Washington, April 26 – As voters head to the polls in Connecticut today, RespectAbility released its Connecticut Disability Voter Guide. Connecticut has a solid foundation to build on in terms of expanding competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities, and voters are looking to know where the candidates stand on important disability issues.
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.”
Connecticut has a solid foundation to build on in terms of expanding competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. According to Census data from 2014, Connecticut ranks 13th in the country as measured by the employment rate of people with disabilities. Fully 40.2 percent of the 175,700 working age people with disabilities are employed in Connecticut. Further, there are approximately 13,700 youth with disabilities and each year a quarter of them will age out of school with high hopes for success. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
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). While Connecticut performs better than many states, including the neighboring states of New York and Massachusetts, these outcomes are not as high as they could be. Connecticut has much to learn from other states that have worked hard to achieve improved employment outcomes. Other states have a 50 percent employment rate for their citizens with disabilities. States like the Dakotas have achieved increased results by putting best practices into places. The experience of these states shows ways that Connecticut can improve their outcomes.
Expanding job opportunities for people with disabilities is a win-win-win for employers, taxpayers and people with disabilities alike. It is good for employers because the loyalty, talent and skills of workers with disabilities contribute to the employers’ bottom line. It is good for the workforce system because improving services and supports for job seeker with disabilities will benefit others with different barriers to employment. It is good for people with disabilities who want the dignity, pride, friendships, independence and income that work provides.
The gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is still too large around the entire country. 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.