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Author: Philip Pauli

24 Governors Celebrate Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

26 States Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month with a Proclamation or Event (highlighted in red)
States Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month with a Proclamation or Event (highlighted in red)

Rockville, Md., Oct. 25 – In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), 26 governors have joined together to show their support through public proclamations, executive orders and press statements. Expanding employment opportunities is not partisan, as both Democrats and Republicans are quick to recognize the abilities of what people with disabilities can accomplish.

“Disability Employment Awareness Month is a great way to emphasize the importance of the contributions of persons with disabilities,” said Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana. “Our businesses and communities can greatly benefit from the integrated, competitive employment of persons with disabilities.”

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s NDEAM statement argued that “people with disabilities offer a wide range of expertise and play an integral role in our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy.”

The nation’s governors are critical partners in the continuing effort to advance job opportunities for millions of people with disabilities. Governors can drive policy, prioritizes programs and bring attention to what people with disabilities can accomplish if given a fair chance. Over the past four years, RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, has had the pleasure of meeting with 44 governors to talk about disability employment and advocate for best practices. We have forged partnerships with Republicans and Democrats alike, who are committed to the idea that people with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.

Voters with Disabilities Matter – This Year and Every Year

National Voter Registration Day logoWashington, Sept. 26 – RespectAbility is honored to participate in the sixth annual National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), a nonpartisan effort to encourage people to register to vote and make their voices heard in our nation’s political process. Today, organizations nationwide will register thousands of new voters.

However, if you read the news today, many people might feel discouraged, disconnected or unconvinced that their voices matter. Last year, it was clear that getting the vote out mattered with the high stakes of a presidential race and key Senate contests across the country. What about this year? Why should people get out, get registered and get out the voter in a quiet year like 2017? The reason is simple.

As the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” Did you know that 59 of the 100 largest cities in America are holding elections this year? Did you know there are 36 mayoral races and more than 360 city council races in 2017 alone? In communities across the country, local, municipal and state elections are taking place this year.

Dannel Malloy Links Medicaid, Mental Health and Employment for People with Disabilities

Gov. Dannel Malloy wearing a suit seated behind a large wooden desk with an American flag in the background
Gov. Dannel Malloy

Washington, March 1 – Employment opportunities for people with disabilities are critically linked to other important issues such as Medicaid and mental health support. per Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut.

Malloy said his state his ‘”working hard… to make sure we are expanding opportunities for people with disabilities and differences.”

Addressing a press conference hosted by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) Saturday, on the sidelines of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting, the Democratic governor also talked about the importance “of taking care of people in other ways, including healthcare.”

Malloy pointed to fellow Governors John Hickenlooper (D-CO), David Ige (D-HI), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) and Tom Wolf (D-PA) to say that “every state…that has been able to expand Medicaid has expanded treatment for mental illness in their state.”

He spoke with pride about Connecticut being ranked as the number one state in the country on mental health care. That ranking, published by the mental health advocacy group Mental Health Alliance, is based on a variety of factors including survey data and access to coverage.

Malloy tied the issue of Medicaid coverage with employability for people with disabilities in Connecticut.

“When people get treatment for their medical conditions or their mental conditions, they are employable,” he said. “That is what our goal needs to be.”

Malloy is the current chair of the DGA and is responsible for leading his party’s efforts to win gubernatorial elections across the country. He wasted no time in talking about a “lack of calculation on how much money spent on health care is actually saving” taxpayers in terms of proposed repeals of the Affordable Care Act. He accused Republican leaders of “dissembling a program and just shifting the cost to the states.” In his view, “programs that we have built to help the disabled get employed…will be wiped out.”

Despite Malloy’s statements at the DGA and his personal experiences with dyslexia, the reality facing Connecticut’s disability community is much more complex. According to calculations made based on data from the 2016 Disability Statistics Compendium, 9,274 people with disabilities left Connecticut’s workforce – the second worst job loss of any state. Between 2014 and 2015, Connecticut’s employment rate for people with disabilities dropped from 40.2 percent to only 35.2 percent. That means the Constitution State dropped in the state rankings to the 26th spot. Out of 190,691 working age people with disabilities in Connecticut, only 67,517 are employed.

The RespectAbility Report reached out to several disability leaders in Connecticut to comment on the Governor’s remarks. Kathleen Flaherty is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, a statewide nonprofit agency that provides legal representation to low-income individuals living with mental health conditions.

Flaherty expressed her organization’s gratitude for the state’s “legislative leadership for recognizing that we have to continue to invest in services and supports that enable people with mental health conditions and other disabilities to thrive in our communities.”

However, she went on to express deep concerns with some of the critical budgetary choices being made in Hartford. “On-going state budget concerns have resulted in cuts to…vital programs” that serve Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents, she said.

Flaherty also emphasized that “smart investments of state resources ultimately save the state money” and she expressed her hope to find together “a solution that works for all of Connecticut’s citizens.”

Sandy Inzinga of the Connecticut Association of the Deaf (CAD) was direct in her criticism of Malloy’s choices and their disproportionate impact on the Deaf community.

“We’re kind of going backwards,” Inzinga said. “They have deleted funding for lots of different programs.”

Inzinga point out that the State of the State address had been rendered inaccessible to Connecticut’s Deaf community by the lack of ASL Interpreter services.

As previously reported by The RespectAbility Report, in June 2016, 25 people were laid off from the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Interpreting Unit within Connecticut’s Department of Rehabilitation Services. The cuts came as part of a restructuring effort to reduce debt in the state budget. Services are no longer be provided by the state and are instead be issued through part-time employees or private providers. The state made this move in anticipation of saving approximately $30 per hour per interpreter. These measures left many people who are deaf and hard of hearing without a voice. Malloy implemented the budget cuts without a transition plan for those who receive ASL services as well as for the interpreters. This has since impacted daily living situations in schools, courts, hospitals and countless other situations.

Gov. Malloy speaking at DNC, standing behind podium, wearing black suit, white shirt and blue tie
Gov. Dannell Malloy

Malloy spoke last year at the Democratic National Convention about his personal experiences with disabilities and has been open about his dyslexia. He talked about how, through accommodations, he became “the first learning-impaired person to take the essay portion of the bar exam orally.”

Critics question why this personal experience is not necessarily reflected by policy choices to better support Connecticut’s disability community.

Inzinga pointed out the fact that the governor is “taking [away] our accommodations, our interpreters. I don’t understand that, even though he has…personally experienced the need for accommodations.”

Brian Sandoval Speaks with Pride about Jobs for Nevadans with Disabilities

Washington, Feb. 28 – Speaking abut the improving economy of Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval said “it has to be an economy that is available to everyone,” especially for Nevadans with disabilities. Speaking with The RespectAbility Report on the sidelines of the National Governors Association’s Winter Meeting, the Republican governor stressed the importance…

Matt Mead on Wyoming’s First in the Nation Standing on Jobs for People with Disabilities

Washington, Feb. 27 – With 57 percent of their citizens with disabilities employed, the state of Wyoming has good reason to be proud. Speaking with The RespectAbility Report at the National Governor’s Association’s Winter Meeting, Gov. Matt Mead credited Wyoming’s “culture and heritage” for why his state has the highest employment…

Asa Hutchinson Talks about Jobs for People with Disabilities in Arkansas

Washington, Feb. 27 – According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, jobs matter because “everybody, no matter of a disability or not, has a desire to work, a desire to contribute and to be meaningful in life.” Speaking at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting, the Republican governor of Arkansas also emphasized the critical impact…

Doug Ducey Talks Civics Education and Students with Disabilities at NGA

Washington, Feb. 26 – At a special session of the National Governors Association’s Winter Meeting, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona focused on the importance of civics education for all students, including children with disabilities. He introduced a video presentation from the Joe Foss Institute about the lack of civic knowledge and…

Kate Brown Celebrates Curb Cut Movement at NGA Winter Meeting

headshot of Gov. Brown wearing pearls, blue shirt and tan blazer with a brick wall background
Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR)

Washington, Feb. 26 – Speaking this weekend, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s focus was firmly on job opportunities for all Oregonians, including people with disabilities.

“We will be working hard to make sure that Oregon’s economy continues to thrive,” the Democratic governor said at this weekend’s National Governors Association Winter Meeting. “It’s about jobs; it’s about kids. It’s about making sure that Oregonians have the door of opportunity open for them.“

Responding to a question from RespectAbility’s reporting staff about workforce development, Brown immediately talked about curb cuts and social activism as a metaphor to talk about building an inclusive economy.

“What we learned from the Curb Cuts fight is that by providing curb cuts for our vulnerable citizens, it benefits all of us,” Brown responded.

“My fight,” she went on to say, “is to make sure we take care of our vulnerable populations and by doing that, it lifts all of us up.”

Recognizing the Impact of Voters with Disabilities on National Voter Registration Day

National Voter Registration Day logoWashington, Sept. 27 – Today, we celebrate National Voter Registration Day. With the election only 41 days away, time is running out for people to complete their voter registration. As we encourage all voters to ensure they are registered, it also is important to call attention to the importance of voting rights by talking about barriers that keep people from exercising their right to vote.

This day comes at a critical time not only for the presidential election but also for the one in five Americans who have a disability. The electoral power and political impact of voters with disabilities are being recognized like never before. From front page news stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post to groundbreaking political research by Pew Research Center and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, Americans with disabilities are being recognized as a potentially decisive voting bloc. Just this past week, Hillary Clinton delivered a major speech about disability employment.

Recognizing the Power of Voters with Disability: Polling, Marching, Voting

a voter with a disability casting his ballotWashington, Sept. 20 – Last week, statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog published an in-depth article examining the potential electoral impact of voters with disabilities in the 2016 election. This article, entitled “One in Six Eligible Voters Has A Disability,” documents in great detail the diverse demographics of the disability community and describes some of the crucial barriers impacting voting rights for people with disabilities.

Reporting on a new study from Rutgers University, FiveThirtyEight stated that “approximately one-sixth of November’s electorate will be comprised of people with disabilities” for a total of “34.6 million” eligible voters with disabilities. This new report also finds that the number of eligible voting-age people with disabilities is growing faster than potential voters without disabilities.

This research confirms past efforts by RespectAbility to estimate the potential power of voters with disabilities to swing the outcomes of competitive elections. In 2014, RespectAbility collaborated with Republican and Democratic pollsters on a survey of likely voters in battle-ground states. In total, this survey found that 56 percent of likely voters identified as people with disabilities and/or had a close friend or family member with a disability.

“We are accustomed to thinking about ‘soccer moms,’ ‘Hispanics’ or ‘values voters.’ But this poll shows that Americans with disabilities – and those who care deeply about them – are a demographic we need to pay attention to in the future,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres stated at the time.

Burr Campaign Launches Television Ad Touting Work on ABLE Act

screenshot of Burr ad showing picture of the D'Amelios family
Screenshot of Burr’s Ad

Washington, Sept. 12 – One week after incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) completed RespectAbility’s #PwDsVote candidate questionnaire on disability issues, the campaign supporting his reelection efforts launched a new television ad focused on disability.

This new statewide political ad describes how the North Carolina Republican worked to get the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act passed and how this law empowers people with disabilities to save money without fearing the loss of essential benefits. The ad features a North Carolina family with two children on the Autism Spectrum and discusses how the entire family benefits from these new 529 savings accounts.

“Without Richard Burr, our children and other people’s children would not have the benefit of saving for their future,” Christie D’Amelio of Charlotte, North Carolina, says in the ad.

The YouTube version of the ad, which is the version embedded on the campaign’s website, and the Facebook upload, both include captioning, which is important for the 37.5 million American adults aged 18 and over who report some trouble hearing.

Trump Perpetuates Stigma around Mental Health with Talk of “Sickos”

Boulder, Oct. 29 – In campaign events across the country, Donald Trump has been quick to use the word “stupid” when talking about the perceived incompetence of political leaders. He has also been quick to emphasize his view that those who are mentally ill are likely to carry out violent gun…

To Save Medicare, Huckabee Says Fight Chronic Disease

Boulder, Oct. 29 – In an effort to stand out on the crowded stage of the CNBC Republican debate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee offered a different perspective on addressing income inequality and the cost of Medicare. “We need to be focusing on what fixes this country,” the presidential hopeful said. “Instead of…

Jeb: Workforce Participation Rates Lower Than in 1977

Boulder, Oct. 29 – With the American economy in focus at last night’s CNBC debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush connected dysfunction in Washington with decreasing workforce participation rates and the continuing need for optimism. When asked about his challenging race, Bush emphasized his belief that “the great majority of…Americans believe in a hopeful…

O’Malley On “Dignity of Work” for People with Disabilities

Boulder, Oct. 28 – While the night’s spotlight was shining on the CNBC Republican Primary Debate, Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley walked along the paths of the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. In a conversation with The RespectAbility Report, the former governor of Maryland said, “people with disabilities labor under a disproportionally high…

Inaccessible Polling Places Disenfranchise Nation’s Largest Minority

Washington, Sept. 22 – Today, our nation observes National Voter Registration Day. It is a chance to celebrate our democratic society and to remind everyday people the importance of registering to vote. However, for many Americans, voting is not a quick and easy process. Physical and other barriers at polling…