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Author: Jennifer Bohlman

Trump’s Choice for Secretary of the Interior Has History of Disability Activism

Washington, Dec. 9 – According to multiple news reports, President-elect Donald Trump has announced his choice for Secretary of the Interior, five-term Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Currently the highest-ranking woman in Congress, McMorris Rodgers has been praised by the disability community for her strong history of advocating for the rights…

Colorado Voters Approve Controversial Assisted Suicide Law, Prompting Concern Among Disability Community

Washington, Nov. 13 – Colorado has joined five other states in allowing terminally ill people to end their lives with a physician’s assistance, despite protests from disability activist groups such as ADAPT and Not Dead Yet. Last week, voters in Colorado approved the state’s Proposition 106, known as the “End of…

Election Tuesday Shows Big Win for Medical Marijuana Legalization

Washington, Nov. 9 – Nine states voted on whether or not to legalize marijuana yesterday. Citizens in Florida, Montana, North Dakota and Arkansas voted on the use of marijuana for medical conditions, and these measures passed in all four of the states where it was on the ballot. Voters in…

What Do Candidates Say About People with Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System?

Washington, Nov. 3 – In the past year, discussions of minorities in the criminal justice system frequently have appeared in the media. People with disabilities have a high rate of involvement with the criminal justice system, but often are left out of these conversations. Approximately 32 percent of prisoners and…

Candidates Talk About their Plans for Employment and People with Disabilities

Washington, Nov. 2 – While 72 percent of Americans without disabilities are employed, only 32 percent of Americans with disabilities are. However, two-thirds of Americans with disabilities report that they want to work and are unable to find a job. Some of the barriers to work people with disabilities encounter are a lack of sufficient education or training, employer or coworker attitudes, and the need for job accommodations.

People with disabilities are particularly underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), which are where the fastest growing careers are located. Barriers to higher education for people with disabilities along with inaccessible laboratories and workshops are two reasons why STEM fields are particularly lacking in employees with disabilities. Despite these barriers, people with disabilities have made significant contributions to the STEM fields. The White House recently honored 14 people with disabilities working in STEM fields as Champions for Change, showing the capabilities of people with disabilities if they are given access to all fields of employment.

As part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan, nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for president, senate or governor about their plans for promoting employment among people with disabilities. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 5 in the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a proven record on enabling, or a plan to enable, people with disabilities to have jobs, careers and to start their own businesses? Do you have specific strategies for youth employment for people with disabilities and/or sector strategies such as jobs and careers in STEM, hospitality, healthcare and elder care?” This was adapted from a similar question, number 3, in the presidential questionnaire.

Though the candidates proposed a variety of solutions to improve employment for people with disabilities, candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties brought up their support for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for veterans.

“As a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I worked closely with fellow committee members to draft and pass H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act, legislation containing specific language to promote the employment of individuals with disabilities,” said Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican running for Senate in Nevada. “Once that bill was signed into law, I sent several letters to the Departments of Education and Labor to ensure it is properly implemented, particularly the provisions dealing with the “competitive integrated employment” rules for disabled workers.”

His opponent, Democrat Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto, called for more support for small business owners and entrepreneurs with disabilities, as well as increased training opportunities.

“I support greater access to workforce training and apprenticeship programs in community colleges, high schools and vocational schools aimed at training our workforce for 21st century jobs,” she replied. “I would encourage participation from youth with disabilities to train for careers in these fields.”

You can read the candidates’ full responses below:

Candidates Discuss Plans for America’s Assistive Technology Industry

Washington, Nov. 1 – The technology industry in the United States is growing, with 200,000 jobs added to the industry in 2015, bringing the total of U.S. tech industry workers up to 6.7 million. This growth provides ample opportunity for innovation in the field of assistive technology. Assistive technology promotes greater…

Where do Candidates Stand on Police Violence and Crime Against People with Disabilities?

Washington, Oct. 31 – Nearly half of all people killed by police in the U.S. have a disability. Yesterday Terrance Coleman, a black man with paranoia and schizophrenia, was shot and killed by two police officers in Boston. Coleman’s mother had called for an ambulance to take her son to a hospital and the police officers arrived to accompany the EMTs. They shot him when he refused to leave with the EMTs; there are conflicting reports if Coleman had touched a knife that was on a nearby kitchen table.

The week prior Deborah Danner, a black woman with schizophrenia, was shot and killed by a New York City police sergeant. The police knew of her disability and had been called to her apartment before, but this time the officer did not follow protocol for dealing with someone with a mental illness.

While the vast majority of officers only want to protect the community they patrol, officers not properly trained in dealing with people with disabilities are bound to make mistakes. Resources such as the new Police-Mental Health Collaboration Toolkit have been designed to help police learn how to interact with people who have disabilities.

Violence against people with disabilities is a larger issue than just police brutality, however. People with disabilities, particularly those with cognitive disabilities, often are targets for bullying, assault and robbery. The most recent statistics available found that the rate of violent crime against people with disabilities is twice that of violence against people without disabilities.

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 the issue of violence against people with disabilities. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer. The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 11 in the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “People with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime as those without disabilities. People with disabilities also are far more likely to suffer from police violence, partially because manifestations of disability can be misunderstood as defiant behavior. Do you have a plan to address these issues?” This was adapted from a similar question, number nine, in the presidential questionnaire.

The majority of both Republicans (66 percent) and Democrats (74 percent) acknowledged a need for more police training and education about how to handle situations that involve people with disabilities.

“News reports over the past few years have included tragic accounts of the deaths of people with disabilities during confrontations with police, and this is something that we must take seriously,” said Sen. Richard Burr, who is a Republican running for re-election in North Carolina. “I support full funding for programs to train our law enforcement officers so that they are properly prepared for interactions with people with disabilities.”

Burr’s opponent, Democrat State Rep. Deborah Ross, also called for more training. “We must increase police training on how to work with people suffering from mental illnesses, reduced cognitive abilities, or other disabilities.” Ross replied. “We must also protect people with disabilities from discrimination, stigma, poor health, and violent crime.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full responses below:

Candidates Discuss Plans for Students with Disabilities

Washington, Oct. 31 – Only 65 percent of youth with disabilities graduate high school, 19 percent less than students without disabilities, found a White House study earlier this month. Youth who do not graduate high school are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system and have a more difficult time entering the workforce.

More than 6.5 million students in public education receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including special education or other accommodations to help them succeed. Studies have shown, however, that students in higher education have a harder time accessing proper accommodations.

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

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question six in the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a plan to enable students with disabilities, including those from historically marginalized communities and backgrounds, to receive the diagnosis, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and accommodations/services they need to succeed in school and be prepared for competitive employment?” This was adapted from a similar question, number five, in the presidential questionnaire.

While Democrats and Republicans are divided on many education specifics, when it comes to educating youth with disabilities, candidates from both sides of the aisle spoke of their support for IDEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

“Last year, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a much needed update to our nation’s education policy, and the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law in December 2015,” responded Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is a Republican running for re-election in New Hampshire. “This important legislation will truly ensure that every student has the opportunities they need to succeed in the classroom and be prepared for their futures.”

“My first position in public service was serving on the Advisory Committee to the Adequacy in Education and Finance Commission, and I have continued this advocacy throughout my time in public office,” wrote current New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for the senate seat. “I will continue to push for these priorities in the U.S. Senate, and I will work to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to make good on Congress’ commitment to support special education.”

You can read the candidates’ full responses below:

Where Do Candidates Stand on Sexual Assault and Rape?

Washington, Oct. 14 – Given the news cycle, talk about sexual assault and rape has increased. It’s important to note that children with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault than children without disabilities. Victims of assault are more likely to commit crimes.…