Washington, D.C., June 29 – Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden had a clear message for the disability community this past week: “Everyone is entitled to a life of dignity and opportunity.” In a video message played at POWER: the Disability Vote, a national, nonpartisan Disability & Election Virtual Summit hosted by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Biden spoke about his legislative record in the Senate and his vision for advancing disability rights if elected President.
Speaking of his legislative efforts as a Senator from Delaware, Biden talked about working on the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in his “first year in the Senate.” This law, which specifically prohibited “discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies,” created the legal environment that directly lead to the mobilization of the disability rights movement. Biden then talked about the passage of the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988. This law explicated added people with disabilities to the categories of people protected from discrimination “in housing sales, rentals or financing.” Lastly, he spoke with great pride about being counted among the cosponsors of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
Former Vice President Biden linked his past legislative work to the crucial need for this nation to continue the work of integrating and empowering more people with disabilities. Biden said that these laws remind us that “we can accomplish big things if Democrats and Republicans could work together to make life better for millions.” He then talked about making “an inclusive and resilient middle class a corner of my campaign” before speaking directly about his campaign’s “comprehensive plans for fully participation and equality for people with disabilities.”
That plan, released last month and previously covered in-depth by The RespectAbility Report, covers many of the most pressing issues impacting Americans with disabilities including housing, health care, economic empowerment and non-discrimination protections. Biden reiterated the key message that people with disabilities need to have the right to “live independently in their chosen communities” and if elected, Biden committed his administration to “aggressively enforcing civil rights.”
In his video, Biden put special attention on the economic issues directly threatening the lives of millions of people in the disability community. The Democratic candidate’s vision for our nation depends on a commitment to ensure that people with disabilities can “enrich our society with their talents and contributions.” This message of reassurance is critical with millions of workers with disabilities out of work and thousands of households struggling to make ends meet. Biden also enumerated other policies that include “expanding competitive, integrated employment and educational opportunities.” A final detail of Biden’s disability employment message was an explicit mention about the importance of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) as a tool for getting people with disabilities into work. Disability service providers have been suffering under significant strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lost revenues, sick staff members and the imminent threat of state budget cuts.
Biden also mentioned his campaign’s explicit plans around the impact of COVID-19 and the unique needs of people with disabilities.
In closing, despite the hard times facing our nation, Biden’s message ended on an optimistic note. He reiterated his fundamental believe that while “it’s been a terrible crisis for our world and country….as we work to rebuild we have to once again be a generation that generates more opportunity to transform our country.”
AAPD’s event reiterated one of the most important lessons of the 2020 election: disability rights and voters with disability connections will be critical to deciding who occupies the White House for the next four years.
Indeed, courting the disability vote is a key part of the Biden campaign’s strategy for the November election. On the same day that the Biden disability policy plan was publicly released, the former Vice President appeared via Zoom for a 600+ person audience of disability community members. Tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET, the Biden campaign is hosting a virtual reception to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the time of writing, planned speakers include: Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, the Hon. Tony Coelho, Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin, retired singer Linda Ronstadt and former Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter.
By speaking directly to the most important issues facing voters with disabilities, the 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.
A surrogate from the Trump campaign did attend AAPD’s Rev Up event. Their full video message can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQJ9NKrIhLI
However, the President’s reelection campaign has failed to post any details or ideas regarding disabilities issues on their website and have done nothing to connect their message to millions of voters with disabilities.
Despite multiple attempts to connect with their campaign, RespectAbility has yet to receive any response to our non-partisan candidate questionnaire.
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: https://therespectabilityreport.org.