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The RespectAbility Report Posts

RespectAbility Responds to Request for Ideas on Promoting Access for Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., July 19 – Last week, RespectAbility submitted comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Request for Information (RFI) regarding voting access for voters with disabilities. 

This RFI comes after President Biden signed the Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting in March of this year. Within the Executive Order, President Biden called on the NIST, along with the Department of Justice, the Election Assistance Commission and other relevant agencies to “analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training.” This is a critical step towards understanding how to improve access for the 38 million eligible voters with disabilities in America who look to cast their ballots in future elections. 

RespectAbility Releases 2022 Disability Voter Questionnaire for Senate and Governor Races

Washington, D.C., July 15 – RespectAbility, a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, is sending its nonpartisan voter questionnaire to candidates in competitive Senate and Gubernatorial races across the country. The outreach is being done in conjunction with RespectAbility’s online publication, TheRespectAbilityReport.org, which focuses on the intersection of disability and electoral politics. The answers to the questionnaire will be turned into nonpartisan voter guides in key battleground states across the country. This questionnaire builds on candidate outreach work done in 20202018 and 2016

RespectAbility Releases 2021 Disability Voter Questionnaire for California Governor Recall Election

Sacramento, CA, July 15 – RespectAbility, a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, is releasing its nonpartisan voter questionnaire to candidates in California’s critical gubernatorial recall election. The outreach is being done in conjunction with RespectAbility’s online publication, The RespectAbilityReport.org. The RespectAbility Report is dedicated to the tracking the intersection of disability and electoral politics. The answers to the questionnaire will be turned into a nonpartisan voter guide ahead of the recall election on September 14, 2021. This questionnaire builds on candidate outreach work done in 20202018 and 2016

Bipartisan Bill Helps Americans with Disabilities Seek Work without Losing Benefits

Washington D.C, July 9 – On June 17, 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Work Without Worry Act. This piece of legislation would allow Americans with disabilities to take on employment opportunities without the fear of losing higher Social Security benefits. 

Currently, if an adult has a disability that began before the age of 22, they may be eligible for Social Security’s Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit. This benefit considers these adults to be dependents on their parent(s) and as such their benefits, like any child under the age of 18, rely on their parent’s Social Security contributions and earnings.

Alabama Passes $5,000 Deductible for ABLE Account Holders

Washington, D.C., July 9 – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed Act 2021-514 allowing ABLE Savings account holders to deduct up to $5,000 per year per taxpayer on State Income Taxes. The plan, announced by Alabama State Treasurer John McMillian, aims to make saving achievable for people with disabilities by allowing ABLE account holders to save without losing the public benefits which many individuals with disabilities depend on. 

What are ABLE Accounts?

In 2014, the 113th Congress passed H.R. 647, the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), which established tax-advantaged savings accounts for people with disabilities and their families. The ABLE Act was designed to support people with disabilities who are required to meet means/resource tests to continue receiving potential life-saving benefits. Members of the disability community who are on benefits are restricted to having less than $2,000 in liquid resources. Millions of people with disabilities rely on public programs for income, health care, housing assistance and food security. ABLE Accounts allows people with disabilities to accumulate savings that do not affect their eligibility for these benefits.  

NJ Governor Phil Murphy Signs Bill Approving 13th Year for Students with Disabilities

Newark, N.J., July 9 – Last month, Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) signed Senate Bill 3434 into law after five months of delays. This piece of legislation extends the length of educational and transitional services for eligible students with disabilities, who are slated to age out of the academic system at the age of 21. In New Jersey, the length of service extension is approximately one year.

How many students will benefit from this new law? 

According to the Disability Compendium Annual Statistics, there are 220,362 students with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in New Jersey public schools.  Percentage wise, this represents 12.6 percent of all students in New Jersey’s K-12 schools. This might seem like a small percentage; however, every student served deserves an equal right to access resources that they need.

RespectAbility Responds to Office of Management and Budget Request for Ideas on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Washington, D.C., July 7 – This week, RespectAbility responded to a request for information from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about ideas, insights, and innovations to advance and prioritize equity issues. This dialogue is only the latest example of how the new Biden-Harris Administration is seeking to address the “entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies.”

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 launching an “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.” This is critical news for the 12.8 million Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities who have long been harmed by structural racism and who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

“The impacts of racism and ableism on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities have caused harm to so many,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO of RespectAbility. “We must all fight racism and prejudice of all kinds. That work must go well beyond words and move into real systems change so we can create true equity and opportunities. Our society is at its best when all people, including BIPOC people with disabilities, can earn an income and become independent, just like anyone else. Online engagement opportunities like this one offer the chance for policy makers and common citizens to make their voices heard and push our society to become fairer and more inclusive.”

How Candidates & Campaigns Can Connect with Voters with Disabilities: by Nelly Nieblas and Hon. Steve Bartlett

Washington, D.C., June 28 – In the 2020 election cycle, candidates from both political parties who made their campaigns accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities won key races and helped shift the balance of power in America.

The biggest wins for candidates who reached out to voters with disabilities were in the state of Georgia where President Biden and Senators Ossoff and Warnock all made their campaigns accessible to voters with disabilities.

All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility is a poignant look at the intersectionality of accessibility in NYC

New York City, June 17 – Primary elections are underway in NYC and New Yorkers are thinking hard about the issues that matter most to them. Accessibility and disability and social justice are at the forefront of many minds, which makes All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility a perfect film to watch before heading to the booth. Shot the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, All Riders takes a poignant look at the intersectionality of unmet access needs within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Often thought of as synonymous with accessible transportation because of its extensive transit system, The Big Apple has continually fallen short of its goal to become “the most accessible city in the world.” Out of over 400 stations, less than 30% are accessible, a portion of those accessible in only one direction, and with daily elevator failures close to 25% based on data from 2014-2015, that can leave New Yorkers with less than 20% of stations accessible at any one time across the massive five borough system. This is a dismal number considering the Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 31st birthday this July, requires that all stations be accessible under federal law.

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Washington’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board on Solutions for People with Disabilities

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Seattle, WA, June 10 – This week, Washington state’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Evergreen State’s economy forward. In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in Washington’s economy.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said the Honorable Steve Bartlett, former Member of Congress, the former Mayor of Dallas and current Chairman of RespectAbility. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to implement policies that will drive a truly equitable recovery that helps people with disabilities and other marginalized communities get back to work.”

There are 478,673 working-age Washingtonians living with some form of disability. In the economic expansion prior to COVID-19, fully 42 percent of them had jobs. However, because of COVID, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs nationwide. Now, as more Americans get vaccinated and more people get back to work, it is crucial that policy makers implement best practices.

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Maryland Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) on Solutions for People with Disabilities

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Annapolis, MD, June 9 – This week, the Maryland Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Old Line State’s economy forward. In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in Maryland’s economy.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said the Honorable Steve Bartlett, former Member of Congress, the former Mayor of Dallas and current Chairman of RespectAbility. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to implement policies that will drive a truly equitable recovery that helps people with disabilities and other marginalized communities get back to work.”

There are 324,652 working-age Marylanders living with some form of disability. In the economic expansion prior to COVID-19, fully 43.6 percent of them had jobs. However, because of COVID, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs nationwide. Now, as more Americans get vaccinated and more people get back to work, it is crucial that policy makers implement best practices.

A Very Brief History of the National Council on Disability (NCD)

Washington, D.C., June 4 – This past month, the National Council on Disability (NCD) once again met to discuss critical issues impacting the lives of the 56 million Americans living with some form of disability. NCD has a long and proud history developing policies, programs, and plans to fight stigmas and advance opportunities. 

NCD was first established as a small advisory council within the Department of Education in 1978. In 1984, under President Reagan, NCD was transformed into an independent agency tasked with reviewing all federal policies and programs. NCD is now a self-governing federal agency responsible for providing advice to the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices and procedures that influence people with disabilities. The mission of the agency is to act as a trusted advisor in partnership with people with disabilities to the President, Congress, State, Tribal Communities, Local Governments, and other entities and organizations.

Taryn Mackenzie Williams Nominated to be New Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy

Washington, D.C., June 4 – This past month, the Biden Administration formally nominated Taryn Mackenzie Williams to become the next Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. On May 27, 2021, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee met to discuss Williams’ nomination and to consider several other candidates for key political appointments. If confirmed by the Senate, Williams would become the highest-ranking member of the Biden Administration to publicly identified as a person with a disability. 

This is welcome news given that the Administration has publicly committed it to hiring diverse political appointees and yet only 3 percent of more than 1,500 candidates self-identify as having a disability. 

New York City’s Voter Registration Deadline is Today – What Voters Need To Do

New York, NY, May 28 – Today marks the final day to register to vote in the upcoming June 22 Primary Elections in New York City. Fortunately for New Yorkers with and without disabilities, anyone with a valid identification from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles can register to vote online. You can directly and easily access that information by going to the DMV website.

If you want to register by mail, your registration will need to be postmarked today and mailed out to the Board of Elections. The address is 32 Broadway, 7 Fl New York, NY 10004-1609. Click here to download and complete the form.

If you would like to register in person, local board of elections offices are open until 5:00 p.m. Eastern today. To find your local office, go to the website.

Lastly, to vote in the November 2, 2021 general election, voters must be registered by October 8, 2021. Go to this website for a full list of upcoming voting deadlines.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Serves as Role Model for Many

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month by recognizing the Legislative Leadership of Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Washington, D.C., May 23 – Since being elected to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate in 2016, Tammy Duckworth has carved a name for herself as an advocate for disability and veterans’ rights. She also bears the honor of having many “firsts” to her name. Born to Thai mother of Chinese heritage and an American father on the 12th of March 1968, Sen. Duckworth is the first Thai woman to be elected to U.S. Congress, the first woman to give birth while serving in office as a U.S. senator, and is the first female Senator to use a wheelchair.

According to the U.S. Census, as of 2019, there were 18,297,153 Asian Americans living in the United States. Out of that number, there are 1,315,999 Asian Americans who identify that they are living with some form of disability, many of whom face double discrimination. Sen. Duckworth is helping to fight these stigmas as a very public role model.

Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono Recognized for Leadership as an Immigrant and as a Person with a Disability

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month by recognizing the Legislative Leadership of Sen. Mazie Hirono

Washington, D.C., May 23 – U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) has been working in government since the 1980’s, striving tirelessly to make a difference and has made great advances on many fronts. She is the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate, the first woman elected to the Senate from Hawaii, and the first Buddhist senator. As of May 2017, Hirono is also a woman with a disability serving in the U.S. Senate.

During an x-ray before minor eye surgery, it was discovered that Sen. Hirono had stage 4 kidney cancer. Since then, she has had to undergo surgery to remove her right kidney and a rib, as well as extensive cancer treatment. Hirono considers herself lucky that she was able to get early intervention and that she had health insurance at the time of her diagnosis. Thus, she is a strong supporter of healthcare reform and specifically, Medicare for All. However, her support for healthcare reform started long before her diagnosis.

Rep. James Langevin Paves the Way for the Disability Community in Congress

Washington, D.C., May 11 – Over 40 years ago, Rep. James (Jim) Langevin was left paralyzed after an accidental shooting at his job at the Warwick Police Department in his home state of Rhode Island. Langevin, who was only 16 at the time, was suddenly a quadriplegic. Although unexpected, his injury led him to a life of public service, and he has never looked back.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Langevin has been a change agent in his home state for the last 35 years. Since his 1980 injury, he has worked to help Rhode Islanders in need and individuals with disabilities throughout the country. Langevin’s journey into public service began at Rhode Island College, where he served as President of Student Community Government. Following his undergraduate degree, Langevin went to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Thereafter, Langevin launched his career in government in 1986 by being elected to serve as the Secretary of Rhode Island’s Constitutional Convention. After two years in this position, Langevin successfully campaigned and was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives. 

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Texas Workforce Commission on Solutions for Texans with Disabilities

Submitted testimony will help inform state wide efforts to rebuild the economy and get people with disabilities back to work.

Austin, TX, May 5 – This week, the Texas Workforce Commission met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Lone Star State’s economy forward. In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbiltiy weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in Texas’ economy.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said the Honorable Steve Bartlett, former Member of Congress, the former Mayor of Dallas and current Chairman of RespectAbility. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to implement policies that will drive a truly equitable recovery that helps people with disabilities and other marginalized communities get back to work.”

RespectAbility Contributes to Online Racial Equity Dialogue with Ideas on Metrics, Measures and Best Practices

Washington, D.C., May 5 – This past week, RespectAbility contributed to the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor’s online dialogue to solicit ideas, insights, and innovations from the disability community about advancing racial and social equity. This dialogue is only the latest example of how the new Biden-Harris Administration is seeking to address the “entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies.”

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 launching an “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.” This is critical news for the 12.8 million Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities who have long been harmed by structural racism and who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 and resulting economic crisis.