Washington, Jan. 30 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream, has asked all of the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to fill out a questionnaire on disability issues. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has completed the #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaire for people with disabilities (PwDs).
We are presenting the campaign’s answers in full below.
QUESTION 1: Do you have a clear and transparent process for making decisions on disability issues? For example, how do you know/learn about disability issues and make decisions on the many policies that impact the one in five of Americans who have a disability? Have you studied the issues? Do you have a disability or a family member with a disability? Have you done meetings with disability leaders or citizens with disabilities? Do you have a disability advisor and/or advisory committee?
ANSWER 1: Yes. My campaign receives advice from a number of advisors on disability issues, many of whom have been active on these issues for decades and can draw not only on their policy expertise but their own experiences with disability. I have studied and worked on these issues for years and am proud that my campaign has the support of distinguished individuals like former Sen. Tom Harkin and former Rep. Tony Coelho, who have done so much to advocate for people with disabilities, including playing leading roles in the effort to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. My campaign repeatedly turns to leaders in the disability community for advice on these issues as we develop our policy plans. And of course, I learn so much from the people I meet in my travels every day. I know that in order to develop the best policies on these issues and advocate for them effectively, I will need the input of people from the disability community who are living these issues every day. I have set up my campaign to do just that.
QUESTION 2: Do you have a proven record on improving or a plan to improve the lives of PwDs?
ANSWER 2: Yes. I have spent my entire career fighting to improve the lives of people with disabilities. I began advocating for Americans with disabilities thirty-five years ago, and I haven’t stopped since. As a young attorney at the Children’s Defense Fund, I walked door-to-door to figure out why so many children were missing school. I discovered that many parents were not sending children to school because schools did not accommodate disabilities. The evidence I helped gather was included in the Children’s Defense Fund’s first landmark study, Out of School in America, which was submitted to Congress. I am proud that this report helped build the case for passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures all children with disabilities have access to public education. I have continued to champion initiatives to bring equal opportunity and promise to persons with disabilities.
As First Lady:
- I announced a presidential task force designed to expand employment opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities, and to work hand-in-hand with the “Able to Work” Consortium to offer meaningful internships and bring more persons with disabilities into the workforce.
- President Clinton and I proposed numerous programs to build on the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on its 10th anniversary – to expand employment opportunities for persons with disabilities; to guarantee equal treatment under the law; to increase the number of federal workers with disabilities; to rid federal programs of disability-based discrimination; to establish an Office of Disability Policy within the Department of Labor; and to create a federal website designed to offer quick access to services and other resources for persons with disabilities and their families.
- I condemned the fact that so many Americans with disabilities were kept out of the workforce and denied meaningful opportunities to participate in our economy and share in our prosperity, despite passage of the ADA.
- I urged Congress to pass legislation that would provide new health care options and employment assistance so that people with disabilities did not have to give up their jobs.
- I advocated for increased funding for universal newborn hearing, screening, and intervention programs.
- I was an original co-sponsor of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which made it easier for individuals seeking protection under the ADA to establish qualification as a person with a disability.
- I co-sponsored and voted to pass the Individuals with Disabilities Education Reauthorization Act, and co-sponsored the Personnel Excellence For Students With Disabilities Act of 2003, designed to provide professional training for teachers of special education classes.
- I was an original co-sponsor of the IDEA Full-Funding Act of 2003, designed to provide more than $17 billion in special education funding nationwide through 2013.
- I voted to increase funding and discretionary funding for IDEA on countless occasions throughout my time in the Senate, including during my first year, when voted for an amendment to increase federal funding for IDEA.
- I co-sponsored the Campus Care and Counseling Act of 2004 and the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004, which established critically needed support for mental health services to students on college campuses.
- I co-sponsored the Mental Health Parity Act and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which ensured that millions of Americans living with mental health conditions and addiction would not lose access to critical healthcare services because of arbitrary treatment limits or financial restrictions.
- I introduced the Heroes at Home Act Of 2006 and the Heroes at Home Act of 2007 to improve the detection, assessment, and treatment of traumatic brain injury – and to expand support systems for members of the armed services and their families.
- I introduced the Restoring Disability Benefits for Injured and Wounded Warriors Act of 2007 to assist soldiers with disability claims and ensure they received the full spectrum of benefits to which they were entitled.
- I voted to increase mental health care for veterans by $500 million over five years in 2005, and I introduced an amendment to ensure that the CARES initiative incorporated veterans’ mental health needs in 2003.
- I helped develop and co-sponsored autism legislation in 2006 that authorized over $1 billion in funding for research, early detection, and early intervention.
- I introduced the bipartisan Expanding The Promise For Individuals With Autism Act, designed to improve the quality of life for individuals living with autism.
- I introduced the Count Every Vote Act, which, along with other protections designed to safeguard minority voting rights, ensured access to voter verification for all citizens, including language-minority voters, voters who cannot read, and voters with disabilities.
As Secretary of State, I worked tirelessly to expand the human rights of individuals across the globe, because no one’s fortune in life should be determined by their gender, their race, their religion, or their disability. Together with President Obama, I worked to build bipartisan support for the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And as President, I will work across the aisle to ensure that we support equal rights and equal opportunity at home and abroad by finally ratifying this Convention.
Twenty-five years after the passage of the ADA, there is still much work that needs to be done – from improving access to meaningful and gainful employment, to expanding access to affordable and quality healthcare, to ensuring access of all children to an education that gives them the opportunity to learn and work and thrive. As President, I will continue the fight I began over three decades ago to expand opportunities for Americans with disabilities, to strengthen the legal protections afforded them, and to create a society in which all persons are granted equal access to civil, political, social and economic rights.
QUESTION 3: Do you have a plan to enable PwDs to have jobs, careers and to start their own businesses?
ANSWER 3: Yes. A career spent working with PwDs has shown me time and time again the incredible diversity, talent, and expertise Americans with disabilities bring to our economy. Far too often, persons with disabilities are kept out of our workforce simply because they do not have access to opportunities that ensure they are on equal footing with their counterparts applying for jobs, and because businesses remain uneducated about the incredible set of skills PwDs bring to bear across industries. Too many Americans with disabilities continue to be left out of the workforce, and for those who are employed, too many are in under-stimulating jobs that don’t fully allow them to use their talents.
That is why my comprehensive plan to support children, youth, and adults living with autism and their families includes the launch of a new Autism Works Initiative, consisting of a post-graduation transition plan for every student with autism aging out of school-based services and a public-private partnership with employers designed to build on proven success stories like Project SEARCH and get more employers invested in providing competitive employment opportunities for people with autism. Alongside the Autism Works Initiative, I will adopt new legislation to fund employment demonstration grants for individuals with autism and other disabilities, and I will push for passage of the bipartisan Transition to Independence Act, which would establish programs in 10 states focused on helping people with disabilities expand employment opportunities and build on the recently-enacted Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
I will also increase tax credits for veterans’ employment through reauthorizing and making permanent the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for veterans, and expanding it to provide credits to businesses that hire veterans with disabilities. I will continue to strengthen vital non-discrimination laws protecting veterans and military families by building on the Uniformed Services Reemployment and Readjustment Act (USERRA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
Research has shown that supported employment helps people with mental health conditions avoid hospitalization, while also giving them the opportunity to earn money and develop their skills. Right now, however, the employment rate for people receiving public mental health services stands below 20 percent. The millions of Americans living with mental health conditions deserve far better, and I will work relentlessly to empower states, communities, and private-sector employers to foster employment opportunities for these individuals.
QUESTION 4: Do you have a plan/commitment to reduce the stigmas about PwDs that are barriers to employment, independence and equality?
Yes. Disability rights are civil rights. They are human rights. They are American rights. And as long as I am in office, I will fight to ensure that these rights remain visible and at the forefront of our economy, our system of healthcare, our policy abroad, and our education and employment opportunities at home. Fifty-four million Americans live and work with some form of disability. People with disabilities have half the employment rate and double the poverty rate of Americans without disabilities. These statistics are not inevitable – I learned this firsthand thirty-five years ago, when I met children with disabilities who desperately wanted to learn and succeed, but were blocked from schools that refused to accommodate them.
As President, I will continue upon my work as First Lady, in the Senate, and as Secretary of State to build an America that leads the world in tearing down the barriers that PwDs face and expanding on the promise the ADA ushered in a quarter-century ago.
QUESTION 5: Many people who are born with disabilities, especially minorities with learning and mental health differences, are not diagnosed and/or their disability issues go unaddressed. This leads to school dropouts and a “school to prison pipeline.” Do you have a plan to enable students with disabilities to get the services they need to succeed in school and life?
ANSWER 5: Yes. I will work to ensure that students with disabilities, especially kids of color, have a cradle to college pipeline, not a school to prison one. I have fought for kids, including those with disabilities, throughout my entire career, beginning as a young lawyer at the Children’s Defense fund, when I walked door to door gathering stories about the lack of schooling and educational opportunities for children with disabilities. This contributed to passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, landmark legislation that I supported throughout my time in the Senate, including by:
- Voting to pass the Individuals with Disabilities Education Reauthorization Act of 2004, which not only authorized expenditure increases of $2.3 billion per year to more fully fund IDEA-based programs, but also reflected language from my Personnel Excellence For Students With Disabilities Act of 2003, providing joint training for administrators, parents, teachers, related services personnel, behavioral specialists, and other school staff on positive behavioral intervention and management.
- Consistently voting for and co-sponsoring legislation designed to increase funding for special education; and
- Co-sponsoring the Campus Care and Counseling Act and the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which established support for mental and behavioral health services to students on college campuses and dedicated a majority of funds to statewide youth suicide early-intervention and prevention strategies.
As President, I will continue to bolster educational opportunities for all students. I have long fought to fulfill the federal government’s long-standing authorization to provide 40 percent of the average per-pupil public expenditure for each and every child with a disability, and I will continue to fight to move closer to that commitment when I am president. I will also work to provide funding for universal preschool education, make high-quality education a priority for every child in America by building on the Every Student Succeeds Act, and ensure college is affordable for all.
Even with advances in education, studies suggest that as many as half of those who live with mental health conditions do not receive treatment. An estimated 17 million children in the United States, many of whom wind up in the school to prison pipeline, either have or have had a mental health conditions. The economic impact is enormous, but the human cost is worse, with too many families left to address the health issues they face on their own. We must do better. I will work to increase mental health services for people across the board, including children, to disrupt this school-to-prison pipeline and ensure all Americans can live healthy and productive lives.
QUESTION 6: Do you have a plan to reform the benefits system (Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, and SSDI) to enable PwDs to work to the best of their capacities?
ANSWER 6: We need to do much better in enabling people with disabilities to work to the best of their capacities, even as we continue to provide the support they deserve, and I will do this as President. I will build on the constructive proposals that President Obama has put forward. His initiatives include demonstration grants that can spur new approaches to early intervention to improve the employment picture for people with disabilities – whether services for job-seekers, funds for states developing effective programs to help people with disabilities work, or partnerships with and incentives for employers. I want to work with people with disabilities and their advocates to expand on these proposals to ensure people with disabilities who want to work get the support they need. Such initiatives will be aligned with my broader plan to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare for today and for future generations.
QUESTION 7: Do you have a healthcare plan for PwDs?
ANSWER 7: I am proud to support the Affordable Care Act, which among numerous other benefits for Americans, ensures that people with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied coverage. As with any piece of major legislation, it’s not perfect. But this is a real accomplishment we should be proud of, and I would defend and strengthen it as president. I have already set out some of the specific steps that I would take, like making sure that we crack down on the drug companies that charge too much and tackle the rising out-of-pocket costs that consumers face.
In addition to strengthening health care coverage for people with disabilities across the board, I am proposing specific initiatives that will make a difference in health care and health coverage for people with disabilities. I have already released my plan to help people and families who are affected by autism, and I am developing a comprehensive agenda on mental health, including enforcement of parity laws. I will continue to speak out about specific ways to improve how our health care system functions for people with disabilities and ensure that they are eligible for and can access the care that they need.
QUESTION 8: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, fully 32 percent of all inmates in federal prison and 40 percent of prisoners in our jails have disabilities. With 2.2 million people in America’s prisons and jails, many see that system as America’s mental health system. Do you have a plan to address the disability issues of people involved in the criminal justice system so that they will no longer harm others, society or themselves and can participate successfully in community life?
ANSWER 8: Yes. I have made criminal justice reform a central platform of my campaign, and that includes making sure that our prisons and jails do not serve as a substitute for appropriate mental health care.
My criminal justice platform calls for prioritizing treatment and rehabilitation for low-level and nonviolent drug offenders. Over half of prison and jail inmates have a mental health condition, and up to 65 percent of the correctional population meets the medical criteria for a substance use disorder. I will ensure adequate training for law enforcement for crisis intervention and referral to treatment rather than incarceration, and will direct the attorney general to issue guidance to federal prosecutors on seeking treatment over incarceration for low-level and nonviolent drug crimes. I will also work to foster more collaboration between our public health and criminal justice systems before, during, and after a person is released from prison, to ensure continuity of care for those who suffer from mental health conditions. We need to ensure that people get the treatment they need to get back on their feet, as well as other supports that promote successful re-entry for formerly incarcerated individuals so they can serve as productive and valued members of their communities.
QUESTION 9: PwDs are twice as likely to be victims of crime as those without disabilities. PwDs are also far more likely to suffer from police violence as their actions can be misunderstood by others. Do you have a plan to address these issues?
ANSWER 9: Yes. It is heartbreaking to see the number of PwDs who are victims of crime, as well as to hear of police encounters that go wrong and result in injury or death. These dynamics are often the result of misinformation, lack of cultural understanding, or failing to provide officers with the training they need as frontline responders. I will work to strengthen the bonds of trust between communities and police, including making new investments to support law enforcement training programs at every level of government – including on implicit bias, use of force, de-escalation, crisis intervention, alternatives to incarceration, and officer safety and wellness. To increase transparency and accountability, I will provide federal matching funds to make body cameras available to every police officer across the nation, and I will double funding for the DOJ’s “Collaborative Reform” program to provide technical assistance and training to agencies that undertake voluntary efforts toward transformational reform of their police departments.
PwDs aren’t just likely to be victims of crime. Far too many children with autism and other disabilities are subject to abuse, injury, or harassment that threatens their right to safely attend school. Too often, extreme interventions are written into individualized education plans (IEPs) as a measure of first resort and executed by staff with insufficient training. Children with autism are also especially likely to be subject to dangerous practices such as the use of mechanical and chemical restraints and seclusion, and youth with disabilities are bullied at higher rates than their classmates. As President, I will enact the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which bans the use of all mechanical and chemical restraints, and any physical restraints that restrict breathing; confines the use of restraint and seclusion to situations only in which there is an imminent danger of physical injury; requires reporting to parents if these practices are used; prevents restraint and seclusion from being written into IEPs as planned interventions; and requires districts to employ staff trained in crisis-intervention and behavioral-management techniques. I will also ensure schools do not remove victims of bullying from general education classrooms or place them in segregated settings in violation of students’ rights of children under IDEA, and I will direct the Department of Education to enforce strong guidance to states and school districts that students with disabilities must be protected from bullying and allowed to remain in their classrooms.
QUESTION 10: Do you support legalizing medical cannabis, which is key for people with Epilepsy and others?
ANSWER 10: Yes. I support the use of medical marijuana. I also support allowing states that have enacted marijuana laws to act as laboratories of democracy, as long as they adhere to certain federal priorities such as not selling to minors, preventing intoxicated driving, and keeping organized crime out of the industry. As part of my broader criminal justice platform, I have called for rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance to advance research into its health benefits. I want to make sure that people with epilepsy, along with other conditions for which medical marijuana may provide relief, have access to scientifically-sound studies on how best to use it, what dose provides the right measure of relief, and what other medications or substances to avoid while taking it. People with epilepsy and others for whom medical marijuana may be an appropriate treatment deserve access to the type of medical research provided to individuals with conditions that require other types of drug-therapy.
QUESTION 11: Is your campaign open to PwDs? (For example, are your website and documents accessible for people who are blind and use screen readers? Do your videos have captions for the 37.5 million American adults who are deaf or hard of hearing? Are your events ADA accessible, including parking, entrances and bathrooms? Do you have ASL interpreters, captioning, CART services and materials in alternative formats to print at your events? Do you have a dedicated person on staff to address these issues?)
ANSWER 11: Yes. I am proud to be running a campaign that is open to PwDs. Our campaign is working to make our website and documents accessible for people who are blind and use screen readers and have made meaningful progress toward Level AA in compliance under WCAG 2.0 standards. We also endeavor to provide captions for all of our videos for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
For our events, we work to make sure that the location is accessible for people with disabilities, including seating areas for people with disabilities that have a clear line of sight to the stage, accessible entry and exit points to the location and seating area as well as accessible restrooms, and signs that point people with disabilities in the right direction. We work to have an ASL interpreter who is clearly visible to audience members in the designated seating area for those with disabilities at all large-group events, and also aim to do so at smaller-group events whenever we receive a request to do so. Our staff on-site works to accommodate any further requests that we receive.
Our policy and political outreach teams have also focused on disability issues. I am particularly proud of the outreach we have developed over the course of the campaign. We are in close contact with some of the great reformers and key players on these issues, who help make sure the campaign is apprised of the most pressing issues Americans with disabilities face. And from the standpoint of the campaign itself, our policy is that every campaign office that we open should be accessible for people with disabilities, including the rest rooms. Our handbook notes our “commitment to inclusion and equal treatment for all team members,” and our HR & Diversity team works to recruit people from all backgrounds and address any outstanding issues for all people with disabilities who are coming onboard.
QUESTION 12: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities?
ANSWER 12: Yes. I have put forward a comprehensive plan to support all of our veterans, including those with disabilities, to ensure they have access to the health care and benefits they deserve. As with many other issues affecting PwDs, I have championed the rights of veterans with disabilities throughout my career. As First Lady, I fought for veterans who had what we later identified as Gulf War Syndrome. As the first New York Senator on the Armed Services Committee, I partnered across the aisle with Senator McCain to help raise money for a new, state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility to help seriously wounded service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. With support from the Wounded Warriors Project, the National Military Family Association, and the Military Officers Association of America, I introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure a continuum of care for severely injured service-members and address problems frustrating their transition to civil life. I built on my longstanding record of fighting for soldiers with latent and toxic wounds of war when I introduced legislation to support the family caregivers of service-members with traumatic brain injury. Following up on complaints I heard from soldiers at Walter Reed and other medical centers about widespread difficulties with disability claims, I introduced the Restoring Disability Benefits for Injured and Wounded Warriors Act of 2007 and the Protecting Military Family Financial Benefits Act of 2007 to ensure that wounded soldiers and their families receive the disability and financial benefits they need and deserve.
Building on my record of service in the Senate, I will ensure the VA fulfills its mandate of providing veterans with disabilities the highest quality care. Importantly, my plan focuses not only on the pressing challenge of reforming the VHA, but also on modernizing and synchronizing the full spectrum of veterans’ benefits across the federal government so the VHA can refocus on what it does best: providing veteran-centric, service-connected care. Alongside the creation of a standing President’s Council on Veterans to coordinate this cross-government approach, I will oversee an end-to-end evaluation of the full scope of benefits afforded to our current and former military members to ensure that our support is smart, effective, and designed to best meet the needs of veterans with disabilities today and for generations to come. I will end the disabilities backlog by streamlining and simplifying the claims process; improving the VA’s partnership with the DOD; and launching an Innovation Initiative that connects the VA with leaders in the nation’s leading businesses, universities, and non-profits to develop 21st-century solutions for sustainably managing the claims and appeals process.
I will continue to champion for comprehensive coverage for veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries by increasing funding for mental health training, education, and family outreach; setting up state-based veteran programs as part of my broader effort to combat drug and alcohol addiction; and strategically employing the private sector to expand access to ongoing care. Former members of our armed services, as well as the vets of tomorrow, deserve access to world-class medical and counseling services whenever and wherever they are needed. This is why a crucial part of my platform includes reviewing and upgrading discharge categorizations for service members who have been improperly separated from benefits due to service-related mental health issues, as well as ensuring that military sexual trauma is addressed in the same manner as other forms of post-traumatic stress. We need a VHA designed for the 21st century, and this includes requiring the provision of reproductive services across the VHA to ensure women have access to the full spectrum of medical services they need.
Lastly, my plan recognizes that ongoing care of our veterans with disabilities and their families cannot and should not be limited to the effects of war on their long-term health. Our veterans are an enormous asset to the future of our economy and the vitality of our communities, and as President I will work to support and broaden initiatives that provide educational benefits, job training, and support for service members entering and re-joining the workforce, to ensure that all our vets – no matter their wounds of war – have the chance to get ahead and stay ahead.
QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for affordable housing and to reduce homelessness for PwDs?
ANSWER 13: Yes. Stable living conditions ensure stable lives, but persons with disabilities often struggle to secure housing. As a result, they become unnecessarily vulnerable to unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration. The landmark 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. codified the right under the ADA for persons with disabilities to live in the community rather than institutions, and to gain access to reasonable accommodations to support their independence. And since passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a bill that I am incredibly proud to have originally co-sponsored, people with autism have received the ADA’s protections against discrimination in employment, government services, and public accommodation.
As President, I will direct the DOJ to build on President Obama’s record of strong enforcement of Olmstead and work in concert with HUD, HHS, and the Department of Labor to break down the barriers to housing and employment that people with autism face. Alongside my Autism Works Initiative, described above, I will increase housing opportunities for youth and adults with autism by funding projects that help individuals with autism live independently in their communities and investing in community-based housing programs that have proven to be effective, such as the newly-reformed Section 811 program authorized by the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010. I believe that we must explore similar steps to help those with mental health conditions and other disabilities obtain housing.
I will also move decisively to end the homelessness of veterans with disabilities by building on successful initiatives and expanding programs that help ensure long-term success, including leveraging federal resources to support community-based organizations that focus on reducing veteran homelessness; expanding complementary programs and outreach to prepare veterans with disabilities for independent living; and addressing the needs of homeless women veterans and homeless veteran families by clarifying language in the Fair Housing Act that removes ambiguities in the law regarding gender- and family-specific housing. And I will work with Congress to ensure adequate funding for homeless-prevention resources, emergency housing, and safe shelter for all homeless youth.
QUESTION 14: Do you have a plan to address the lack of transportation options for PwDs, including in places like rural Iowa?
ANSWER 14: Yes. I have a robust, five-year $275 billion dollar infrastructure plan that will ensure that Americans across the country, including Americans with disabilities, have access to affordable, public transportation that will connect them with jobs and opportunities. I know that a dearth of reliable and efficient public and other transportation options often creates a huge barrier to Americans attempting to build better lives. This is why my plan calls for prioritizing and increasing investments in public transit that will improve the quality of life for all our communities – rural and urban – as well as encouraging local governments to work directly with low-income and minority communities to ensure that federal investments are creating transit options that connect the unemployed to the jobs and services they need.
I also recognize that lack of access for people with disabilities supersedes transportation. As Senator, I introduced the Count Every Vote Act, which mandated that at least one machine per precinct provide for paper, audio, and pictorial verification and accommodate people with disabilities, language minorities, and voters who cannot read their ballot. The Heroes at Home Act of 2007 built off my 2006 initiative to, among other things, increase the use of telehealth and telemental services for veterans with disabilities. And as Secretary of State, I worked to ensure that the Department was accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities, though advances in infrastructure, communication, and information technology. As President, I will continue to expand services for persons with mobility and sensory disabilities, among others.
The ADA was a tremendous step forward in expanding transportation options for persons with disabilities, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which I cosponsored, moved the ADA one step forward by, among other things, making it easier for individuals with disabilities, including autism, to benefit from the protections of this landmark law. As President, I will push for increased funding for and expansion of these protections.
QUESTION 15: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e., assistive technologies, devices) that can help PwDs become more independent and successful?
ANSWER 15: Yes. Technology provides tremendous opportunity for Americans with disabilities in all areas, and as President I intend to make sure all agencies of our government are working together for full inclusion. As one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, it is the President’s job to make sure American innovation is mobilized to benefit each and every individual. To help persons with disabilities become more independent and successful, I will increase funding for research into advanced technologies and foster strategic partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors, as well as with the educational and scientific communities, to make sure the full force of American innovation is brought to bear on issues affecting PwDs.
For instance, my Autism Works Initiative will bring together leaders in secondary and post-secondary education as well as the private sector, and will draw on insights from social scientists and non-profit institutions, to foster new pathways to adulthood for individuals with autism so they can support themselves and build the lives they want. My plan for veterans with disabilities includes the unveiling of an innovation initiative to connect the VA with leaders in the nation’s leading businesses, universities, and non-profits to develop innovative solutions for sustainably managing the claims and appeals process. And I will launch a $7.5 billion fund to support new federal-state partnerships over 10 years through which stakeholders will come together to prevent and treat addiction.
I championed my husband’s work in distributing $3 million in grants to expand and develop universal newborn hearing, screening, and intervention programs, and I will continue to significantly increase funding so that the government can invest more in research into early diagnostic, prevention, and treatment tools for veterans with disabilities; Americans living with mental health conditions; drug and alcohol addiction; and Alzheimer’s disease, among other areas.
At the same time, I will ensure PwDs have access to assistive technologies that allow them to realize their full potential. For children and adults with autism who struggle with verbal communication, for instance, assistive technologies – including communication books, picture boards, iPads, and text-to-voice devices – can help them better communicate with others and achieve greater independence. Such medically necessary assistive technology should be accessible to all Americans through their health insurance. I will continue to push for stronger oversight and full implementation at the state-level of IDEA, as well as support similar initiatives to provide PwDs of all ages with access to assistive devices and technologies to overcome communication barriers.
QUESTION 16: In your foreign policy/national security plan, do you plan to continue America’s tradition of standing up for the rights of oppressed people, including PwDs, around the world?
ANSWER 16: Yes. Our national security is not divorced from our commitment to strengthen and protect American values abroad: Where the dignity of any individual or group is compromised because of who they are, we are all at risk. I had the privilege to share this vision of a foreign policy rooted in our common humanity with the United Nations on the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights almost two decades ago. We still have a long way to go.
I am incredibly proud of the work I did as Secretary of State to champion human rights around the world – the rights of women, the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, the rights of the LGBT community, and the rights of people with disabilities. At the State Department, we made the inclusion of persons with disabilities a cornerstone of our policies and at home and abroad. I appointed the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights of all persons with disabilities across the globe. We worked to ensure the Department was accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities, through advances in infrastructure, communication, and information technology. Our Disability Advisory Group made invaluable contributions to the work of the Department and demonstrated daily the incredible importance of inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workforce. I was proud when President Obama signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and I fought relentlessly to secure its passage – we fell just six votes short of the two-thirds majority required for ratification, despite members in Congress who steadfastly refused to support it.
America has long been a global pioneer in combating disability discrimination and promoting the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in society. The ADA inspired the adoption of disability rights legislation around the world, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which incorporates the ADA’s core principles. I will continue to fight to secure its ratification as President, and to defend and build on its vision of a world in which persons with disabilities in every nation have equal access to schools, equal access to jobs, equal access to healthcare, equal access to civil rights and political rights and human rights.
RespectAbility has asked all the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to complete the same questionnaire. As of Saturday, Jan. 30, we have received responses from Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. We will share responses from additional campaigns as we receive them. In addition, several candidates do have information on their websites including Jeb Bush,Hillary Clinton, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders and Rick Santorum.
The RespectAbility Report is a nonpartisan political commentary on the 2016 U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues. The RespectAbility Report has covered all of the Democratic and Republican candidates and coverage can be found at https://therespectabilityreport.org/.The RespectAbility Report is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates.