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Category: Congress

2020 Candidates on Campaign Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Have you ever heard the expression “Nothing about us without us”? Within the disability rights community, it means that if there is something affecting people with disabilities that is being discussed or debated, the voices and lived experiences of people with disabilities need to inform that debate. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a clear light on many of most important inequities that define American life. As such, the people most directly affected by issues such as education, jobs, prejudice, homelessness, criminal justice, poverty and other issues deserves to have their voice, insights and experiences respected and utilized in finding and implementing solutions.

Oftentimes, the solutions that the disability community brings forward can have a broad impact on the community. For instance, adding closed captioning to videos does not just help people with specific disabilities. It can also help people who speak English as a second language or senior with hearing issues. This example illustrates that America will be better off when people with disabilities can fully participate in the political process, just like anyone else. 

Therefore, RespectAbility, a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, has been tracking campaign accessibility issues throughout this year. This includes back during the Democratic Presidential Primary as well as during the 2018 and 2016 election cycles. You can find a full archive of campaign accessibility specific posts on The RespectAbility Report here.

Many campaigns lack basic accessibility – from websites being accessible for people using screen readers to videos lacking captions for the 37.5 million American adults who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, not all campaign events are ADA accessible, including parking, entrances and bathrooms. Many lacked ASL interpreters and live captioning services.

However, as disability issues have gained more attention than in past election cycles, RespectAbility has highlighted campaign accessibility in the 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire distributed to all candidates in key Senate and gubernatorial races on both sides of the aisle. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

Question 3 of the Questionnaire was: What specific measures have you taken to make your campaign accessible for, and inclusive of, people with disabilities, as every issue impacts our lives? 

Below, read the answers from the candidates who responded. These responses are listed alphabetically by state:

2020 Candidates and Combating Stigmas for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Elected officials have the opportunity to demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, full community participation and celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of people with disabilities. They can issue press releases, give speeches and celebrate events such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

As part of its commitment to 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 5 of the Questionnaire was: There are significant stigmas that create attitudinal barriers that limit options and perpetuates low expectations for people with disabilities. What measures will you take to combat these stigmas and promote opportunities for 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:

Davis Completes Disability Questionnaire for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District Race

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

headshot Moe Davis
North Carolina Democratic congressional candidate Moe Davis

Raleigh, NC, Sept. 10 – Democratic congressional candidate, retired U.S. Air Force colonel, attorney, and educator Moe Davis 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. RespectAbility has reached out to key Senate and gubernatorial campaigns on both sides of the aisle and will be posting all responses on The RespectAbility Report. The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and Davis’ responses follows:


1. Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more issues and concerns for all students and their families, but this is especially true for students with disabilities. Additionally, the gap in graduation and drop-out rates between students with and without disabilities continues to undermine their futures. For example, in the class of 2018, only 66 percent of Black students with disabilities, 71 percent of Hispanic students with disabilities, 77 percent of white students with disabilities, and 79 percent of AsianAmerican students with disabilities completed high school. Furthermore, just seven percent of students born with a disability graduate from college.What is your plan for ensuring that all students with disabilities receive a quality and appropriate education to acquire the critical and marketable skills necessary to compete in a job-driven economy?

Public education is the cornerstone of our Democracy. I support the goals of the U.S. Dept of Education, including the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office for Civil Rights, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Office of Postsecondary Education. These important offices have all played critical roles in ensuring access, equity, and opportunity to students with disabilities. They need to be fully funded with adjustments for inflation. I will work to include funding for specific technologies necessary to support students with disabilities and will listen to advocates who work tirelessly on their behalf. IDEA and ESSA are essential and should never be considered for cuts. All students should be strongly encouraged to take the same general tests with necessary accommodations, with only students with the most significant disabilities taking alternate tests based on alternate assessments. All students with disabilities should get an opportunity to graduate with a regular diploma. 

Leaders Need to Ensure that People with Disabilities Have Access to Online Food and Medicine Delivery

CDC: Approximately 90% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 have underlying conditions, i.e. disabilities “Allowing people with the highest risks for the Coronavirus to use SNAP, WIC and other benefits for online food deliveries will save lives”  Washington, D.C., April 15 – With the nation on lockdown for the duration of the COVID-19…

What Leaders Need to Know To Help People with Disabilities Survive

Washington, D.C., April 9 – As lawmakers continue to work around the clock during this critical time, RespectAbility acknowledges the importance of ensuring people with disabilities are fully included in life-saving efforts.

“The RespectAbility team has been very hard hit,” said the organization’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “Our IT consultant died last week, and our immediate past chairman has COVID-19, as do two other members of our extended team. Therefore, these issues are very personal to us and are working hard to get journalists and leaders the facts and sources they need so that policy makers and the public understand both the stakes and solutions to solving this shared crisis.”

Stimulus Package Becomes Law – Here’s What It Means for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 27 – President Trump signed into law today the $2 trillion-dollar emergency stimulus aimed at propping up the economy during the current crisis. This law is unprecedented in its scope and is meant to help our nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even now, government agencies are going to work to implement the new law.

Millions of Americans living with disabilities are wondering what this new law means for them and whether they will see any benefit. The short answer is yes, but how far the law will go to help people with disabilities who are uniquely at-risk to the impact of the virus remains an open question.

The State of the Union and Addressing Disability Issues

Washington, D.C., Feb. 7 – Often presidential addresses to the nation fail to include people with disabilities and the state of their lives. However, President Donald J. Trump did not make that mistake in this year’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He mentioned Americans with disabilities and issues relevant to the disability community: employment, medical research and health care.

Unemployment for Americans with Disabilities Reached an All-Time Low

President Trump standing behind the podium of the House of Representatives, with Vice President, Mike Pence (on the left) and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (on the right) seated behind him. Behind all three hangs the United States Flag. Trump, in proudly announcing our country’s strong economy, pointed to our record low unemployment numbers. When declaring these statistics for communities of color, he also boasted of an “all-time low” in unemployment for Americans with Disabilities.

Between 2015 and 2016, there was an astounding four-fold increase in the number of new jobs created for Americans with disabilities, going from 87,201 new jobs to 343,483. And from February 2016 until May 2018, there was a steady improvement in the unemployment situation for people with disabilities, reaching an all-time low.

However, in the last year, unemployment for Americans with Disabilities has stagnated. It increased by one tenth of a percentage appoint, from 29.9 percent in January 2018 to 29.8 percent in January 2019. Thus, the current unemployment rate for working-age non-institutionalized Americans with disabilities is at approximately 70.2 percent. See nTIDE January 2019 Jobs Report: Job Numbers Hold Steady for Americans with Disabilities. 

Disability Champion Jim Langevin Wins Rhode Island Re-Election

Washington, Nov 11 – Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, a Democratic member of congress for more than 20 years, won the re-election for Rhode Island’s 2nd congressional district, holding off Republican Rhue Reis. Langevin completed the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire for the presidential, senate and gubernatorial candidates, that was written by RespectAbility,…

Down Ballot Candidates who Support Opportunities for People with Disabilities Win Big

Washington, Nov. 9 – RespectAbility congratulates Mr. Donald Trump on his win of the presidency and looks forward to working with his new administration in the future and sincerely hopes he will work with diverse parts of America in every sense of the word.

Looking down ballot, several senate and gubernatorial candidates who support opportunities for people with disabilities (PwDs) won big Tuesday night – confirming the results from a new poll released last week. The poll showed that voters were more likely to support candidates who prioritize ensuring that children with disabilities get the education and training they need to succeed as well expanding job and career opportunities for people with disabilities. The poll also showed that voters with disabilities overwhelmingly thought that America was on the wrong track.

There are 56 million people with disabilities (one in five Americans), more than 35 million of whom are eligible voters (one-sixth of the electorate). The poll showed that half of voters either have a disability or a loved one with a disability.

RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, reached out to candidates for president, governor and U.S. Senate – requesting them to complete the #PwDsVote disability questionnaire on multiple disability topics ranging from employment, education, violence and abuse, criminal justice, healthcare and more.

On the presidential level former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton filled out the full questionnaire. Mr. Trump did not. However, both Clinton and Trump completed the AAPD/NCIL presidential questionnaire.

Forty down ballot candidates, including 26 for Senate and 11 for governor, from both sides of the aisle (25 Democrats, 14 Republicans, 1 Green Party) responded to the #PwDsVote questionnaire, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. The responses also were geographically diverse, coming from states all around the country as politicians are paying more and more attention to the disability community.

Of those who responded, 11 candidates have won their election as of Wednesday morning. These include Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), all of whom have won their senate races; Rep. John Carney (D-DE), Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT), who won races for governor; and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), who has won re-election to Congress. Please follow the links in the table below to read more about each of these candidates’ disability policies that affect 56 million Americans.

State Winning Candidate Race
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (D) Senate
Delaware Rep. John Carney (D) Governor
Illinois Rep. Tammy Dukworth (D) Senate
Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) Senate
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) Governor
Nevada Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) Senate
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) Senate
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R) Senate
Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin (D) Congress
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) Senate
Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R) Governor

Candidates on Community Living for People with Disabilities

Washington, Nov. 7 – Many individuals with disabilities choose to receive home and community based services such as personal care attendants instead of living in an institution. Indeed, studies show it is more cost effective to do so than to live in institutionalized settings such as nursing homes where people with disabilities can no longer participate and contribute to society by working and paying taxes.

Yet coverage of personal care attendant services is available only through Medicaid waivers, and many states have extensive waiting lists. This also becomes a barrier to employment for many individuals with disabilities who lose Medicaid services that provide these and other home and community based services if they choose to work. Other people with disabilities who are not eligible for Medicaid are unable to work to begin with due to lack of personal care attendant coverage through private insurance or Medicare. In 2014, of the 7,224,420 individuals with independent living disabilities aged 18 to 
64 years living in the community, just 1,146,316 individuals were employed – that is only 15.9 percent.

As part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for Senate or Governor about their plans to address these issues. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to address these issues and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

Many of the candidates also talked about the Disability Integration Act (DIA), which was introduced in the Senate in December 2015 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to ensure that people with disabilities needing help with everyday tasks who previously have been forced into institutions would have the opportunity to instead live in their homes with appropriate aid.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 9 in the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions, and have the community attendant supports they need to work? “ 

Democrats and Republicans agree there is a need for home and community-based services to be available for individuals with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes than in an institution or nursing home.

“Much of our ability to provide community-based services is reliant on the workforce, which supports these services. My recently created Health Care Workforce Commission is working to address how to grow, support and professionalize New Hampshire’s Direct Support Professionals (DSPs),” responded Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire. “And in the Senate, I will advocate for measures like the Disability Integration Act to expand access to home and community-based services for people with disabilities.”

Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte also talked about her support for caregivers in her response, listing her support for the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act and the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act.

“I have been a leader in the Senate fighting for policies to support family caregivers, who care for family members and loved ones in the comfort of their own homes,” Ayotte responded. “I am a co-founder of the Assisting Caregivers Today Caucus, which works to bring greater awareness to the issues facing family caregivers, including more than 268,000 in New Hampshire.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full answers below:

Rhode Island’s Jim Langevin Completes #PwDsVote Campaign Questionnaire

headshot of Jim Langevin
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)

Washington, Nov. 7 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream, has asked Senate and gubernatorial candidates on both sides of the aisle to fill out a questionnaire on disability issues. Other down ballot candidates who requested a copy of the questionnaire also were invited to complete it. Democrat Rep. Jim Langevin, who is running for reelection for Rhode Island’s 2nd congressional district, completed the questionnaire. His opponent, Republican Rhue Reis, also was sent a copy but has not responded yet.

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

Langevin, who acquired a disability prior to the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has spoken often about the importance of inclusion of people with disabilities.

“To so many of us, I have to say the ADA has probably altered the paradigm, providing new opportunities and fundamentally changing the way society views and treats us,” he said at an event on the sidelines of the DNC in July. “We are much, much closer to realizing the goal and the dream of equality, our full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency of people with disabilities everywhere. In so doing, I know that then we will fully, truly realize the full potential of the ADA for generations to come.”

Currently, Rhode Island ranks 32nd in the country in terms of the state’s employment rate of people with disabilities. Only 33.9 percent of Rhode Island’s 63,400 working-age people with disabilities are employed. Further, as of 2013, there are 5,000 youth with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 20. Each year, one quarter of them will transition out of the school system and into an uncertain future.

Rhode Island’s voters are looking to know where the candidates stand on important disability issues in order to increase opportunities for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities and foster a more inclusive society.

We are presenting Langevin’s answers in full below.

Candidates Detail Disability Policy Positions

Washington, Nov. 4 – A new poll shows that voters are more likely to support candidates who prioritize education, employment and disability policies. So while it’s easy to get stuck in the horse race, readers and viewers are looking for coverage about these important issues. That’s even more true for the 56 million people with disabilities (one in five Americans), more than 35 million of whom are eligible voters (one-sixth of the electorate).

So RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities founded in 2013, asked candidates for president, governor and U.S. Senate 17 questions ranging from topics of employment and housing to education, healthcare and more. Thirty-nine down ballot candidates, including 26 for Senate and 11 for governor, from both sides of the aisle (24 Democrats, 14 Republicans, 1 Green Party) have responded so far, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. An additional nine candidates responded that they are not completing any questionnaires during this campaign season. The responses also are geographically diverse, coming from states all around the country as politicians are paying more and more attention to the disability community. This is the first time down-ballot candidates have been asked to complete a questionnaire about disability-related issues on such a wide scale.

RespectAbility fellows, young individuals with disabilities, compiled the responses and packaged stories by topic. Check them out for great policy answers from a wide variety of candidates:

 Accessibility  Healthcare
 Assistive Technology  Housing
 Community-Based Living  Foreign Policy
 Crime & Police Violence  Rape & Assault
 Criminal Justice Reform  Transportation
 Education  Veterans with Disabilities
 Employment

Utilizing candidate responses to both the down ballot and presidential campaign questionnaires, RespectAbility has released 51 state voter guides.

Key Senate race outcomes could be changed by outreach to the disability community, including the races in Maryland, North Carolina and Wisconsin, where at least one candidate in the race has enacted legislation that has impacted people with disabilities.

Since disability does not discriminate, voters with disabilities are every race, age, ethnic group, religion and gender. As the presidential election has become polarized around racial and ethnic lines, disability issues can create the difference between winning and losing.

View your state’s voter guide below:

Candidates Talk Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Washington, Nov. 3 – In theory, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) opened the door to employment for many people with physical disabilities by requiring that buildings be physically accessible. In practice, however, workplace accessibility for many people with disabilities is far from universal.

Many employers have offices in buildings that predate the ADA and therefore don’t have elevators, accessible bathrooms or necessary assistive technology for people of all abilities to be able to work there. In addition, the ADA exempts companies with fewer than 15 employees from having to abide by ADA standards, so many miss out on a chance to work for a smaller organization.

Therefore, as part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan, nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for president, senate or governor about their plans to address this issue. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

Many campaigns lack basic accessibility – from websites being accessible for people using screen readers to videos lacking captions for the 37.5 million American adults who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, not all campaign events are ADA accessible, including parking, entrances and bathrooms. Many lacked ASL interpreters and live captioning services.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to questions 1 and 2 in the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities?” These were adapted from similar questions, numbers 1 and 11, in the presidential questionnaire.

In Delaware, both candidates for the open gubernatorial seat have worked to ensure they have accessible campaigns by seeking input from both family members and constituents with disabilities. Whomever wins will have big shoes to fill as current Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who is term limited, is a hero to the disability community. Markell was awarded recognition by RespectAbility this summer for his leadership nationally in creating more job opportunities for people with disabilities.

“I have learned about disability issues from constituent calls seeking assistance as well as disability community meetings as a member of the legislature,” Republican State Sen. Colin Bonini replied. “We hold meet and greets at various locations including restaurants. We ask the locations if their events are accessible prior to setting an event up and it is our goal to hold events at locations that are accessible.”

“I have strong relationships with members of Delaware’s disabilities community, and I rely on them for advice and guidance on how to best serve the needs of those with disabilities,” Democrat Rep. John Carney replied. “My campaign welcomes all Delawareans to share their thoughts and concerns about the future of our state. We ensure that our offices and community events are always accessible for anyone who wishes to participate in the election process.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full responses below:

Candidates Talk Housing for People with Disabilities

Washington, Nov. 3 – While people began thinking differently about design and accessibility following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, many people with disabilities are unable to find accessible and affordable housing still today.

Therefore, as part of the #PwDsVote Disability Questionnaire, the nonpartisan, nonprofit disability organization RespectAbility asked candidates running for president, senate or governor about their plans to address this issue. Every candidate was given an equal opportunity to respond and if they are not listed, it is because they declined to answer.

The cost of housing for all people has been rising higher and higher. According to a report by Disability Statistics, 28.1 percent of people with disabilities, ages 21-64, were living below the poverty line in 2014. As a result, 41 percent of individuals with disabilities could not afford housing. People with disabilities face more challenges in finding employment opportunities. With no or low-paying jobs, many individuals with disabilities are unable to afford an accessible housing complex.

35.1 million housing complexes have one or more people living with a disability in them, each with unique needs. A wheelchair user, for example, needs to not only be able to enter a building with a ramp and have an elevator available to use if not on the ground floor but also needs wide enough hallways and accessible bathrooms. Furthermore, the housing itself needs to be in a location where it can be easily accessible to employment opportunities, as transportation is not always accessible either.

The quotes in this article are the candidates’ answers to question 14 of the gubernatorial/senate questionnaire: “Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work or are seeking work?” This was adapted from a similar question, number 13, in the presidential questionnaire.

Both Democrats and Republicans recognize that people with disabilities should be able to afford accessible housing in their communities near local employment opportunities.

“It is essential to enable people with disabilities to live in the communities where they work,” responded Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for the senate seat representing New Hampshire. “In the Senate I am committed to ensuring accessible, affordable, integrated housing for those who need it.”

Her opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte, called for tax credits.

“I support expanding the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program to help create or preserve approximately 1.3 million affordable homes over a 10-year period—an increase of 400,000 more units than is possible under the current program,” she responded. “I also support the HOME Investment Partnerships program, which provides federal block grants to states and localities to meet their diverse affordable housing needs.”

Check out all of the candidates’ full responses below:

What Do Candidates Say About People with Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System?

Washington, Nov. 3 – In the past year, discussions of minorities in the criminal justice system frequently have appeared in the media. People with disabilities have a high rate of involvement with the criminal justice system, but often are left out of these conversations. Approximately 32 percent of prisoners and…

What Do Candidates Say About People with Disabilities Regarding Transportation Issues?

Washington, Nov. 3 – While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has enabled many people with disabilities to have physical access and more rights, numerous challenges still remain. Fully 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities do not have a job, the same rate it was when the ADA was passed…