Los Angeles, California, Oct. 16 – Responding today to a questionnaire by the disability advocacy group RespectAbility, Matt Munson, who is running for Senate District 20, outlined his views on education, employment and stigma for the 987,522 people with disabilities in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. That includes people who are blind or deaf or have other visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.
According to a recent survey, 74 percent of likely voters have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. The upcoming elections and their results will have an impact on people with disabilities, so it is important to become familiar with the candidates’ thoughts on certain issues.
“Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril,” said former U.S. Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, is the chairman of RespectAbility.
RespectAbility reached out to Munson’s opponent, incumbent Connie M. Leyva, as well, but received no response, according to the organization’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.
RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.
The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and Munson’s replies follows:
QUESTION 1: EDUCATION AND SKILLS: There are more than 183,000 students with disabilities enrolled in Los Angeles County public schools. Of that number, 126,000 are Latinx students with disabilities who face additional barriers such as language differences, inadequate resources, economic disparities and racial discrimination. What will you do to ensure that more and more students with disabilities of all backgrounds receive the skills, resources and opportunities they need to succeed?
ANSWER: 1) Identify their needs early so we know what we need to do from the start than to have to discover the problems in the middle or the end of their school career.
2) I want students with disabilities to have the best potential they can have. I would want to work with federal representatives and the private sector to supplement state funding to help gain the resources we need.
QUESTION 2: JOBS AND INDEPENDENCE: There are 452,879 working-age people with disabilities in Los Angeles County and only 163,363 have jobs. In other parts of the United States, there was a 4-fold increase in new jobs for people with disabilities. Last year, more than 10,000 working-age people with disabilities in Los Angeles left the workforce. What is your plan to support more job opportunities for people with disabilities across Los Angeles County?
ANSWER: 1) My district is a state legislative district, but I would like to use the bully pulpit to maybe encourage the state and counties to offer incentives for the private sector to put people with disabilities in the workforce.
2) The other problem is we need to work with labor unions in particularly in the public sector to help the disabled get jobs. Provisions in outsourcing public-sector jobs should be waived only if it deals with helping the disabled enter the workforce with an option to bring them over as full employees.
QUESTION 3: FIGHTING PREJUDICE: Media representation of minority communities is crucial to reducing discrimination, bias and stigma in our broad culture. What will you do to leverage the power of Hollywood to fight stigmas and empower Los Angelenos with disabilities to work in entertainment, just like anyone else?
ANSWER: Tie tax incentives with efforts to help the disabled communities find jobs in the entertainment industry either as talent or behind the scenes workers.
QUESTION 4: CIVIC ENGAGEMENT & EQUITY: People most directly affected by issues such as education, jobs, prejudice, homelessness, criminal justice, poverty and other issues deserves to have their voice, insights and experiences respected and utilized in finding and implementing solutions. People with disabilities are disproportionally impacted by these issues. As a public official, what will you do to ensure that Los Angelenos with disabilities have “a seat at the table” for all major issues and can be part of solutions so that they and all others can have a better future?
ANSWER: 1) I would try to hire staff and have internship options to those who may be disabled such as hearing or mobility issues.
2) My political party should have a disabilities caucus where we could discuss the issues involved.