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Author: Ariella Barker

Julián Castro’s Message of “People First” Includes People with Disabilities Too

Washington, D.C., May 16 – Julián Castro (D-TX), the former Mayor of San Antonio and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Obama Administration, has had a campaign that emphasizes the importance of putting “People First,” a clear jab at President Donald Trump’s “America First” doctrine. However, since…

Gabbard Says Aloha to All Americans, Including Those with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., May 15 – When Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic Representative from the 2nd congressional district of Hawaii, entered the presidential race, the 38-year-old Iraq war veteran knew that if she were to win the election, she would make history as the first woman president, the first Hindu president, the…

Presidential Hopeful Andrew Yang Advocates for Early Intervention in Autism

Washington, D.C., May 10 — In November of 2017, Andrew Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and an entrepreneur from New York, entered the 2020 Presidential campaign. Yang, the author of the “War on Normal People,” is running on the idea that average Americans are ill-equipped to survive in our economy, where there is increasing levels of income inequality.

His campaign, like his book, discusses the economic impact of workplace automation and our options for the future, including the idea of instituting a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1,000 per month to every American. He calls it the “Freedom Dividend,” and believes it will spur the economy and level the income inequality.

Andrew Yang smiles for the camera
photo credits: WJLA

Many of the issues he describes, from workforce automation to income inequality, strikes at the heart of the disability community, and Yang would be well-served to include them in the conversation of “normal” Americans. Indeed, according to the CDC, people with disabilities comprise 25 percent of our country’s adult population, and more than half of Americans have a loved one with a disability. A recent survey shows that fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. Thus, for a presidential candidate to represent all Americans, he must include people with disabilities.

Presidential Hopeful Cory Booker Fights for Equal Justice for All, Including People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., May 7 – On the first day of African American history month, Sen. Cory Booker announced his campaign for President. Booker is the first African-American U.S. Senator from New Jersey and the 36th Mayor of Newark, but he is not the average politician. He is an Ivy League educated policy wonk and bachelor, who holds celebrity status for his social media presence and famous actress girlfriend, Rosario Dawson, best known for her part in the movie “Rent.” While voters find him charismatic and experienced, in a crowded field he has failed to perform that well in the polls.

If Booker hopes to improve his position in the polls, he must represent all Americans, including people with disabilities, who are politically active swing voters. People with disabilities comprise 25 percent of our country’s adult population, and more than half of all Americans have a loved one with a disability. A recent survey shows that fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities.

Ensuring Disability Inclusion Through Equal Access

Booker stands behind a podium at a presidential campaign rally
photo credits: Observer

For a presidential campaign to be fully inclusive of people with disabilities, it needs to meet the following requirements: (1) offer captioning with every video it shares or produces, (2) mention people with disabilities and their issues, (3) depict people with visible disabilities in its media, (4) reach out to the disability community, and (5) provide accessible campaign events and website.

Booker announced his presidential campaign with a colorful, creative and exciting announcement video on social media that incorporated a black marching band drum line. The video had fantastic and accurate open captioning that only failed to caption the upbeat drum line background music. However, he made no mention of people with disabilities nor depicted any Americans with visible disabilities. And the videos he has since released make these same mistakessometimes even failing to include captioning at all. Thus, he has missed the opportunity, thus far, to have a fully disability inclusive video campaign.

Further, his website says, “Cory is leading the fight for equal justice for all Americans.” However, while his website mentions and depicts diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation, it does not mention or depict people with disabilities once. True diversity exists only if people with disabilities are included, and a candidate cannot represent all Americans if he is excluding 20-25 percent of them.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg Delivers on Pledge to Include People with Disabilities in His Campaign, Including in Hiring Practices

Washington, D.C., May 5 – “Will you be putting people with disabilities in your campaign ads and will you be putting them on your staff?” asked Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the President of RespectAbility. To which, presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg replied, “Yes,” during a campaign stop in the nation’s capital on April 4, making him and Beto O’Rourke the only two presidential candidates to make such a campaign promise on the record.

And by the end of the month, Buttigieg had kept his promise by hiring Emily Voorde, a wheelchair-user, to work for his campaign. This occurred only days after sending a video message using American Sign Language to a deaf supporter to thank him for his support. By quickly keeping this campaign promise, Americans with disabilities have reason to hope that Buttigieg’s campaign will have people with disabilities in mind.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg announces presidential campaign to a large crowd in South Bend, Indiana.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Darron Cummings/AP/REX/Shutterstock (10204155g)

Buttigieg, also known as “Mayor Pete,” is unlike any of his adversaries or any other former president. He is a 37-year-old, openly gay millennial from South Bend, Indiana, who speaks at least seven languages, graduated with honors from Harvard and served in the Navy. In 2012, he became the Mayor of South Bend, a small midwestern industrial town, struggling to stay afloat. Buttigieg has received great credit and esteem for his work in turning around this Rust Belt city. He ran a failed bid for the presidency of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2017 and later announced his campaign for president of the United States earlier this year.

Joe Biden Runs for President to Bring a Democracy That Serves Everyone, Including People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., May 4 – When former Vice President Joe Biden threw his hat into the race for President of the United States, he became the 20th Democratic candidate to run for president in the 2020 election. He immediately led in most national and early primary state polls. When analyzing…

Beto O’Rourke Campaigns with Disability In Mind

Washington, D.C. April 22 – Before 2018, most of the country had never heard of former Congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke (D) from the 16th District of Texas. Today, he is a household name due to his nearly successful, entirely grassroots, U.S. Senate campaign during the 2018 midterm elections. O’Rourke  narrowly…

Kamala Harris Pledges to be President for All People – People with Disabilities, Too

Washington, D.C., April 18 – The first woman and first African American to be California’s Attorney General, Sen. Kamala Harris was the first woman of color to enter the 2020 presidential race. If she were to win the presidential election, she would be the first woman president and the first woman of color to sit in the Oval Office.

It is no coincidence that she announced her candidacy on MLK day, as her campaign, much like her career, is focused on civil rights. Her campaign tagline is “of the people, by the people, for all people.” She prides herself in protecting the most vulnerable Americans, as explained in her Senate biography. People with disabilities are, arguably, the most vulnerable members of society. So, naturally, her career and presidential campaign should reflect a continued fight for disability rights. But she still has much room for improvement on disability issues.

Presidential Hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Record Proves “Amy for America” Means Americans with Disabilities Too


Washington, D.C., April 9 – Senator Amy Klobuchar, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota is running with the slogan, “Amy for America.” People with disabilities comprise 20 percent of our country’s population, and more than half of Americans have a loved one with a disability. A…

Presidential Hopeful John Hickenlooper Has a History of Improving the Lives of People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., April 8 – With 74 percent of likely voters having a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities, 2020 presidential candidates are finding an important reason to ensure their campaigns are fully accessible for all Americans. “I’m running for president because we need…

New Video by Stacey Abrams Shows Value of Disability Community’s Vote

As many tune in after my State of the Union response, I want to take a minute to speak about recently proposed legislation that supports Americans with disabilities, a community that is in my heart and on my agenda. pic.twitter.com/xGnZs9AHJv — Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) February 8, 2019 Washington, D.C., Feb.…

The State of the Union and Addressing Disability Issues

Washington, D.C., Feb. 7 – Often presidential addresses to the nation fail to include people with disabilities and the state of their lives. However, President Donald J. Trump did not make that mistake in this year’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He mentioned Americans with disabilities and issues relevant to the disability community: employment, medical research and health care.

Unemployment for Americans with Disabilities Reached an All-Time Low

President Trump standing behind the podium of the House of Representatives, with Vice President, Mike Pence (on the left) and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (on the right) seated behind him. Behind all three hangs the United States Flag. Trump, in proudly announcing our country’s strong economy, pointed to our record low unemployment numbers. When declaring these statistics for communities of color, he also boasted of an “all-time low” in unemployment for Americans with Disabilities.

Between 2015 and 2016, there was an astounding four-fold increase in the number of new jobs created for Americans with disabilities, going from 87,201 new jobs to 343,483. And from February 2016 until May 2018, there was a steady improvement in the unemployment situation for people with disabilities, reaching an all-time low.

However, in the last year, unemployment for Americans with Disabilities has stagnated. It increased by one tenth of a percentage appoint, from 29.9 percent in January 2018 to 29.8 percent in January 2019. Thus, the current unemployment rate for working-age non-institutionalized Americans with disabilities is at approximately 70.2 percent. See nTIDE January 2019 Jobs Report: Job Numbers Hold Steady for Americans with Disabilities.