Des Moines, Nov. 14 – While presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton had a shaky start with outreach to the disability community, recently she has talked about issues such as autism and treatments for mental illness. In addition, her campaign website has a page dedicated to disability issues and campaign staffers are beginning to pay attention to accessibility needs at events.
At a meeting with Iowa disability leaders yesterday, Clinton’s Iowa Constituency Director Brenda Kole reiterated Clinton’s commitment to the disability community.
“Hillary’s talked about persons with disabilities on the campaign trail in different capacities,” Kole said Friday morning in Des Moines. “We actually were in Ames on July 26th, the anniversary of ADA, and talked about it there. We did a lot of Tweeting about it and other communications about it.”
Kole shared a story from Clinton’s past, during her first job at the Children’s Defense Fund.
“One of the things she worked on after coming out of law school was that she realized that there was a school district,” Kole shared with the Iowa-based disability activists. “It had more children counted than were enrolled in school. And she discovered that there were many children that had disabilities weren’t able to get to school because of various issues, access or the school districts were not prepared to teach children or persons with disabilities. And so she gathered data, went to Congress, and helped pass a bill that allowed, helped children get access to school.”
Kole also said Clinton knows there is more work to be done on the ADA and ensuring full accessibility.
“We’re by no means finished,” Clinton said on July 26th. “I personally believe that the progress and the landmark legislation – first on education then broadly opening up transportation and buildings and employment, everything that people should be able to pursue – that that legislation was one of the real highlights of the civil rights and human rights movements in America.”
Clinton has an opportunity to place a spotlight on these issues at tonight’s Democratic debate in Des Moines. There are 56 million Americans with disabilities, comprising the largest minority group in America.
Sara, a disability advocte and mom who took over Clinton’s Twitter account to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), stressed the importance of the candidates speaking about this issue in Iowa.
“I think Iowa, as most of the nation knows, carries a lot of weight, and we have a long history of checking out our presidential candidates and seeing how they stand on issues that are important to us and kind of help with that vetting process,” she said.