Senate Candidates Have Yet to Complete #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire
Washington, Oct. 15 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Florida, RespectAbility is releasing its Florida Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming and presidential and senate election. The #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaires were designed by and for people with disabilities (PwDs) and those who love them to know where candidates stand on key issues. RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaires are purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls.
The presidential questionnaire was created during the primary season and asked all of the presidential candidates to comment on 16 disability questions. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded by addressing all of the questions. Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, the Trump campaign has not yet filled out the questionnaire. The American Association of People with Disabilities and the National Council on Independent Living also has a nonpartisan presidential questionnaire, which both Clinton and Trump have completed. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have not filled out either questionnaire.
The down-ballot survey was adapted from the presidential questionnaire to ask gubernatorial candidates 16 questions and senatorial candidates 17 questions. All answers are posted verbatim and in full on The RespectAbility Report, a publication that covers the intersection of disability and politics.
Today in Florida Democrat Patrick Murphy is challenging Republican incumbent Marco Rubio for the senate seat. Unfortunately for the 2,619,572 Floridians with a disability, neither have completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for Senate and Gubernatorial Candidates for people with disabilities. During the primary season, Dwight Young, who lost the Republican nomination to Marco Rubio, did respond to the questionnaire with a personal letter. An excerpt is presented below:
I was a father of a disabled child who suffered from cerebral palsy, so I know firsthand the care and worries of a parent with such a heavy undertaking. My daughter died at 15 years old but the yearning to do something for the disabled has never left me. Since my daughter’s death, I have contributed to St. Jude’s hospital with my financial contributions up to this date. As a Society, we should do more. During my child’s life, we received medicare that helped out a lot due to our inability as parents to afford the high cost of medical bills. Medicare is very important to poor parents and it must not be tampered with. I am also interested in finding jobs for some of these disabled youths that are willing to work and can work. It makes no sense keeping them at home or in a hospital. They need to feel important and worthy. We need to encourage their participation and vibrant attitude.
Twenty-four other candidates for Senate, as well as nine candidates for governor, from both sides of the aisle (20 Democrats, 13 Republicans) have responded so far, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. The responses also are geographically-diverse, coming from states all around the country, as politicians are paying more and more attention to the disability community. On the presidential level, Democrat Hillary Clinton has completed the questionnaire while Republican Donald Trump has yet to do so.
Florida Needs to Improve Outcomes for Citizens with Disabilities
There are 1,192,633 Floridians with disabilities who are between the ages of 18-64. According to the most recent publicly available Census data, Florida ranks 41st in the nation as measured by the employment rate of people with disabilities. Additionally, there are 58,700 Floridians ages 16-20 with disabilities. More than 316,000 Florida students have individual education plans (IEPs). However, many Floridians with disabilities have not yet received a disability diagnosis they need, and thus are not yet receiving the school accommodations and supports that they need to succeed. Many students who might need support to succeed academically instead find themselves trapped into a lifetime of poverty or flowing down the school to prison pipeline.
Today Florida has the opportunity to work hard to improve outcomes in terms of competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. Currently 30.1 percent of working-age Floridians with disabilities are employed compared to 73.4 percent of those without disabilities. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
Florida’s Changing Economy Could Benefit People with Disabilities
RespectAbility, founded in 2013, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. It 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). As it stands, Florida’s written state plan makes commitments to serving youth with disabilities. There is a lot of innovative and dedicated work being done on workforce developments, which will significantly improve Florida’s workforce system and its ability to serve people with barriers to employment. Despite poor performance metrics in the past, Florida has many of the ingredients essential to future success. The state plan includes critical data points, discusses outreach to key businesses, and points to growing sectors.
One of the most important facets of WIOA is that it raises expectations for youth with disabilities and assists states to provide them with the supports they need to ensure success. Indeed, as Florida’s Baby Boomers retire and the state’s economy evolves, employers are starting to experience increasing talent shortage. Floridians with disabilities are an untapped resource that can be trained to bridge that gap. Indeed, a recent detailed study by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire shows the 70 percent of working age people with disabilities are striving for work.
Evidence shows that people with disabilities can provide a wonderful solution to companies and other employers that want to succeed. The diverse skills, greater loyalty and higher retention rates of people with disabilities are already starting to meet employer talent needs in increasing numbers around America. With WIOA, Florida can benefit from that progress if it truly breaks down silos within government agencies and partners, and lets innovation, based on evidence-based practices, take place.
However, 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.
Fully one-out-of-five people 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 nationally 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.
According to a new report from Rutgers University, 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in the November 2016 elections, representing close to one-sixth of the total electorate. That’s an increase of nearly 11 percent since 2008.
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 on economic, stigma, education, safety, transportation, housing, healthcare, foreign affairs and other issues.”
Remember to Vote
Florida residents can vote for the candidates of their choice either on the standard voting schedule or through early voting. Floridians have until Oct. 18, 2016, to register to vote for the presidential general election. To register to vote, request or pick up a Florida Voter Registration Application from the county’s Supervisor of Elections. Complete, sign and mail the application to the office of the County Supervisor of Elections. Voters also can cast an early vote. Depending on the dates set by the county, early voting starts between Oct. 24 and Oct. 29, and ends on either Nov. 5 or Nov. 6. Another option is to use an absentee ballot to vote from Oct. 24, 2016 through Nov. 7. Voters also can cast their vote by mail through Florida’s Vote-By-Mail system. Votes must be received by no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. More information regarding Vote-By-Mail in Florida can be found at: Vote-by-Mail.