Washington, D.C., August 20 – Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen reached out to the 1-in-5 people who live with a physical, sensory, cognitive, mental health or other disability on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“if you look over the last 30 years, we have made significant progress in the areas of education, in expanding services to people with disabilities, and in expanding opportunities,” Sen. Van Hollen said at a national #ADA30 summit sponsored by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities. “But as we take stock of the progress we’ve made, we also recognize that we’ve got a long journey still ahead to meet the promise of full equality and full inclusion.” More than 10,000 people watched RespectAbility’s online summit.
Each campaign cycle, RespectAbility issues nonpartisan disability voter guides in each of America’s 50 states. This year’s guide will focus on seven core questions that impact the lives and livelihoods of people with disabilities.People with disabilities are America’s largest marginalized population and the only one that, due to an accident, aging or illness, anyone can join at any time. According to the U.S. Census, more than 56 million people – 1 in 5 Americans – had at least one disability prior to COVID-19. This includes people with physical, sensory, learning, cognitive and other barriers to everyday living. The disability community is growing because of this pandemic, both from people who had the coronavirus and with so many people experiencing mental health challenges.
“We are grateful that Sen. Van Hollen spoke to the disability community on issues that are important to us. This election cycle is more important than ever, and it is vital for people with disabilities to register and vote. It also is critical for voting – whether it is online, by mail or in-person – to be accessible to voters with disabilities,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility.
Voters with disabilities want access in democracy, just like anyone else. At the same time, they have specific issues of interest. Of the 22 million working age (ages 18-64) people with disabilities in our country, fully 70 percent of them were outside of the labor force even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic, more than 20 percent of people with disabilities who had jobs have lost them.
Polling data of the battleground states shows that the disability community is large and electorally contested, but the issues they care about most are not being sufficiently addressed. More than half of the electorate in the battleground (59 percent) self-identifies as having a disability (16 percent), having a family member with a disability (32 percent) or having a close friend with a disability (11 percent).
Full Transcript of Sen. Van Hollen’s Remarks
“Hi, I’m Chris Van Hollen, and I’m proud to represent Maryland in the United States senate, and I’m especially proud of all the good work that RespectAbility does in its mission to end stigma with respect to people with disabilities, and to open wide the doors of opportunity for people with disabilities. And especially proud that you have your home in Rockville, Maryland and thank all of you, and your fearless leader Jennifer, for all the good work you do. I’m especially pleased that we’re gathered here, at least virtually, on the 30th anniversary of the passage of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation to move our country in the direction of more inclusion – building a more perfect union for all. And if you look over the last 30 years, we have made significant progress in the areas of education, in expanding services to people with disabilities, and in expanding opportunities. But as we take stock of the progress we’ve made, we also recognize that we’ve got a long journey still ahead to meet the promise of full equality and full inclusion. If you look at the statistics for graduating from high school, you find that students with disabilities still are 18% below the graduation rate for others. We especially have to make progress in the area of employment. The statistics show that between 60 and 80 percent of individuals with disabilities want to work – they want a job – but that only 19% actually have jobs. And so we’ve got to close that gap and work urgently to do so. I’ve been proud to be your partner in so many of these efforts. We need to pass the Keep Our Pact Act. This is legislation to require the federal government to finally meet its financial commitments under the IDEA legislation, where the federal government promised to pay 40% of the costs and today only covers about 18%. We need to pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act to really make sure that individuals with disabilities are integrated fully into the competitive workforce. So let us salute the work that’s been done by so many to reach this point, but also recognize that we’ve got to come together to finish that journey, and that there is much work still ahead. Thank you to RespectAbility for all that you’ve done and all that you will continue to do. Take care.”