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Category: Senate

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.

Options for an Equitable Recovery – RespectAbility Advises Congress on Bipartisan Solutions for People with Disabilities

Submitted testimony will help inform Congressional efforts to rebuild the economy and get workers with disabilities back to work.

Washington, D.C., April 7 – Recently, the United States Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee invited subject matter experts, self-advocates, community members and their constituents to virtually provide ideas and insights about rebuilding the economy in a post-COVID world. 

In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbiltiy weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in outcomes for people from marginalized communities. 

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.

Former Senator Bob Dole’s Impact on Millions with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Feb. 25 – Last week, former Senator Bob Dole announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. A one-time GOP presidential candidate and long-time advocate for bipartisan solutions, Dole has been a fixture of Washington, D.C. since he was first elected to the Congress in 1960. Throughout decades of public service, he consistently championed many of the key issues impacting millions of people living with disabilities. He did so both as an ally, and someone who became a person with disabilities in combat during World War II.  

A farm kid from Kansas, Dole enlisted in 1942 and soon was selected to be commissioned as an officer. In 1945, while serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy, Dole was wounded by German machine gun fire. He was paralyzed by wounds in his shoulder and with a fractured vertebra in his neck. The wounded Kansan would have to wait nine hours in the freezing cold before he could finally be evacuated to a field hospital. Dole survived with his right arm permanently immobilized and had a long road to recovery that eventually included years of rehabilitation. Like so many people who acquire disabilities, Dole had to relearn key skills and improvise new ways of doing tasks. Because of the impairment in his arm, Dole taught himself to write with his left hand.  

The Potential of the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act for People with Disabilities

This new bill will invest $15 billion to help restore the nation’s public workforce system in response to the economic collapse following the COVID 19 pandemic

Washington, D.C., Feb. 23 – In the response to the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) has introduced a new bill to kickstart the economy and get millions of people back to work. This new legislation is called the “Relaunching America’s Workforce Act” and it contains significant provisions that would specifically help workers with disabilities.

Impact on Individuals with Disabilities

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a much larger impact on the unemployment rates of individuals with disabilities compared to people without disabilities. Specifically, since March 2020, more than 1 in 5 workers with disabilities have lost their jobs at the hands of the coronavirus, compared to 1 in 7 individuals without disabilities. To put it another way, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their job since the start of the pandemic. The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act could play an important role in helping workers with disabilities get back into the labor force. Thankfully, this legislation explicitly mentions individuals with disabilities more than 10 times, and it provides numerous recommendations to help the disability community reenter the workforce.

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.

GA Sen. Kelly Loeffler Reaches Out to Voters with Disabilities

Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 31 – Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler has reached out to the 1.2 million Georgians with disabilities, responding to questions from Sign 1 News earlier this week. 

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. 

GA Sen. David Perdue Campaign Reaches out to Voters with Disabilities

Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 31 – Republican Sen. David Perdue’s campaign has reached out to the 1.2 million Georgians with disabilities in statement released earlier this week. 

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. 

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:

Georgia Disability Vote Partnership Shines the Spotlight on the Disability Vote in the Senate Candidate Disability Forum

Washington, D.C., Dec. 29 – Control of the U.S. 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, Georgia’s disability community has not been getting enough attention in these races. That started to change on Monday evening when the Georgia Disability Vote Partnership hosted a live streamed voting forum featuring all four of Georgia’s Senate runoff candidates. The forum showed answers from all candidates to the same questions: 1) Why is it so important for the disability community to be involved in the political process? 2) How do you plan to engage the disability community to be more involved and active in the laws, decisions and policies that affect our lives?

Georgia Disability Voter Access, Pollsters & Exit Polls

As the nation waits for the Georgia Senate runoff next week, disability organization calls on pollsters and media to track disability participation and access.

Washington, D.C., Dec. 28 – With the political universe centered on the Senate runoff in Georgia, the unique needs and barriers of Georgians with disabilities could very well factor into to the outcome of the race. Thus, the national nonpartisan disability inclusion organization RespectAbility is asking pollsters, polling firms and political consultants to track voters with disabilities in their demographic data, as well as voter access exit polling.

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

Thus far, there has been little outreach to voters with disabilities from all four Senate candidates in the runoff race. As noted by RespectAbility in November, none of the four candidates even mention the word disability on their campaign websites. None of the Senate candidates’ websites are fully accessible to the 254,972 Georgians who are blind or low vision. And very few of the candidates’ videos have captions, making them inaccessible to the 328,000 deaf and hard of hearing Georgians.

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.”

New COVID Relief –What Does It Mean for People with Disabilities?

The new $900 billion stimulus bill promises more stimulus checks, extends unemployment supports and impacts everything from businesses to schools.  

Washington, D.C., Dec. 22 – After months of partisan gridlock and inaction, the Congress finally approved a massive coronavirus relief bill last night and sent it to the President’s desk. This mammoth bill, totaling more than 5,000 pages of legislative language and with more than $900 billion in spending, becomes law at the same time as the United States crosses the grim milestone of more than 316,000 dead because of the pandemic. 

New, But Smaller Checks for Individuals With and Without Disabilities:

The new bill does include a new round of stimulus checks to be sent directly to millions of Americans with and without disabilities. This new, smaller check will be a one-time cash payment sent from the government to all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $87,000 ($174,000 if you are married) and each dependent child under age 17. 

As was the case earlier this year, this will explicitly exclude approximately 13.5 million adult dependents who include high school or college students living at home and millions of people with disabilities. This is a major disappoint for many activists, given past bipartisan support to expand support for adult dependents. 

Likewise, because this stimulus check is considered a rebate, it will NOT be counted against the asset limits faced by people with disabilities if spent within 12 months of receipt. However, people with disabilities who are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will have to file their taxes. This could create a major burden for many of the poorest people with disabilities and other low-income communities, many of whom may find access to filling out the forms a challenge. 

As the COVID Death Toll Rises, Disability Group Continues to Warn Against Medical Rationing

With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine starting, RespectAbility reminds elected and healthcare officials that medical rationing that harms people with disabilities is illegal and wrong.

Washington, D.C., Dec. 17 – Hospitals across the country are being overwhelmed by new coronavirus cases, with data showing more than 200,000 new cases daily. A new report from NPR’s All Things Considered highlights how the lives of people with disabilities are in the balance and medical professionals are denying equal access to care. The disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility reminds elected and healthcare officials that not only does medical rationing harm people with disabilities, it is also illegal and wrong.