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Washington, D.C., August 31 — RespectAbility’s 2019 Capitol Hill Summit featured a panel discussion and Q&A on how to end the school-to-prison pipeline for students with disabilities.

Moderated by Janie Jeffers, the former senior policy advisor for The President’s Crime Prevention Council, the panelists included disability and criminal justice experts Janet LaBreck, Robert Stephens and Diane Smith Howard.

Throughout the conversation, the speakers stressed the importance of identifying and providing services for students with disabilities early, before they are swept into the criminal justice system. [continue reading…]

Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

In 2016, RespectAbility, in consultation with a wide-ranging group of diverse leaders, prepared a detailed report, Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success. The report, which was featured on the PBS Newshour, looks at how youth with disabilities get caught in the school-to-prison pipeline, what happens to people with disabilities behind bars and how people exit the criminal justice system. We offered very specific proposals for progress.

There are many dedicated reformers who are fighting hard at the federal, state and local level to reform our nation’s schools and justice system. However, some have not yet fully realized the deep degree to which the issues they are working on intersect with disability, poverty and discrimination. Based on our review of the available data, we estimate that there are more than 750,000 Americans with disabilities behind bars today.

Download the report in an accessible Word document.
Download the PowerPoint presentation in an accessible PPT.
Watch the video of our panel discussion on Capitol Hill.
Read the transcript of our panel discussion.

Leaders in the disability community and leaders in the criminal justice reform movement have much to learn from each and have great opportunities to collaborate. Below is a short list of resources, reports and organizations that touch on the critical intersection of ableism, racism and economic inequality in criminal justice.

Safety and Criminal Justice Webinars:

Government Resources:

Advocacy and Research Resources:

Philanthropic Organizations:

Model Programs:

DC/Maryland Specific Resources:

Do you know other people or organizations that should be included as a resource?

Contact our Communications Associate, Eric Ascher, at


More Resources You Can Use

La'Rina Carolina headshot smilingAs the country celebrates the contributions of African Americans during Black History Month, webhost La’Rina Carolina reflects upon her intersecting identities of being a being a deaf Black woman in the United States today, noting each of these three parts of her identities becomes a “barrier.”

“I am proud of being black and I love myself and my heritage,” Carolina said. “But driving while black is real and driving while deaf is even scarier. I don’t understand why, we aren’t treated equally.” [continue reading…]

However, only 29.7 percent of working-age African Americans with disabilities are employed

Washington, D.C. Feb. 25 – As we celebrate Black History Month, which takes place every February, RespectAbility recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of African Americans to the United States. It is important to note this includes more than 5.4 million African Americans living with a disability in the U.S., 3.2 million of whom are working-age African Americans with disabilities. Therefore, we would like to reflect on the realities and challenges that continue to shape the lives of African Americans with disabilities.

New statistics released by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire show that the employment rate for African Americans with disabilities has continued to grow even as other part of the disability community have lost economic ground. In 2018, the disability employment rate of working-age African Americans with disabilities increased to 29.7 percent compared to 28.6 percent in 2017. While that is an improvement, it lags far behind the 74.4 percent of working-age African Americans without disabilities who have jobs. Indeed, national statistics show that only 37.6 percent of working age people with disabilities overall have jobs compared to 77.8 percent of working-age people without disabilities. Fully 32.3 percent of African Americans with disabilities live in poverty, compared to just 22.4 percent of African Americans without disabilities. [continue reading…]

LGBTQ+ People with Disabilities

The LGBTQ+ community and the disability community intersect in significant ways. Below, you can find articles, books, and other resources on the intersection of Disability and LGBTQ+ issues.


  • Toward a Crip-of-Color Critique – “Jina B Kim elaborates upon a crip-of-color critique, which has possibilities to both criticize structures that inherently devalue humans and to take action to work toward justice. Kim’s final call is to identify and act against the inequalities and harm of academic labor, urging readers to take seriously a ‘politics of refusal’ that might help academics of color survive through alternative collectivities.
  • Health Disparities at the Intersection of Disability and Gender Identity – This literature review “examines the known research on health disparities at the intersection of disability and gender identity.”
  • Navigating the Twists and Turns of Healthcare as a Trans Disabled Person – “What’s it like to be trans and disabled wile navigating the health care system? Many transgender people struggle with issues like provider discrimination, harassment, and denial of care, while disabled people experience their own share of health care discrimination. In combination, this oppression in the health care system can be dangerous.”
  • I’m a Black, Trans, Disabled Model — And I Just Got Signed to a Major Agency – Aaron Philip writes on being signed to Elite NYC as a Black trans model with cerebral palsy, and her dreams for the future of fashion.
  • Disabilityqueer: Federal Disability Rights Protection for Transgender People – This article by Kevin M. Barry argues that the ADA’s definition of disability should be amended to provide federal disability rights protection for transgender people.
  • Intersectional Resistance and Law Reform – What does intersectional resistance look like on the ground, and what is its relationship to law? In this essay, Dean Spade examines some of the key concepts and questions that contemporary anticolonial, antiracist, feminist resistance employs and argue that the demands emerging from it bring not only the United States but the nation-state form itself into crisis.


Profiles of LGBTQ+ People with Disabilities

Reflections from LGBTQ+ RespectAbility Staff and Fellows

Resources from National LGBTQ+ Organizations

  • GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV Report 2019 – GLAAD’s annual Where We Are on TV report analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and looks at the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services. The report also covers representation of other minority groups on TV, including people with disabilities.
  • Human Rights Campaign – “Through research, educational efforts and outreach, HRC encourages lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans to live their lives openly and seeks to change the hearts and minds of Americans to the side of equality.”
  • PFLAG National – “For over four decades, PFLAG has provided support to families and allies who are in need, through peer-to-peer meetings, online outreach, and telephone hotlines. PFLAG National also offers a huge variety of resources and programs that provide support for those in need.”
  • The Trevor Project – “Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.”

Do you know other resources that should be included?

Contact our Communications Associate, Eric Ascher, at

More Resources You Can Use

Tomorrow in Iowa, eight campaigns are set to participate in a history-making Accessibility, Inclusion, and Outreach Conference focused specifically on issues that affect people with disabilities. This is important, as while recent polling suggests that voters with disabilities themselves are more enthusiastic about participating in the 2020 elections than the nation at large, none of the campaigns are yet fully accessible to the disability community.

“It is vital for the democratic process to be open to all people and all means all – including people with disabilities,” said Lauren Appelbaum, vice president, communications of RespectAbility. Appelbaum is Jewish and recently acquired a disability. “The majority of voters have a friend or family member with a disability or have a disability themselves. It is truly exciting that eight campaigns will be focusing their attention on addressing the 1-in-5 people living in America with a disability.”

RespectAbility’s own Eric Ascher, who is also Jewish and is on the Autism Spectrum, has organized to interview candidates on the sidelines. He will be asking candidates three questions:

[continue reading…]

Four photos of diverse people with disabilities workingA special lunch session for philanthropists, nonprofits, social justice activists, faith leaders and diversity professionals in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 12, 2020

With Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility and 2019 winner of the United Nation’s Zero Barriers Project Award, Matan Koch, Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership and Tatiana Lee, Hollywood Inclusionist at RespectAbility. [continue reading…]


  • Watch the Video with Open Captions
  • Download the Transcript
  • Speakers:
    • Hon. Steve Bartlett, Chair, RespectAbility
    • Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and Co-Founder, RespectAbility
    • National Anthem: Vocals by Adam Fishbein, Fellow, RespectAbility; violin by Debbie Fink, Director of Community Outreach & Impact, RespectAbility
Adam Fishbein singing the national anthem in front of an American flag with Debbie Fink accompanying him on violin.

L-R: Debbie Fink and Adam Fishbein

KEYNOTE — Proven Strategies for Creating Large and Influential Networks

Ollie Cantos writing on a flip chart holding a walking stick, as Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and Steve Bartlett look on seated at a table. Sign language interpreter is in the lower left of the frame. American flag in the background

Ollie Cantos

PANEL — Public Policy and Jobs for People with Disabilities

  • Watch the Video with Open Captions
  • Download the Transcript
  • Read the Press Release
  • Speakers: 
    • Moderator: Philip Kahn Pauli, Policy and Practices Director, RespectAbility
    • Michael Reardon, Director, Employment Related Supports, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
    • Mary Lazare, Principal Deputy Administrator, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Aging
    • Rachel Stephens, Program Director, NGA (National Governors Association) Economic Opportunity
    • Tina Williams, Deputy Director, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
Policy panelists smiling together in front of an American flag at RespectAbility's 2019 summit

L-R: Mary Lazare, Michael Reardon, Philip Kahn-Pauli, Rachel Stephens and Tina Williams

KEYNOTE — Disability, Creativity and Purpose

Vincenzo Piscopo speaking behind a microphone on a table with RespectAbility's logo on the tablecloth in front of a flag

Vincenzo Piscopo

PANEL — Ending the School to Prison Pipeline for Students with Disabilities

  • Watch the Video with Open Captions
  • Download the Transcript
  • Read the Press Release
  • Speakers: 
    • Moderator: Janie Jeffers, Former Senior Policy Advisor for the President’s Crime Prevention Council
    • Janet LaBreck, Former Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration
    • Robert Stephens, Director of Government Relations, National Center for Learning Disabilities
    • Diane Smith Howard, Managing Attorney, National Disability Rights Network
L-R: Janet LaBreck, Janie Jeffers, Diane Smith Howard, and Robert Stephens smiling in front of a wall and an American flag

L-R: Janet LaBreck, Janie Jeffers, Diane Smith Howard and Robert Stephens

Rep. Brad Sherman Presents the RespectAbility Award to Jonathan Murray

Brad Sherman with RespectAbility staff and supporters, smiling together

Rep. Brad Sherman with RespectAbility staff and supporters

Changing the Face of Disability in Media  

  • Watch the Video with Open Captions
  • Download the Transcript
  • Read the Press Release
  • Speakers: 
    • Moderator: Jonathan Murray, Reality TV Pioneer; Founder and Executive Consultant, Bunim-Murray Productions
    • Teresa Hammond, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, GoNoodle
    • Candace Cable, Self-Advocate, 12-time Paralympic Medalist; California Workforce Program Manager, RespectAbility
    • Nasreen Alkhateeb, Award-Winning Director, All Media Storytelling
    • Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson, Peanut Butter Falcon (via video)
Top row L-R: Jonathan Murray, Nasreen Alkhateeb, Lauren Appelbaum and Teresa Hammond. Candace Cable in second row. All are smiling together in front of RespectAbility's podium, screen, and an American flag

L-R: Jonathan Murray, Candace Cable, Nasreen Alkhateeb, Lauren Appelbaum and Teresa Hammond

PANEL — Success Stories of Authentic Advocacy

  • Watch the Video with Open Captions
  • Download the Transcript
  • Read the Press Release
  • Speakers: 
    • Moderator: Nicole LeBlanc, Advocacy Specialist, Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration; Former RespectAbility Policy Fellow and self-advocate
    • Ila Eckhoff, Managing Director, BlackRock and self-advocate
    • Evelyn Kelley, US Patent & Trademark Office, Board member and self-advocate
    • Laka Negassa, Policy Fellow, RespectAbility and self-advocate
    • Matan Koch, Senior Advisor, RespectAbility and self-advocate
Self Advocacy Panelists smiling with Debbie Fink and Steve Bartlett in front of an American flag and behind a table

L-R: Matan Koch, Debbie Fink, Laka Mitiku Negassa, Evelyn Kelley, Steve Bartlett, Ila Eckhoff and Nicole LeBlanc

PANEL — What can YOU do to make a difference?

Steve Bartlett speaking in front of a screen with his biography on it behind a podium with #RespectTheAbility on it

Steve Bartlett

[continue reading…]

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