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2022 Disability Voter Questionnaire for Senate and Gubernatorial Races

Dear candidate:

RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, is preparing nonpartisan state voter guides of Democratic and Republican Senate and Gubernatorial candidates. These guides will cover a variety of issues that impact the 1-in-5 Americans who live with a physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health or other disability. This is being done in conjunction with our online publication, www.TheRespectAbilityReport.org, also known as www.VoteAbility.com, which is the definitive place for voters who care about the intersection of disability and electoral politics.

There are 61 million Americans with disabilities according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of them rely on us for background on public policy and the positions of elected officials. Our voter guides go out electronically to media and voters in every state and are shared widely on social media.

Of the 22 million working-age (18-64) people with disabilities in our country, fully 70 percent were outside of the labor force prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is despite the fact that most want to work. This hurts employers who have talent needs, people with disabilities who want jobs and taxpayers who support the 11 million people with disabilities who do not pay taxes but instead may live on government benefits.

Polls show that the majority of voters have either a disability or a loved one with a disability. Voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs – and the actions campaigns take to reach out to these voters can make the difference between winning and losing.

We urge you to complete the candidate questionnaire and send it ASAP to PhilipP@RespectAbility.org. Your answers will be posted right away, without any editing. Indeed, we post your responses verbatim.

Thank you for your time, service and ideas!

Respectfully,

Hon. Steve Bartlett
Chair, RespectAbility

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
President, RespectAbility

Matan Koch
Vice President, Workforce, Leadership, and Faith Programs, RespectAbility

Philip Kahn-Pauli
Policy and Practices Director, RespectAbility

Nelly Nieblas
Manager of Policy, Advocacy and Engagement, RespectAbility


Please keep each answer to 250 words or fewer. If you have more to say on an issue, please link to the appropriate place on your website for people to learn more.

EDUCATION & SKILLS

In our nation’s public schools, there are 6.5 million students with disabilities. The changing demographics of America are reflected in the student population, with over 56 percent of them being Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) individuals with disabilities. 11.4 percent of students with disabilities nationwide, or almost 720,000 students, identify as English-language learners. The gap in graduation and drop-out rates between students with and without disabilities continues to undermine their futures. For example, in the class of 2019, only 65 percent of Black students with disabilities, 69 percent of Hispanic students with disabilities, 76 percent of white students with disabilities, 78 percent of Asian-American students with disabilities, and 71 percent of Pacific Islander students with disabilities completed high school. What is your plan for ensuring that all students with disabilities, including English Language Learners, receive a quality and appropriate education to acquire critical and marketable skills?

EMPLOYMENT & ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national employment rate for working-age people with disabilities in America was 38.8 percent, compared to 78.6 percent of people without disabilities. These disparities vary from state to state and differ by race. In fact, 40 percent of white working-age people with disabilities have jobs, compared to only 32.1 percent of those who are Black, 39.4 percent of those who are Hispanic/LatinX and 43.2 percent of those who are AAPI. Compounding the problem, the pandemic has ravaged the disability community and more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs. If elected, what will you do to advance opportunities for people with disabilities who want to work and earn an income, just like anyone else? How will you support employers, large and small, to recruit and hire workers with disabilities? How will you promote evidence-based policies and best practices leading to meaningful careers as well as disability entrepreneurship opportunities?

ACCESS & INCLUSION

The disability community lives by the motto “Nothing about us, without us.” We must have a seat at any decision-making table that affects us – which is every table, as disability cuts across all other demographics. Those with lived experience know the solutions that work and must be part of the decision-making process. As such, campaigns are most successful when they develop connections to constituents with disabilities, recruit volunteers with disabilities, host public events in accessible spaces and make their campaigns accessible online. Whether or not you have a formal platform, what specific plans do you have to incorporate the voices of people with disabilities into your decision-making processes, if elected? What steps, if any, have you taken to make your campaign accessible for people with disabilities and to ensure that our voices are heard?

FIGHTING STIGMAS

There are significant stigmas that create attitudinal barriers that limit options and perpetuate low expectations for people with disabilities. Elected officials, as public figures, have many opportunities to help fight stigmas by demonstrating a commitment to community inclusion, celebrating the contributions of people with disabilities, and marking key celebrations such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. If elected, what will be your plan to fight stigmas, highlight the disability community, and promote higher expectations for success?

OTHER KEY ISSUES

Housing, criminal justice, climate issues, voting rights, transportation and every other issue area have significant impacts on people with disabilities. What additional policies and priorities, other than those already discussed above, do you plan to focus on to improve the lives of people with disabilities? If you have yet to develop them, what is your plan to learn about disability issues?

Questions?

Want more information on these or other issues? We are nonpartisan and we are happy to help. Please contact Philip Kahn-Pauli at PhilipP@RespectAbility.org. Thank you for your time and consideration!

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email philipp@respectability.org.

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