Washington, April 8 – As voters head to the polls in Wyoming this week, RespectAbility released its Wyoming Disability Voter Guide. The #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaire was designed for people with disabilities (PwDs) and those who love them to know where candidates stand on the issues. The questionnaire asked all of the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to comment on 16 disability questions. Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders responded by addressing all of the questions, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich filled out parts of the questionnaire. They each have significantly different views on the issues. Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, the campaigns of Sen. Ted Cruz and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump have not yet filled out the questionnaire.
RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls.
Fully one-out-of-five voters have a disability, and 52 percent of likely voters have a loved one with a disability. Only 34 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities have jobs, despite the fact that the vast majority want to work. More than 11 million working age people with disabilities are now living on government benefits in our country.
RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said, “Our community is looking for jobs so we can achieve the American dream, just like anyone else. It is vital for us to know where the candidates stand economic, stigma, education, safety, transportation, housing, healthcare, foreign affairs and other issues. The candidates have hugely different ideas about how to deal with the issues. Thus, it’s extremely important to read their full answers so you can understand their vast differences.”
RespectAbility has submitted comments for all 50 state’s drafts of the Unified Plan as required under Section 102 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Despite limited resources and small populations, Wyoming is far ahead of many states in terms of expanding competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. According to the most recent, publicly available Census data, Wyoming ranks fifth in the nation as measured by the employment rate of people with disabilities. Fully 45.2 percent of the 38,675 working age people with disabilities are employed in Wyoming. Because of Wyoming’s good work, the 8,200 youth with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 21 living in Wyoming have increasing chances to successfully transition into the world of work.
RespectAbility expects for things to get even better in Wyoming as the Wyoming Employment First Task Force, which was created two years ago, now fosters even more collaboration between the public and private sectors to craft solutions for employing people with disabilities. Wyoming also has benefitted from the MentorABILITY program, which emulates the strategies used by Project SEARCH. Strong leadership through an earlier Business Leadership Network also brought best practices and enthusiasm to the state.
Today fully 2,400 youth with disabilities, between the ages of 16 and 20, are preparing to enter the workforce in Wyoming. However, Wyoming returned $858,951 to Washington — money that was meant to help people with disabilities find employment. With the new workforce law, Gov. Matt Mead now has the chance to ensure that Wyoming sustains it success and creates even more jobs. Because Wyoming has citizens who care deeply about the success that inclusive hiring can bring employers, it could rise to the top slot in the future.
The gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities in Wisconsin is nearly 36 percent. While this is lower than 42 other states, this lack of employment for people with disabilities creates poverty, powerlessness and poor health. Polls and studies show that people with disabilities want the opportunity to have the dignity and independence that jobs provide.
America has 1.2 million youth with disabilities, between the ages of 16 and 20. Each year 300,000 of them age into what should be the workforce, but stigmas and lack of knowledge about the capabilities of people with disabilities means that most do not find employers willing to hire them. Young adults with disabilities in all of these states are hoping to find work. They have high expectations and deserve the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Young people with disabilities may simply need some thoughtful help to transition into the workforce. See data on all 50 states here: State Data.
RespectAbility will continue to urge Cruz and Trump to submit their ideas for the disability community. When they do so, we will update the guide. The questionnaire is being distributed to more than 50,000 people who care about disability issues, more than ten thousand of whom live in the early primary states and the heads of more than 100 national disability organizations, many of whom will share with their own lists. RespectAbility also has placed online ads sharing the questionnaire.