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Category: Senate

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. 

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 Advocates Rosen and Sisolak Win Elections

Carson City, Nevada, Nov. 8 – Both Democrat Steve Sisolak and Jacky Rosen were elected to new positions in Nevada – Sisolak defeating Adam Laxalt for the governorship and Rosen defeating incumbent Dean Heller for U.S. Senate. While campaigning, both Rosen and Sisolak completed a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and…

Disability Supporter Rosen Wins Nevada Seat in U.S. Senate Race

Jacky Rosen headshotCarson City, Nevada, Nov. 7—Democratic U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen was elected to the Nevada seat of the U.S. Senate yesterday in the midterm elections.

While campaigning, Rosen 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. Rosen’s competitor, incumbent Dean Heller, also completed the questionnaire. His responses can be viewed on the Respectability Report.

In response to the questionnaire, Rosen emphasized protecting the rights of people with disabilities in public spaces, including work spaces. “I believe the American Disabilities Act was a critical piece of legislation and we must continue to uphold it and ensure that people with disabilities always have a seat at the table and that their concerns and problems are heard and taken seriously,” she said in her response.

Rosen highlighted her record of supporting legislation that allows people with disabilities and their families to access assistive technology. She also stressed the importance of addressing workplace harassment against people with disabilities. “My bipartisan Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act (H.R. 5028) would require publicly-traded companies to disclose payments of settlements for sexual harassment, abuse, and discrimination, including that based on disability status,” Rosen said.

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 Rosen’s full response to the questionnaire 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…

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.

With 60.1% of Hawaiians with Disabilities Out of Work, Ige, Curtis and Tupola Discuss Job Prospects

Honolulu, Hawaii, Oct. 25 – With 60.1 percent of Hawaii’s 66,031 working-age people with disabilities out of work, incumbent Democratic Gov. David Ige, his Republican opponent, State Sen. Andria Tupola and Republican Senate challenger Ron Curtis each responded to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility, outlining their views…

With 58% of Nevadans with Disabilities Out of Work, Heller, Rosen and Sisolak Discuss Job Prospects

Carson City, Nevada, Oct. 25 – With 58 percent of Nevada’s 198,826 working-age people with disabilities out of work, incumbent U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic U.S. Sen. nominee Jacky Rosen, as well as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak, all have responded to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility,…

With 46% of North Dakotans with Disabilities Out of Work, Heitkamp Discusses Job Prospects

Bismarck, North Dakota, Oct. 25 – With 46 percent of North Dakota’s 43,089 working-age people with disabilities out of work, incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has issued an official response to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility, outlining her views on training and hiring people with disabilities.

In responses to 10 questions submitted by the organization, Heitkamp said that “one of the best ways to reduce the stigmas surrounding people with disabilities in employment is to get people with disabilities working jobs and let them show people firsthand everything that people with disabilities have to offer a workplace.”

“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.”

RespectAbility also reached out repeatedly to Heitkamp’s opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, but received no response to the questionnaire from him, according to Mizrahi.

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

With 64.5% of Pennsylvanians with Disabilities Out of Work, Casey Discusses Job Prospects

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Oct.25 – With 64.5 percent of Pennsylvania’s 909,897 working-age people with disabilities out of work, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., has issued an official response to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility, outlining his views on training and hiring people with disabilities.

In responses to 10 questions submitted by the organization, 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.”

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.”

“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.”

RespectAbility also reached out repeatedly to Casey’s opponent, Republican challenger Lou Barletta, but received no response to the questionnaire from him, according to Mizrahi.

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

With 64.2% of Ohioans with Disabilities Out of Work, Brown Discusses Job Prospects

Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 25 – With 64.2 percent of Ohio’s 851,743 working-age people with disabilities out of work, incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has issued an official response to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility, outlining his views on training and hiring people with disabilities.

In responses to 10 questions submitted by the organization, Brown noted that he is the co-sponsor of two pieces of legislation that he said are “focused on improving career and job opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” The Disability Employment Incentive Act and the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act.

“Both bills would enhance tax credits that help support employers who hire individuals with disabilities and make workplaces more accessible to employees with disabilities,” Brown said.

The legislation, he asserted, will “strengthen programs designed to support employers and employees in ways individuals with disabilities can learn about their rights and facilities can become ADA-compliant.”

“First and foremost,” he said, “I am dedicated to protecting programs like SSDI, Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal programs that help support individuals with disabilities. Many of these programs have come under attack in recent years and I am committed to protecting and improving these programs for individuals with disabilities.”

“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.”

RespectAbility also reached out repeatedly to Brown’s opponent, Republican challenger Jim Renacci, but received no response to the questionnaire from him, according to Mizrahi.

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

With 61.4% of Massachusettsians with Disabilities Out of Work, Warren Discusses Job Prospects

Boston, Massachusetts, Oct. 25 – With 61.4 percent of Massachusetts’ 390,729 working-age people with disabilities out of work, incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, has issued an official response to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility, outlining her views on training and hiring people with disabilities.

In responses to 10 questions submitted by the organization, Warren said that “today, it is perfectly legal for an employer to hire workers with disabilities and pay them below what they pay workers without disabilities for doing the same work.”

She added that employers who hire employees with disabilities “can even apply for permission to pay workers with disabilities below the federal minimum wage. This is absolutely shameful, and I’ve called on the Department of Labor to crack down on employers that abuse that abuse this policy.”

Warren noted that “accessible public transportation also ensures that workers with disabilities can safely commute to work.”

“I helped to secure over $9 million in federal grants to make vital improvements to the dock at the Hingham Ferry Terminal in Massachusetts, bringing the dock into full ADA compliance and ensuring that it is accessible to all riders.”

“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.”

RespectAbility also reached out repeatedly to Warren’s opponent, Republican Geoff Diehl, but received no response to the questionnaire from him, according to Mizrahi.

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

With 58.9% of Marylanders with Disabilities Out of Work, Cardin Campaign Discusses Job Prospects

Rockville, Md., Oct. 25 – With 58.9 percent of Maryland’s 334,505 working-age people with disabilities out of work, the campaign of incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, has issued an official response to a questionnaire by the disabilities advocacy group RespectAbility, outlining his views on training and hiring people with disabilities.

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,” said the campaign. “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.”

“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.”

RespectAbility also reached out repeatedly to the campaign of Cardin’s opponent, Republican Tony Campbell, but received no response to the questionnaire from them, according to Mizrahi.

The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and the Cardin campaign’s responses follows: