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Trump Cabinet Possibilities: Where is the Disability Representation?

Washington, Nov. 10 – RespectAbility has obtained an internal document from the Trump transition team titled “Trump Cabinet Possibilities.” We have been told the people listed below currently are being vetted for 22 key posts within the Trump administration.

Looking at the list, it is clear that few of the people have any experience in working with the disability community and none of them self-identify publicly as being people with disabilities themselves.

“Fully one-in-five Americans has a disability and the majority of Americans have a loved one with a disability,” RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “It is vital for the Trump administration to reflect America, including talented people with disabilities. The administration needs people who have real, proven experience in enabling people with disabilities to receive the education and training they need to succeed in gaining jobs and independence.”

Mizrahi lists New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Gov. John Kasisch, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, California Rep. Brad Sherman, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as “proven leaders who have extensive experience in advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.”

In terms of qualified people with disabilities, Mizrahi highlights Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who lost his re-election bid to Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth; Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, Steven Tingus, who served as deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation (disability, aging and long-term care policy) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush; and Melissa Ortiz, a Republican woman who has worked on several campaigns, as well as others.

“There are also some very successful Obama Administration officials with disabilities who are in the midst of a highly complicated set of efforts to partner with the states implementing the completely bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act,” Mizrahi added, identifying Janet Lebrek and Jennifer Sheehy as two current government appointees with disabilities as people Trump should consider.

Janet Lebrek, who lost her vision by the age of 10 years old, currently is the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and oversees programs that help people with disabilities find employment and live more independently.

Jennifer Sheehy, who became paralyzed in 1994, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

“There are 56 million Americans with disabilities, and only 30 percent currently are employed, while 70 percent have expressed a desire to be,” Mizrahi added. “Without ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities, specifically relating to employment and education, a Trump administration would be leaving too many Americans behind. A Trump Administration should reflect all of America – including talented people with disabilities.”

new poll showed that half of voters either have a disability or a loved one with a disability. The poll also showed that voters were more likely to support candidates who prioritize ensuring that children with disabilities get the education and training they need to succeed as well as expanding job and career opportunities for people with disabilities.

Other minorities also are missing from the list, which includes just eight women, one Hispanic, two African Americans and no known members of the LGBTQ community:

Attorney General: Atty. Gen. Pam Boni, Gov. Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Jeff Sessions
Central Intelligence Agency Director: Jose Rodriguez
Chief of Staff:  Reince Priebus
Director of National Intelligence: Todd Wilcox
EPA Administrator: Joe Aiello, Carol Comer, Myron Ebell, Robert Grady, Leslie Rutledge
National Security Advisor: (Blank)
Office of Management and Budget: Sen. Jeff Sessions
Secretary of Agriculture: Gov. Sam Brownback, Chuck Conner, Gov. Dave Heineman, Charles Herbster, Mike McCloskey, Ted McKinney, Sid Miller, Gov. Sonny Perdue, Gov. Rick Perry, Bruce Rastetter, Kip Tom, Don Villwock
Secretary of Commerce: Gov. Chris Christie, Dan DiMicco, Lew Eisenberg, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. David Perdue, Gov. Rick Perry, Wilbur Ross
Secretary of Defense: Mike Flynn, Stephen Hadley, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., Sen. Jeff Sessions, Sen. Jim Talent
Secretary of Education: Ben Carson, William Evers
Secretary of Energy: Robert Grady, Harold Hamm
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Rich Bagger, Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Gov. Rick Scott
Secretary of Homeland Security: Gov. Chris Christie, David Clarke
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: (Blank)
Secretary of the Interior: Gov. Jan Brewer, Gov. Mary Fallin, Robert Grady, Harold Hamm, Forrest Lucas, Cynthia Lummis, Gov. Sarah Palin
Secretary of Labor: Victoria Lipnic
Secretary of State: John Bolton, Bob Corker, Newt Gingrich
Secretary of Transportation: (Blank)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Rep. Jeff Miller
Treasury Secretary: Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Carl Icahn, Steven Mnuchin
White House Counsel: Donald McGahn

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email

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