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Kasich, Christie and Pataki Speak About Disability at New Hampshire Forum

Washington, August 5 – Leading up to the first Republican primary debate that will take place in Cleveland, Ohio tomorrow, several candidates are highlighting the importance of talking about disability issues on the campaign trail. In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney never talked about disability issues and it was…

Niou Completes Candidate Questionnaire on Disability Issues

New York, NY, April 29 – New York State Representative and State Senate primary candidate Yuh-Line Niou 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.

One-in-five Americans has a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People with disabilities are America’s largest minority group. It is also the only one that, due to accident, aging or illness, anyone can join at any time. In total, there are 2.3 million New York State residents living with some form of disability and the disability community makes up 12.3 percent of the Empire State’s population.

Polls show that the majority of voters have either a disability or a loved one with a disability. Voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs – and the actions campaigns take to reach out to these voters can make the difference between winning and losing.

Niou is running against incumbent state Senator Brian P. Kavanagh in the Democratic primary to represent New York’s 26th State Senate district. Kavanaugh has not yet replied to RespectAbility’s questionnaire.

Fighting for Students with Disabilities: Spotlight on Roy Payan

Los Angeles, CA, February 15 – RespectAbility Apprentice Roy Payan didn’t set out to spark a national conversation about disability access in higher education. However, when Payan – who is blind – found himself struggling to gain access to adequate and appropriate materials to complete math classes at Los Angeles Community College, he began his quest to make improvements for himself and other students with disabilities.

According to Payan, one campus official claimed, “there were not enough blind students to warrant a change.”

“He also informed me that if I desired, I was welcome to sue them, but that even if I won the case, he would not implement any changes,” Payan says. “So, I sued them.”

That was in 2016.

RespectAbility Responds to Office of Management and Budget Request for Ideas on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Washington, D.C., July 7 – This week, RespectAbility responded to a request for information from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about ideas, insights, and innovations to advance and prioritize equity issues. This dialogue is only the latest example of how the new Biden-Harris Administration is seeking to address the “entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies.”

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 launching an “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.” This is critical news for the 12.8 million Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities who have long been harmed by structural racism and who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

“The impacts of racism and ableism on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities have caused harm to so many,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO of RespectAbility. “We must all fight racism and prejudice of all kinds. That work must go well beyond words and move into real systems change so we can create true equity and opportunities. Our society is at its best when all people, including BIPOC people with disabilities, can earn an income and become independent, just like anyone else. Online engagement opportunities like this one offer the chance for policy makers and common citizens to make their voices heard and push our society to become fairer and more inclusive.”

All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility is a poignant look at the intersectionality of accessibility in NYC

New York City, June 17 – Primary elections are underway in NYC and New Yorkers are thinking hard about the issues that matter most to them. Accessibility and disability and social justice are at the forefront of many minds, which makes All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility a perfect film to watch before heading to the booth. Shot the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, All Riders takes a poignant look at the intersectionality of unmet access needs within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Often thought of as synonymous with accessible transportation because of its extensive transit system, The Big Apple has continually fallen short of its goal to become “the most accessible city in the world.” Out of over 400 stations, less than 30% are accessible, a portion of those accessible in only one direction, and with daily elevator failures close to 25% based on data from 2014-2015, that can leave New Yorkers with less than 20% of stations accessible at any one time across the massive five borough system. This is a dismal number considering the Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 31st birthday this July, requires that all stations be accessible under federal law.

RespectAbility Contributes to Online Racial Equity Dialogue with Ideas on Metrics, Measures and Best Practices

Washington, D.C., May 5 – This past week, RespectAbility contributed to the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor’s online dialogue to solicit ideas, insights, and innovations from the disability community about advancing racial and social equity. This dialogue is only the latest example of how the new Biden-Harris Administration is seeking to address the “entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies.”

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 launching an “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.” This is critical news for the 12.8 million Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities who have long been harmed by structural racism and who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 and resulting economic crisis.

Fourteen of the Nation’s Largest Disability Organizations Join Together to Encourage Disability Community to Vote on November 3rd

New York, NY, Oct. 26 – Fourteen of the nation’s largest disability organizations have joined together to urge all Americans who care about issues related to disability to vote on November 3rd. These organizations today released the following collective statement:

“COVID-19 is a unique burden for people with disabilities. Lives have been lost. Isolation exacerbated. Unemployment skyrocketing. The policy issues on the ballot this November impacts every aspect of life for the disability community. We must vote in record numbers to have our voices heard and needs met in the ongoing public health emergency.

“People with disabilities form an increasingly large, powerful, and potentially decisive percentage of the electorate in key battleground states and across the country.  A projected 38 million eligible voters have a disability and millions more live with someone who has a disability. Taken together, more than 25% of the American electorate may be motivated by issues affecting the disability community. 

2020 Disability Voter Guide

Voting has begun in the 2020 election, and the disability community has a lot at stake. The nonpartisan disability group RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates for President, Governor and the U.S. Senate the same seven key questions about issues affecting people with disabilities. Below you can read responses from candidates who have already taken the time to address the concerns of voters with disabilities. 

RespectAbility is still accepting responses to the candidate questionnaire from campaigns, so if a candidate has not answered the questions, please invite them to do so. We hope that this information will enable you to make informed decisions in this election. You can find full, detailed converge online at

Issue Voter Guides

English Language Learners and Immigrants with Disabilities

Promoting Disability Employment Outcomes

High School Graduation for Students with Disabilities

Combating Stigmas for People with Disabilities

Campaign Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities

Community Inclusion for People with Disabilities

Other Priorities for People with Disabilities

State Voter Guides

Dramatic Change in Disability Visibility in Politics as Disability on Display at the DNC

Washington, D.C., August 23 – The 2020 Democratic National Convention took place over the course of this week, and several speakers with disabilities were featured over the first-of-its-kind virtual event. By doing so, the event helped to normalize disability, showing individuals with a variety of disabilities speaking about topics from gun violence to healthcare – issues of importance to all people in America. This is a massive change in politics as people with disabilities are starting to be seen and heard. 

Indeed, after the 2012 DNC and RNC political conventions, The New York Times created a tool where people could put in a word to see how many times that word appeared from the convention stages during these major events. People with disabilities had been missing from both the stage and the conversation as the tool showed that the word was not even mentioned once per 25,000 words from the Republican convention and was mentioned .03 times per 25,000 times at the 2012 Democratic convention. 

The 2020 DNC convention, in contrast, featured both conversations about disability as well as speakers with disabilities. 

COVID-19 Economic Benefits How-To Guide

Washington, D.C., April 17 – As more Americans with and without disabilities are caught up in the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are wondering where to find answers to life-or-death questions. In this How-To Guide, the RespectAbility team has compiled clear information about several key Economic Benefits to see you through these challenging times.

This guide includes the latest information and online resources about three key topics: accessing your CARES Act payment, accessing food resources and understanding unemployment insurance. 

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…

Presidential Candidates’ Website Accessibility Improves but More Work Still Needed

Four Candidates – Biden, Booker, Castro and Yang – Have “Mostly Accessible” Websites

Washington, D.C., Dec. 19 – Nearly six months after a report by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired found that all of the presidential candidates’ websites block democratic access to voters who are blind or have low vision, an update finds that still none of these websites – Democrat or Republican – are fully accessible. However, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind found that many of the candidates’ websites do show improvements in accessibility.

The organization issued a challenge for the candidates in June: “ensure their websites are fully ADA compliant and immediately put an accessibility statement on their page.” Since then, both Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Vice President Joe Biden’s have been deemed “mostly accessible” and are the only candidates who have qualified for the December debate to have scored higher than a 3.00 out of 4.00. 

Examining Presidential Hopeful Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign Accessibility

Washington, D.C., Dec. 19 – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has officially announced that he is running for president in the democratic primary. But how is his campaign doing on including people with disabilities?

Michael Bloomberg

For a presidential campaign to be fully inclusive of people with disabilities, it needs to meet the following requirements, at a minimum: (1) offer captioning with every video it shares or produces, (2) mention people with disabilities and their issues, (3) depict people with visible disabilities in its media, (4) reach out to and fully include the disability community, and (5) provide accessible campaign events, social media, documents and website. Bloomberg’s campaign has room for improvement, but there are some positive signs that the campaign is trying to be inclusive.

Harris Calls for Empowering “Ignored” Communities, Stresses Environmental Justice, During CNN Climate Town Hall

New York City, Sept. 5 – Sen. Kamala Harris called for environmental justice to empower “ignored” communities during the climate town hall on CNN. Carson Tueller, a man with a spinal cord injury who has thermodysregulation, leaving his body unable to control its own temperature and unable to sweat, asked…

Plastic Straw Ban Becomes Topic of Debate During CNN Climate Town Hall

New York City, Sept. 4 – For more than a year now, disability advocates have admonished the plastic straw ban, because it is clear the policy was enacted without the involvement of people with disabilities, some of whom need plastic straws to survive.  During the CNN Climate Town Hall, Sen. Kamala…

How Accessible and Inclusive Are the Presidential Candidates’ Campaigns?

How to Tell If a Presidential Campaign is Inclusive of People with Disabilities Washington, D.C., June 26 – On the eve of the first round of Democratic debates, it is important to remember that one important group of swing voters are people with disabilities, who comprise 20 percent of our…

Sen. Sanders Pledges to “Champion Expanding the Rights of People with Disabilities”

Sanders Campaign Only One to Have Dedicated Page on Website for Disability Rights Washington, D.C., May 28 – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is no stranger to the presidential primary campaign. As he did in 2016, his campaign has a dedicated page on their website for disability issues. While some of the…

Examining Presidential Hopeful NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Record on Disability

New York City, May 17 – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is currently in charge of America’s largest city, and now he is running for President. As mayor of NYC, he represented 455,000 working-age people with disabilities in the city, as nearly half of all working-age New Yorkers with disabilities live in the greater New York City metropolitan area.

According to Vice, “Commissioner Victor Calise is working on making New York ‘the most accessible city in the world.’” And the de Blasio administration has taken some concrete steps to move New York closer to that goal. But as the article’s title suggests, the city has a long way to go.

Under Mayor de Blasio, the city has launched NYC ATWORK: a successful program to provide resources and opportunities to job-seekers with disabilities. This effort is overseen by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, led by Commissioner Victor Calise. NYC ATWORK helps connect people with disabilities looking for jobs and businesses looking to hire qualified individuals. The Mayor’s office is also behind Project Open House, which “removes architectural barriers in the homes of people with permanent disabilities.”

Presidential Hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand Intentional about Inclusion of People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., May 14 – New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is fighting to be the first woman elected President of the United States. But she has pledged to fight for people with disabilities as well. Gillibrand might not have a disability herself, but she has recognized that for a presidential…

Presidential Hopeful Andrew Yang Advocates for Early Intervention in Autism

Washington, D.C., May 10 — In November of 2017, Andrew Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and an entrepreneur from New York, entered the 2020 Presidential campaign. Yang, the author of the “War on Normal People,” is running on the idea that average Americans are ill-equipped to survive in our economy, where there is increasing levels of income inequality.

His campaign, like his book, discusses the economic impact of workplace automation and our options for the future, including the idea of instituting a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1,000 per month to every American. He calls it the “Freedom Dividend,” and believes it will spur the economy and level the income inequality.

Andrew Yang smiles for the camera
photo credits: WJLA

Many of the issues he describes, from workforce automation to income inequality, strikes at the heart of the disability community, and Yang would be well-served to include them in the conversation of “normal” Americans. Indeed, according to the CDC, people with disabilities comprise 25 percent of our country’s adult population, and more than half of Americans have a loved one with a disability. A recent survey shows that fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. Thus, for a presidential candidate to represent all Americans, he must include people with disabilities.

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