Skip to content

Author: Stephanie Santo

Equality Act Aims to Expand Civil Rights Protections: Why This Matters to the Disability Community

Proposed Civil Rights Bill prohibits discrimination and advances equality for millions of Americans.

Washington, D.C., April 12– On February 25, the Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives. The Act includes a major overhaul of civil rights protections for many Americans, including millions of people with disabilities. Now, it waits for further action by the United States Senate. 

The Equality Act specifically identifies sex, gender and sexual orientation as prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. As a result, discrimination in areas such as public accommodations and facilities, the criminal justice system, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and education would be prohibited on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation. This would be a major change and significant expansion of civil rights. In 2020, the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County expanded employment protections against discrimination for gay and transgender people.

Tillis, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins North Carolina Senate Race

Raleigh, NC, Nov. 10 – Incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis has won a hotly contested race to continue representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, beating Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham.

Tillis 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. Cunningham, in his attempt to unseat Sen. Tillis, also completed the RespectAbility questionnaire. 

Collins, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins Maine Senate Race

Portland, Maine, Nov. 4 – Incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins has won a hotly contested race to continue representing Maine in the U.S. Senate, beating Democratic challenger and Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon.  

Sen. Collins 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 fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Gideon, in her attempt to unseat Sen. Collins, also completed the RespectAbility questionnaire. 

Cooper, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins Second Term as North Carolina Governor

Raleigh, North Carolina, Nov. 3 – Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper has won a hotly contested race for the North Carolina Governorship, beating Republican challenger Dan Forest.  

Gov. Cooper 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. Forest, despite multiple requests, did not respond to the questionnaire.

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 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: