Washington, D.C., January 20 – Today is Inauguration Day, and that means that four candidates who reached out to voters with disabilities will be sworn into office. RespectAbility congratulates President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. We look forward to working with them on issues impacting voters with disabilities.
Reaching out to the disability community may have been part of the reason that these candidates won their elections. Researchers at Rutgers University estimated that approximately 38.3 million people with disabilities were eligible to vote in last year’s election, which is roughly one-sixth of the electorate. Voters with disabilities want access in democracy, just like anyone else. At the same time, they have specific issues of interest. For example, of the 22 million working age (18-64) people with disabilities in our country, fully 70 percent of them are outside of the labor force.
The one in four adults with disabilities 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.
Read more below about outreach to the disability community from these four candidates.
Joe Biden Bet Big on Disability Issues and Won
Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been elected the 46th President of the United States. California Sen. Kamala Harris will become the 49th Vice President of the United States and the first Woman of Color to hold the post. In an unprecedented election season that has seen massive turnout amid a pandemic, outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities has proven crucial to the final vote tally. Black votes in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania helped put Biden over the top in those states, as did Hispanic votes in Arizona.
As a critical part of that winning outreach strategy, the Biden-Harris campaign has prioritized, in an unprecedented fashion, connecting with the more than 38.3 millionpeople with disabilities eligible to vote in this year’s election.
Since winning the Democratic nomination, the Biden campaign has made disability issues and connecting to voters with disabilities a top priority. In May, the campaign released a comprehensive plan about 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.”
Warnock, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins Georgia Special Election Runoff
Senator-elect Warnock responded to a detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues put out by the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. Kelly Loeffler, despite multiple requests, did not respond to the questionnaire.
Ossoff, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins Georgia Runoff
While neither Senator-elect Ossoff nor Senator Perdue responded to a detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues put out by the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility, Ossoff did release a video statement for the Georgia Disability Vote Partnership’s live streamed voting forum that featured all four candidates.
I hope that the Biden administration will put teeth into their rhetorical support of persons with challenged abilities. I also hope and pray that assisting or appointing a minuscule number of us (I have multiple physical challenges… primarily, Cerebral Palsy), which merely serves as a gesture, will not be the extent of this administration’s support. What are Mr. Biden’s plan, and, what will he and his team actually do ,to improve the lives of the over 60 million people with challenged abilities?