Contoocook, NH, Dec. 20 – Former Gov. Jeb Bush stood up for people with disabilities at a town hall meeting in Contoocook, NH, on Saturday against remarks made by Republican candidate Donald Trump.
“I think the great opportunity in this country goes back to the idea that everyone has value, everyone can make a difference.”
News reports highlight how Bush was asked by a man with Asperger’s Syndrome about what he would do to improve education and employment for Americans with disabilities.
The former governor of Florida highlighted his role to transform the state’s Medicaid waiver program into “a model for the rest of the country.”
Bush spoke about the importance of assisting veterans, especially those with disabilities so that they have the support they need. He said that “everybody needs to have the opportunity to rise up” when it comes to unemployment. He also said “each person had God-given abilities.”
People with disabilities “bring joy to the workplace and add value,” Bush added. “They’re not a problem, they’re not a liability, they’re an asset.”
He then called out Trump, calling him a “jerk” for disparaging people with disabilities, along with women and Hispanics, in an exchange that was widely reported by national media, including ABC, CNN and BuzzFeed.
“The idea that he’s actually running for president and insulting people is deeply discouraging to be honest with you. I think we should reject that out of hand.”
I was that man with Asperger’s Syndrome who asked Bush about helping people with disabilities to have the same educational and economic opportunities. I was upfront about being a fellow for RespectAbility in my question, and was moved that Bush took the time to address an increasingly important issue. People with disabilities are the largest minority in the country, and it’s largely ignored by candidates and elected officials.
The Bush campaign reached out to me after the town hall to get more information.
Bush has spoken on these issues often, most recently in an exclusive interview with RespectAbility, where he said in order to help people with disabilities achieve the American Dream through access to appropriate education and employment, one must include people with disabilities in the decision process.
“One of the things I insisted on was that people with disabilities had to participate in the accountability system,” Bush said in the exclusive interview with a coalition of disability groups including RespectAbility, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities. “If you exclude them, then that result is they don’t get the attention.”
Bush was the first Republican candidate to include captions on his web-based campaign ads, citing the importance of ensuring that all people are able to access his message.