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2021 Disability Voter Questionnaire for California Governor Recall Election

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 a nonpartisan voter guide for the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election. The guide 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,, also known as, 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 Your answers will be posted right away, without any editing. Indeed, we post your responses verbatim.

Thank you for your time, service and ideas!


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.


In California’s K-12 public schools, there are over 703,000 students with disabilities. The changing demographics of the nation are reflected in the student population, with over 78 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 rates between students with and without disabilities continues to undermine their futures. Overall, for the class of 2020, while 84.3 percent of students without disabilities graduated high school, only 68.4 percent of students with disabilities completed their high school degrees. Disaggregating data by race reveals even bigger gaps in outcomes. Only 62.1 percent of Black students with disabilities, 68.8 percent of Hispanic/LatinX students with disabilities, 76 percent of white students with disabilities, 68.2 percent of Asian American students with disabilities, and 68 percent of Pacific Islander students with disabilities completed high school in 2020. What is your plan to ensure that all students with disabilities, including English Language Learners, receive an appropriate education to acquire critical and marketable skills?


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s employment rate for working-age people with disabilities in America was 38.2 percent, compared to 76.4 percent of people without disabilities. This disparity is even more striking when broken down by race. 38 percent of working-age people with disabilities who are white have jobs compared to only 29.8 percent of those who are Black, 40.1 percent of those who are Hispanic/LatinX and 41 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?


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?


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?


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?


Want more information on these or other issues? We are nonpartisan and we are happy to help. Please contact Philip Kahn-Pauli at 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

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