnaire to ask gubernatorial candidates 16 questions and senatorial candidates 17 questions. All answers are posted verbatim and in full on The RespectAbility Report, a publication that covers the intersection of disability and politics.

Ohio’s 1,555,348 people with disabilities now have a chance to read DeMare’s responses and understand where he lies on certain issues. RespectAbility is still awaiting responses from Portman and Strickland and will publish them verbatim if and when they are received.

Despite the leadership from Gov. John Kasich and a growing state economy, Ohio only ranks 30th in the country in terms of employment rate of people with disabilities. Ohio varies greatly when it comes to the employment of people with and without disabilities. The state’s employment rate for people without disabilities lies at 77 percent. Meanwhile, only 34.6 percent of working-age Ohioans with disabilities statewide are employed. This election cycle brings with it an opportunity to improve and increase opportunities for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. Voters are looking to know where the candidates stand on important disability issues so that they can help improve these efforts this coming election.

In his response, DeMare, whose son is hard of hearing and therefore learned ASL and became a professional ASL interpreter, provided a plan to reduce barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

“I plan to support and strengthen legislation such as the ADA, IDEA, and ABLE acts,” he responded. “I believe that disabled people receiving Social Security benefits should be able to receive full benefits and a full time paycheck for a period of some years with SS benefits tapering off very gradually perhaps over a period of 10  years, with full reinstatement of SS benefits in case of job loss.”

Fully one-out-of-five Americans 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 nationally 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.

According to a new report from Rutgers University, 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in the November 2016 elections, representing close to one-sixth of the total electorate. That’s an increase of nearly 11 percent since 2008.

RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said, “It is vital for us to know where the candidates stand on the disability aspects of economic, stigma, education, safety, transportation, housing, healthcare, foreign affairs, criminal justice and other issues. 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. We also are disappointed that Mr. Trump, former Gov. Strickland and Sen. Portman have yet to complete the questionnaire and hope they will do so soon. We will send out any updates that arrive.”

Ohio Needs to Improve Outcomes for Citizens with Disabilities
There are 840,550 Ohioans with disabilities who are between the ages of 18-64. Additionally, there are 50,300 Ohioans ages 16-20 with disabilities. More than 232,000 Ohio students have individual education plans (IEPs). However, many Ohioans with disabilities have not yet received a disability diagnosis they need, and thus are not yet receiving the school accommodations and supports that they need to succeed. Many students who might need support to succeed academically instead find themselves trapped into a lifetime of poverty or flowing down the school to prison pipeline.

Ohio can greatly improve competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. Currently only 34.6 percent of working-age Ohioans with disabilities are employed compared to 77 percent of those without disabilities. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.

RespectAbility, founded in 2013, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. It 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). According to Ohio’s written state plan, Only 34.6 percent of the 840,550 working age Ohioans with disabilities are employed. As the labor force in Ohio is starting to experience talent shortages, Ohioans with disabilities can offer valued and needed talent that can help grow Ohio’s overall economy. Many of the critical issues in Ohio concern the need for a disability lens on the overall work of the workforce system and the need to better align programs.

One of the most important facets of WIOA is that it raises expectations for youth with disabilities and assists states to provide them with the supports they need to ensure success. Indeed, as Ohio’s Baby Boomers retire and your state’s economy evolves, employers are starting to experience increasing talent shortage. Ohioans with disabilities are an untapped resource that can be trained to bridge that gap. Indeed, 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.

Evidence shows that people with disabilities can provide a wonderful solution to companies and other employers that want to succeed. The diverse skills, greater loyalty and higher retention rates of people with disabilities are already starting to meet employer talent needs in increasing numbers around America. With WIOA, Ohio can benefit from that progress if it truly breaks down silos within government agencies and partners, and lets innovation, based on evidence-based practices, take place.

However, the gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is still too large around the entire country. 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.


Text: #PwDsVote 2016 Disability Questionnaire: Ohio Voters Guide Click on the image to view all of Joe DeMare's answers to the questionnaire. Rob Portman has not submitted his responses yet. Ted Strickland has not submitted his responses yet. Click on the image to view all of Hillary Clinton's answers to the questionnaire. Donald Trump has yet to submit responses to the questionnaire but click the image to read our coverage of his disability conversations. Image contains text: RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. For more information, contact: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi: 202-365-0787, Lauren Appelbaum: 202-591-0703,;,

Remember to Vote
Ohio residents can vote for the candidates of their choice either on Election Day or through absentee voting. Ohioans had until Oct. 11, 2016, to register to vote for the general election. Registered Ohioans who are unable to go to their polling place on Election Day may vote early through absentee ballots beginning Oct. 12 through Nov. 7. Applications for absentee ballots must be received by noon on Nov. 5 in order to be eligible. More information regarding absentee voting is available at: Can You Vote Absentee?

Published in#PwDsVote Voter Guide

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