RespectAbility, a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, has sent its nonpartisan voter questionnaire to of all the viable presidential candidates on a variety of disability issues. The outreach is being done in conjunction with RespectAbility’s online publication, www.TheRespectAbilityReport.org, an online publication around the intersection of disability and electoral politics. The answers to the questionnaire will be turned into nonpartisan voter guides for all 50 states. The same questions will be sent to candidates for governor and senate as well.
One-in-five Americans has a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People with disabilities are America’s largest minority group and the only one that, due to an accident or illness, anyone can join at any time. Indeed, America has 61 million people with disabilities.
Voters with disabilities want access in democracy, just like anyone else. At the same time, they have specific issues of interest. For example, of the 22 million working age (18-64) people with disabilities in our country, fully 70 percent of them are outside of the labor force.
Polls show that the majority of voters have either a disability or a loved one with a disability. Polls also show that voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs – and the actions campaigns take to reach out to these voters can make the difference between winning and losing.
“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.
The candidate questionnaire asks a series of key questions. Each campaign also was given some background information to help them as they prepare their answers. The questions are printed below in full.
Here are the questions for which campaigns will need to provide answers:
- What policies and actions do you support to reduce the stigmas of people with disabilities that are barriers to employment, independence and equality?
- What is your record on improving the lives of people with disabilities? What have you done to enable people with disabilities to have competitive jobs, meaningful careers or become entrepreneurs?
- What specific workforce development strategies do you support that will empower youth with disabilities?
- The jobs of the future will largely require post-secondary education or other credentials. Today 65 percent of students with disabilities complete high school. What policies do you advocate to support the academic and career success of students with disabilities, especially for students from historically marginalized communities and backgrounds?
- Immigration is a major social, political and workforce development issue. Given questions around the new “public charge” rule that impacts immigrants with disabilities, the challenges faced by English language learners with non-visible disabilities who want to develop their skills and the talent needs of the business community, what is your vision for enabling immigrants to succeed here in America?
- People with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime as those without disabilities. This includes the fact that both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault. How would you address these issues?
- Today there are more than 750,000 people with disabilities behind bars. Many face serious barriers to reentry when they complete their sentences and return home. What reforms do you support to ensure that returning citizens with disabilities have the resources, skills and mental health support to succeed when they leave incarceration?
- People with disabilities also are far more likely to suffer from police violence, partially because manifestations of disability can be misunderstood. How would you address these issues?
- How would you ensure that people with disabilities have access to healthcare and the benefits they need while enabling them with opportunities to work to the best of their capacities without losing the supports they need tolive? This relates to private healthcare as well as SSI, SSDI, Medicare and Medicaid.
- What are your thoughts on ensuring that people with disabilities have the option to live in their homes instead of institutions and still have the community attendant supports they need to live? Do you have a plan for affordable housing and to reduce homelessness for people with disabilities?
- The federal law and benefits system punish people who want to work or whose families want to help them. For example, currently people with disabilities who are on SSI are prohibited of having more than $2,000 liquid assets at any one time. Furthermore, current law limits parents and grandparents to helping their children financially who acquired their disability prior to age 26 but not if they acquire a disability after age 26. What will you do to ensure that people have more options than being forced to choose between access to supports, benefits and service or the opportunity to pursue work, careers and an income?
- How would you advance innovations (i.e., assistive technologies, devices) that can help people with disabilities become more successfully employed, productive and independent?
- What are your plans to ensure that the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration supports and serves veterans with disabilities? What is your plan to support veterans with disabilities, especially female veterans with disabilities?
- People with disabilities are at extreme risk from climate change. What are your plans to reduce the climate crisis and to create emergency solutions for people with disabilities when disasters strike?
- Are your office, website and events accessible to people with disabilities? Have you identified a process for including people with disabilities in your staff and policy advisors? If yes, please describe.