Washington, D.C., July 30 – “29 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act codified protections against discrimination based on disability,” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted in commemoration of the 29th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on Friday. “My presidency will advance this fight, including having disability community representation in my Cabinet. Let’s keep working to make our society accessible for all.”
In May, Gillibrand made news with a new commitment of having someone with a disability in her Cabinet. The issue of hiring staff with disabilities on the campaign has been addressed by two other presidential candidates: Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg. Both of them have promised to hire campaign staff with disabilities, and O’Rourke promised to hire them to positions of leadership on the campaign and, if he wins, in the Oval Office. Buttigieg already has followed through with his promise of hiring a person with a disability on his campaign staff.
One month later, in response to a question posed to all of the viable 2020 presidential candidates by RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, Gillibrand’s campaign has pledged to not only “make accommodations to enable staff with a disability to perform their job without undue hardship” but also “to make volunteer opportunities inclusive and encourage creative solutions to allow people with disabilities to be an active part of our team.”
Gillibrand 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.