Washington, D.C. – As the 2016 presidential campaign season gains speed, RespectAbility is reaching out to all of the campaigns to highlight the importance for all candidates to speak directly to voters with disabilities and their families by offering specific plans for a better future.
RespectAbility introduces its newest project – The RespectAbility Report – a nonpartisan political commentary on the 2016 U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues. Launched in June 2015, The RespectAbility Report is nonpartisan and neither rates nor endorses candidates. Expect to read fact-based updates and analysis from our staff based around the entire country. Staff writers will meet with the presidential candidates and report their proposals on disability issues. In addition staff writers report from the ground of candidate forums and debates.
Other features will look at the candidates’ websites to answer these questions and more: Do the candidates’ websites have plans for helping people with disabilities obtain jobs? Are the sites accessible, and can you use a screen reader? Look for answer to all these, and more, on The RespectAbility Report!
RespectAbility commends several candidates for already talking about this important issue. Although the majority of voters either have a disability or a family member or loved one with a disability, disability issues have not been adequately addressed by our public officials or business leaders in the past.
Gov. Jeb Bush highlighted a young woman with autism who is unable to speak or walk in the video “Making a Difference,” and spoke about the importance of taking special care for the most vulnerable people, including children with developmental disabilities in our society, at the Road to Majority Conference last month.
At the same conference, Gov. John Kasich discussed his plan to grow jobs – not only for the poor and minorities but also for people who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled. He specifically pointed toward helping families with an autistic child afford insurance. The governor later spoke with one of RespectAbility’s fellows who is on the Autism spectrum.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, Sen. Bernie Sanders told a town hall that people with disabilities must have all possible opportunities – regarding both education and employment – available to them. When questioned about a specific plan to increase competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities in America, he promised to work on the issue.
Last week, Gov. Rick Perry talked about reigniting “the engine of economic growth” at the National Press Club. “The best welfare program is a job,” Perry said in the appearance on Thursday. While Perry did not specifically address the need to help people with disabilities to obtain a job as well during his speech, he did talk about the issue just before the lunch with RespectAbility staff.
We’re still waiting for remarks from Hillary Clinton on her plan to help people with disabilities obtain jobs. The Hillary Clinton campaign launch video, which included many different individuals and families who represented diversity in America, did not include anyone with a disability. We urge Hillary Clinton and all the other presidential candidates to focus on jobs for people with disabilities.
Chief political writers for The RespectAbility Report include Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, former political and training director for Campaigns & Elections magazine and regular columnist for The Daily Record, and Lauren Appelbaum, former political researcher for NBC News.
“Issues of employment among people with disabilities can affect outcomes in competitive races,” Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, PhD, said in a statement following a bipartisan poll of 2014 voters. “This community is far bigger than many people realize, including people in my profession.”
America has 56 million people with disabilities, more than 20 million of whom are working age. Fifty-two percent of Democrats report that they or a loved one have a disability, and for Republicans, a smaller number of 44 percent report they have a disability. Surprisingly, Independents have the largest number of voters who say they have a disability, with 58 percent saying yes. This shows that swing voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs.
Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability themselves and studies show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. This leads to poverty and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disability benefits.
Introducing policies that create opportunities for employing people with disabilities is not a conservative issue or liberal issue; it is a human issue, and it affects a large portion of the electorate in the United States. The top issue in the disability community is jobs. Government policies that help people with disabilities get and keep jobs are a win-win because they allow people with disabilities the dignity and financial benefits of work and also grow our economy and save taxpayer money.
If nothing else, the bipartisan poll “shows that Americans with disabilities – and those who care deeply about them – are a demographic we need to pay attention to in the future,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said in a statement.
RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American Dream by entering the workforce, is nonpartisan and neither rates nor endorses candidates.