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. Both the questions and background information are printed below in full, and also can be downloaded as a PDF or Word Document.
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.
Information Provided to All of the Campaigns
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, including five million with developmental disabilities. 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. This is despite the fact that most want to work. This hurts employers who have talent needs, people with disabilities who want jobs, and taxpayers who support the 11 million people with disabilities who do not pay taxes but instead may live on government benefits. Polls show that the majority of voters have either a disability or a loved one with a disability. 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.
As you complete the questionnaire, we recommend viewing this Q&A for more information to help you think through your answers to the questions: www.respectability.org/inclusion-toolkits/disability-faq. Two other key resources as you create your plans are the umbrella organizations of the disability community: the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (http://www.c-c-d.org) and the National Disability Leadership Alliance (http://www.disabilityleadership.org/). We also are happy to connect you to issue specialists and/or to review your plans before you post them if you would like. Below please find more information for select questions.
1) What policies and actions do you support to reduce the stigmas of people with disabilities that are barriers to employment, independence and equality?
Busting the stigmas, myths and misconceptions around people with disabilities should be part of America’s overall workforce/jobs strategy. Low expectations and misconceptions are critical barriers to employment for people with disabilities.
A Princeton study shows that while people with disabilities are seen as warm, they are not seen as competent. Similarly, a study published by Cornell Hospitality Quarterly found that companies share a concern that people with disabilities cannot adequately do the work required of their employees. A successful jobs policy would include a strategy for communications/public relations to reduce such stigmas.
Governors have been incredible role models on this front – bringing media to best practices of inclusive employment. Governors Jack Markell of Delaware, Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Jay Inslee of Washington and Scott Walker of Wisconsin all have done this extensively. The media appearances made by these governors have been vital in demonstrating the business case for hiring people with disabilities. This type of systematic and ongoing communications campaign must continue if you want to maximize your success.
Today we have curb cuts, more accessible transportation and more high school graduates with disabilities, but sadly, negative attitudes and stigmas still exist. Myths and misconceptions about people with physical disabilities/differences, intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges prevent far too many people from entering the workforce. We live in a world where perceptions are shaped at lightning speed by social media, entertainment and news. Any stigma reduction campaign needs a multilayered approach in order to change the narrative around workers with disabilities so that they are seen for the abilities that they bring to the table.
2) 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 have you done in the past or plan to do to improve the lives of people with disabilities? Here are some things for you to consider covering in that question:
- Have you been active in disability issues? What have you done?
- Have you hired people with disabilities, and if so, for what kind of roles?
- Do you have a disability advisor and/or advisory board?
- Have you volunteered and/or donated to disability causes?
- Do you have a disability and/or a loved one with a disability?
- What are other things you have done for people with disabilities?
- Have people with disabilities helped you in your career or life?
Some other questions to consider, if applicable:
- Did you appoint people with disabilities in your cabinet or other high-ranking offices?
- Have you hosted events that showcase the benefits of employing people with disabilities?
- Do you have a solid plan for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) that will dramatically improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities?
- Did you have a state department or agency on disabilities? Did you create the department, and was its director a high-level member (i.e., cabinet) of your administration?
- Did you expand or shrink Medicaid eligibility and funding while in office, including Medicaid buy-in programs?
- Did you expand or shrink other disability services like your state’s vocational rehabilitation services?
- Did employment of people with disabilities rise or fall while you were in office?
- Did the gap between employment of people with disabilities vs. without disabilities rise or fall while you were in office?
- Have you implemented specific initiatives focusing on employment of people with disabilities in you state, including veterans with disabilities, like Employment First?
- Did you match all of the federal dollars for disability services? If not, what federal dollars were left on the table?
Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. All people with disabilities deserve to be able to work to achieve the American Dream, just like anyone else.
One in five Americans has a disability. In the quarter century since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many important barriers have been lifted including, but not limited to, physical architectural barriers and educational opportunities. However, only 30 percent of working age people with disabilities are in the workforce. This leads to poverty, prison and worse.
Studies show that fully 70 percent of working age people with disabilities want to work. Today, with assistive technologies such as screen readers and other sophisticated software, it is easier than ever for people with disabilities to achieve results on behalf of employers. Moreover, about 11 million working-age Americans with disabilities are living on government benefits, despite the fact that most want to become independent.
Successful implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will be key. Thus, RespectAbility, along with a number of other disability groups, has created the Disability Employment First Planning Tool. This document details best practices and effective models that are proven to work, be cost effective to implement, and be successful. We suggest you and/or a member of your team review this. Check out our webinar on this topic for more information.
The answer to employment challenges will not be found in Washington programs alone. It will take public-private-nonprofit-disability community partnerships that are based on win-win-win policies that will benefit people with disabilities, employers and taxpayers alike.
Encouraging entrepreneurship and small business creation among people with disabilities also is key. Entrepreneurship is a profound part of living the American Dream. Empowering people with disabilities to become self-employed and start their own small business is something that our nation can accomplish together. Improving and expanding grants that train people with disabilities to start their own business is something the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Small Business Administration can do as a part of this plan. Likewise, expanding affirmative action and anti-discrimination protections for disability-owned businesses also are important steps that can help to employment opportunities.
At the same time, it is critical to help aging workers who are acquiring a disability to be “re-homed” in a new job so that they don’t need to exit the workforce prematurely.
3) What workforce development strategies do you support that will empower youth with disabilities?
Early work experiences should be a critical part of a fully accessible education, and an internship should be a part of every student with a disability’s Individualized Education Program for every student with a disability. There are already many best practices that show how to achieve successful transitions from school to work for students with disabilities. Project SEARCH, which is a one-year school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace, is an excellent example of a program that truly helps individuals with disabilities succeed in job placement and retention. This innovative, business-led model features total workplace immersion, which facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and worksite-based training and support. The goal for each program participant is competitive employment. Their employment outcomes are phenomenal: with programs in 43 states, and more than 2,000 young adults served each year, they have a 70 percent success rate for the participants who complete their program and have secured an integrated, competitive job. Programs like this show us how to create transition plans suited to the specific needs of individuals with disabilities and connect them with the post-secondary resources that will enable them to make the most of their lives. They are also fantastic for employers and taxpayers alike.
Improving post-secondary education opportunities, success and obtainment for people with disabilities is critical to empowering more people with disabilities to become independent and successful. Beyond college affordability, there is another critical barrier that keeps many people with disabilities from succeeding – the fundamental disconnect in most college programs between disability services and career services. Disability services often only look at accommodations on tests and classwork and not on how to transition into the workforce upon graduation. There needs to be better integration that brings awareness of the learning and working opportunities that are critical for successful transitions. The post-graduation transition plan should not be limited to a certain number of years post-graduation. People with disabilities often take additional time finding employment, and if they are still seeking employment two or three years post-graduation they may be excluded from these opportunities. Actively encouraging work experience through internships is a critical part of supporting the success of students with disabilities.
High expectations and family engagement are key parts of promoting independence and improving employment outcomes. High expectations about employment and success among people with disabilities need to begin early. Expecting and working toward success are motivational factors that can support the ultimate entry of a student with disabilities into the workforce. For far too long, people with disabilities have faced stigma, myths, and misconceptions about their capacity to work, to become independent, and to pursue careers. Setting high expectations for success needs to begin with families and their involvement in the schools. There are many examples of how this can be done successfully. Our nation needs to radically expand the innovative work being done through the Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) grant. The PROMISE grant is a joint initiative of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services, and Labor to address many of the barriers to economic independence faced by youth SSI recipients and their families. A key part of the success this model has had is the fact that family becomes engaged in career training and job preparation.
4) 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?
Ensuring children with disabilities receive the education and training they need to succeed is vitally important. Nationally, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school each year compared to 86 percent of student without disabilities. That means there is 21-point gap in outcomes. Educators have a critical role to play in empowering more students with disabilities to succeed.
Many students with disabilities, especially minorities and new immigrants, do not receive the services they need to succeed in school and/or are never identified as needing help due to their disability. As a result, many are relegated to segregated schools, suspended or pushed out of school altogether.
Some facts to consider:
- Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out-of- school suspension as students without
- Male African American and Latino students with disabilities have the highest suspension rates of all students with
- Youth with disabilities who do not complete a high school education are far more likely to interact with the criminal justice system than those who complete their
- Recent studies have found that only one third of undergraduates with learning disabilities were receiving accommodations. This research confirms that wealthier students have an easier time getting proper diagnoses and receiving appropriate accommodations than those with fewer financial resources.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act provides for improved assessments upon entry for justice-involved youth including disability screening. However, that is not yet happening, and similar requirements are missing in the adult system.
Teachers are important partners in the efforts to overcome bias, barriers and stigmas by promoting and implementing best practices in the classroom. Find resources for teachers and recommended reading here: https://www.respectability.org/resources/education-resources-disability-issues/.
5) 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 we 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?
The Department of Homeland Security recently announced a major change on the so-called “public-charge” rule. The new rule prohibits immigrants with disabilities and other people the government thinks are at risk of needing government benefits from entering the country. Disability and immigration advocates have condemned this proposal as clear discrimination against people with disabilities and people with chronic health conditions. Advocates for the public-charge rule contend that this rule is intended to reduce financial strains on the public systems.
Disability is a natural part of the human experience and there are over 1 billion people living with disabilities across the globe. Meaning that disability needs to part of the conversation as our nation debates critical issues around the rights of immigrants and the treatment of undocumented individuals with and without disabilities. Immigration advocates estimate that there are up to “1.5 million undocumented individuals in the United States who live daily with a disability.” Further, Census Bureau data shows that there are over 44 million immigrants living in the United States and out of that number, up to 6 million are probably living with a disability.
6) 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?
In the most recent statistics available – released in 2015 with data from 2013 – the rate of violent crime against people with disabilities was more than twice the rate for people without disabilities, while people with disabilities aged 12-15 and 35-49 were three times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
Ongoing low expectations for employment, negative stereotypes and a lack of appropriate transition services combine to lead to lives of isolation, poverty, poor health outcomes and higher rates of both victimization of, and crime by, people without disabilities.
Regarding sexual assaults, consider these facts:
- Children with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault than children without
- Every nine minutes an adult with a disability is sexually assaulted or
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and other studies, there is a correlation between individuals with disabilities and rates of sexual violence. Estimates show that around 59,000 adults with disabilities are raped or sexually assaulted each year. Those same studies show that adults with disabilities (hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care limitations, or inability to live independently) are 68 percent more likely than persons without disabilities to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.
These horrific statistics bespeak a reality of victimization that needs to be fought. Teaching children with disabilities self-advocacy skills also must include training in self-defense and education about how to seek assistance in the event of an assault. It is wrong enough that someone can be raped once but the fact that some people with disabilities experience repeated assaults is catastrophic. The necessary first step for addressing a horrific injustice such as sexual assault and people with disabilities is to understand the scale of the problem.
One study called Courage Above All: Sexual Assault Against Women with Disabilities found that “83 percent of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.” Approximately half of adults with cognitive disabilities will experience 10 or more sexually abusive incidents in their lifetime. Lastly, to quote the Department of Justice’s report on Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, “39 percent of all violent crimes committed against adults with disabilities were serious violent crimes…compared to 29 percent for those without disabilities.” These horrific statistics bespeak a reality of victimization that needs to change.
7) 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?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 32 percent of all federal inmates say they have a disability and 40 percent of prisoners in our jails have at least one disability. In 2016, RespectAbility, in consultation with a wide-ranging group of diverse leaders, prepared a detailed report, Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success. The report, which was featured on the PBS Newshour, looks at how youth with disabilities get caught in the school-to-prison pipeline, what happens to people with disabilities behind bars and how people exit the criminal justice system. We offered very specific proposals for progress. Learn more: https://www.respectability.org/resources/Ending-School-Prison-Pipeline/.
Some facts to consider:
- Two-thirds of inmates in state prisons failed to complete high school and seven out of ten people in jail are high school
- People with disabilities in the corrections system routinely have their rights Inmates who are deaf, hard of hearing or have another disability frequently are put in solitary “for their own protection,” which can cause significant mental health challenges.
- More than half of all people in prison report that they have a mental health condition. Only one-in-three people in prison and one-in-six of people in jail are receiving mental-health
- The experience of prison or jail can worsen pre-existing mental health conditions and can indeed create new mental health disabilities among inmates who leave the
- Some people with mental health issues are completely stabilized with medications and therapy while incarcerated. However, if they do not have access to Medicaid when they leave, many will be unable to receive the treatment they need.
- Some estimates show that between 70 and 90 percent of people released from the justice system are uninsured. This lack of access to healthcare, treatment and medication only diminishes a returning citizen’s chances of successfully reintegrating into society.
- Ninety-five percent of the prison population will eventually be released, and each year 600,000 people leave incarceration. There is a severe lack of capacity to reintegrate them appropriately. Within five years, three quarters of people who are paroled will be re-arrested and two-thirds will ultimately return to the prison and jail.
8) 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?
People with disabilities are more likely to be victims of police attacks. A Supreme Court amicus brief filed by the ACLU in San Francisco v. Sheehan stated, “A review of available reports indicates that at least half of the estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”
While the vast majority of officers only want to protect the community they patrol, officers not properly trained in dealing with people without disabilities are bound to make mistakes. When Freddie Gray died in police custody in Baltimore, much attention was paid to his race but less was paid to the fact he was an individual with a disability. It is well documented that Gray had lead poisoning as a child. While we are still trying to understand the full ramifications of lead poisoning, advocates and studies say it can diminish cognitive function, increase aggression and ultimately exacerbate the cycle of poverty that is already exceedingly difficult to break. In Gray’s case, unaddressed disability issues helped put him on a life path that involved the criminal justice system. In addition, Gray’s death was not an isolated incident, with similar cases across the country.
This does not even take into account people with other disabilities who were improperly handled by police, due to insufficient officer training. For example, police may think people with epilepsy, diabetes, cerebral palsy or disabilities resulting from a stroke are instead intoxicated or using drugs – and therefore subjected to unnecessary force by officers.
Likewise, too many innocent people of all abilities and races are being killed. Still, we recognize and value the role of police and the good intentions of the vast majority of those in law enforcement.
Police must be trained in how to respond to individuals with disabilities of all races. People who communicate, think, learn and emote differently must have the accommodations, supports and guidance needed to level the playing field. This also means that civil workers must receive training to ensure public safety for all citizens. It is also vital for children of ALL backgrounds to get the testing and services they need to determine if they have a disability and to enable early intervention that can bring successful outcomes.
9) 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 to live? This relates to private healthcare as well as SSI, SSDI, Medicare and Medicaid.
The transition from school to work in the community for people with disabilities needs to address other barriers to employment. For many people with disabilities, it is not the lack of a job or job skills that preclude them from having a job but rather it is the lack of healthcare services that may only be covered by Medicaid, and issues with Medicaid eligibility that is the problem.
The asset and income restrictions placed by Medicaid should be waived for individuals with documented disabilities that want to transition into the workforce in an effort to incentivize people to work rather than incentivizing people to remain on government support. For example, a person with a serious spinal cord injury should not lose the personal care assistant who helps them eat and get dressed in the morning if they take a job. More states need to offer a “Medicaid buy-in” to help people move into paid work while maintaining the health-related supports they need.
Another issue is the lack of portability of benefits, particularly if a person with a disability receives Medicaid benefits such as personal care assistance but finds employment in another state. They are not able to easily transfer benefits without a lapse in coverage. This makes the transition nearly impossible when people require medical care or personal care assistance on a daily basis. This also is an issue if family caregivers pass away and other caregivers are not in the same state.
When an individual is collecting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits based on disability, an SSI applicant or a current SSI recipient who is single cannot have more than $2,000 in assets. SSI claimants who exceed the $2,000 limit ($3,000 if married) are ineligible for benefits. And, in fact, claimants who are over the resource limit will not even have their disability claim fully evaluated to see if they are medically eligible for disability benefits. They will get a “technical denial” of benefits.
10) 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?
There is a shortage of home and community-based care across all disability populations. While the pay rates for these workers and coverage caps need to be increased, it is still cheaper to have a personal care assistant than the cost of institutionalization – the only alternative when workers are not available for hospitals, nursing facilities, residential placement for children with medically high needs, and in similar situations. There is a critical need for home and community-based providers especially among the elderly as baby-boomers age.
Personal care assistants are primarily funded through Medicaid, and eligibility is restricted based on assets and income. This is a significant disincentive to finding employment for people with disabilities who require personal care assistants. People with disabilities should be able to receive the care they need to live on a daily basis, and have that care available should they need assistance getting ready for work in the morning. There is no point in getting a job if you lose the ability to have someone help you get ready for work in the morning.
The Disability Integration Act (DIA), which would allow people with disabilities needing help with everyday tasks who previously have been forced into institutions to instead live in their homes in the community with appropriate aid, is supported and advocated for by many disability rights groups – from ADAPT to the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Autistic Self Advocacy Network to NCIL, and many others. Many individuals with disabilities would choose to receive home and community-based services such as personal care attendants instead of living in an institution. Studies have shown that it is more cost effective to do so than to live in institutionalized settings such as nursing homes where people with disabilities can no longer participate and contribute to society by working and paying taxes.
In addition, the “Priced Out in 2014” study documents the severity of our nation’s housing affordability crisis:
- The national average rent for a modestly priced one-bedroom apartment is greater than the entire maximum SSI payment of a person with a disability. The average annual income of a single individual receiving SSI payments was $8,995 – equal to only 20.1 percent of the national median income for a one-person household and about 23 percent below the 2014 federal poverty level.
- In 162 housing market areas across 33 states, one-bedroom rents were more than100 percent of maximum monthly SSI payments. Rents for modest rental units in 15 of these areas were more than 150 percent of maximum SSI payments.
- Our housing crisis severely impacts people with disabilities -the most vulnerable people with the lowest
- Aging parents supporting an adult child with a disability feel pressured to find safe housing that maximizes their son or daughter’s independence and
As a result of the housing crisis, millions of non-elderly people with disabilities have limited housing options and therefore, reside in homeless shelters, public institutions, nursing homes, unsafe and overcrowded board and care homes, at home with aging parents, or in segregated group quarters which, in some cases, are much more costly options and strip our fellow citizens of their basic human and civil rights.
It is critical to assure accessible, affordable, and safe housing options not only for people with disabilities (particularly those who experience intellectual disabilities), but also for our elderly citizens. Our nation is aging and this issue also impacts older adults who may experience disability challenges in later life as well as veterans who have disabilities.
11. 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?
12. How would you advance innovations (i.e., assistive technologies, devices) that can help people with disabilities become more successfully employed, productive and independent?
Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks. This includes assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities from wheelchairs and hearing aids to screen readers and voice recognition software.
Assistive technology, mobility devices and other supports can enable many individuals to look beyond receiving services and instead into pursuing their dreams. Technology is a rapidly evolving element in the environment in which services are delivered and people with functional limitations live their lives. As such, the use of technology to mitigate limitations or the role of assistive technology in facilitating communications is importance to consider. Examples include screen readers for people who are blind or visually impaired, voice recognition software and various communication devices to enable people with disabilities to communicate with co-workers – and their co-workers to effectively communicate with them.
13) 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?
From Paralyzed Veterans of America, Contact Morgan Brown for more information MorganB@pva.org
Supporting the employment aspirations of veterans with disabilities, ensuring access to quality care for veterans with and without service connected disabilities and supporting family caregivers of veterans have been key priorities for many veteran-related disability advocacy organizations. For example, there are ongoing issues related to the implementation of VEVRAA and Section 503 regulations. Likewise, advocates have been pushing hard to ensure that ensure high quality health care for veterans with disabilities and their families by maintaining the integrity of the VA system and protecting their access to other health care programs, including those that provide specialized access to community-based care and supports. Lastly, advocacy organizations have pushed hard to ensure that veterans with disabilities have a voice within the Department of Labor by the establishment of a Disabled Veterans Program staff position within the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS).
14) 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?
1-in-4 American Adults live with a disclosed disability, meaning that millions of people with disabilities have experienced the same natural catastrophes and human-caused disasters as their non-disabled peers. Recent mass shootings, wildfires, hurricanes, seismic events, climate events, power outages and other disasters have shown that people with disabilities are often excluded, forgotten or left to die when disaster strikes.
As articulated by the CCD Disability Inclusive Emergency and Disaster Management Task Force key issues for including people with disabilities across emergency preparedness processes include:
- Making sure that people with disabilities and their families must have the necessary information and access to resources to enable them to make plans for and respond to emergencies.
- Local and state governments must ensure that their emergency management systems and programs comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and that recipients and subrecipients of federal funding, including but not limited to funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, abide by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
- Any local and state committees, boards, advisory councils or other bodies tasked with developing, updating and implementing emergency management plans must include disability organizations and individuals with disabilities.
- Continued, regular training of shelter and emergency response staff must prepare them to assist and accommodate people with disabilities and provide for their access and functional needs including mobility, sensory, intellectual and developmental, chronic and acute health, cognitive and mental health.
- Public alerts about emergencies must be issued in a manner that is accessible to and actionable by everyone in a community.
- During a disaster, people with disabilities must be accommodated in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
- Disability organizations enlisted to serve people with disabilities during a disaster must be provided with the necessary resources to fulfill this mission.
- People with disabilities must be able to return to their communities in as timely a manner as opportunities are provided to the general population and without risk of temporary or permanent institutionalization.
- Disaster survivors with disabilities must have equal access to disaster recovery services, programs and assistance.
- Rebuilding and strengthening of a community’s infrastructure affords an opportunity to ensure and enhance accessibility in all public and governmental spaces, programs and services.
15) 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.
View https://www.respectability.org/inclusion-toolkits/disability-faq/ to learn more about how to ensure your events are accessible, including an event checklist, and how to ensure your physical location, exterior spaces and signage are accessible. Also learn more about how to ensure your website and other materials including handouts are fully accessible and how to add captions to your online videos for free.