Washington, July 2 – In a speech largely dominated by race and economic issues, Gov. Rick Perry outlined a plan for how he would “reignite the engine of economic growth.”
“The best welfare program is a job,” Perry said in an appearance at the National Press Club on Thursday. “The only true cure for poverty is a job.”
Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. This leads to poverty and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disability benefits.
While Perry did not specifically address the need to help people with disabilities to obtain a job as well during his speech, he did talk about the issue just before the lunch with RespectAbility staff.
“Instead of waiting to hear what my plan will be, look at my record to see what I’ve already done in Texas to help people with disabilities,” Perry said during the pre-reception when asked about a plan to help people with disabilities obtain jobs.
Midway through his time as governor, Perry issued a proclamation declaring July 26th as ADA Awareness Day. On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. This landmark piece of legislation is considered the Declaration of Independence for people with disabilities.
“I understand the importance of honoring the principles of the ADA, and have supported legislation that ensures that Texans with disabilities are better equipped to live and work in their communities,” Perry said in the proclamation in 2009. “The 81st Texas Legislature passed, and I signed into law, various bills that build on the ADA’s promise and demonstrate Texas’ commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities. These bills include expansions in health coverage and resources for people with autism; provisions for an enhanced Medicaid buy-in program for children with disabilities; and the creation of a committee to study issues relating to Texas’ aging population. At this time, I urge all Texans to continue to work toward the principles of the ADA — equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency — because we all benefit when Texans with disabilities can fully participate in activities in our state.”
Taking a look at Texas, 74.7 percent of people without disabilities aged 18 to 64 are employed while just 38.7 percent of people with disabilities aged 18 to 64 are employed. This 38.7 percent is higher than the national average, which hovers around 30 percent. Of the more than 1.5 million people with disabilities aged 18 to 64, 277,700 receive benefits. While the Veteran Administration’s vocational rehabilitation and employment services of Texas received more than 30,000 general applicants in 2012, only 13,273 jobs for people with disabilities were obtained.
America has 56 million people with disabilities, more than 20 million of whom are working age. More than 50 percent of Americans report having a family member or close friend with a disability. Fifty-two percent of Democrats report that they or a loved one have a disability, and for Republicans, a smaller number of 44 percent report they have a disability. Surprisingly, Independents have the largest number of voters who say they have a disability, with 58 percent saying yes. This shows that swing voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs.