Los Angeles, California, Oct. 15 – Responding today to a questionnaire by the disability advocacy group RespectAbility, Christy Smith, who is running for Assembly District 38, outlined her views on education, employment and stigma for the 987,522 people with disabilities in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. That includes people who are blind or deaf or have other visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.
According to a recent survey, 74 percent of likely voters have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. The upcoming elections and their results will have an impact on people with disabilities, so it is important to become familiar with the candidates’ thoughts on certain issues.
“Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril,” said former U.S. Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, is the chairman of RespectAbility.
RespectAbility reached out to Smith’s opponent, incumbent Dante Acosta, as well, but received no response, according to the organization’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.
RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.
The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and Smith’s replies follows:
QUESTION 1: EDUCATION AND SKILLS: There are more than 183,000 students with disabilities enrolled in Los Angeles County public schools. Of that number, 126,000 are Latinx students with disabilities who face additional barriers such as language differences, inadequate resources, economic disparities and racial discrimination. What will you do to ensure that more and more students with disabilities of all backgrounds receive the skills, resources and opportunities they need to succeed?
ANSWER: I have spent my career in public education policy ensuring that students from every background at every level of need receive the services they deserve. I will work to fight for additional funding resources at the state level, put pressure on the federal government to fully fund special education and disabled services and work with teachers to promote best practices in curriculum, safety and wellness for our state’s students with disabilities.
QUESTION 2: JOBS AND INDEPENDENCE: There are 452,879 working-age people with disabilities in Los Angeles County and only 163,363 have jobs. In other parts of the United States, there was a 4-fold increase in new jobs for people with disabilities. Last year, more than 10,000 working-age people with disabilities in Los Angeles left the workforce. What is your plan to support more job opportunities for people with disabilities across Los Angeles County?
ANSWER: I will work with Los Angeles County officials and LA County employers to ensure a seamless system for connecting opportunities with employees and further incentivize hiring. I pledge to be in regular communication with employment service providers to assess what’s working and what isn’t along with being a public champion for workforce access for working age individuals.
QUESTION 3: FIGHTING PREJUDICE: Media representation of minority communities is crucial to reducing discrimination, bias and stigma in our broad culture. What will you do to leverage the power of Hollywood to fight stigmas and empower Los Angelenos with disabilities to work in entertainment, just like anyone else?
ANSWER: As a member of the Assembly I will champion the voice of the disabled community with every level of media from traditional press and the need for coverage highlighting community needs and accomplishments, to the entertainment industry to ensure fair and meaningful representation of the disabled community.
QUESTION 4: CIVIC ENGAGEMENT & EQUITY: People most directly affected by issues such as education, jobs, prejudice, homelessness, criminal justice, poverty and other issues deserves to have their voice, insights and experiences respected and utilized in finding and implementing solutions. People with disabilities are disproportionally impacted by these issues. As a public official, what will you do to ensure that Los Angelenos with disabilities have “a seat at the table” for all major issues and can be part of solutions so that they and all others can have a better future?
ANSWER: I pledge to regularly engage the Los Angeles disabilities community to inform my decision making process as we work together to find legislative and community solutions to the challenges faced in securing a better future.