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Author: Elizabeth Pezone

RespectAbility Disability Voters’ Guide: Maryland

Key actions and positions posted on the intersection of disability, education, jobs, and more

Annapolis, MD, May 31 – Ahead of the upcoming primary election, the nonpartisan disability rights nonprofit RespectAbility has released its latest Maryland Voter Guide. According to the 2021 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, there are approximately 694,317 people living in Maryland with some form of disability. The disability community makes up 11.6 percent of the state’s population.

Nationwide, one-in-five Americans has a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People with disabilities are America’s largest minority group.  It is also the only one that, due to accident, aging or illness, anyone can join at any time. 

RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates the same key 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 the questionnaire.  Below, you can read responses from candidates on the ballot in Maryland who have already taken the time to address the concerns of voters with disabilities.   

Implementing the American Rescue Plan – What It Means for Marylanders with Disabilities

Annapolis, MD, March 15 – Using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and allocated via a bipartisan agreement, Governor Larry Hogan and the General Assembly of Maryland are prioritizing Marylanders severely impacted by the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maryland’s piece of a $1.9 trillion federal spending package is being directed to address existing inequities in the Old Line State. The goals of the spending are to support impacted businesses, struggling industries, and specifically Marylanders with disabilities.

The first and most direct form of support in the past year was the Temporary Cash Assistance program, which specifically included the payment of short term disabilities benefits to Marylanders in need. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have deeply felt the ravages of the past two years. As noted in an early report from the Arc of the US, people with I/DD “are more likely to have underlying health conditions that leave them more susceptible to the pandemic.” Further, because people with I/DD are often placed into customer facing job roles, many experienced COVID related furloughs or job losses during 2020. In total, there are 335,712 working-age Marylanders living with some form of disability. In 2020, prior to the pandemic, only 40.2 percent of them had jobs.

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

St. Paul, MN, March 9 – This week, the Minnesota Governor’s Workforce Development Board met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the North Star 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 296,969 working age (18-64) Minnesotans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 48.1 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Minnesota’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.

Digital Equity at the 2022 National Skills Coalition Conference

Washington, D.C., February 24 – With the touch of a button and thanks to the flexibility of Zoom, the 2022 National Skills Coalition virtual conference welcomed geographically diverse attendees from across the country. This three-day event is one of the nation’s best workforce development-focused conferences and features many important sessions.…