Washington, D.C., July 30 – In commemoration of the 29th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on Friday, Elizabeth Warren tweeted several statements, the first of which she spoke about her first job out of college – “teaching students with speech and learning disabilities at a public school.”
“It not only helped dismantle prejudices about Americans with disabilities, it recognized their right to live, work, and love independently,” she tweeted. Yet, she said, there is more work to be done. “As I celebrate the ADA today, I’m committing to continue the fight to protect these rights every step of the way.”
While running for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2018, Warren completed RespectAbility’s disability issues questionnaire. In her responses, she laid out her positions on issues like health care, education and employment.
Warren repeatedly has called for an end to the sub-minimum wage that people with disabilities can legally be paid in sheltered workshops. She has tweeted about the issue and spoken about it in the Senate. In her response to the questionnaire, Warren stated that paying people below the minimum wage “enforces harmful and inaccurate stigmas, and we should phase it out in a responsible way.”
Warren is a co-sponsor of the Disability Integration Act (DIA). The DIA, a bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), 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.
Warren also co-sponsored the ABLE Act. The ABLE act established new tax advantaged savings accounts, called ABLE Accounts, to allow people with disabilities and their families to save for their futures and help cover important expenses like education, housing and wellness, without losing their disability benefits. Any individual who is blind or diagnosed with a disability before the age of 26 and getting benefits through the Social Security disability program automatically is eligible. ABLE Accounts allow individuals and families to save, tax-free, $14,000 per year, up to $100,000, and to take money out without extra tax penalties. Warren has “pushed to expand the ABLE Act to benefit older individuals and allow for higher contribution limits, and to raise the outdated asset and income limits for Americans who receive benefits like Social Security Income, which prevent some individuals with disabilities from earning and saving money for no good reason.”
Warren also discussed the importance of accessible public transportation in her questionnaire responses. She noted she “helped to secure over $9 million in federal grants to make vital improvements to the dock at the Hingham Ferry Terminal in Massachusetts, bringing the dock into full ADA compliance and ensuring that it is accessible to all riders.”
Accessibility can be a hurdle for college students with disabilities. Warren addressed this with her AIM HIGH Act, which created “guidelines for accessible instructional materials on college campuses.”
“I recognize that many students face special obstacles to their education, and I will always stand up for programs that help to level the playing field,” Warren added.
Warren also wrote about the importance of accessibility for her offices and events. She said, “we will not sign a lease if a space is not accessible, and we do the same when we identify venues for our public events. It’s not negotiable.”
Warren was one of 12 of the 20 Democratic candidates debating this week to make any mention of the ADA anniversary on Friday. According to the Census Bureau, more than 56 million Americans live with some form of disability. This can include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss to people living with invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.
Fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member, or a close friend with disabilities. Therefore, as the 2020 candidates take to the debate stage, it is in the best interest of every presidential candidate and the citizens of this country for candidates to recognize disability issues at this time.
“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.”
RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. RespectAbility does not rate or endorse candidates. View more coverage of 2020 presidential candidates.