Los Angeles, CA, September 7 – Los Angeles mayoral candidate and Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass 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.
According to the 2021 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, there are approximately one million people living in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area with some form of disability. The disability community makes up 9.9 percent of the population in Los Angeles County and fully 11.3 percent of California’s state population.
RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates in key races across the country a series of questions about issues affecting people with disabilities, including employment, education, and accessibility. RespectAbility has sent multiple emails and placed many phone calls to the campaigns in order to solicit responses to our questionnaires.
The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and Bass’ responses follow:
EDUCATION AND SKILLS: There are more than 183,000 students with disabilities enrolled in Los Angeles County public schools. Of that number, 126,000 are Latinx students with disabilities who face additional barriers such as language differences, inadequate resources, economic disparities, and racial discrimination. Further, the recent legal case Payan vs LACCD revealed serious accessibility gaps at post-secondary education institutions. What steps will you take to ensure that students with disabilities of all backgrounds have what they need to succeed?
From my time as a student in LAUSD, to founding Community Coalition, where I fought for equity in public education, to my years of advocacy for foster youth, I have seen firsthand how having multiple risk factors exponentially increases the challenges our student population face.
Despite the strides we have made in the 32 years since the ADA passed, we continue to leave far too many students with disabilities behind. I’m not naïve about the fact that the Mayor does not have jurisdiction over schools – but I won’t let that be an excuse to take a backseat to the education of our city’s youth. The mayor can play an important role in advocating for change and improvement and I plan to be a strong, vocal partner with LAUSD and our Board of Education. I will work to ensure that Los Angeles families have safe and affordable housing, physical and mental healthcare, and equitable access to a full and fair education regardless of race, geography, ability or hardship.
I have been and will continue to be an advocate for community schools, which have been shown to increase student engagement and success.
I agree with the findings in Payan v LACCD. More must be done to guarantee that no matter what the disability, financial and practical resources must be available to provide our students equitable access. I will use my connections locally and at the state and federal levels to marshal funding that can close the cracks our students far too often fall through.
ACCESS AND INCLUSION: The disability community lives by the motto “Nothing about us, without us.” We must have a seat at any decision-making table that affects us – which is every table, as disability cuts across all other demographics. Those with lived experience know the solutions that work and must be part of the decision-making process. As such, campaigns are most successful when they develop connections to constituents with disabilities, recruit volunteers with disabilities, host public events in accessible spaces, and make their campaigns accessible online. 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? What steps, if any, have you taken to make your campaign accessible for people with disabilities and to ensure that our voices are heard?
As a former community organizer, my governing philosophy has always been to work directly with communities impacted by whatever the issue may be, and to engage in a two-way conversation. That’s how I have represented communities throughout my tenure in the Assembly and Congress – and it’s the same commitment I’ll bring to the Mayor’s office.
Volunteers with a variety of disabilities are part of our grassroots campaign. We also take steps at campaign events including providing ASL interpreters to accommodate people with various disabilities – and strive for full accessibility when others host events on behalf of the campaign.
I also believe that diversity must be a critical element in putting together an Administration. As mayor, I am committed to hiring individuals with disabilities as members of my staff and as City Commissioners. People with disabilities will always be represented, heard and lifted up in my office.
HOMELESSNESS, POVERTY AND EQUITY: In Los Angeles, there are few issues more pressing than homelessness. As of 2020, there were more than 100,000 people experiencing homelessness in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. At least 26 percent of Angelenos experiencing homelessness have long-term mental health conditions. People with disabilities are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness. What is your plan to address homelessness among your constituents, to work with other organizations to address the issue in the region, and to coordinate with other municipalities to create more affordable and accessible housing?
Solving homelessness will be my top priority as Mayor, and I will pay special attention to the unique populations who become homeless for very different reasons.
Homelessness is a crisis for the unhoused and for every one of our neighborhoods. It’s a crisis on every level — public health, public safety, economic and humanitarian — and it requires a bold and aggressive emergency response. I will bring leadership, accountability and action to dramatically reduce homelessness and end street encampments in Los Angeles.
As Mayor, I will respond to homelessness like the emergency it is and lead with a comprehensive approach that will:
- House 15,000 people by the end of year one and build more temporary, affordable, and permanent supportive housing
- Marshal the resources of the federal, state, county and city governments around a single plan to fight homelessness
- Transition individuals from the streets to housing and services, and end street encampments
- Lead on mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Equip the unhoused with job training and employment services to reenter the workforce
- Prevent homelessness and keep our neighbors housed
I will be out front on our homelessness crisis and will hold every level of government accountable while building productive partnerships and coalitions. For too many years, government action on homelessness has been siloed. Federal, state, county and city governments have all moved in different directions – with no coordination or overarching plan.
That simply can’t happen any longer – there is no time to waste. I will also engage all Angelenos, including Angelenos with disabilities, to make sure we’re addressing their unique needs, and to bring the whole city along in solving this crisis.
To read my comprehensive homelessness plan, please visit www.karenbass.com/policies/homelessness.
OTHER PRIORITIES: Criminal justice, climate issues, voting rights, and transportation are all major issues that have significant impacts on Angelenos with disabilities. What other policies that impact people with disabilities are you ready and eager to work on? What is your plan to involve your constituents with disabilities in key decision-making processes?
Angelenos with disabilities make up a critical part of our city, and I believe that all issues must be approached through the lens of making sure their unique needs are met. As Mayor, I will ensure the health, safety and economic growth of all communities.
That commitment will come through in the way we invest in basic city services that residents and businesses expect like paving our streets and sidewalks, waste collection, and ensuring streets and parks are well-lit.
It means ensuring that as we continue to build a fast, reliable, safe transportation network, we provide robust options for Angelenos with disabilities to get around our city, including on-demand transportation services.
It means creating a safe city for all Angelenos by hiring civilians at the LAPD so that officers behind the desk can quickly move back to patrol, and by investing in proven crime prevention programs. Importantly, we also must create alternative response teams to address mental health related and other challenges that would best be handled by trained providers, not police officers.
Fortunately, Los Angeles and California are home to some of the strongest voter accessibility rights in the nation, but I will be committed to expanding voting resources with technology and education, and ensuring that all Angelenos, including those with disabilities, are enfranchised and able to participate in the civic process.
I would look forward to working with Angelenos with disabilities, and disability rights organizations, who will always have a seat at the table in advancing our policy agenda.
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 2022 candidates.