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2020 Candidates on Campaign Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Have you ever heard the expression “Nothing about us without us”? Within the disability rights community, it means that if there is something affecting people with disabilities that is being discussed or debated, the voices and lived experiences of people with disabilities need to inform that debate. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a clear light on many of most important inequities that define American life. As such, the people most directly affected by issues such as education, jobs, prejudice, homelessness, criminal justice, poverty and other issues deserves to have their voice, insights and experiences respected and utilized in finding and implementing solutions.

Oftentimes, the solutions that the disability community brings forward can have a broad impact on the community. For instance, adding closed captioning to videos does not just help people with specific disabilities. It can also help people who speak English as a second language or senior with hearing issues. This example illustrates that America will be better off when people with disabilities can fully participate in the political process, just like anyone else. 

Therefore, RespectAbility, a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, has been tracking campaign accessibility issues throughout this year. This includes back during the Democratic Presidential Primary as well as during the 2018 and 2016 election cycles. You can find a full archive of campaign accessibility specific posts on The RespectAbility Report here.

Many campaigns lack basic accessibility – from websites being accessible for people using screen readers to videos lacking captions for the 37.5 million American adults who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, not all campaign events are ADA accessible, including parking, entrances and bathrooms. Many lacked ASL interpreters and live captioning services.

However, as disability issues have gained more attention than in past election cycles, RespectAbility has highlighted campaign accessibility in the 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire distributed to all candidates in key Senate and gubernatorial races on both sides of the aisle. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

Question 3 of the Questionnaire was: What specific measures have you taken to make your campaign accessible for, and inclusive of, people with disabilities, as every issue impacts our lives? 

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

Examining Presidential Hopeful Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign Accessibility

Washington, D.C., Dec. 19 – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has officially announced that he is running for president in the democratic primary. But how is his campaign doing on including people with disabilities?

Michael Bloomberg

For a presidential campaign to be fully inclusive of people with disabilities, it needs to meet the following requirements, at a minimum: (1) offer captioning with every video it shares or produces, (2) mention people with disabilities and their issues, (3) depict people with visible disabilities in its media, (4) reach out to and fully include the disability community, and (5) provide accessible campaign events, social media, documents and website. Bloomberg’s campaign has room for improvement, but there are some positive signs that the campaign is trying to be inclusive.

Seven Democratic Campaigns Prioritize Disability Issues in Accessibility for All Forum

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Nov. 24 – Earlier this month, seven presidential campaigns made history together as they participated in a Democratic Party forum, Accessibility for All, focused on issues affecting people with disabilities. This is the first time this campaign season that a forum was held specifically on this topic.…

Yang Pledges Increased Accessibility for People with Variety of Disabilities to Become More Engaged in Campaign

Washington, D.C., June 16 – Disability is personal to presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, who has a son on the Autism spectrum. In response to a question posed to all of the viable 2020 presidential candidates by RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with…

Sanders Campaign “Committed to Ensuring Accessibility is at Forefront of Everything we Build”

Washington, D.C., June 13 – The Sanders campaign, which is the only one to have a dedicated page on its website for disability rights, has pledged continued accessibility in response to a question posed to all of the viable 2020 presidential candidates by RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas…

Sixteen Major Midterm Campaign Websites Leave Out Disabled Voters: Why It Matters

71% of people with disabilities leave a website immediately if it is not accessible

Washington, D.C., Sept 28 – While one-in-four adults in the U.S. have a disability, and despite continued pressure from disability organizations and activists, 16 of the most prominent midterm campaign websites are not fully accessible to disabled voters. These are the findings of the latest study from Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, released September 27 in Time Magazine.

While 2020 was a difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also a remarkable election year for voters with disabilities. As noted by Rutgers and EAC, “Close to 75 percent of voters with disabilities voted with a mail ballot or early in-person” and “five of six (83 percent) of voters with disabilities voted independently without any difficulty.” 17.7 million voters with disabilities cast their ballots in the 2020 election. These voters are crucial and can make the difference between a winning or a losing campaign. 

How Candidates & Campaigns Can Connect with Voters with Disabilities: by Nelly Nieblas and Hon. Steve Bartlett

Washington, D.C., June 28 – In the 2020 election cycle, candidates from both political parties who made their campaigns accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities won key races and helped shift the balance of power in America.

The biggest wins for candidates who reached out to voters with disabilities were in the state of Georgia where President Biden and Senators Ossoff and Warnock all made their campaigns accessible to voters with disabilities.

All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility is a poignant look at the intersectionality of accessibility in NYC

New York City, June 17 – Primary elections are underway in NYC and New Yorkers are thinking hard about the issues that matter most to them. Accessibility and disability and social justice are at the forefront of many minds, which makes All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility a perfect film to watch before heading to the booth. Shot the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, All Riders takes a poignant look at the intersectionality of unmet access needs within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Often thought of as synonymous with accessible transportation because of its extensive transit system, The Big Apple has continually fallen short of its goal to become “the most accessible city in the world.” Out of over 400 stations, less than 30% are accessible, a portion of those accessible in only one direction, and with daily elevator failures close to 25% based on data from 2014-2015, that can leave New Yorkers with less than 20% of stations accessible at any one time across the massive five borough system. This is a dismal number considering the Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 31st birthday this July, requires that all stations be accessible under federal law.

The Voting Accessibility of the 2020 Election

Washington, D.C., March 17 – After an unprecedented election season, Rutgers University’s Program for Disability Research and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) recently released a study of the voting accessibility of the 2020 elections. This study highlighted the differences between the voting experience of individuals living with and without disabilities. The report found that even in the unprecedented circumstances of the 2020 election, voters with disabilities were better accommodated than in the 2012 election. The study’s findings also shine a light on how much our nation still needs to grow to make sure that individuals living with disabilities can equitably cast their ballots.

GA Sen. David Perdue Campaign Reaches out to Voters with Disabilities

Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 31 – Republican Sen. David Perdue’s campaign has reached out to the 1.2 million Georgians with disabilities in statement released earlier this week. 

Local disability organizations such as the Georgia Disability Vote Partnership (GDVP) and national groups such as RespectAbility have been reaching out to Democratic and Republican candidates about issues affecting people with disabilities, including employment, education, criminal justice and accessibility. 

Biden Campaign Evolves, Makes Voters with Disabilities a Priority

Washington, D.C., Oct. 1 – Former Vice President and current Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden (D-DE) and his campaign have been very active in courting voters with disabilities for the 2020 presidential election. A new report by the Rutgers Program for Disability Research estimates 38.3 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in November. That’s a nearly 20 percent jump since 2008. Therefore, presidential candidates should fully and intentionally include voters with disabilities in all outreach efforts; ensuring accessibility for voters with a variety of disabilities plays a large part in that as well. 

While the campaign was criticized during the primary for not devoting enough attention to voters with disabilities, the Biden campaign since has evolved, making voters with a disability a priority. Part of that has been hiring Molly Doris-Pierce, a young woman with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as their National Disability Engagement Director. Ms. Doris-Pierce previously served on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s presidential campaign as both their National Women’s Outreach Director and National Disability Engagement Director. While working for Sen. Warren’s presidential campaign, she built a coalition of disability advocates on behalf of the campaign to complete their well-known “Protecting the Rights and Equality of Persons with Disabilities” plan. Prior to her work on the Warren campaign, she received her bachelor’s degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and worked in nonprofit development programming, political fundraising and church leadership.  

Presidential Candidates & Including People with Disabilities in their Campaigns

Washington, D.C., Jan 30 – As a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility has invited all candidates in the presidential race on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire. Question 15 in the Questionnaire was: “Are your office, website and events accessible to people with disabilities? Have you identified a process for including people with disabilities in your staff and policy advisors? If yes, please describe.

Below, read the answers from the five candidates who responded:

Presidential Candidates’ Website Accessibility Improves but More Work Still Needed

Four Candidates – Biden, Booker, Castro and Yang – Have “Mostly Accessible” Websites

Washington, D.C., Dec. 19 – Nearly six months after a report by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired found that all of the presidential candidates’ websites block democratic access to voters who are blind or have low vision, an update finds that still none of these websites – Democrat or Republican – are fully accessible. However, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind found that many of the candidates’ websites do show improvements in accessibility.

The organization issued a challenge for the candidates in June: “ensure their websites are fully ADA compliant and immediately put an accessibility statement on their page.” Since then, both Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Vice President Joe Biden’s have been deemed “mostly accessible” and are the only candidates who have qualified for the December debate to have scored higher than a 3.00 out of 4.00. 

8 Democratic Campaigns Participate in Forum Focused on People with Disabilities and Health Care

Washington, D.C., Nov. 1 – Tomorrow in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, eight campaigns are set to participate in a history-making Accessibility, Inclusion, and Outreach Conference focused specifically on issues that affect people with disabilities. This is important, as while recent polling suggests that voters with disabilities themselves are more enthusiastic about participating in the 2020 elections than the nation at large, none of the campaigns are yet fully accessible to the disability community.

“It is vital for the democratic process to be open to all people and all means all – including people with disabilities,” said Lauren Appelbaum, vice president, communications of RespectAbility. “The majority of voters have a friend or family member with a disability or have a disability themselves. It is truly exciting that eight campaigns will be focusing their attention on addressing the 1-in-5 people living in America with a disability.”

Seven of the Democratic candidates will participate themselves. They are:

  • Sen. Cory Booker 
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Rep. John Delaney
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • Rep. Beto O’Rourke
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • Mr. Andrew Yang 

Additionally, former Sen. Chris Dodd will speak on behalf of Vice President Joe Biden.

According to “Accessibility For All Now,” the organizers of the Forum, candidates will answer questions posed by people with disabilities and members of the Linn County Medical Society, which is co-hosting the forum. 

Will Voters with Disabilities Determine Campaign 2020?

Washington, D.C., June 25 – Two separate bipartisan polls following the last presidential election showed that voters with disabilities and their family and friends voted in big numbers for President Donald Trump. Fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member, or a close friend with disabilities. Therefore, as the 2020 campaign heats up, it is in the best interest of every presidential candidate and the citizens of this country for candidates to recognize disability issues during their campaigns.

“Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril,” said former U.S. Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, is the board chair of RespectAbility, a Washington-based nonpartisan nonprofit that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of community. “People with disabilities are politically active swing voters, and candidates should take note of the important issues they care about.”

According to the Census Bureau, more than 56 million Americans live with some form of disability. This can include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss to people living with invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

Warren: “Non-negotiable” For Campaign to Be Fully Inclusive of People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., June 17 – Since she began working as a special education teacher, Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she understood “how important it is to live a life of independence and dignity.” Responding to a question posed to all of the viable 2020 presidential candidates by RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan…

1,156 New Jobs for People with Disabilities in Washington State as Gov. Jay Inslee Launches 2020 Campaign

Washington, D.C., April 12th – While nationally 111,804 jobs were gained by people with disabilities, 1,156 went to people with disabilities living in Washington State. The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows there are 480,828 working-age (18-64) people with disabilities living in Washington State. Out of that number, only 194,948 have jobs.…

2,240 New Jobs for Louisianans with Disabilities as Gov. Edwards Launches Reelection Campaign

Washington, D.C., April 2 – While 111,804 jobs were gained by people with disabilities, 2,240 went to Louisianans with disabilities. The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows there are 361,642 working-age (18-64) people with disabilities living in Louisiana. Out of that number, only 122,683 have jobs. That means…

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