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Keeping Issues that Affect Us Front and Center

Ila Eckhoff, RespectAbility Board Nominating Committee Co-Chair, in Iowa with RespectAbility Former Fellow James Trout and Communications Associate Eric Ascher with 2020 presidential candidates Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren

Ila Eckhoff, RespectAbility Board Nominating Committee Co-Chair, in Iowa with RespectAbility Former Fellow James Trout and Communications Associate Eric Ascher with 2020 presidential candidates Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren

To say that this election year was unusual is a drastic understatement! In January I traveled to Iowa with RespectAbility to raise the visibility of issues that affect people with disabilities during the presidential primaries. This was one piece of RespectAbility’s ongoing work to enable people with disabilities to participate in our democracy.

I have cerebral palsy. I also am a managing director at a large asset manager in New York. There is significant evidence that diverse teams, including those with disabled individuals, make better decisions and create better economic outcomes for the companies that employ them. Everyone deserves the right to have a job, be independent and choose their purpose.

Ila Eckhoff, James Trout and Eric Ascher at the Republican Party headquarters in Des Moines Iowa

Ila Eckhoff, James Trout and Eric Ascher at the Republican Party headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa

Over the course of four days, we attended events for presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden and Andrew Yang. We asked questions and met with the candidates, staff and policy advisers. We also visited the Republican Party headquarters and spoke with their team.

Four years ago, most candidates did not have accessible websites or events. That also was true at the start of the presidential campaign seaeson in 2019. However, because of the advocacy of our group and others, people like me can go to an event and know there will be a place where we can sit and participate, just like anyone else.

All these months later, the trip paid off! The incoming Biden administration appears ready to prioritize issues that affect people with disabilities, including civil rights, affordable health care and economic security including competitive, integrated employment.

As I write this, several Senate races have yet to be decided, and RespectAbility is continuing to fight so people with disabilities have a say. None of the four candidates in Georgia even mention the word disability on their campaign websites, and none of their websites are fully accessible to voters who are blind or deaf. Our work is not yet done!

Find nonpartisan political commentary on U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues at VoteAbility.com. You can also review our 2020 Disability Voter Guide here.

Meet the Author

Ila Eckhoff
Ila Eckhoff

Ila Eckhoff co-chairs the board nominating committee for RespectAbility. A senior level finance executive, she lives with cerebral palsy.

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