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Author: Eric Ascher

Jain Completes Disability Candidate Questionnaire in Maryland Governor’s Race

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

Annapolis, MD, November 5 – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ashwani Jain 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.

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. Indeed, there are over 669,000 people living with some form of disability in Maryland and their votes could be crucial in deciding who succeeds Larry Hogan as Governor of the Old Line State. 

Jain is the first candidate in the upcoming Democratic primary to respond to RespectAbility’s candidate questionnaire. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes. RespectAbility is actively communicating with all candidates in Maryland’s upcoming gubernatorial race.

Biden’s First Day as President Includes People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., January 20 – After unprecedented outreach to the disability community during the campaign, President-elect Joe Biden and his team are continuing to include people with disabilities as they take office this afternoon.

One of Biden’s day one executive actions is to “Launch a Whole-of-Government Initiative to Advance Racial Equity.” According to the team, “The president-elect’s equity agenda is grounded in advancing racial justice and building back better for communities who have been underserved, including people of color and Americans with disabilities, LGBTQ+ Americans, religious minorities, and rural and urban communities facing persistent poverty.”

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is presenting today’s inauguration with live captions, ASL picture in picture, audio description, and other accessibility features on YouTube. Use the links below to watch the ceremony and primetime program.

Biden, Harris, Ossoff and Warnock, who reached out to voters with disabilities, to be sworn in today

Washington, D.C., January 20 – Today is Inauguration Day, and that means that four candidates who reached out to voters with disabilities will be sworn into office. RespectAbility congratulates President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. We look forward to working with them on issues impacting voters with disabilities.

Reaching out to the disability community may have been part of the reason that these candidates won their elections. Researchers at Rutgers University estimated that approximately 38.3 million people with disabilities were eligible to vote in last year’s election, which is roughly one-sixth of the electorate. Voters with disabilities want access in democracy, just like anyone else. At the same time, they have specific issues of interest. For example, of the 22 million working age (18-64) people with disabilities in our country, fully 70 percent of them are outside of the labor force.

The one in four adults with disabilities include people with spinal cord injuries, low vision or who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, as well as those with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, Autism or other disabilities. The sheer number of people with disabilities makes them the nation’s largest minority community.

Read more below about outreach to the disability community from these four candidates.

Ossoff, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins Georgia Runoff

Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 7 – In a runoff election dominated by Stacey Abrams, Donald Trump, and unprecedented spending by the campaigns and candidates, Democrat Jon Ossoff has defeated incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue, flipping the Senate to the Democratic Party.

While neither Senator-Elect Ossoff nor Senator Perdue responded to a detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues put out by the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility, Ossoff did release a video statement for the Georgia Disability Vote Partnership’s live streamed voting forum that featured all four candidates. Watch Ossoff’s statement above.

Warnock, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins Georgia Special Election Runoff

Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 6 – In a runoff election dominated by Stacey Abrams, Donald Trump, and unprecedented spending by the campaigns and candidates, Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock has made history, defeating incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler to become Georgia’s first-ever Black Senator.

Senator-Elect Warnock responded to a detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues put out by the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. RespectAbility is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ending stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. Loeffler, despite multiple requests, did not respond to the questionnaire.

RespectAbility was not alone in reaching out to the candidates in the runoff elections on behalf of the disability community. The Georgia Disability Vote Partnership coordinated the efforts of disability advocacy organizations to get out the disability vote. The partnership hosted a live streamed voting forum featuring all four of Georgia’s Senate runoff candidates. Watch the video of Warnock’s remarks above.

New Focus Group Report Shows Lack Of Attention To Georgia Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Dec. 22 – Control of the United States Senate depends on two runoff elections in the state of Georgia. While a lot of money is being spent by the candidates and other organizations to get out the vote, a new report about two focus groups indicates that Georgia’s disability community is not getting enough attention in these races. In fact, at the time these focus groups were conducted, none of the participants were able to recall having seen or heard anything from the Senate candidates regarding people with disabilities.

On behalf of RespectAbility and the Georgia Disability Vote Partnership (GDVP), Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps conducted 2 sets of online video focus groups among registered voters with disabilities in Georgia; one group of white women on December 16th and one group of Black women on December 17th. According to Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps, “for voters with disabilities, health care costs and accessibility are the dominant issues right now.”

Disability Allies Win Races for Senate & Governor

Updated Nov. 10

Washington, D.C., Nov. 4 – It is the morning after Election Day 2020 and many results are still being counted. RespectAbility stresses the importance of counting every vote, particularly as many people with disabilities chose to vote early – both in-person and via mail – in this election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states have not counted all of their early voting ballots yet. 

Although many results are still not finalized, several candidates who support opportunities for people with disabilities already have been declared as winners. These individuals completed the 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire for presidential, Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. RespectAbility is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ending stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. 

Easterseals Survey: 30+ Million Voters with Disabilities Participating in the 2020 Election

91% of Eligible Voters with disabilities have already voted or say they will

Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 30 – A new survey from Easterseals and Pathfinder Opinion Research conducted between October 20 and October 25 has found that, despite fear of exposure to COVID-19, voters with disabilities are highly engaged in the 2020 election. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the survey were registered to vote. Of that, 47 percent already have voted, and 49 percent more say they definitely or probably will vote. More than half of respondents were “extremely enthusiastic” about voting, and 65 percent were more enthusiastic about voting in this election than prior elections.

According to an Easterseals’ press release on the survey, “Health care and COVID-19 are, by far, the two top issues driving voters with disabilities to the polls. All other issues, such as crime, public safety, immigration, employment, the environment and the Supreme Court, rank far lower in importance.”

Bernie Sanders Drops Out of Presidential Primary

Washington, D.C., April 8 – Earlier today, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced that he is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic Primary, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee for President.

While neither the Biden campaign nor the Trump campaign have yet released detailed policy plans on disability issues, ahead of the Iowa Caucus Sen. Sanders rolled out a comprehensive “Fighting for Disability Rights Plan.” In the plan, Sen. Sanders promised to “incorporate disability issues into every other area of public policy” and “promote access, autonomy, inclusion and self-determination for all.” The RespectAbility Report covered the plan back in February. 

Sen. Sanders had also responded to RespectAbility’s detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues. The questionnaire was purely for educational purposes. RespectAbility reached out to all of the major presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle. All responses to the candidate questionnaire will be posted in full on The RespectAbility Report as they come in and will be used to produce and update nonpartisan voter guides in all 50 states. It is the hope of RespectAbility that the remaining candidates will send their responses in soon.

New Battleground Poll Data Shows Disability Community is Large and Electorally Contested

Washington, D.C., March 19 – New polling data of the battleground states shows that the disability community is large and electorally contested, but the issues they care about most are not being sufficiently addressed.

The phone poll of 1,000 registered voters across 16 presidential and Senate battleground states was conducted by Stan Greenberg, Ph.D., and the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), on behalf of the disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. The data was released on a webinar earlier today. The memocross-tab data, and PowerPoint are available to download now. The webinar recording will be available to watch with captions early next week.

Presidential Candidates Reveal Plans to Enable Success for Immigrants with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Jan 28 – Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major 5-4 ruling allowing an expansion of the definition of “public charge” to deny green cards to people who may need government aid. This ruling will directly impact immigrants with disabilities who would qualify for Medicaid. Meanwhile, with only days…

DNC Chair Perez Calls for More Inclusion of People with Disabilities

Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 20 – The majority of Americans either have a disability or a loved one with a disability. Yet, disability is very rarely addressed on the debate stage. 

Democratic National Committee Chair Chairman Tom Perez spoke to RespectAbility prior to last week’s debate about the importance of including people with disabilities. He touted his work on ensuring that people with disabilities can live in the community and that employers provide accommodations for employees with disabilities. 

“We got to stop focusing on the first three letters of the word disability and focus more on the last seven letters of the word disability and you will see that in our platform,” Perez added. “You will see that in everything we do. You will see that in Milwaukee, the most accessible convention ever.”

Yang: “Need to do Much More to Help People with Disabilities Access Opportunities and Jobs”

Ames, Iowa, Jan. 19 – Businessman Andrew Yang talked about employment opportunities for people with disabilities at a town hall earlier this week. While saying “much more” needs to done to ensure people with disabilities have access to opportunities and jobs, he also repeated a talking point that people with disabilities – and all people – have value regardless if they are working. 

“Do we need to put much more in the way of resources to help people actually see the abilities of people who have different capacities and then have them enjoy that kind of independence and work? 100% yes,” Yang, who has a child on the autism spectrum, said at a town hall in Ames, Iowa. “But does that need to be the standard that people are at in order to live a good fulfilling happy life? No. It’s like — we should be investing in everyone’s happiness and fulfillment regardless of whether or not they can slot into a corporate role.”

Klobuchar Talks Education and Housing for People with Disabilities

Perry, Iowa, Jan. 18 – Sen. Amy Klobuchar said voters with disabilities contribute to elections “in a big way.”

Answering questions at a town hall in Perry, Iowa earlier this week, Klobuchar talked about the importance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which covers educational funding for children with disabilities from birth through high school graduation or age 21, whichever comes first. IDEA has yet to be fully funded by the federal government since it was first passed in 1975. “My mom was a teacher, so I get this,” she added. 

Buttigieg Calls for Equal Voting Access – And Funding – for Voters with Disabilities

Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 17 – Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for equal voting access for people with disabilities at a town hall in Des Moines earlier this week. He also said it is important to ensure funding for the equal access. 

“Part of our plan on disabilities is to make sure that we’re supporting ways for people with disabilities to have equal access to the vote, because you know, that’s 1 in 4 Americans,” the presidential hopeful said in response to a question about voters with disabilities – asked by a voter on the autism spectrum. “And those who don’t face disabilities might in the future, so we all have a stake in doing something about it… And we need to put funding behind it.”

Mayor Buttigieg Prioritizes Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at Disability Forum

Noting High Intersection Between Disability and LGBTQ+ Communities, Buttigieg Addresses Bullying Epidemic

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Nov. 26 – The 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary is heating up, and in recent polls, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been surging in Iowa. Earlier this month, he released a comprehensive plan for the disability community and rolled it out at a Democratic Party Candidate Forum, Accessibility for All, on disability issues in Cedar Rapids. This forum was the first time in the 2020 campaign cycle that disability issues were the main topic of discussion.

As a veteran, he placed a particular emphasis on mental health and suicide prevention, saying that “the place we need to get to as a country is where it is as routine to talk about and act on mental health issues as we would a physical challenge.” Mental health is the most common disability that people in America have, so Mayor Buttigieg’s emphasis on it was notable.

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.…

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.