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Month: October 2020

RespectAbility Urges Pollsters to Track the Disability Voice and Vote

Washington, D.C., Oct. 21 – With one in four adults having a disability, the national, nonpartisan disability inclusion organization RespectAbility is urging pollsters and polling firms to include people who live with a physical, sensory, cognitive or other disability in their polling data. For decades pollsters have included demographics by race, gender, age and educational levels. However, voters with disabilities often are left out of polling.

Researchers at Rutgers University estimate that approximately 38.3 million people with disabilities are eligible to vote in this year’s election, which is roughly one-sixth of the electorate. “Millions of Americans with disabilities are more engaged and active than ever before and it’s time for us to be counted, just like anyone else,” said RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. 

The one in four adults with the disability include people with spinal cord injuries, low vision or who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, as well as those with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, Autism or other disabilities. The sheer number of people with disabilities makes them the nation’s largest minority community. 

2020 Candidates and Other Priorities for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 16 – There is no way any single candidate questionnaire can fully capture the issues impacting the approximately 61 million Americans living with some form of disability. The questions chosen by RespectAbility for the nonpartisan 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire reflect organizational priorities around fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community. In our outreach to candidates the Presidential as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle, RespectAbility has offered candidates the chance to offer any additional policy proposals and future priorities beyond just the scope of the questionnaire. 

Question 7 of the Questionnaire was: What additional policies and priorities, other than those already discussed above, do you plan to focus on to improve the lives of people with disabilities? 

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

2020 Candidates and Community Inclusion for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 16 – When politicians and candidates for public office think about reaching out to minority communities, it is important that they remember the one-in-five Americans living with some form of disability. Voters with disabilities are a massive pool of potential voters who have often been ignored in past elections. However, those voters are now more engaged and active than ever. According to a recent study by Rutgers University, up to 38.3 million eligible voters are people with disabilities. This represents a massive increase in participation by voters with disabilities compared to past elections.

RespectAbility has conducted polling research of its own and found that three quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a close friend or family member with a disability. With such a large share of the electorate having a personal interest in disability issues,  politicians must pay attention. As a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility has invited all candidates in the Presidential as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Question 4 of the Questionnaire was: What will you do to promote policies and practices designed to support full community engagement, access and inclusion of people with disabilities? 

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

2020 Candidates on Campaign Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Have you ever heard the expression “Nothing about us without us”? Within the disability rights community, it means that if there is something affecting people with disabilities that is being discussed or debated, the voices and lived experiences of people with disabilities need to inform that debate. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a clear light on many of most important inequities that define American life. As such, the people most directly affected by issues such as education, jobs, prejudice, homelessness, criminal justice, poverty and other issues deserves to have their voice, insights and experiences respected and utilized in finding and implementing solutions.

Oftentimes, the solutions that the disability community brings forward can have a broad impact on the community. For instance, adding closed captioning to videos does not just help people with specific disabilities. It can also help people who speak English as a second language or senior with hearing issues. This example illustrates that America will be better off when people with disabilities can fully participate in the political process, just like anyone else. 

Therefore, RespectAbility, a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, has been tracking campaign accessibility issues throughout this year. This includes back during the Democratic Presidential Primary as well as during the 2018 and 2016 election cycles. You can find a full archive of campaign accessibility specific posts on The RespectAbility Report here.

Many campaigns lack basic accessibility – from websites being accessible for people using screen readers to videos lacking captions for the 37.5 million American adults who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, not all campaign events are ADA accessible, including parking, entrances and bathrooms. Many lacked ASL interpreters and live captioning services.

However, as disability issues have gained more attention than in past election cycles, RespectAbility has highlighted campaign accessibility in the 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire distributed to all candidates in key Senate and gubernatorial races on both sides of the aisle. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

Question 3 of the Questionnaire was: What specific measures have you taken to make your campaign accessible for, and inclusive of, people with disabilities, as every issue impacts our lives? 

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

2020 Candidates and Combating Stigmas for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Elected officials have the opportunity to demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, full community participation and celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of people with disabilities. They can issue press releases, give speeches and celebrate events such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

As part of its commitment to fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility has invited all candidates in the Presidential as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Question 5 of the Questionnaire was: There are significant stigmas that create attitudinal barriers that limit options and perpetuates low expectations for people with disabilities. What measures will you take to combat these stigmas and promote opportunities for people with disabilities?

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

2020 Candidates and High School Graduation for Students with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 14 – The 2020 election is an election unlike any other. Candidates vying for public office present profoundly different visions of what the future of America will look like. As a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of the community, RespectAbility has invited candidates in the Presidential as well as in key Senate and Governor races, from both sides of the aisle, to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Central to that Questionnaire and the election itself is the question of the future of students with disabilities. Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more issues and concerns for all students and their families, but this is especially true for students with disabilities. Additionally, the gap in graduation and drop-out rates between students with and without disabilities continues to undermine their futures. For example, in the class of 2018, only 66 percent of Black students with disabilities, 71 percent of Latinx students with disabilities, 77 percent of white students with disabilities, and 79 percent of Asian-American students with disabilities completed high school. 

By contrast, in the class of 2018, 89 percent of white students without disabilities graduate with a high school diploma, as did 79 percent of African-American students without disabilities, 81 percent of Latinx students without disabilities, 92 percent of Asian-American students without disabilities. 

Furthermore, just seven percent of students born with a disability graduate from college. 

Question 1 of the Questionnaire was: What is your plan for ensuring that all students with disabilities receive quality and appropriate education to acquire the critical and marketable skills necessary to compete in a job-driven economy? 

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

2020 Candidates on Promoting Disability Employment Outcomes

Washington, D.C., Oct. 14 – The 2020 election is an election unlike any other. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national employment rate for working-age people with disabilities in America was 37.6 percent compared to 77.8 percent for people without disabilities. Further, there continue to be significant disparities in employment outcomes within the disability community that vary from state to state

There are also significant racial disparities in disability employment outcomes. 38.9 percent of working-age white people with disabilities have jobs, compared to only 29.7 percent of working-age Black people with disabilities, 39.4 percent of working-age Hispanics with disabilities and 43.2 percent of working-age Asian-Americans with disabilities. The pandemic has ravaged the disability community and more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a clear light on many of most important inequities that define American life. As a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility has invited all candidates in the Presidential as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Question 2 of the Questionnaire was: If elected, what will you do to ensure that the government is removing barriers and promoting high quality, inclusive services built on evidence-based policies, practices and procedures leading to competitive, meaningful careers, which includes promoting entrepreneurial opportunities?

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

2020 Candidates on English Language Learners and Immigrants with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 12 – The 2020 election is an election unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a clear light on many of most important inequities that define American life. The continued spread of a deadly disease has forced millions of students to learn virtually and left hundreds of school districts scrambling to adopt new technologies. At the same time, even as more employers embrace telecommuting, millions of immigrants remain essential workers and must risk exposing themselves to COVID-19 in order to earn a paycheck. 

With these critical questions being discussed and debated across the country, RespectAbility has been actively inviting all candidates in key Senate and gubernatorial races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire. 

The disability community is, by nature, intersectional. Immigration advocacy organization IMM Print advocates estimates that there are up to “1.5 million undocumented individuals…with a disability.” Further, Census Bureau data shows that there are more than 44 million immigrants living in the United States and out of that number, up to 6 million are probably living with a disability.

As part of its commitment to fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility included questions that specifically address both the need for effective education for students with disabilities and the place of immigrants with disabilities in America today in its disability voter questionnaire. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

In the questionnaire, Question 6 specifically asked candidates: In our nation’s public schools, there are 6.3 million students with disabilities. The changing demographics of America are reflected in these students, with 11.4 percent of students with disabilities nationwide, almost 720,000, also identified as English-language learners. Their accommodation needs are compounded by the fact that many come from households that do not speak English at home, adding an extra challenge for parental interaction. It can also be harder to diagnose disabilities in children when they are English language learners. Additionally, immigration issues and fears over the public charge rule impact students with disabilities, their families and the wider workforce. What policies would you advance to enable students and their families who are English language learners with disabilities to succeed in school and employment?

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded:

Biden and Trump Face Off in First Debate: Disability Issues Absent

Washington, D.C., Oct. 2 – When former Vice President and current Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off against current President Donald Trump at this week’s debate, many important topics of conversation were neglected. Critically, the widely watched and discussed debate ignored many of the issues most important to the 60 million American living with some form of disability.

As has happened in past debates, the most explicit mention of disability-related issues came in the context of the candidates debating about their radically different visions for healthcare access in America today. Former Vice President Biden expressed concern in the debate that President Donald Trump wanted to “strip 20 million people of their healthcare….and 100 million people who have preexisting conditions would lose their healthcare as well.” Speaking at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio for the first of three scheduled presidential debates this year, the President countered by wildly speculating that Biden would “take away private healthcare insurance” options. In reality, Biden has expressed and continues to express support for a public option for those who do not have access to Medicaid expansion.

Biden Campaign Evolves, Makes Voters with Disabilities a Priority

Washington, D.C., Oct. 1 – Former Vice President and current Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden (D-DE) and his campaign have been very active in courting voters with disabilities for the 2020 presidential election. A new report by the Rutgers Program for Disability Research estimates 38.3 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in November. That’s a nearly 20 percent jump since 2008. Therefore, presidential candidates should fully and intentionally include voters with disabilities in all outreach efforts; ensuring accessibility for voters with a variety of disabilities plays a large part in that as well. 

While the campaign was criticized during the primary for not devoting enough attention to voters with disabilities, the Biden campaign since has evolved, making voters with a disability a priority. Part of that has been hiring Molly Doris-Pierce, a young woman with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as their National Disability Engagement Director. Ms. Doris-Pierce previously served on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s presidential campaign as both their National Women’s Outreach Director and National Disability Engagement Director. While working for Sen. Warren’s presidential campaign, she built a coalition of disability advocates on behalf of the campaign to complete their well-known “Protecting the Rights and Equality of Persons with Disabilities” plan. Prior to her work on the Warren campaign, she received her bachelor’s degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and worked in nonprofit development programming, political fundraising and church leadership.