Washington, Aug. 30 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream, has asked Senate candidates on both sides of the aisle to fill out a questionnaire on disability issues. Democratic hopeful Caroline Fayard is one of three candidates for U.S. Senate in Louisiana to have completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for Senate and Gubernatorial Candidates for people with disabilities so far.
RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.
Only 31 percent of Louisiana’s 366,000 working-age people with disabilities are employed. This lack of opportunity creates poverty, powerlessness and even can increase the likelihood of developing a mental health condition.
Democrat Foster Campbell and Republican Abhay Patel also have submitted responses. RespectAbility is seeking responses from the remainder of the candidates in the race and will publish those responses when they are received.
We are presenting Fayard’s answers in full below.
QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes, we have designated advisors and processes when consulting on disability issues. Our policy director is in direct contact with Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network (LATAN) and will be ready to reach out to RespectAbility for any disability issues and concerns.
QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. Our headquarters has been outfitted with a wheelchair accessible ramp and we will be providing a ground level, wheelchair and disability accessible office in downtown New Orleans for volunteers.
QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving or a plan to improve the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. As a candidate for U.S. Senate, I am fully committed to expanding opportunities for Americans with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an essential part of our legal heritage and I will consider it my duty to realizing its promise. Too many people with disabilities are left out of the workforce and other opportunities, and we must build upon the progress that we have made to ensure that all Americans with disabilities live fulfilling lives.
QUESTION 4: Do you have a plan/commitment to reduce the stigmas about people with disabilities that are barriers to employment, independence and equality? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. As U.S. Senator, I will be a champion for all Americans living with disabilities and will work to ensure that they can find meaningful & gainful employment without stigma or discrimination. As a country and community, we continually strive to create inclusive environments for our disabled. Nearly 54 million Americans live with some type of disability and our commitment to them, and the disabled around the globe, must not wane. That’s why I also support the United States joining the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
QUESTION 5: Do you have a proven record on enabling, or a plan to enable, people with disabilities to have jobs, careers and to start their own businesses? Do you have specific strategies for youth employment for people with disabilities and/or sector strategies such as jobs and careers in STEM, hospitality, healthcare and elder care? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. I will fully support enforcement of the ADA and plan to push for legislation that promotes employment for PwDs. Expanding the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for veterans with disabilities is another initiative that I am excited to support. I also believe that it is essential that we take care of our youth with disabilities and I consider it a top priority to deliver on our commitment to these children and young adults. That is why I am committed to increasing the effective federal per student cost for every special education student. Our current federal share stands under 16 percent, when we’ve committed to pay 40 percent in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
QUESTION 6: Do you have a plan to enable students with disabilities, including those from historically marginalized communities and backgrounds, to receive the diagnosis, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and accommodations/services they need to succeed in school and be prepared for competitive employment? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes, making sure that people with disabilities receive the support they need during developmental stages is the right thing to do, especially for people of color and other marginalized groups. I will work to ensure that these students are receiving the funding they need.
QUESTION 7: Do you have a plan to reform the benefits system (Medicaid, Medicaid buyin) to enable people with disabilities to work to the best of their capacities without losing supports they need to work? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: No person with a disability should be excluded from the workforce because they are not receiving the healthcare they deserve. I support legislation that would waive asset and income restrictions placed by Medicaid for people with documented disabilities that are seeking to transition into the workforce. A more flexible system that incentivizes workforce participation will be positive progress.
QUESTION 8: Do you have a plan to ensure people with disabilities are eligible for affordable health insurance regardless of preexisting conditions? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: I fully support the Affordable Care Acts restrictions on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. I will work to ensure that people with disabilities are fully covered from the first day of coverage.
QUESTION 9: Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions, and have the community attendant supports they need to work? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. I support legislation that would waive asset and income restrictions placed by Medicaid for people with documented disabilities that are seeking to transition into the workforce. A more flexible system that incentivizes workforce participation will be positive progress.
QUESTION 10: Do you have a plan to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive services that would prevent them from being swept up into the criminal justice system, divert individuals with disabilities who are arrested to treatment options in lieu of jail where appropriate, receive needed accommodations in the criminal justice process and while incarcerated, and offer appropriate reentry support to help individuals with disabilities leaving jails and prisons reintegrate into their communities and secure jobs? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. First, as previously stated, I support youth and other people with disabilities to receive increased funding and support in school and for their education. More attention at the developmental level will help people with disabilities live fulfilling lives. However, I also believe that we need more reform that focuses on making sure that prisons are not merely substitutes for appropriate mental health care. More communication, coordination, and collaboration between our criminal justice systems and mental health resources is a crucial action item that I fully support.
QUESTION 11: People with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime as those without disabilities. People with disabilities also are far more likely to suffer from police violence, partially because manifestations of disability can be misunderstood as defiant behavior. Do you have a plan to address these issues? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. It is unacceptable that so many people with disabilities are victims of crime and violence. Greater resources are needed for police training, particularly for interacting with individuals with disabilities. I fully support seeking special appropriations for greater officer training to address these issues. It is also important that all schools continue to identify and implement anti-bullying & discrimination education. All Americans, including police & educators, need to be aware of the issues that surround disabilities.
QUESTION 12: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault. Do you have a plan to address this issue? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. More resources must be made available in schools and vocational training centers for people with disabilities that include self-advocacy skills as well best self-defense practices. People with disabilities need to be given the tools to avoid more dangerous situations and know how address criminal activity against them before they become another statistic.
QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian employment? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. I am a proud supporter of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, as well as the ADA. I will make sure these are enforced to the letter of the law. Furthermore, expanding the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for veterans with disabilities is an initiative that I am excited to support.
QUESTION 14: Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work or are seeking work? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. People with disabilities are significantly more vulnerable to unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration than the average citizen. It is important people with disabilities receive the resources they need to provide a stable life for themselves, and housing is an essential piece of that equation. Olmstead v. L.C. (1999) 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. I fully support strong enforcement of Olmstead and will work to create initiatives and programs that address homelessness among people with disabilities.
QUESTION 15: Do you have a plan to address the lack of accessible transportation options that is a barrier to work for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Having helped launch the New Orleans-based regional airline GLO, I know the benefits that improved transportation and infrastructure can bring to our economy. We rely on our roads, bridges, levees, and railways to get to work, take our kids to school, and, yes, even get the shrimp that’s in our étouffée. Inadequate and outdated funding models for infrastructure have forced our communities to defer capacity, safety, and maintenance projects that cannot be put off any longer. Investing in our infrastructure means investing in our communities, creating jobs, ensuring Louisiana can compete nationally and globally, and protecting our homes from floods and natural disasters.
Investments in public transit, in particular, will improve the quality of life for all our communities and will help people with disabilities, as well as low-income families and minorities, reach the jobs and resources that they need.
QUESTION 16: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e., assistive technologies, devices) that can help people with disabilities become more successfully employed, productive and independent? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Yes. I fully support research into advanced technologies and fostering 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 people with disabilities.
QUESTION 17: In your foreign policy and national security plan, do you plan to continue America’s tradition of standing up for the rights of oppressed people, including people with disabilities, around the world? If yes, please describe.
ANSWER: Rights for those with disabilities are human rights. It is a part of our American heritage and tradition to stand up for the rights of oppressed peoples around the globe, including those with disabilities. I fully support the initiatives that the State Department and USAID have implemented in bringing advocacy and awareness to these marginalized groups around the world. Furthermore, that’s why I support the United States joining the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
RespectAbility has asked all the candidates for Senator on both sides of the aisle to complete the same questionnaire. We will share responses from additional campaigns as we receive them.
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 for president and has begun coverage of down ballot candidates. Coverage can be found at http://therespectabilityreport.org/. The RespectAbility Report is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates.