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Voter Guide for 4,066,171 Californians with Disabilities

California Ranks 22nd in the Country on Jobs for People with Disabilities

by Eric Ascher

As Californians with and without disabilities get ready to go to the polls to vote in their state’s primary election, a disability rights nonprofit has released its California State Voter Guide. While primary election day in California is on March 3, 2020, early voting begins weeks before in many localities across the Golden State. Early voting gives voters with and without disabilities the flexibility and choice to their ballots long before primary day. 

Research conducted in the 2018 election shows that 74 percent of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. The upcoming elections and their results will have an impact on people with disabilities, so it is important to become familiar with the candidates’ positions on certain issues.

“Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril,” said RespectAbility’s California State Director Matan Koch. 

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 race on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire. This questionnaire covers some of the most important issues impacting people with disabilities including employment, education, immigration, criminal justice and accessibility. 

Five high-profile candidates submitted their completed questionnaires earlier this year and you can find their responses below:

All responses to the candidate questionnaire will be posted in full on The RespectAbility Report as they come in and will be used to produce and update nonpartisan voter guides in all 50 states. It is the hope of RespectAbility that the remaining candidates will send their responses in soon. 

Past the primary elections in March, RespectAbility also is planning to adapt the candidate questionnaire for local elections in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area later in the year.

A Focus on Employment

According to the 2019 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, there are 1,896,634 working-age (ages 18-64) people with disabilities living in California. Out of that number, 700,456 have jobs. That means California has a disability employment rate of 36.9 percent. The Golden State now ranks 22nd among the 50 states in terms of the employment gap between people with and without disabilities.

“The unfortunate fact is that stigma is still a driving factor in why two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed,” said RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications, Lauren Appelbaum, who also serves as the managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, an online publication at the intersection of disability and politics, and runs the organization’s outreach to the entertainment industry in Hollywood. “There is no better way to disprove the idea that by candidates to the highest office in the land to include people with disabilities in their campaigns as staffers and consultants, as well as by ensuring they have well thought-out disability policy plans.”

“The disability community is unique,” added Philip Kahn-Pauli, associate editor of The RespectAbility Report. “It is the only minority group that anyone can join at any time due to illness, injury, or aging. What that means is that there are people with disabilities in every state, and that the community’s interests intersect with so many issues, including race, gender, poverty, criminal justice and inequality.” 

According to a Rutgers University study, 14.3 million citizens with disabilities voted in 2018. Those voters will be crucial as candidates vie for the presidency, as well as state-wide and local elections.

RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. RespectAbility does not rate or endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls. RespectAbility has reached out to all of the presidential campaigns and will be posting all responses on The RespectAbility Report. Learn more about all of the candidates, including those who did not respond to the questionnaire: