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Author: Dionne Joseph

Disability Champion Jim Langevin Wins Rhode Island Re-Election

Washington, Nov 11 – Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, a Democratic member of congress for more than 20 years, won the re-election for Rhode Island’s 2nd congressional district, holding off Republican Rhue Reis. Langevin completed the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire for the presidential, senate and gubernatorial candidates, that was written by RespectAbility,…

Candidates on Community Living for People with Disabilities

Washington, Nov. 7 – Many individuals with disabilities choose to receive home and community based services such as personal care attendants instead of living in an institution. Indeed, studies show it is more cost effective to do so than to live in institutionalized settings such as nursing homes where people with disabilities can no longer participate and contribute to society by working and paying taxes.

Yet coverage of personal care attendant services is available only through Medicaid waivers, and many states have extensive waiting lists. This also becomes a barrier to employment for many individuals with disabilities who lose Medicaid services that provide these and other home and community based services if they choose to work. Other people with disabilities who are not eligible for Medicaid are unable to work to begin with due to lack of personal care attendant coverage through private insurance or Medicare. In 2014, of the 7,224,420 individuals with independent living disabilities aged 18 to 
64 years living in the community, just 1,146,316 individuals were employed – that is only 15.9 percent.

As part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for Senate or Governor about their plans to address these issues. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to address these issues and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

Many of the candidates also talked about the Disability Integration Act (DIA), which was introduced in the Senate in December 2015 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to ensure that people with disabilities needing help with everyday tasks who previously have been forced into institutions would have the opportunity to instead live in their homes with appropriate aid.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 9 in the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions, and have the community attendant supports they need to work? “ 

Democrats and Republicans agree there is a need for home and community-based services to be available for individuals with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes than in an institution or nursing home.

“Much of our ability to provide community-based services is reliant on the workforce, which supports these services. My recently created Health Care Workforce Commission is working to address how to grow, support and professionalize New Hampshire’s Direct Support Professionals (DSPs),” responded Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire. “And in the Senate, I will advocate for measures like the Disability Integration Act to expand access to home and community-based services for people with disabilities.”

Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte also talked about her support for caregivers in her response, listing her support for the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act and the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act.

“I have been a leader in the Senate fighting for policies to support family caregivers, who care for family members and loved ones in the comfort of their own homes,” Ayotte responded. “I am a co-founder of the Assisting Caregivers Today Caucus, which works to bring greater awareness to the issues facing family caregivers, including more than 268,000 in New Hampshire.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full answers below:

Candidates Talk Housing for People with Disabilities

Washington, Nov. 3 – While people began thinking differently about design and accessibility following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, many people with disabilities are unable to find accessible and affordable housing still today.

Therefore, as part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan, nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for president, senate or governor about their plans to address this issue. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

The cost of housing for all people has been rising higher and higher. According to a report by Disability Statistics, 28.1 percent of people with disabilities, ages 21-64, were living below the poverty line in 2014. As a result, 41 percent of individuals with disabilities could not afford housing. People with disabilities face more challenges in finding employment opportunities. With no or low-paying jobs, many individuals with disabilities are unable to afford an accessible housing complex.

35.1 million housing complexes have one or more people living with a disability in them, each with unique needs. A wheelchair user, for example, needs to not only be able to enter a building with a ramp and have an elevator available to use if not on the ground floor but also needs wide enough hallways and accessible bathrooms. Furthermore, the housing itself needs to be in a location where it can be easily accessible to employment opportunities, as transportation is not always accessible either.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 14 of the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work or are seeking work?” This was adapted from a similar question, number 13, in the presidential questionnaire.

Both Democrats and Republicans recognize that people with disabilities should be able to afford accessible housing in their communities near local employment opportunities.

“It is essential to enable people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work,” responded Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for the senate seat representing New Hampshire. “In the Senate I am committed to ensuring accessible, affordable, integrated housing for those who need it.”

Her opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte, called for tax credits.

“I support expanding the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program to help create or preserve approximately 1.3 million affordable homes over a 10-year period—an increase of 400,000 more units than is possible under the current program,” she responded. “I also support the HOME Investment Partnerships program, which provides federal block grants to states and localities to meet their diverse affordable housing needs.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full responses below:

Where do Candidates Stand on Healthcare for People with Disabilities?

Washington, Nov. 2 – A key topic of conversation in the political campaign is the Affordable Care Act, known to many as “Obamacare.” One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act was to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions (like a disability) are able to afford health insurance and receive proper care. The Affordable Care Act made it illegal for health insurances to not accept a person regardless of pre-existing conditions. The Arc of Opportunity has additional information for individuals with disabilities seeking health insurance.

As part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan, nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for president, senate or governor about their plans to address these issues. While many had plans regarding healthcare of people with disabilities, several had specific plans for healthcare reformations of people with disabilities. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to address these issues and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

Of the one in five Americans with a disability, 13.3 percent lack any health insurance as of 2014. Furthermore, individuals with disabilities are more likely to receive poor health care plans.

There are several factors leading to people with disabilities having no or subpar health care – from inaccessible physical environments to social stigma and expectations. Many face the lack of inaccessible medical equipment and trained health professionals prohibiting them from getting fundamental primary and preventative care from their doctors. For example, people with physical disabilities may not be able to transfer to high examination tables. Individuals who are deaf face a language barrier with limited available ASL interpreters.

Even without a disability creating an access issue, many people with disabilities are not able to afford the growing costs of healthcare, even with new insurance options that cover people with pre-existing conditions. In fact, 15 percent of people with disabilities have not seen a doctor because it was too costly to do so, compared to just six percent of the general population.

While six percent of people without disabilities report they are in fair or poor health, 31 percent of people with disabilities report fair or poor health. The statistics are even worse for people with multiple minority statuses (i.e. African American or Hispanic with a disability). Among adults with a disability, 55.2 percent of Hispanic persons, and 46.6 percent of African Americans, report fair or poor health, as compared with 36.9 percent of white people with a disability.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 7 and 8 in the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a plan to reform the benefits system (Medicaid, Medicaid buyin) to enable people with disabilities to work to the best of their capacities without losing supports they need to work? Do you have a plan to ensure people with disabilities are eligible for affordable health insurance regardless of preexisting conditions?” These were adapted from similar questions, numbers 6 and 7, in the presidential questionnaire.

From looking at the question 7 responses, Democrats and Republicans both agreed that people with disabilities need an opportunity to work, if they choose to do so, without losing necessary healthcare support.

Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Burr touted the ABLE Act as one of his “greatest legislative achievements.” The ABLE Act allows people with disabilities to have assets up to $100,000 while still being eligible for Social Security Insurance; previously, people with disabilities could lose medical benefits if they had more than $2,000 in savings.

“This limit was consigning people with disabilities to a life of poverty, a policy that I found to be unjust and immoral,” Burr replied in the questionnaire. “But thanks to the ABLE Act, people with disabilities will now have the ability to save and build assets without losing supports.”

His opponent, Democrat State Rep. Deborah Ross, agreed with reform. “We should reform Medicaid so that it incentivizes folks to work without the risk of losing the benefits they need,” she replied.

While the replies to question 8 varied in support for the Affordable Care Act, politicians from both sides of the aisle agreed that people with preexisting conditions should be able to receive health insurance.

“Exempting people from insurance because of pre-existing conditions is no longer allowed under current federal law,” Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga, who is running for the open senate seat in Maryland, responded. “This is one aspect of the Obamacare that I wholeheartedly supported and I will fight to make sure it remains the law of the land.”

Democrat Rep. Chris Van Hollen was “part of the fight to get the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed into law.”

“This historic reform legislation has expanded affordable coverage for millions of Americans,” he responded. “Today, 20 million previously uninsured Americans have health insurance coverage. Americans with pre-existing conditions are no longer denied coverage or treatment through private health plans, Medicaid, and Medicare.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full responses below:

Washington, D.C., Disability Voters Guide Released

Washington, Oct. 19 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Washington, D.C., RespectAbility is releasing its Washington, D.C.,’s Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming presidential election. Democrat Hillary Clinton has completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire, but Republican Donald Trump has yet to do so. The…

Virginia Disability Voters Guide Released

Washington, Oct. 19 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Virginia, RespectAbility is releasing its Virginia’s Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming presidential election. Democrat Hillary Clinton has completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire, but Republican Donald Trump has yet to do so. The #PwDsVote 2016…

Texas Disability Voters Guide Released

Washington, Oct. 19 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Texas, RespectAbility is releasing its Texas Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming presidential election. Democrat Hillary Clinton has completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire, but Republican Donald Trump has yet to do so. The #PwDsVote 2016…