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Biden Transition Team Leaves Out People with Disabilities

Sen. Duckworth, Rep. Langevin and Disability & Inclusion Leaders Encourage Biden-Harris to Pick Talented People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Dec. 31 – Despite promises to the disability community that helped him win the election, President-elect Biden has not yet included people with disabilities among his top appointees, according to transition data.

With the release of the full Plum Book, which identifies presidentially appointed positions in the federal government, inclusion advocacy organizations and their congressional allies want to help the incoming Biden administration to fully deliver on its promises to build a cabinet that will “look like the country.”

“Leaders with lived disability experience and our proven allies are eager for opportunities to serve their country in a variety of roles,” said Matan Koch, Director of RespectAbility California and a past political appointee himself. “Decisions made at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, State, and Justice, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau impact people with disabilities in critical ways, and should be shaped by the by leaders with lived experience that reflects those impacted, including leaders with disabilities.”

Early signs about diversity have been positive; as of December 30, the Biden Transition Team already has highlighted the following data on demographic diversity:

  • 61 percent are women 
  • 54 percent are people of color 
  • AAPI appointees represent more than twice their share of the national population 
  • LGBTQ+ appointees account for 11 percent of all White House staff 
  • Almost 20 percent of appointees are first-generation Americans 
  • Almost 40 percent of White House senior staff have children at home

However, this includes no mention of people with disabilities nor any new appointees who self-identify as people with disabilities.

The disability community has an incredible cadre of proven leaders and talents who have been overlooked. The administration benefits by incorporating disability as yet another perspective that may inform policy and program decisions. After all, people who have experienced challenges themselves and know what solutions work can drive progress for everyone. 

Indeed, in the last 10 months, the world has experienced a decade of change and challenges. Thus, the Biden Administration will need cabinet and other senior-level posts to be filled by the most qualified and competent people possible. This includes highly qualified individuals from among the one in four adults in America who have a physical, sensory or other disability. Additionally, because 61 million Americans live with some form of disability, a disability perspective is critical to ensuring that the needs of all Americans are met. 

Early in December, Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Jim R. Langevin sent the transition team a memo outlining the critical need “to hire and appoint people with disabilities throughout all agencies and departments and select appointees who will prioritize the rights of Americans with disabilities from Day 1.” 

There are more than 7,000 federal civil service leadership and support positions that will need to be filled in the months ahead. 

RespectAbility has been working closely with the nonprofit organization Inclusive America to collect and compile the resumes of talented and qualified potential political appointees from across diverse, intersectional and underrepresented communities. Inclusive America encouraged political candidates to sign their Pledge for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, circulated draft executive orders on inclusion in government, and is tracking data on diversity among political appointees. The nonprofit’s CEO Mark Hanis said, “The Biden-Harris Administration will need to address discrimination, harassment and retaliation, while ensuring transparency of demographic data in recruitment, promotion, and retention of civil servants and political appointees.”

With thousands of open political appointments and dozens of federal agencies to get staffed up, understanding the process for securing a job or serving on a government commission can be complicated. To guide interested job seekers through the process, Inclusive America and RespectAbility recently hosted a webinar about the selection process for political appointments. That webinar is archived online here:

As a follow-up, RespectAbility will host a separate webinar talking specifically about civil services and ways to enter the federal workforce on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at 1:30 p.m. ET. For more information or to register, please visit

Media Contact:

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Published inDemocratsJoe Biden

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