Washington, April 26 – As voters head to the polls in Delaware today, RespectAbility released its Delaware Disability Voter Guide. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s leadership as chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Better Bottom Line Initiative sets the stage to ensure best practices for 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.”
According to Census data from 2014, 35.6 percent of Delaware’s working age people with disabilities are employed in the state. While this is better than the national average, 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 Delaware can improve their outcomes. 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). The Delaware WIOA draft is well done. It creates a win-win-win strategy for vital improvements for Delaware’s workforce system and its ability to serve people with barriers to work, employers and taxpayers alike. Delaware’s planning, when implemented, can further break down silos and build thoughtful collaborations, especially for youth transitioning from school to work.
Markell’s leadership as chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Better Bottom Line Initiative set the stage for many of the innovations that WIOA is putting into place. In terms of geography and population Delaware may be a small state, but in terms of leadership, due to Gov. Markell and his team, the First State has had a substantial positive impact nationally. Under the new WIOA plan, with strong leadership and implementation, people with disabilities will be ever-increasingly contributing members of their communities in new and better ways. This will strengthen the economy for all people in Delaware. Markell is now chair of the Council on State Government, where he is again playing a pivotal role in advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
As Baby Boomers retire and Delaware’s economy evolves, the First State is starting to experience an increasing talent shortage. There are 56,600 people with disabilities between the ages of 21 to 64 in Delaware. Many of those who are working are only working part time and/or are under-employed. People with disabilities can provide a solution to companies and other employers that want to succeed. The diverse skills, higher loyalty and retention rates of people with disabilities are already starting to meet employer talent needs in increasing numbers. However, a growth opportunity exists for the future.
RespectAbility has had the honor of meeting on multiple occasions with Gov. Markell and Secretary Rita Landgraf to discuss best practices as part of a national coalition with Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Independent Living movement, NACDD, Best Buddies and NOD.
Because of Delaware’s good work, the 3,800 youth with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 21 living in Delaware have increasing chances to successfully transition into the world of work. Said Mizrahi, “because of the leadership of Delaware of time we it can join other states that have approximately a 50 percent labor force participate rate for their citizens with disabilities.”
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.