Washington, D.C., May 11 – Over 40 years ago, Rep. James (Jim) Langevin was left paralyzed after an accidental shooting at his job at the Warwick Police Department in his home state of Rhode Island. Langevin, who was only 16 at the time, was suddenly a quadriplegic. Although unexpected, his injury led him to a life of public service, and he has never looked back.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Langevin has been a change agent in his home state for the last 35 years. Since his 1980 injury, he has worked to help Rhode Islanders in need and individuals with disabilities throughout the country. Langevin’s journey into public service began at Rhode Island College, where he served as President of Student Community Government. Following his undergraduate degree, Langevin went to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Thereafter, Langevin launched his career in government in 1986 by being elected to serve as the Secretary of Rhode Island’s Constitutional Convention. After two years in this position, Langevin successfully campaigned and was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
After spending six years in the Rhode Island General Assembly, Langevin began to make a name for himself after being elected as the Secretary of State of Rhode Island in November 1994. In this role, Langevin strived to promote good government and eliminate corruption throughout all levels of government in the Ocean State. Langevin served as Secretary of State until he was elected to the U.S. House of Representations in 2000, serving the people of Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District. After officially taking office in 2001, Langevin broke down barriers by becoming the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Langevin has been in Congress for the last 20 years, and he continues to create opportunities for all individuals living with and without disabilities.
Over the past 2 decades in Congress, Langevin has served on a variety of impactful Committees and Caucuses. He currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Homeland Security and many other subcommittees. He is also the co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, the Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus, the Career and Technical Education Caucus and the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus.
His work as the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus (BDC) is particularly important to all members of the disability community. This Caucus ensures that issues that impact people with disabilities throughout the United States are being addressed by legislators across the political spectrum. Langevin’s ability to establish and lead this forum has been monumental to the implementation and enforcement of multiple pieces of impactful disability legislation surrounding employment, education and transportation. His work with the BDC has also helped educate elected officials and lawmakers about disability rights. By turning legislators into proven allies of the disability community, Langevin is truly leading the opportunity agenda for millions of Americans with disabilities.
In addition to his work with the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, Langevin is also the Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus and the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus. His ability to work across the aisle with other members of Congress has helped raise awareness surrounding cybersecurity issues and promote CTE programs to prepare and train a competitive workforce.
The bipartisan work of these caucuses is vital because RespectAbility’s polling shows the disability community is comprised of Democrats, Republicans and Independents with differing viewpoints and opinions. Jim Langevin’s ability to lead these groups helps serve all of the American people, regardless of their disability status or political affiliation. Langevin’s work in Congress has evidently been impactful as he has received countless honors including the Henry Viscardi Center’s Achievement Award, the Junius A. Kellogg Outstanding Congressional Leadership Award and the Caring Award for being one of the most caring individuals in the United States and exemplifying service to those in need.
There are more than 358,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in the United States, and according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are 17,810 new cases each year. And even before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 27 percent of people with spinal cord injuries were employed 10 years after injury.
Even though he has been in government for over 35 years, Congressman Langevin continues to make large strides and sponsor legislation to help the disability community. Langevin recently stated, “Some of my proudest accomplishments in Congress are the laws I’ve helped write to make it easier for people with disabilities to live and work with dignity. My most recent project is the Disability Access to Transportation Act, which would expand transportation access for Americans with disabilities. The bill would establish a one-stop paratransit pilot program that would make a huge difference in the way people with disabilities navigate their communities, whether they’re going to work, dropping their children off at day care or attending a medical appointment. I am particularly energized by this bill and other transportation initiatives I’ve championed, like the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, because transportation is a foundational element to securing and maintaining a job. I will continue fighting to break down barriers to employment and community integration for people with disabilities everywhere.”
With the massive polarization present in our government today, more elected officials should strive to be like Congressman Jim Langevin. His ability to work with others, break down barriers and make legislative changes for the 61 million adults in the United States living with a disability has been instrumental to the disability rights movement.