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Disabilities Affect 74 Percent of Likely Voters

As National Disability Employment Awareness Month Begins, A Wake-Up Call to Candidates

Washington, D.C., Oct. 1 – It’s the month before the midterm elections and one of the nation’s leading disability organizations has a wake-up call for candidates. “Fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member, or a close friend with disabilities,” said former Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. Bartlett is the chairman of RespectAbility, a Washington-based nonpartisan nonprofit that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of community.

Steve Bartlett headshot in black suit, white shirt, red tie

Steve Bartlett

“Our survey shows that 74 percent of likely voters are touched by disabilities,” said Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. “Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. These folks deserve an equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else. Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril.”

According to the Census Bureau, more than 56 million Americans live with some form of disability. This can include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss to people living with invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

“Of particular note from the survey is that while there are certain issues historically on which people with disabilities feel more strongly than Americans without disabilities, such as healthcare and employment opportunities, they track in a similar way to Americans overall when it comes to their political identity,” noted Meagan Buren, pollster for RespectAbility.

A recent poll of 1000 likely voters shows that fully 34 percent are grouped as swing voters, 36 percent as Democrat and 29 percent as Republican. More than half of Americans with disabilities have reached out to their elected officials or attended a political rally in the recent past versus 39 percent of Americans without a disability or any disability connection. Nearly three-quarters of people with disabilities watch, read or listen to the news 5-7 times a week.

“This is a politically active, swing vote demographic and candidates should take note of important issues they care about, especially around employment opportunities,” Buren added.

People with disabilities are most likely to get their news from FOX News (29%), CBS (21%), ABC (21%), NBC (20%), CNN (19%), followed by others when choosing their top two sources of news.

That said, 35 percent of people with disabilities evaluated 2018 as America having a “bad year.” another 24 percent thought it was “only fair.” Additionally, 86 percent of Americans with disabilities want Congress to pursue change in 2019; 49 percent want “significant, bold change.”

The poll was conducted by Frank Luntz PhD of Luntz Global in September (margin of error +/- 3/5%) on behalf of RespectAbility.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Text: America's Workforce: Empowering All, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, #NDEAM, is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month and RespectAbility is joining other groups to celebrate this year’s theme of “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”

“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to the workplaces,” says RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “There are no limits to what they can do, when given the chance.”

The impact of employees with disabilities is well documented and include: higher retention rates, productivity levels, lower absenteeism and lower injury rates. Last year, more than 343,000 people with disabilities entered the nation’s workforce – a 4-fold increase over the previous year. As noted by the Council of Economic Advisors, “no group has felt the benefits of accelerated economic growth more than Americans with a disability.”

“The disability community is the only minority anyone can join at any time due to accident, illness or injury,” Bartlett said. “According to data compiled by the Workplace Initiative, fully 20 percent of workers will experience a disability lasting a year or more during their professional lives, a rate that accelerates as workers age.” Nearly a third of U.S. families have at least one member with a disability and 10 percent have at least one child with a disability, he added.

Throughout the month of October, RespectAbility and other disability groups will be celebrating the accomplishments of employees with disabilities and inclusive employers such as Coca-Cola, JPMorgan Chase, EY, UPS, IBM, Walgreens and Starbucks. Likewise, RespectAbility also is working with state Governors on proclamations and events that showcase cost-effective programs impacting people with disabilities at the state level. You can find more about their work on their website at

For more information contact [email protected].

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 [email protected]

59 comments… add one
  • Richard W. Allen Oct 1, 2018, 4:48 pm

    Thank you for all of your excellent information on the National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month. The Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources (MD DNR) has previously coordinated some programs focusing upon this month of consciousness-raising activities. The Maryland Department of Disabilities also sponsored a “EmployABILITY” program back in July, which we co-sponsored focusing upon the 28th Anniversary of the ADA and employing more People with Disabilities within private businesses. Governor Lawrence Hogan co-keynoted at this event along with leaders of small businesses who told their stories about hiring and working with People with Disabilities (and Abilities). It was a great event! At MD DNR, our Disabilities Advisory Council assists us with subject -matter expert advice on best practices for greater recreational/natural resource ADA/504 accessibility, including self-evaluation-transition plan development, accessible recreation equipment, best techniques of facility development, and submission of grant-proposals to MDOD for improvement of existing facilities. We also work closely with the MD DNR Engineering & Construction Department on existing, new, & maintenance construction.

    The MD DNR Office of Fair Practices will keep you good folks updated on program events developing this month here in Maryland. Finally, may we have your permission to reprint the
    above article, “Disabilites Effect 74% of Likely Voters” (with focus on NDEAM) within the MD DNR on-line magazine?


    Richard W. Allen
    Director of Equal Opportunity
    & ADA Coordinator
    Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources-Office of Fair Practices

  • Ed Webber Oct 1, 2018, 4:57 pm

    I am curious. Do you think that the two major political parties will ever stop playing their “Reindeer Games” with each other in an effort to control the nations’ resources? Or will they continue to play dirty pool with each other to order to control as much as they can? I feel that we, as American’s are slowly losing what we call our Democracy.
    Perhaps you folks give me some guidance on this matter because in the meantime our disabled people will continue to suffer the consequesnce. Thanks, Ed Webber, Mount Pleasant

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