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Examining Representative Eric Swalwell’s Record on Disability Issues

Washington, D.C., May 26 – Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15) has joined more than 20 Democratic candidates vying for the presidential nomination. When it comes to how he could help people with disabilities, it is important to note that he is a cosponsor on several pending pieces of legislation that would directly impact people with disabilities.

Swalwell smiles for the camera in front of the U.S. flag
photo credits: Wikipedia

One example is the Disability Integration Act of 2019, which would require private health insurance to cover long-term care, such as in-home nursing care and personal care attendants for people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities require assistance with activities of daily living such as showering, toileting and dressing. Long-term care coverage permits them to live independently in their own communities.

Swalwell is also a cosponsor of the Autism CARES Act of 2019. According to DisabilityScoop, “In addition to continued funding for current federal programs, the bill directs the National Institutes of Health to conduct research aimed at improving outcomes for kids and adults with autism.”

Campaign Launch Has Mixed Results on Disability Inclusion

For a presidential campaign to be fully inclusive of people with disabilities, it needs to meet the following requirements: (1) offer captioning with every video it shares or produces, (2) mention people with disabilities and their issues, (3) depict people with visible disabilities in its media, (4) reach out to the disability community, and (5) provide accessible campaign events and website. Swalwell has met some of these requirements, but there is much room for improvement.

All of Swalwell’s videos from the past three months have captions of some kind. Many have open captions, and the rest have YouTube’s automatic captioning. YouTube’s automatic captioning often contains errors, so it would be best if Swalwell’s campaign went in and ensured the accuracy of the captions. Swalwell is among the best candidates with regards to captioning, which is worth celebrating, as without accurate captions on all video content, people who are deaf or hard of hearing are being left out of the campaign.

Unfortunately, photos on Swalwell’s website do not have alt-text, and photos on his Facebook page rely on automatically generated alt-text, which is not descriptive enough. This means that Swalwell’s message is not accessible to people who use screen readers.

When analyzing polls, it is integral to identify the participants’ demographics and determine where the candidate stands with swing voters. One important group of swing voters are people with disabilities, who comprise 20 percent of our country’s population. And more than half of Americans have a loved one with a disability. A recent survey shows that fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. Thus, if Swalwell hopes to climb in the polls, he must represent all Americans, especially those with disabilities.

Voter research conducted by RespectAbility shows how disability issues connect to all aspects of American life. It is in the best interest of every presidential candidate and the citizens of this country for candidates to recognize disability issues during their campaigns.

“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 board chair of RespectAbility. “People with disabilities are politically active swing voters, and candidates should take note of the important issues they care about.”

Published in2020 CampaignDemocratsEric Swalwell

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