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Hawaii’s Senate Race Offers Opportunity to Highlight Disability Rights

Washington, Oct. 19 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Hawaii, RespectAbility has released its Hawaii Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming senate and presidential races. Republican John Carroll, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz, as well as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, has completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for people with disabilities. Hawaii’s 159,475 citizens with disabilities now have a chance to read Carroll’s responses and understand where he lies on certain issues. RespectAbility is still awaiting responses from Brian Schatz and will publish them verbatim if and when they are received.

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 but Stein recently did speak about disability issues during a campaign stop in Texas.

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.

Twenty-six candidates for Senate, as well as 11 candidates for governor, from both sides of the aisle (22 Democrats, 14 Republicans, 1 Green Party) completed the down ballot questionnaire, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. An additional nine candidates responded that they are not completing any questionnaires during this campaign season. 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.

Hawaii ranks eighth in the nation for employment of people with disabilities as 42.4 percent of the working-age people with disabilities in Hawaii have a job. However, there is still work to be done to improve outcomes for people with disabilities. The upcoming election and the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will continue to increase opportunities and employment for people with disabilities, and voters need to know where candidates stand on the issues.

In his response, Carrol, who is hard of hearing himself, mentioned that despite not having experience working with people with disabilities, he is adamant about improving their lives.

“I do not have a proven record of doing so,” he stated. “However, I see people with disabilities in the same light that I see my other constituents. I will hear their needs and address them as they arise. We all deserve the same opportunities.”

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 and Sen. Schatz have yet to complete the questionnaire and hope they will do so soon. We will send out any updates that arrive.”

Hawaii Looks to Expand Disability Employment
There are 69,846 Hawaiians with disabilities who are between the ages of 18-64. Additionally, there are 2,800 Hawaiians ages 16-20 with disabilities. More than 17,000 Hawaii students have individual education plans (IEPs). However, many Hawaiians 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.

Hawaii is in the top ten states when it comes to the employment of people with disabilities. There are 52,007 people with disabilities between the ages of 18 to 64 in Hawaii and 42.4 percent of them are employed. While this makes Hawaii number eight amongst states, there is still a 34.2-point gap when you consider the 76.6 percent of people without disabilities in Hawaii who are working. There are 2,800 youth between the ages of 16-20 with disabilities in Hawaii. Each year a quarter of them will age out of school and because of your state’s hard work, they have increasing chances to find success in the working world.

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 WIOA. Hawaii’s commitment to people with disabilities is evident throughout the written state plan. Because of WIOA, Hawaii has the chance to institutionalize and expand on the many best practices you have already propelled in gaining top ten status in terms of employment outcomes for people with disabilities. From the language of the Unified State Plan, there is a lot of innovative and dedicated work being done on workforce development in Hawaii, especially with the use of Business Leadership Networks and youth employment.

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 Hawaii’s Baby Boomers retire and the state’s economy evolves, employers are starting to experience increasing talent shortage. Hawaiians 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, Hawaii 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.

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.

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 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.

Text: #PwDsVote 2016 Disability Questionnaire: Hawaii Voters Guide Click on the image to view all of John Carroll's answers to the questionnaire. Brian Schatz 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
Hawaii residents can vote for the candidates of their choice on the standard voting schedule, early voting, or through mail ballots. Hawaiians had until Oct. 10, 2016 to register to vote for the election. More information regarding voting and registration can be found at: Registration. Any registered Hawaiian voter can cast their vote through an early vote or absentee ballots. Early voting is available from Oct. 25 through Nov. 5. Any registered voter also can apply for a vote by mail ballot. Fill out an application for a mail ballot and send it to your local clerk’s office. In order for an absentee ballot to be processed, it must arrive to clerk’s office by Nov. 1. More information regarding early voting and absentee ballots can be found at: Early Voting / Vote by Mail.

Published inRespectAbility Disability Voters' Guide

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