Skip to content

Author: Lauren Appelbaum

Sanders Campaign “Committed to Ensuring Accessibility is at Forefront of Everything we Build”

Washington, D.C., June 13 – The Sanders campaign, which is the only one to have a dedicated page on its website for disability rights, has pledged continued accessibility in response to a question posed to all of the viable 2020 presidential candidates by RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas…

Beto Campaign Pledges to Protect Civil Rights of People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., June 12 – The inclusion of people with disabilities in society is personal to Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, whose youngest sister has an intellectual and developmental disability. While disability has been a part of his life since childhood, he is newly committing to it in this presidential campaign.…

Klobuchar Campaign: Ensuring Inclusion for People with Disabilities is One of Our Basic Values

Washington, D.C., June 11 – For Sen. Klobuchar, disability is not only personal but her past includes a history of legislating for people with disabilities. Responding to a question posed to all of the viable 2020 presidential candidates by RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities…

Gillibrand Campaign Pledges to Prioritize People with Disabilities as Campaign Staff, Volunteers

Washington, D.C., June 10 – Sen. Gillibrand previously committed to having a person with a disability in her Cabinet and now goes further in response to a question posed to all of the viable 2020 presidential candidates by RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for…

Sen. Sanders Pledges to “Champion Expanding the Rights of People with Disabilities”

Sanders Campaign Only One to Have Dedicated Page on Website for Disability Rights Washington, D.C., May 28 – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is no stranger to the presidential primary campaign. As he did in 2016, his campaign has a dedicated page on their website for disability issues. While some of the…

Eight Tips for Presidential Candidates: How to Connect with Voters with Disabilities

By Lauren Appelbaum and Hon. Steve Bartlett Washington, D.C., May 9 – 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…

As Pennsylvania Gains 6406 Jobs for People with Disabilities, Gov. Wolf’s Employment First Policy Helps Pennsylvanians with Disabilities Find Work

Tom Wolf headshot
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 11 – More people with disabilities in Pennsylvania continued to gain new jobs last year, continuing a trend from the year prior.

The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows Pennsylvania is currently ranked 30th out of 50 states with 329,760 of the 880,799 working-age (18-64) people with disabilities being employed. This gives the state an employment rate of 37.4 percent for people with disabilities. Further analysis by the nonpartisan advocacy group RespectAbility shows that in 2017, the employment rate was at 35.5 percent. From 2017-2018 Pennsylvania’s employment rates increased for people with disabilities as 6,406 Pennsylvanians with disabilities found new employment opportunities.

“37.4 percent employment for people with disabilities represents progress that we must build upon,” said RespectAbility Board of Directors member Richard G. Phillips, Jr. Philips, a Pennsylvania business leader and change agent, was elected to the RespectAbility Board in September 2018.

Maryland Gains 4,353 New Jobs for People with Disabilities as Gov. Hogan Wants to Continue Increasing Employment Opportunities

Larry Hogan headshot
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Rockville, Maryland, March 10 – More people with disabilities in Maryland continued to gain new jobs last year, continuing a trend from the year prior.

The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows Maryland is currently 16th out of 50 states with 141,870 of the 335,461 working-age (18-64) people with disabilities being employed. This gives the state an employment rate of 42.3 percent for people with disabilities. Further analysis by the nonpartisan advocacy group RespectAbility shows that in 2017, the employment rate was at 41.1 percent. From 2017-2018 Maryland’s employment rates increased for people with disabilities as 4,353 Marylanders with disabilities found new employment opportunities.

In the weeks prior to his re-election, Gov. Hogan made new commitments on jobs for people with disabilities in a proclamation sent to RespectAbility in October in honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month. “Disability Employment Awareness Month is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of workers with disabilities,” said Hogan in the proclamation. “Through local and national campaigns we create greater awareness of the talents and skills individuals with disabilities bring to their employers.”

10,033 New Jobs for People with Disabilities in Colorado as Gov. Jared Polis’ Administration Wants to Ensure Independence

Jared Polis smiling in front of an American flag
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

Washington D.C., March 9 – Colorado now ranks 11th in the nation for employment rates of people with disabilities with 141,691 of the 311,449 working-age (18-64) Coloradoans with disabilities being employed. The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows Colorado has an employment of 45.5 percent for people with disabilities. Further analysis by the nonpartisan advocacy group RespectAbility shows that during the previous year, Colorado’s employment rate for people with disabilities was 42.7 percent. From 2017-2018 Colorado’s employment rates increased for people with disabilities as 10,033 Coloradoans with disabilities found new employment opportunities. Colorado’s previous Governor, John Hickenlooper, had prioritized jobs for people with disabilities.

Newly elected Gov. Jared Polis showed his commitment to the employment of people with disabilities during his campaign, responding to a questionnaire by RespectAbility, outlining his views on training and hiring people with disabilities. Then-candidate Polis repeatedly cited his work in starting two nonprofits, TechStars and Operation Bootcamp, that helped those in underrepresented communities and returning veterans start their own businesses. Project Bootcamp, he noted, “specifically works with veterans and their families, many of whom live with a disability.”

Presidential Hopeful Gov. Jay Inslee Has History of Advocacy for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 1 – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee entered the crowded 2020 presidential race Friday, becoming the first sitting governor to do so. While he is making climate change a leading issue for his presidential bid, he has made disability employment a priority during his governorship. Gov. Inslee announced…

Heard During Klobuchar’s Town Hall: “Down syndrome,” “Alcoholism,” “Autism”

Manchester, New Hampshire, Feb. 19 – Words heard during the CNN Presidential Town Hall with presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) included “Down syndrome,” “diabetes,” “alcoholism,” “addiction” and “autism.” During similar 2016 town halls on both sides of aisle, this did not occur, especially during the early part of the election season.

According to the Census Bureau, more than 56 million Americans live with some form of disability. This can include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss to people living with invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

“The disability community is the only minority anyone can join at any time due to accident, illness or injury,” said former Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. Bartlett is the chairman of RespectAbility, a Washington-based nonpartisan nonprofit that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of community.

Personal Connection to Disability

“I grew up in a family with alcoholism and addiction,” Klobuchar said when asked how being the daughter of an alcoholic affects her stance on health and addiction policy. “I had a lot of times in my life where I was taking the keys away or seeing him drink in the basement and it was a hard thing.”

She also shared a story of how when her daughter was born, she was unable to swallow yet kicked out of the hospital after 24 hours without help. Nearly a third of U.S. families have at least one member with a disability and 10 percent have at least one child with a disability. It is vital for leaders to share personal experiences with all types of disabilities – including addiction – to help reduce stigma surrounding them.

Klobuchar talked about how her state of Minnesota “has a lot of great treatment that I want to bring to the entire country, so everyone has this great treatment.”

“We need to make sure we are there for people, that we have treatment,” she added. “In the criminal justice system, we’re humane, that we use drug courts because once people get good treatment, they can get through anything.”

More than half of the audience raised their hands when asked if they were affected by the opioid crisis during the town hall. Responding to a question on how she would combat the opioid epidemic, Klobuchar said to “change prescribing habits across the country” and to fund treatment for addiction. What she did not mention, however, is that some people with chronic pain and other disabilities need opioids and use them responsibly.

Candidates Who Support Opportunities for People with Disabilities Won Big

Washington, D.C., Nov. 19 – Key senate and gubernatorial candidates from both sides of the political aisle who support opportunities for people with disabilities won big this election, showing that disability rights is a winning issue. There are 56 million people with disabilities (one in five Americans), more than 35 million of…

Disability Advocates Cardin and Hogan Win Re-Elections

Rockville, Maryland, Nov. 9 – Both Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin successfully defended their seats against their challengers, Ben Jealous and Tony Campbell. Hogan and Cardin’s success shows that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. This past year was a year of steady job growth in…

Disability Advocates Casey and Wolf Win Re-Elections

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Nov. 9 – Both Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., successfully defended their seats against their challengers, Scott Wagner and Lou Barletta. Each of these individuals have spoken about the importance of including the more than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians living with a disability in society…

Disability Supporter Wolf Wins Gubernatorial Re-Election in Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Nov. 7 – Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has won re-election, defeating Republican challenger Scott Wagner for Pennsylvania’s governorship. Recently Wolf affirmed his commitments on jobs for Pennsylvanians with disabilities in a proclamation sent to RespectAbility in October in honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month. RespectAbility is a nonpartisan,…

Disability Supporter Hogan Wins Maryland Gubernatorial Re-Election

Rockville, Maryland, Nov. 7 – Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has won re-election, defeating Democratic challenger Ben Jealous for Maryland’s governorship. In the weeks prior to the election, Hogan made new commitments on jobs for people with disabilities in a proclamation sent to RespectAbility in October in honor of Disability Employment…

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 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…

Political Candidates Highlight Disability Issues

Washington, D.C., Oct. 27 – As voters head to the polls, candidates for U.S. Senate and governor, as well as local candidates in New York City and Los Angeles, have outlined their views on ensuring equal employment opportunities for the one-in-five Americans with a disability by responding to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility.

Candidates from all sides of the aisle completed the questionnaire, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. The responses also are geographically-diverse, coming from states around the country, as politicians are paying more attention to the disability community.

“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”

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.