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Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Washington State on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Olympia, WA, December 15 – This week, the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Evergreen State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 478,673 working age (18-64) Washingtonians living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 42 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Washington’s Workforce Development Board listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website.

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Washington’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board on Solutions for People with Disabilities

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Seattle, WA, June 10 – This week, Washington state’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Evergreen State’s economy forward. In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in Washington’s economy.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said the Honorable Steve Bartlett, former Member of Congress, the former Mayor of Dallas and current Chairman of RespectAbility. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to implement policies that will drive a truly equitable recovery that helps people with disabilities and other marginalized communities get back to work.”

There are 478,673 working-age Washingtonians living with some form of disability. In the economic expansion prior to COVID-19, fully 42 percent of them had jobs. However, because of COVID, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs nationwide. Now, as more Americans get vaccinated and more people get back to work, it is crucial that policy makers implement best practices.

Voter Guide for 934,396 Washingtonians with Disabilities

Key actions and positions posted on the intersection of disability and education, jobs, immigration, climate crisis, criminal justice and more

by Philip Kahn-Pauli

Olympia, WA, Oct. 6 – In the run up to the 2020 election in Washington, the nonpartisan disability rights nonprofit RespectAbility has released its latest Washington State Voter Guide. According to the 2019 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, the total number of Washingtonians with disabilities is 934,396, making up 12.6 percent of the total state population.

2018 employment data shows that there are 478,622 working-age people with disabilities living in Washington State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 195,251 of those Washingtonians had a job and the Evergreen State had a disability employment rate of 40.8 percent.

The nonpartisan disability group RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates for President, Governor and the U.S. Senate the same seven key questions about issues affecting people with disabilities, including employment, education, criminal justice and accessibility. RespectAbility has sent multiple emails and placed many phone calls to the campaigns in order to solicit responses to the questionnaire. Below you can read responses from candidates on the ballot in Washington who have already taken the time to address the concerns of voters with disabilities. 

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.…

15,871 new jobs for people with disabilities in Washington

Washington, D.C., March 15 – As the economy expands, for the first time in decades people with disabilities are gaining jobs, success and independence. According to new data, 15,871 more people with disabilities in Washington gained employment. People with disabilities previously have been left out of periods of economic growth.…

Washington, D.C., Disability Voters Guide Released

Washington, Oct. 19 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Washington, D.C., RespectAbility is releasing its Washington, D.C.,’s Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming presidential election. Democrat Hillary Clinton has completed the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire, but Republican Donald Trump has yet to do so. The…

Washington’s Senate & Gubernatorial Races Offer Opportunity to Highlight Disability Rights

Washington, Oct. 18 – As voters get ready to head to the polls in Washington, RespectAbility has released its Washington Disability Voter Guide for the upcoming senate, gubernatorial, and presidential races. Republican Bill Bryant is challenging incumbent Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee while Republican Chris Vance is challenging incumbent Sen. Patty Murray…

Washington’s Bill Bryant Responds to #PwDsVote Gubernatorial Campaign Questionnaire

Bill Bryant headshot
Bill Bryant

Washington, Sept. 28 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream, has asked gubernatorial candidates on both sides of the aisle to fill out a questionnaire on disability issues. Bill Bryant, a Republican challenging incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee for the office of governor in Washington state, responded to the #PwDsVote Disability Campaign Questionnaire for Senate and Gubernatorial Candidates for people with disabilities.

RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.

While Bryant did not answer each question individually, he sent a letter addressing several of the issues brought up in the questionnaire including employment. He also talked about how his nephew’s disability influences his views.

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. 

What National Voter Registration Day Means for Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., September 20 – Today, RespectAbility celebrates National Voter Registration Day. According to the official website, “National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating our democracy. First observed in 2012, it has quickly gained momentum ever since. Nearly 4.7 million voters have registered to vote on the holiday to date.”

With the 2022 midterm elections only 49 days away, time is running out for people to complete their voter registration. As RespectAbility encourages all voters to ensure they are registered, it also is important to bring attention to the distinct barriers faced by a major voting bloc that is all too often ignored when their exercise their right to vote – the one in five Americans living with a disability.

In total, there are 61 million adults with disabilities across the country. Yet despite the size of the community, voters with disabilities face distinct barriers when it comes to exercising their right to vote. According to researchers at Rutgers University and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC): “one in nine voters with disabilities encountered difficulties voting in 2020,” and “voting difficulties were most common among people with vision and cognitive impairments.”

RespectAbility Joins National Dialogue on Registered Apprenticeships

Washington, D.C., September 6 – As of July 2022, there were more than 11 million job openings across the nation’s labor market. One of the ways that employers are looking to onboard new talent and expand good paying jobs is through the continued expansion of registered apprenticeship programs. As of 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor reported more than 636,000 apprentices participating in more than 26,000 different programs nationwide. However, many of those programs have historically been inaccessible to workers with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking to making the nation’s apprenticeship system more accessible, inclusive, and successful for thousands of new workers in the labor market. In order to address these challenges, the Department is currently hosting an online, national policy dialogue about apprenticeships.

In response, the policy professionals of RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan inclusion organization, contributed to the ePolicyWorks dialogue, advising the government and employers on lessons learned from their own efforts as an employer and on proven practices from across the country.

Government Looks to Add New Disability Data Questions: RespectAbility Responds

Washington, D.C., August 11 – This past week, the nonpartisan disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility submitted comments to the US Department of Labor (DOL) regarding the possibility of adding new supplemental disability data questions to the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Administered by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the basic monthly CPS is “the source of official government statistics on the unemployment rate and other labor market measures.” Although it has existed since the 1940s, it only began tracking disability status in June of 2008. The subsequent data has “revealed large disparities in labor market outcomes between people with and without disabilities,” but lacked the specific information that could be used to help understand and address these disparities. As a result, the Census Bureau and BLS have conducted three supplemental surveys to the CPS regarding disability employment issues (2012, 2019, and 2021), and plan to conduct a fourth in 2024. 

On June 24, the Department of Labor published a notice stating that they were “seeking information from the public… to gather information to aid in revising this [fourth] CPS Disability Supplement and to inform its general disability employment research agenda.” 

RespectAbility made suggestions for new questions to ask, as well as new answer options for existing questions, such as including “reliance on family members” as a category of transportation commuting modes, in order to collect a more nuanced dataset which takes into account the experiences common for those with disabilities. 

RespectAbility Joins National Dialogue on Long COVID Policies and Solutions

Washington, D.C., August 10 – Given widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in the United States, millions of workers are now facing the prospect of infection and potentially developing Long COVID. In order to address the long-term consequences of the pandemic and how it is reshaping the nation’s workforce, the U.S. Department…

RespectAbility Responds to Proposed Regulatory Changes to Support Disability Entrepreneurship

Washington, D.C., August 9 – This past week, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility submitted key testimony supporting regulatory changes that would enable more people with disabilities to become entrepreneurs, access credit, and be more financially stable.

Until the end of last week, the federal government was seeking public comment on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) around proposed updates to the  Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977. The CRA is in place for financial institutions to provide economic development and support in historically marginalized communities. Together, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve System, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) are examining ways to use CRA to better address the inequities of today’s society.

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Nebraska on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Lincoln, NE, June 10 – This week, the Nebraska Workforce Development Board met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Cornhusker State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Ollie Cantos, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 110,000 working age (18-64) Nebraskans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 50.8 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Nebraska’s Workforce Development Board listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website.

New Small Business Administration Equity Action Plan Overlooks Unique Challenges Faced By Disabled Entrepreneurs

Washington, D.C., May 3 – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced a new equity action plan, focusing on strengthening entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The action plan addresses barriers to diversity and inclusion for small business owners, in conjunction with the executive order EO (13985), “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” The new SBA initiative aims to facilitate access to financial resources, products, and consultation services for underserved populations so that they can start, run, and grow their own businesses. However, people with disabilities face unique challenges with starting their own business, raising capital, dealing with technology, managing credit, and approaching business counseling, and unfortunately, the SBA’s Equity Action Plan does not fully take these challenges into account.

Facilitating Access to Capital

The SBA action plan discussed the gap in capital access for business owners who are seeking less than $150K in funding, and especially loans under $10,000. The SBA plans to bridge this gap by launching smart e-loan programs, such as the “Community Advantage” and “Lenders Match,” to become more inclusive. These integrated online platforms will target the credit and technical assistance needs of small businesses in underserved markets. However, the plan did not speak to the accessibility of using such online platforms, nor the potential effect on matching borrowers with disabilities and their organizations with potential lenders.

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Oklahoma on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Oklahoma City, OK, April 28 – This week, the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development (GCWED) met to discuss the status of workforce practices in Oklahoma. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 373,359 working age (18-64) Oklahomans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 37.8 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Oklahoma’s Workforce Development Board listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website.

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Montana on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Helena, MT, April 28 – This week, the Montana State Workforce Innovation Board met to discuss the status of workforce practices in Montana. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 73,328 working age (18-64) Montanans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 41.6 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Montana’s Workforce Development Board listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website.

Coalition Partners Offer Key Solutions to Work Disincentives

Washington, D.C., April 27 – This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) closed public feedback via a Request for Information (RFI) about key disability topics, benefit system challenges, and economic mobility questions. In response, several national disability advocacy organizations, acting as part of the Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD), joined forces to develop a thorough set of recommendations to CMS about how to support people with disabilities who want to work. 

The Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD) is the largest coalition of national organizations working together to advocate for federal public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.

The Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), RespectAbility, and the United Spinal Association, operating under their joint work as the CCD Employment and Training Task Force, collaborated to offer employment-focused policy ideas. Members of the CCD Long-Term Services and Support (LTSS) Task Force offered their own comments with a strong focus on rights, independent living, and continued access to key life-saving benefits. 

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