Washington, D.C., May 28 – After months of frustration, anticipation and advocacy by the disability community, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled his campaign’s disability platform. The plan, intended to positively impact the lives of the one-in-five Americans living with a disability, covers a range of issues as diverse and broad as the wider challenges facing the nation. Critically, the plan commits Biden and his campaign to ensure that “people with disabilities have a voice in their government” and are included throughout the “policy development and implementation” process.
The plan specifically delineates how a Biden presidency would “enforce civil rights,” ensure “affordable health care,” expand “competitive, integrated employment,” “strengthen economic security,” improve “educational programs,” and address “affordable housing, transportation, and assistive technologies” needs in the community as well as advancing “global disability rights.”
At a time when nearly one-million working-age people with disabilities are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden’s plan specifically commits to break down the economic, social and legal barriers that keep people with disabilities from “seeking, getting, and keeping jobs in competitive, integrated employment.” This commitment covers a range of topics from workplace protections against discrimination to investing in the provider community necessary to support integrated employment for thousands of people with disabilities. The plan also touches on the critical efforts launched back in 2016 with the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Biden’s plan would revisit efforts to support successful school-to-work transitions for youth with disabilities and entrepreneurship resources for people with disabilities. It also would ensure the “federal government or government contractors reflect the diversity of our country, including people with disabilities.”
To mark the launch of the plan, the Biden campaign hosted an online disability policy briefing via Zoom. To kick off the event, the former Vice President made a personal appearance from his Wilmington, Delaware home, where he spoke about his personal experiences with speech-language difficulties, reiterated his commitment to inclusion and promised to fight hard for Americans with disabilities. Reggie Greer, the campaign’s LGBTQ+ Vote Director, served as a moderator for the star-studded panel that included deaf actor/activist Nyle DiMarco. DiMarco spoke about the meaning of inclusion and the critical need for a wider culture that embraces disability. Award-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman also joined to talk about his life experiences as a world traveler with a mobility disability and the need for universal design principles in architecture.
In addition, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth spoke about key legislative proposal highlighted throughout the Biden disability plan. Duckworth highlighted the campaign’s efforts to listen and integrate ideas directly from the disability community into the language of the plan as well as her own legislative priorities around business access, disability inclusion and global leadership.
Beyond the new plan and its broad range of disability rights issues, the Biden campaign also has posted a page on their website discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with disabilities. This is critical as the pandemic shows no signs of ending any time before the November election.
The event and the new plan are just the latest signs that disability rights and voters with disability connections will be critical in the 2020 general election. Polling completed prior to the pandemic showed that voters with disabilities comprised a large and electorally contested block. Broad majorities of voters describe themselves as more likely to support candidates who ensure children with disabilities get the education they need to succeed, and similar majorities describe themselves as more likely to support candidates who back job and career opportunities for people with disabilities.
Likewise, polling completed during the pandemic showed that 18 percent of voters identify as having a disability, including a physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health, chronic pain or another condition that is a barrier to everyday living.
By releasing a solid plan that advances both the opportunity agenda and protects the social safety net, former Vice President’s campaign has thrown down the gauntlet for his opponent to step up and speak about the issues that matter most to people with disabilities.
At the time of this writing, RespectAbility staff have reached out to the Trump campaign multiple times and have yet to receive any response to their inquiries.
RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, is nonpartisan and neither rates nor endorses candidates. Read The RespectAbility Report: http://therespectabilityreport.org.