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Category: Democrats

Bipartisan Bill Helps Americans with Disabilities Seek Work without Losing Benefits

Washington D.C, July 9 – On June 17, 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Work Without Worry Act. This piece of legislation would allow Americans with disabilities to take on employment opportunities without the fear of losing higher Social Security benefits. 

Currently, if an adult has a disability that began before the age of 22, they may be eligible for Social Security’s Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit. This benefit considers these adults to be dependents on their parent(s) and as such their benefits, like any child under the age of 18, rely on their parent’s Social Security contributions and earnings.

NJ Governor Phil Murphy Signs Bill Approving 13th Year for Students with Disabilities

Newark, N.J., July 9 – Last month, Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) signed Senate Bill 3434 into law after five months of delays. This piece of legislation extends the length of educational and transitional services for eligible students with disabilities, who are slated to age out of the academic system at the age of 21. In New Jersey, the length of service extension is approximately one year.

How many students will benefit from this new law? 

According to the Disability Compendium Annual Statistics, there are 220,362 students with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in New Jersey public schools.  Percentage wise, this represents 12.6 percent of all students in New Jersey’s K-12 schools. This might seem like a small percentage; however, every student served deserves an equal right to access resources that they need.

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Washington’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board on Solutions for People with Disabilities

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Seattle, WA, June 10 – This week, Washington state’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Evergreen State’s economy forward. In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in Washington’s economy.

“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 the Honorable Steve Bartlett, former Member of Congress, the former Mayor of Dallas and current Chairman of RespectAbility. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to implement policies that will drive a truly equitable recovery that helps people with disabilities and other marginalized communities get back to work.”

There are 478,673 working-age Washingtonians living with some form of disability. In the economic expansion prior to COVID-19, fully 42 percent of them had jobs. However, because of COVID, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs nationwide. Now, as more Americans get vaccinated and more people get back to work, it is crucial that policy makers implement best practices.

Taryn Mackenzie Williams Nominated to be New Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy

Washington, D.C., June 4 – This past month, the Biden Administration formally nominated Taryn Mackenzie Williams to become the next Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. On May 27, 2021, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee met to discuss Williams’ nomination and to consider several other candidates for key political appointments. If confirmed by the Senate, Williams would become the highest-ranking member of the Biden Administration to publicly identified as a person with a disability. 

This is welcome news given that the Administration has publicly committed it to hiring diverse political appointees and yet only 3 percent of more than 1,500 candidates self-identify as having a disability. 

New York City’s Voter Registration Deadline is Today – What Voters Need To Do

New York, NY, May 28 – Today marks the final day to register to vote in the upcoming June 22 Primary Elections in New York City. Fortunately for New Yorkers with and without disabilities, anyone with a valid identification from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles can register to vote online. You can directly and easily access that information by going to the DMV website.

If you want to register by mail, your registration will need to be postmarked today and mailed out to the Board of Elections. The address is 32 Broadway, 7 Fl New York, NY 10004-1609. Click here to download and complete the form.

If you would like to register in person, local board of elections offices are open until 5:00 p.m. Eastern today. To find your local office, go to the website.

Lastly, to vote in the November 2, 2021 general election, voters must be registered by October 8, 2021. Go to this website for a full list of upcoming voting deadlines.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Serves as Role Model for Many

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month by recognizing the Legislative Leadership of Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Washington, D.C., May 23 – Since being elected to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate in 2016, Tammy Duckworth has carved a name for herself as an advocate for disability and veterans’ rights. She also bears the honor of having many “firsts” to her name. Born to Thai mother of Chinese heritage and an American father on the 12th of March 1968, Sen. Duckworth is the first Thai woman to be elected to U.S. Congress, the first woman to give birth while serving in office as a U.S. senator, and is the first female Senator to use a wheelchair.

According to the U.S. Census, as of 2019, there were 18,297,153 Asian Americans living in the United States. Out of that number, there are 1,315,999 Asian Americans who identify that they are living with some form of disability, many of whom face double discrimination. Sen. Duckworth is helping to fight these stigmas as a very public role model.

Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono Recognized for Leadership as an Immigrant and as a Person with a Disability

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month by recognizing the Legislative Leadership of Sen. Mazie Hirono

Washington, D.C., May 23 – U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) has been working in government since the 1980’s, striving tirelessly to make a difference and has made great advances on many fronts. She is the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate, the first woman elected to the Senate from Hawaii, and the first Buddhist senator. As of May 2017, Hirono is also a woman with a disability serving in the U.S. Senate.

During an x-ray before minor eye surgery, it was discovered that Sen. Hirono had stage 4 kidney cancer. Since then, she has had to undergo surgery to remove her right kidney and a rib, as well as extensive cancer treatment. Hirono considers herself lucky that she was able to get early intervention and that she had health insurance at the time of her diagnosis. Thus, she is a strong supporter of healthcare reform and specifically, Medicare for All. However, her support for healthcare reform started long before her diagnosis.

Rep. James Langevin Paves the Way for the Disability Community in Congress

Washington, D.C., May 11 – Over 40 years ago, Rep. James (Jim) Langevin was left paralyzed after an accidental shooting at his job at the Warwick Police Department in his home state of Rhode Island. Langevin, who was only 16 at the time, was suddenly a quadriplegic. Although unexpected, his injury led him to a life of public service, and he has never looked back.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Langevin has been a change agent in his home state for the last 35 years. Since his 1980 injury, he has worked to help Rhode Islanders in need and individuals with disabilities throughout the country. Langevin’s journey into public service began at Rhode Island College, where he served as President of Student Community Government. Following his undergraduate degree, Langevin went to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Thereafter, Langevin launched his career in government in 1986 by being elected to serve as the Secretary of Rhode Island’s Constitutional Convention. After two years in this position, Langevin successfully campaigned and was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives. 

Senator Casey’s Bill Aims to Incentivize Hiring of Workers with Disabilities

The proposed Disability Employment Incentive Act would offer tax credits for employers who recruit, hire, and retain workers with disabilities.  Washington, D.C., April 9 – A new bill proposed by Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) would offer valuable new tax credits to employers who recruit, hire, and retain workers with…

The American Rescue Plan: What It Means for People with Disabilities

How will this $1.9 trillion law help the 61 million Americans living with a disability?

Washington, D.C., March 12 – This week, Congress passed, and President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This massive bill includes a range of policies and programs intended to get more Americans vaccinated, help working families, and lay the groundwork for a post-pandemic economic recovery. Critically, it also contains key proposals that will directly benefit millions of people with disabilities, including helping students with disabilities get back to the classroom and directly sending stimulus checks to many people left out of previous relief efforts.

New Bill Aims to Promote Diversity in Diplomatic Workforce

Washington, D.C., February 4 – Whenever a new Administration settles in at the White House and a new Congress convenes, the tone in Washington shifts. Following a presidential campaign built around commitments to diversity and equity, the Biden Administration has already taken several critical executive actions to fulfill those commitments. Now, the gauntlet has been thrown down and it’s up the 117th Congress to match that commitment.

One of the potential vehicles for Congress to do that is the “Represent America Abroad Act of 2020.” This bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20), would seek to diversify the diplomatic workforce of the Department of State. By creating a new America Mid-Career Foreign Service Entry Program, this bill would directly recruit new diplomats from underrepresented communities across the country. 

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.

Biden Transition Team Leaves Out People with Disabilities

Sen. Duckworth, Rep. Langevin and Disability & Inclusion Leaders Encourage Biden-Harris to Pick Talented People with Disabilities Washington, D.C., Dec. 31 – Despite promises to the disability community that helped him win the election, President-elect Biden has not yet included people with disabilities among his top appointees, according to transition…

Senate Voter Guide for 1,246,077 Georgians with Disabilities

Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 31 – With the fate of the U.S. Senate at stake thanks to the hard-fought Georgia Senate Runoff campaign, the nonpartisan disability rights nonprofit RespectAbility has released its latest Georgia State Voter Guide. According to the 2019 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, the total number of Georgians with disabilities is 1,246,077, making up 12.1 percent of the total state population.

2018 employment data shows that there are 658,811 working-age people with disabilities in Georgia. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 238,875 (or 36.3 percent) of those Georgians have a job.

RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates for President, Governor and the U.S. Senate during the entire 2020 election cycle the same key questions about issues affecting people with disabilities, including employment, education, criminal justice and accessibility. 

GA Senate Candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock Reaches Out to Voters with Disabilities

Warnock Completed RespectAbility Candidate Questionnaire and Recorded Video Response for Georgia Disability Vote Forum

Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 29 – Democratic Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock 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. 

Throughout the 2020 election, nonpartisan disability group RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates for President, Governor and the U.S. Senate the same key questions about issues affecting people with disabilities, including employment, education, criminal justice and accessibility The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and Rev. Warnock’s responses follows:

GA Senate Candidate Jon Ossoff Reaches out to Voters with Disabilities

Video statement on the intersection of disability issues in Georgia Senate Runoff

Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 29 – Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff has reached out to the 1.2 million Georgians with disabilities in a video message released over the Christmas weekend. 

Local disability organizations such as the Georgia Disability Vote Partnership (GDVP) and national groups such as RespectAbility have been reaching out to Democratic and Republican candidates about issues affecting people with disabilities, including employment, education, criminal justice and accessibility. 

However, it has only been in the final few hours of the campaign that candidates are starting to respond. The transcript of Ossoff’s comments can be found below: