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Candidates in Race for Governor of Virginia Spar on Vaccines, Omit Speaking Directly to People with Disabilities

Richmond, VA, September 29 – Last night, the second debate for Governor of Virginia was held at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in Alexandria, Virginia between former Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) and businessman Glenn Youngkin (R-VA). Just as with the first debate, neither candidate directly mentioned the disability community. The…

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.

Georgia Senate Candidates Deny Access to Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Nov. 12 – Despite there being more than 1.2 million Georgians with some form of disability, all four Senate candidates in the most hotly contested Senate races in America have thus far failed to reach out to voters with disabilities. Indeed, none of the four candidates even mention the word disability on their campaign websites, and none of their websites are fully accessible to voters who are blind or deaf.

The failure of Georgia Senate campaigns to reach out to voters with disabilities is in stark contrast to President-elect Joe Biden who made outreach to the disability community a key part of his winning strategy. A poll conducted by Democracy Corps on behalf of RespectAbility in the major battleground states in the days leading up to Election Day found that 60 percent of voters with disabilities say they have or were planning to vote for Joe Biden, compared to 35 percent of voters with disabilities supporting President Trump. This showed a shift from 2016, when a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group found that voters with disabilities split their votes between President Trump (46 percent) and Secretary Hillary Clinton (49 percent).

2020 Candidates and Other Priorities for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 16 – There is no way any single candidate questionnaire can fully capture the issues impacting the approximately 61 million Americans living with some form of disability. The questions chosen by RespectAbility for the nonpartisan 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire reflect organizational priorities around fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community. In our outreach to candidates the Presidential as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle, RespectAbility has offered candidates the chance to offer any additional policy proposals and future priorities beyond just the scope of the questionnaire. 

Question 7 of the Questionnaire was: 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? 

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

2020 Candidates and Community Inclusion for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 16 – When politicians and candidates for public office think about reaching out to minority communities, it is important that they remember the one-in-five Americans living with some form of disability. Voters with disabilities are a massive pool of potential voters who have often been ignored in past elections. However, those voters are now more engaged and active than ever. According to a recent study by Rutgers University, up to 38.3 million eligible voters are people with disabilities. This represents a massive increase in participation by voters with disabilities compared to past elections.

RespectAbility has conducted polling research of its own and found that three quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a close friend or family member with a disability. With such a large share of the electorate having a personal interest in disability issues,  politicians must pay attention. 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 as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Question 4 of the Questionnaire was: What will you do to promote policies and practices designed to support full community engagement, access and inclusion of people with disabilities? 

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

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:

2020 Candidates and Combating Stigmas for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Elected officials have the opportunity to demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, full community participation and celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of people with disabilities. They can issue press releases, give speeches and celebrate events such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

As part of its commitment to 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 as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Question 5 of the Questionnaire was: There are significant stigmas that create attitudinal barriers that limit options and perpetuates low expectations for people with disabilities. What measures will you take to combat these stigmas and promote opportunities for people with disabilities?

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

2020 Candidates and High School Graduation for Students with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 14 – The 2020 election is an election unlike any other. Candidates vying for public office present profoundly different visions of what the future of America will look like. As a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of the community, RespectAbility has invited candidates in the Presidential as well as in key Senate and Governor races, from both sides of the aisle, to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Central to that Questionnaire and the election itself is the question of the future of students with disabilities. Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more issues and concerns for all students and their families, but this is especially true for students with disabilities. Additionally, the gap in graduation and drop-out rates between students with and without disabilities continues to undermine their futures. For example, in the class of 2018, only 66 percent of Black students with disabilities, 71 percent of Latinx students with disabilities, 77 percent of white students with disabilities, and 79 percent of Asian-American students with disabilities completed high school. 

By contrast, in the class of 2018, 89 percent of white students without disabilities graduate with a high school diploma, as did 79 percent of African-American students without disabilities, 81 percent of Latinx students without disabilities, 92 percent of Asian-American students without disabilities. 

Furthermore, just seven percent of students born with a disability graduate from college. 

Question 1 of the Questionnaire was: What is your plan for ensuring that all students with disabilities receive quality and appropriate education to acquire the critical and marketable skills necessary to compete in a job-driven economy? 

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

2020 Candidates on Promoting Disability Employment Outcomes

Washington, D.C., Oct. 14 – The 2020 election is an election unlike any other. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national employment rate for working-age people with disabilities in America was 37.6 percent compared to 77.8 percent for people without disabilities. Further, there continue to be significant disparities in employment outcomes within the disability community that vary from state to state

There are also significant racial disparities in disability employment outcomes. 38.9 percent of working-age white people with disabilities have jobs, compared to only 29.7 percent of working-age Black people with disabilities, 39.4 percent of working-age Hispanics with disabilities and 43.2 percent of working-age Asian-Americans with disabilities. The pandemic has ravaged the disability community and more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a clear light on many of most important inequities that define American life. 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 as well as key Senate and Governor races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire.

Question 2 of the Questionnaire was: If elected, what will you do to ensure that the government is removing barriers and promoting high quality, inclusive services built on evidence-based policies, practices and procedures leading to competitive, meaningful careers, which includes promoting entrepreneurial opportunities?

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

2020 Candidates on English Language Learners and Immigrants with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 12 – The 2020 election is an election unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a clear light on many of most important inequities that define American life. The continued spread of a deadly disease has forced millions of students to learn virtually and left hundreds of school districts scrambling to adopt new technologies. At the same time, even as more employers embrace telecommuting, millions of immigrants remain essential workers and must risk exposing themselves to COVID-19 in order to earn a paycheck. 

With these critical questions being discussed and debated across the country, RespectAbility has been actively inviting all candidates in key Senate and gubernatorial races on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire. 

The disability community is, by nature, intersectional. Immigration advocacy organization IMM Print advocates estimates that there are up to “1.5 million undocumented individuals…with a disability.” Further, Census Bureau data shows that there are more than 44 million immigrants living in the United States and out of that number, up to 6 million are probably living with a disability.

As part of its commitment to fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility included questions that specifically address both the need for effective education for students with disabilities and the place of immigrants with disabilities in America today in its disability voter questionnaire. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

In the questionnaire, Question 6 specifically asked candidates: In our nation’s public schools, there are 6.3 million students with disabilities. The changing demographics of America are reflected in these students, with 11.4 percent of students with disabilities nationwide, almost 720,000, also identified as English-language learners. Their accommodation needs are compounded by the fact that many come from households that do not speak English at home, adding an extra challenge for parental interaction. It can also be harder to diagnose disabilities in children when they are English language learners. Additionally, immigration issues and fears over the public charge rule impact students with disabilities, their families and the wider workforce. What policies would you advance to enable students and their families who are English language learners with disabilities to succeed in school and employment?

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded:

14 Candidates for Governor and Senate Complete Disability Questionnaire

Washington, D.C., Sept. 14 – With 50 days left until Election Day and with many voters deciding to vote early, candidates across the political spectrum are reaching out to a previously ignored block of voters: people with disabilities.

Polling conducted earlier this year showed that more than half of the electorate in the battleground (59 percent) self-identifies as having a disability (16 percent), having a family member with a disability (32 percent) or having a close friend with a disability (11 percent).

According to Rutgers University, 14.3 million citizens with disabilities voted in 2018. Those voters will be crucial as both Democrats and Republicans vie for votes this year. In response to this opportunity, campaigns and candidates across the country are going on the record about their policies and plans to help Americans with disabilities. Those plans are being documented online by RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

RespectAbility is a non-partisan group and have been thorough in reaching out to Democratic and Republican candidates equally. The team at RespectAbility is still actively soliciting responses to their questionnaire from campaigns that have not yet done so.

RespectAbility has been actively engaging with campaigns to both educate them about disability issues and to get campaigns to complete RespectAbility’s 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire.  You can find full, detailed converge online at https://therespectabilityreport.org.

RespectAbility and Inclusive America Urge Candidates to take the #PledgeForDiversity

“Personnel is policy” in a collaborative effort to make government reflect America’s diversity.  

Washington, D.C., August 14 – With 80 days until the November 2020 election, Inclusive America, a non-profit organization dedicated to inclusion in government leadership, is leading a collaborative effort to push our nation’s leaders to reflect the rich diversity of the communities they serve. The national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility is partnering with Inclusive America to urge candidates to take the “Pledge for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” 

The Pledge is built around four critical goals, including the selection of a national Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, greater transparency on civil servants and political appointees, adoption of new inclusion rules to improve federal hiring practices, as well as enforcing anti-discrimination policies throughout the federal workforce.  

Nine Tips for Political Candidates: How to Connect with Voters with Disabilities

By Lauren Appelbaum and Hon. Steve Bartlett Washington, D.C., May 28 – As political campaigns seek to connect to every voter, it is important to include voters with disabilities. RespectAbility staff looks forward to assisting all campaigns in achieving these important goals and tips outlined below: 1) Start right away on…

Presidential Candidates, Disability Benefits & Jobs

Washington, D.C., Feb. 2 – 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 11 in the Questionnaire was: “The federal law and benefits system punish people who want to work or whose families want to help them. For example, currently people with disabilities who are on SSI are prohibited of having more than $2,000 liquid assets at any one time. Furthermore, current law limits parents and grandparents to helping their children financially who acquired their disability prior to age 26 but not if they acquire a disability after age 26. What will you do to ensure that people have more options than being forced to choose between access to supports, benefits and service or the opportunity to pursue work, careers and an income?

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

Presidential Candidates & Preventing Attacks on People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Feb. 2 – 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 6 in the Questionnaire was: “People with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime as those without disabilities. This includes the fact that both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault. How would you address these issues?

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

Presidential Candidates & Veterans

Washington, D.C., Feb. 1 – 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 13 in the Questionnaire was: “What are your plans to ensure that the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration supports and serves veterans with disabilities? What is your plan to support veterans with disabilities, especially female veterans with disabilities?”

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

Presidential Candidates & Preventing Police Violence Against People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Feb. 1 – 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 8 in the Questionnaire was: “People with disabilities also are far more likely to suffer from police violence, partially because manifestations of disability can be misunderstood. How would you address these issues?

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

Presidential Candidates & Housing for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Feb. 1 – 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 10 in the Questionnaire was: “What are your thoughts on ensuring that people with disabilities have the option to live in their homes instead of institutions and still have the community attendant supports they need to live? Do you have a plan for affordable housing and to reduce homelessness for people with disabilities?

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

Presidential Candidates & Access to Healthcare and Jobs

Washington, D.C., Jan 31 – 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 9 in the Questionnaire was: “How would you ensure that people with disabilities have access to healthcare and the benefits they need while enabling them with opportunities to work to the best of their capacities without losing the supports they need to live? This relates to private healthcare as well as SSI, SSDI, Medicare and Medicaid.

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

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:

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