Key actions and positions posted on the intersection of disability and education, jobs, immigration, climate crisis, criminal justice and more
Sacramento, CA, August 9 – Democratic candidate, attorney and physician Dr. Brandon Ross has responded to a detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues. The questionnaire is from RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit disability organization that does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes. RespectAbility has reached out to candidates in California’s critical gubernatorial recall election. The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and Ross’ responses follows:
EDUCATION & SKILLS: What is your plan to ensure that all students with disabilities, including English Language Learners, receive an appropriate education to acquire critical and marketable skills?
I would ensure we find a way to secure funds, by grants or diverting from other programs, to meet the academic needs for California’s diverse student population.
I feel we should implement training for school personnel that are not qualified or knowledgeable working with SPED and ESL students. We should have a culturally responsive environment and diversity inclusion with teachers and staff with whom students can identify.
We should include parent volunteers and add an advocate on site that understands, supports, and serves students that are disabled, ESL, racial minorities and socially disadvantaged students.
We should form parent support groups and provide families with free resources they can use to get help and find more information. There should be both paper and online information available to parents on the school site for the educational rights of students and a contact to report concerns or violations. We should hold administrators accountable to properly identify, evaluate, and place students in the programs they need to progress academically and socially.
We should employ staff or develop a working partnership for language accessibility and cultural literacy. We should provide parents with information they understand and improve monitoring tools and quality assurance on data for schools on a state level after school administrators input data in the system.
EMPLOYMENT & ENTREPRENEURSHIP: If elected, what will you do to advance opportunities for people with disabilities who want to work and earn an income, just like anyone else?
See answer to question one.
How will you support employers, large and small, to recruit and hire workers with disabilities?
I would extend grants and incentives to employers that employ people with disability-related barriers. Tax breaks, stimulus packages, and salary contributions are examples of what I would propose.
We should form partnerships with local career colleges and training facilities to offer free short-term certificates to people with disabilities and companies/employers for transitioning after completion of training. We should match or contribute to the company at a competitive wage, thereby cutting employer costs for both training and salaries.
I would recommend we reallocate the workload between the government agency (DOR) and contract with an organization to process applications in a timely manner. We should have volunteers that can assist the disabled in all stages of the employment process, including completion of paperwork.
We should hire on more vocational rehabilitation case managers for disabled people to receive an individual employment plan, which would allow companies to be more confident they will benefit from the hire.
We should have a phone line and location for people to ask disability-employment related questions. I would discuss alternative options like investing in a client-assistance program between groups of employers and agencies to streamline the process for disabled people by offering entrepreneurships and career pathways.
I would support the agencies that serve this demographic by adding more funds, tools, opportunities, and workforce to match the increase in unemployment due to Covid-19 and include the needs of all groups of people. I would offer more incentives to employers to hire people with disabilities with the help of the agency that is working with the individual. I would use reliable tools and evidence-based results from the agencies to determine best practices as they track their clients’ careers so we can use the information to expand on disability internship opportunities.
ACCESS & INCLUSION: Whether or not you have a formal platform, what specific plans do you have to incorporate the voices of people with disabilities into your decision-making processes, if elected?
I would have people that can work with disabilities and have lived experience and knowledge on various platforms and offer choices on ways people can participate. I would allow for mail and online input and chose accessible locations for people to meet locally. Since each disability is different, I would ensure the disabled receive access and inclusion and reduce stigmas and disparities. As a physician I understand the importance of having an environment for people with disabilities and believe their voices are important as they are greatly affected by many political decisions, especially in the realm of healthcare.
If elected my plan is to reach out to the largest organizations and agencies that support people with disabilities and discuss topics of concern for this community. Since there are different challenges and difficulties for people with disabilities, one solid approach would be to have webinars online with ASL interpreters, so all may participate.
FIGHTING STIGMAS: If elected, what will be your plan to fight stigmas, highlight the disability community, and promote higher expectations for success?
There are significant barriers and challenges for people with disabilities that have not changed over time. Over the years there have been incremental changes and improvements for people with disabilities, allowing them to learn in school, receive higher education, and have meaningful careers. Of course, disabilities require accommodations and services that are individualized, and plans change over time. Fighting stigmas is difficult and those directed toward people that are disabled may be prohibited by law, which should be reported when violations occur. Having a diversity inclusion plan which includes people with disabilities in management and executive positions is one way to fight stigmas. Raising awareness by media outlets that tell powerful stories would help, as would including inspirational stories of the disabled in the overall educational curriculum.
OTHER KEY ISSUES: 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?
Housing and homelessness.
There are simply not enough homes in California to meet demand. This has caused home prices to soar and price out many who could otherwise afford to own a home. The bureaucratic red tape needs to be slashed to enable development of new homes to proceed at a faster rate. In addition, California needs to drastically increase public housing. In doing so, it will increase the number of homes available and decrease the homeless population by moving them into safe, modest homes owned by the government so they can get back on their feet and turn their lives around. Public housing can be developed on state-owned land or with inexpensive private purchases. It can be developed by private contractors through a competitive bidding process, further pumping up the economy.
Every human being should be entitled to food, shelter and healthcare. In addition to drastically increasing development of public houses, as mentioned above, California should develop more state-funded homeless shelters. Homeless people should have a safe place to go to stay off the streets. They should be well-fed and cared for. Though downtrodden, many will ultimately turn their lives around and contribute in a positive way towards society. Let’s get them off of the streets and into safe shelter.
Climate change and wildfires.
We must continue to fight climate change through legislation and common sense. California has taken the lead in legislating to reduce emissions and expand renewable energy. I would vow to continue the fight. We should continue and even enhance the rebate system directed at encouraging homeowners to install solar systems and purchase electric cars. We should also continue building additional public transit systems and protect our water sources through the clean water initiative.
California is in the midst of a drought, causing an increased number of wildfires. We need to have state-funded, dedicated teams to go to homes and advise homeowners what can be done to lessen the risk of fires on an individual property basis. The state must fund building of firebreaks to lessen the number of fires and their magnitude. More firefighters should be hired, and increased funding should be secured to improve aerial support, including the night-vision helicopters capable of fighting fires in the dark. As of now, California only possesses a handful of these vehicles and essentially shuts down firefighting efforts during the night.
Our great country was created by immigrants, and they are essential to our society and economy. I believe we should extend the DREAMers program and focus on targeting criminals, rather than families which have immigrated to the United States. The Trump administration’s policy of dehumanizing immigrants must never happen again.
Criminal justice system.
Our criminal justice system is broken and needs an overhaul from the ground up. The current system fails to keep our communities safe and disproportionately targets minorities. Such injustice must stop, and this should begin through education programs throughout the police and justice systems. We should be teaching tolerance and racial equality. Police brutality is an abomination and chokeholds such as the one that killed George Floyd should be criminalized.
Dr. Ross is one of many candidates who are competing in California’s special gubernatorial recall election. For a full list of candidates running in the September 14 recall election and to learn more about voting, please visit the California Secretary of State’s 2021 CA Gubernatorial Recall Election website at https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections.
RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. RespectAbility does not rate or endorse candidates. View more coverage of California candidates on our website.
He’s got my vote!