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Month: November 2018

Disability Supporter Sisolak Becomes Nevada’s Next Governor

Steve Sisolak headshot

Carson City, Nevada, Nov. 7—Democrat Steve Sisolak was elected as Nevada’s next governor yesterday in the midterm elections, defeating Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.

While campaigning, Sisolak completed a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. The questionnaire included 10 questions on topics important to people with disabilities and those close to them. Adam Laxalt, the Republican candidate, did not respond to requests to complete the questionnaire.

In response to the questionnaire, Sisolak emphasized his support for programs that reduce stigma against people with disabilities and prepare them for the workforce.

“I will work with disability advocacy organizations like RespectAbility to maximize exposure to this issue in the press and bring real solutions into the office space for our disabled citizenry,” he said in his response.

Sisolak also highlighted the importance of supporting people with disabilities as they move out of school and into work spaces.

“Apprenticeships expose people with disabilities to the transition from school to work and better prepare them for the challenges that come with professional experience,” he said. “Among the best programs is Project SEARCH, which is a one-year fully integrated workplace program for people with disabilities. The goal is to secure competitive employment, and the 70 percent success rate speaks for itself.”

Sisolak said he supports more services for students with disabilities who choose to go to college, as well. “We must also improve post-secondary education opportunities by integrating career services and disability services into a hybrid program for people with disabilities on college campuses.”

There are 198,826 working-age people with disabilities living in Nevada, and 83,453 people have jobs. With an unemployment rate for people with disabilities of 58 percent, Nevada ranks 13th on this list of the best states for employment for people with disabilities (42 percent).

View Sisolak’s full response to the questionnaire below:

 

Disability Supporter David Ige Wins Re-Election as Hawaii’s Governor

headshot of Gov David IgeHonolulu, Hawaii, Nov. 7 – Democrat David Ige has won a second term as Hawaii’s Governor after beating Andria Tupola in this year’s election.

Ige responded earlier during the campaign season to a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. Andria Tupola, Ige’s opponent, also responded to the questionnaire. It can be found at The RespectAbility Report.

In his responses, Ige highlighted his efforts as governor to provide Hawaii residents with disabilities with better employment opportunities and inclusion in the workplace. “We see employment of people with disabilities as a civil rights issue, and closing the employment gap is a key strategy that will benefit the entire community. Members of my administration are working to establish Hawaii as an Employment First state, and I am steadfastly committed to making this happen.”

More than 156,000 people with disabilities live in Hawaii. This number includes 66,031 who are working age (18 to 64). Of that population, an estimated 39.9 percent are employed, leaving 60.1 percent out of work. In comparison, 78.6 percent of working-age Hawaiians without disabilities are employed. Hawaii ranks 18th in terms of employment rate for people with disabilities in the U.S.

Ige also touched on education within his responses specifically on aiding high school students with disabilities on their way to employment or secondary education.  “A core initiative is the Jobs Now Partnership (JNP) facilitated by the University of Hawaii Center on Disabilities Studies (CDS), which is working with local high schools to support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their pathway to employment. This pilot demonstration is a partnership with five agencies and will assist high school sophomores to seniors develop and achieve individual employment outcomes.”

Ige also issued a proclamation for Hawaii naming October 2018 as Disability Employment Awareness Month. “People with disabilities are productive and loyal, and deserve the same opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence like anyone else,” writes Gov. Ige in the proclamation. “The State of Hawai’i has a vested interest in increasing the inclusion of people living with a disability by providing access, meaningful services, and improved outcomes for all citizens at the state, county, local, and private sector levels.”

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.”

Ige’s responses to the questionnaire can be found below.

Disability Supporter Kelly Becomes Kansas’ Next Governor

Laura Kelly standing and smiling with arms crossed wearing a green shirt in front of a blurred out green tree background
Laura Kelly

Topeka, Kansas, Nov. 6 – In this year’s gubernatorial election, Democratic candidate Senate Minority Whip Laura Kelly, a member of the Kansas State Senate for the 18th district, clinched the victory for the Kansas Governor seat. She defeated Republican candidate Kris Kobach, who is Kansas’ Secretary of State.

Earlier this campaign season, Kelly completed a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. The questionnaire included 10 questions on topics important to people with disabilities and those close to them. Despite repeated requests to his campaign, Kobach did not respond to the questionnaire.

Kelly said one of her proudest accomplishments in the legislature was achieving support for early childhood education programs. When it comes to seeing students with disabilities succeed in school and prepare for competitive employment, Kelly explained, “We know the significant impact early investment can have on kids going into kindergarten and the difference it can make in the years to come.”

“When I am governor,” Kelly continued, “Kansas will invest more in programs like this that benefit our children and put them on the past to success so they can go on to high school, higher education and eventually the workforce.”

With 44.7 percent of Kansas’ 188,671 working-age people with disabilities employed, the Sunflower State ranks 15th in terms of employment rate for people with disabilities in the U.S. But this still leaves 55.3 percent of Kansas’ working-age residents with disabilities out of work. In comparison, 19.2 percent of Kansans without disabilities are not working.

View Kelly’s response to the questionnaire below:

Disability Supporter Pritzker Wins Illinois Governorship

Springfield, Illinois, Nov. 6 – Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker is projected to take the governorship in Illinois defeating Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner.

Pritzker responded to a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national disability organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. The questionnaire to which Pritzker responded gauges how candidates plan to tackle disability issues. This way, voters with concerns about disability policy know which candidates have the positions that they agree with the most. Pritzker’s opponent, Rauner, did not respond to the questionnaire despite repeated requests to the campaign from RespectAbility.

While Pritzker did not respond to each of the 10 listed questions but rather issued a statement highlighting overall policy goals in response.

“People with disabilities deserve real options that provide them with the supports they need to live independent, meaningful lives that are integrated and included in the community,” responded Pritzker. “We can do this by improving and increasing access to a range of reliable supports designed to meet the individualized needs of people with disabilities, and by expanding access to economic opportunity.”

Economic opportunity for the disability community is certainly a pressing issue in Illinois. Only 35.7 percent of working-age Illinoisans, between the ages of 18 and 64, with disabilities are employed. This means that 64.3 percent, or more than 400,000 working-age adults, remain without jobs. In comparison, 77.7 percent of working-age Illinoisans without disabilities are employed.

To help address such issues, Pritzker wants to begin working toward “principles for an inclusive administration.” In summary, the goals of Pritzker are to ensure that people with disabilities live independent lives, free of poverty and judgment, with access to the services that they need.

You can read Pritzker’s full statement below.

Disability Supporter Polis Wins Colorado Governorship

jaredpolisDenver, Colorado, Nov. 6 – Colorado Rep. and Democrat Jared Polis has secured a victory over Republican Walker Stapleton in the 2018 Colorado Gubernatorial race. This makes Polis the first openly gay governor to hold office in United States history.

Polis responded earlier during the campaign season to a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. Despite repeated attempts, RespectAbility was unable to obtain a response from Walker Stapleton, Polis’ opponent.

In his responses, Polis highlighted his efforts as a U.S. Representative to serve the disability community and encourage them to seek opportunities, sharing some of the major legislation he has been a part of.

“I’ve been a cosponsor on the Disability Integrations Act of 2017 (H.R. 2427, 115th Congress), the Workplace Choice and Flexibility for Individuals with Disabilities Act (H.R. 5680, 115th Congress), and another bill to amend the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 to provide eligibility under the assistive technology program for farmers with disabilities to veterans with disabilities and their families (H.R. 5448, 115th Congress).”  This legislation helps create opportunities and foster innovation for technology to assist persons with disabilities seeking employment.

Colorado has more than 308,342 people with disabilities, including 295,000 who are working age (18 to 64). Of that population, an estimated 42.7 percent are employed, leaving 53 percent out of work. In comparison, 79.7 percent of working-age Coloradoans without disabilities are employed. Colorado ranks 12th in terms of employment rate for people with disabilities in the U.S.

Polis also discussed his efforts to improve education for special needs students in Colorado while serving on Colorado’s state Board of Education. “When I was on the State Board of Education, I saw first-hand the issues that Colorado schools were facing. That’s why I got to work and started two public schools for students who needed unique support to succeed. I started the New America school for young immigrants, so they could learn English while still working through the curriculum for their grade level.” This is a step forward for the more than 98,000 students with disabilities in Colorado, of which only 57.2 percent may graduate high school in the spring.

Polis’ responses to the questionnaire can be found below.

Disability Advocate Bob Casey Keeps Pennsylvania Seat in U.S. Senate

My Portrait SessionsPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, Nov. 6 – Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., successfully defended his seat against Republican challenger Lou Barletta, who had hoped to unseat Casey in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this campaign season, Casey completed a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. The questionnaire included 10 questions on topics important to people with disabilities and those close to them. Despite repeated requests to his campaign, Barletta did not respond to the questionnaire.

More than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians live with a disability. That total 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.

In responding to the questionnaire, Casey noted his efforts in blocking House-passed legislation, the Americans With Disabilities Education and Reform Act. “If passed,” Casey said, the legislation “would have gutted Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act and removed the incentives for those providing services to the general public to make those services accessible for people with disabilities.”

“While employment, education, health care, and other key policies are critical to reaching the goals” of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he added, “protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities is primary and the House bill took direct aim at the rights of people with disabilities.”

With 64.5 percent of Pennsylvania’s 909,897 working-age people with disabilities out of work, employment is one area of high importance. There are reasons to optimistic. Last year, 6,993 Pennsylvanians with disabilities got new jobs and the year before that saw 13,763 people with disabilities getting new jobs. Pennsylvania currently ranks 31st in employing people with disabilities compared to the rest of the country. However, often there is an issue where if one makes too much money, they lose their ability to have any assistance – including a personal care assistant who may be necessary for an individual to live independently and then be able to be employed.

Casey noted that he was “the primary Senate author of the Stephen Beck A Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014, making it possible for people who acquire their disability before age 26 to open a savings account that allows them to save up to $15,000 a year up to a total of $100,000 and not lose their federal disability benefits… Since its passage, 39 states have created ABLE account programs, making it possible for people with disabilities to save for education expenses, begin small businesses, put away money for a car, or purchase a home.”

Pennsylvania is home to innovative programs for people with disabilities. Located in Bryn Mawr, JCHAI is a multi-faceted organization with cutting-edge inclusive, supportive vocational programs and living options for people with a range of disabilities. Across the state Project SEARCH offers school-to-work opportunities for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities to enter the competitive workforce. Project SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. From serving seniors to opening pathways into healthcare careers, these opportunities are having transformative impacts on the lives of young people with disabilities. In diverse places such as UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, Wellspan Hospital in Gettysburg, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown and at Drexel University, young Pennsylvanians with disabilities are receiving the training, experience and skills they need to succeed.

While Casey’s answers are extremely thorough in detailing policy toward full inclusion and equity for people with disabilities, Casey also works to ensure he practices what he preaches. His office has hired employees with disabilities and has worked with the Senate Democratic Diversity office “to create a database of people with disabilities interested in working in Senate offices both in Washington, D.C., and in the state offices.” By employing people with disabilities, Casey, and other Members of Congress, can become more informed about how different policies affect individuals with disabilities in a real way and ensure that people with disabilities are included throughout the entire process.

The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and Sen. Casey’s responses follows:

Disability Advocate Cardin Wins Re-Election to U.S. Senate

bencardinRockville, Maryland, Nov. 6 – Sen. Ben Cardin has won a third term in the U.S. Senate. The incumbent Senior Senator from Maryland defeated Republican Tony Campbell.

During the campaign season, Cardin responded to a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. RespectAbility also reached out repeatedly to the campaign of Republican Tony Campbell, but received no response to the questionnaire from them.

In responses to 10 questions submitted by the organization, Cardin’s campaign said that, “Senator Cardin has championed the cause of inclusion and full political and economic equality for individuals with disabilities in the United States and abroad.”

“Senator Cardin voted for the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 and advocated for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He has stayed active in disability issues by leading and supporting legislation and letters that promote the rights of individuals with disabilities. He maintains multiple staff who advise him on this issue from the perspectives of civil rights, labor, and health.”

Maryland has more than 334,505 working age people with disabilities, but 58.9 percent of them are out of work. That means that just 41.1 percent are employed. In comparison, 80.2 percent of working-age residents of Maryland without disabilities are employed. Maryland ranks 17th in terms of employment rate for people with disabilities.

This past July, new center at the University of Maryland opened that will be dedicated to employment possibilities for youth with disabilities. The Center for Transition and Career Innovation for Youth with Disabilities will be a division at the School of Education. The center will conduct research work on college and job preparation for high school students with disabilities. The University of Maryland, College Park will partner with the Disabilities Department, the Division of Rehabilitation Services and the Division of Special Education & Early Intervention Services for the center.

Meanwhile, youth with disabilities, along with adults with disabilities, can find services in the state’s active Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). DORS connects businesses with people with disabilities, who have the job skills, during the hiring process. In 2017, they matched 2,565 employees with disabilities to different jobs. They also offer counseling, career assessments, technology and training. Likewise, DORS offers business owners and hiring managers awareness training, inclusion initiatives and consultations.

Read Cardin’s full response to the questionnaire below:

Disability Supporter Warren Keeps Massachusetts Seat in U.S. Senate

Headshot of Elizabeth WarrenBoston, Massachusetts, Nov. 6 – Democrat Elizabeth Warren kept her seat as Massachusetts’ U.S. Senator when she was elected over Republican Geoff Diehl today.

Warren completed a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. The questionnaire included 10 questions on topics important to people with disabilities and those close to them. Despite repeated requests to his campaign, Diehl did not respond to the questionnaire.

In the questionnaire response, Warren focused on jobs for people with disabilities that provide fair wages—an important topic, since 61.4 percent of the 390,729 working-age people with disabilities in Massachusetts are out of work. Massachusetts is 24th on this list ranking states from best to worst on employment for people with disabilities.

“First off, individuals with disabilities should have the opportunity to reach their full potential in competitive and integrated employment settings, and they should receive fair wages for their work,” Warren said in her response. “For these reasons, I have worked to end the subminimum wage, which makes it perfectly legal for an employer to pay a worker with a disability less than a worker without a disability for doing the same job.”

Warren also highlighted the importance of education for people with disabilities. She has introduced legislation for both trade programs and post-secondary education that benefits people with disabilities.

“​I introduced and passed the Free Career and Technical Education for High School Students Act in order to direct federal funding streams toward reducing or eliminating out-of-pocket costs associated with Career and Technical Education programs for high school students, including students with disabilities,” Warren said. ​“If classes that prepare high school students for college are free, then career training classes that prepare students to enter the workforce should also be free.”

Accessibility can be a hurdle for college students with disabilities. Warren addressed this with her AIM HIGH Act, which created “guidelines for accessible instructional materials on college campuses.”

“I recognize that many students face special obstacles to their education, and I will always stand up for programs that help to level the playing field,” Warren said.

View Warren’s full response to the questionnaire below:

Disability Supporter Brown Re-Elected in Ohio Senate Race

Sherrod Brown headshotColumbus, Ohio, Nov. 6 – In this year’s election, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Democrat incumbent, has been reelected as Ohio’s Senator. He defeated Republican challenger Jim Renacci, who has served as the House Representative for Ohio’s 16thdistrict.

Brown responded to a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national disability organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. This way, voters with concerns about disability policy know which candidates have the positions that they agree with the most. Brown’s opponent, Renacci, did not respond to the questionnaire despite repeated requests to the campaign from RespectAbility.

According to the 2017 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, 35.8 percent of working-age (people who are between the age of 18 and 64) Ohioans with disabilities are employed. That means nearly 550,00 working-age adults with disabilities are out of work. In comparison, 78.5 percent of working-age Ohioans without disabilities are employed.

Brown is the co-sponsor of two pieces of legislation, the Disability Employment Incentive Act and the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act. Both Acts provide tax incentives to employers who hire people with disabilities and provide accommodations for them.

“I am dedicated to protecting programs like SSDI, Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal programs that help support individuals with disabilities,” he said. “Both bills would enhance tax credits that help support employers who hire individuals with disabilities and make workplaces more accessible to employees with disabilities.”

View Brown’s full responses to the questionnaire below:

Disability Voter Resource Guide 2018

Washington, D.C., Nov. 4 – As voters head to the polls, many are concerned about various access issues from physical accessibility to voter ID laws. This is a federal election year; additionally, many state legislative seats, state executive offices, local offices and ballot amendments will be voted on. We’ve compiled…