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Deborah Calla Serves as Role Model for Inclusion During  Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month

Deborah Calla smiling for the camera

Deborah Calla

Rockville, Md., Feb. 16 – Deborah Calla is a Brazilian-born producer, writer and director. Calla is best known in the disability community for reviving the Media Access Awards (MAA). Her involvement in the disabilities movement and social justice stem from two sources: her professional experiences in Hollywood and her Judaism.

Calla came to film and TV by chance. A friend of a friend thought that because she directed and produced plays, she would be a good film producer, so he asked her to produce his first film.

“It was a very trying experience as I didn’t really know what I was doing and producing film can be an overwhelming effort especially if you have no experience,” Calla said. “In the end, I survived and loved it.”

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Results of New National Poll of Voters with and without Disabilities

This is the first poll to cover a number of new issues from a disability perspective, including the views of the disability community on the NRA, pro-life groups, President Trump, healthcare, values and other issues.

Contact: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
202-365-0787 | jenniferm@respectability.org

Washington, D.C., February 13, 2018 –

(View all poll data, PDF and Accessible PPT)

Cover slide for survey results, with logos for RespectAbility, Democracy Corps, and Greenberg Research. The title is "Disability Community Determined to Voice Opinions in 2018"

A new national phone poll of registered voters shows the size, scope, and varied nature of the disability community in the United States. Fully 63 percent of American voters are in the extended disability community — people with disabilities, a family member with a disability, a close friend with a disability, work on behalf of people with disabilities, or volunteer for disability causes.

Half of electorate in disability community: 63% in extended disability community; 51% with disability connection; 54% in disability community

People with disabilities, 17 percent of voters, are 9 percent more likely to be extremely interested in voting in 2018 than those outside the extended disability community. While there are key issues on which the majority aligns with Democrats, such as support for the ACA and opposition to the new tax cuts, they are varied and dynamic in their political affiliation. Majorities in the extended disability community and outside of it agree that the country is on the “wrong track” (55 and 56 percent wrong track, respectively).

There has been a significant shift in voting patterns of this swing demographic over the past four years. In 2014, a 55 percent majority of voters with disabilities or a disability connection voted for Republican candidates for congress while in 2018, only 39 percent plan to vote for the Republican candidate. This shift is even greater than 17-point shift towards Democrats among voters that are not in the disability community.

Importantly, these voters with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and looking for work. Fully 54 percent of voters without disabilities are employed full time compared to only 22 percent of their counterparts with disabilities. Only 4 percent of voters with disabilities who are unemployed are not in the market for work.

Only one-in-three working-age Americans with a disability has a job, despite the fact that studies show that 70 percent of the 21-million working-age people with disabilities are striving for work. More than 78 percent of non-disabled Americans are employed.

Both voters with and without disabilities place importance on the value of “treating everyone equally.” People with disabilities, however, are more likely than those without disabilities to prioritize “loving, supporting & defending [their] country”, “being loyal to family members”, and “keeping [ones] promises & fulfilling [ones] duties.”

Another bi-partisan poll from October 2016 of 900 likely 2016 voters found overwhelming support for a series of policies to advance opportunities for people with disabilities. More than 8 out of 10 voters are more likely to support a candidate who prioritizes “ensuring that children with disabilities get the education and training they need to succeed;” 61 percent are much more likely to support the candidate.

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One Woman with Disabilities Fight for Freedom For All

Lois Curtis smiling

Lois Curtis

People with intellectual and mental disabilities can thank Lois Curtis for paving the way for them to live in the community receiving the services they need.

In what was called “the most important decision for people with disabilities in history,” the Olmstead Decision justified the right for people with disabilities to live independently but would take four years to come in effect including being heard in the Supreme Court.

At the center of the 1999 lawsuit that cited a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two women with mental and intellectual disabilities. They were held in Georgia Regional Hospital for years after their treatment team determined they were able to live in the community because the state did not want to give them the funds they needed to live independently.

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Olympic & Disability Champion Simone Biles Makes History While Mesmerizing Many

Simone Biles speaking at a podium wearing an orange blazer and white shirt

Simone Biles

Simone Biles is known widely as the Olympic champion who dominated the sport of gymnastics during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Biles has won four consecutive all around titles and is the first female to do so since the 1970’s. She also has competed and won 14 world championship medals.

At a young age, Biles was diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Confidential medical records were revealed to the public around the time she was competing in the 2016 Olympics. Since being vocal regarding her ADHD, many have classified her as a hero, especially those who have endured stigma from the disability. She has taken to Twitter vocalizing her disability and what she has been doing to treat her ADHD.

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Clarence Page Credits ADHD with Making Him a Better Journalist

Clarence Page headshot wearing black suit, white shirt and glasses

Clarence Page

Clarence Page is a highly accomplished journalist. He is a Pulitzer-winning syndicated columnist for the Tribune network, a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, a regular contributor to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and has appeared on The McLaughlin Group, NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show, ABC’s Nightline and BET’s Lead Story.

He is also an African American who identifies as having Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), which can affect basic functioning due to hyperactivity and a pattern of inattention. Page has been outspoken about having ADHD and educating people about his disability.

One-in-five Americans has a disability, and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. There are 5.6 million African Americans with a disability in the United States. Only 28.7 percent of African Americans with disabilities are employed in the United States compared to 72 percent of African Americans without disabilities.

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First Deaf African American Lawyer Claudia Gordon, Anti-Discrimination Advocate

Claudia Gordon standing in front of two flags, smiling.

Claudia Gordon

Claudia Gordon is recognized as one of former President Barack Obama’s key advisors for disability issues. She was also the first deaf African American lawyer to graduate law school and pursue a career devoted to helping individuals with disabilities. Today she works in a senior role at Sprint, a company with many accessibility features that enable people who are deaf to communicate.

At the age of eight, Gordon began to develop severe pain in her ears, which resulted in her becoming permanently deaf. She faced discrimination in her own home country of Jamaica and realized she could not stay there, so she attended high school and college in America. By junior year of high school, she knew being a lawyer was the career she wanted to pursue. Gordon never let doubt or fear be a hindrance in her life. She made the best out of her disability and prospered. 

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Harriet Tubman, Legendary Poet and Civil Rights Activist with Epilepsy, Inspires Generations

A portrait of Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is known as one of the most influential leaders of our nation. She was a former slave turned abolitionist who bravely risked her life to free both slaves and her own family members through the underground railroad.

Tubman was a Maryland native. She was born around 1820 in Dorchester, County, Md. Her mission was getting as many men, women and children out of bondage into freedom.

When Tubman was a teenager, she acquired a traumatic brain injury when a slave owner struck her in the head. This resulted in her developing epileptic seizures and hypersomnia. Unfortunately, Tubman’s experience of violence occurred on a daily basis which made her brain injury worse.

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Grey’s Anatomy: “I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder… but it is not my story.”

Chandra Wilson in costume as Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Miranda Bailey

Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey

Grey’s Anatomy has never been a show to shy away from social commentary. In the era of #MeToo and the focus on gender inequality, Dr. Miranda Bailey (played by Chandra Wilson) fights for herself when she is having a heart attack – and shatters stigma against Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

Bailey, a Chief-of-Surgery, is at another area hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. The doctor treating her, Dr. Maxwell, does not believe she is and instead asks about emotional and mental stressors in her life. While there are many, Bailey is adamant she truly is having a heart attack – and is correct. But Dr. Maxwell continues to refuse the cardiac stress test that she requests.

The interactions between Bailey and Maxwell illustrate how women and men often are treated differently by medical professionals. Bailey is not only belittled as a woman but also when she discloses she has a disability. She shares that she is taking statins and anti-depressants to manage her OCD.

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Highlighting African Americans with Disabilities in Honor of Black History Month

Headshot of Daymon John in grayscale with text: #RespectTheAbility, “I see the world in a different way than most people and for me, that’s been a positive thing.” - Daymond John, Black History Month 2018

“I see the world in a different way than most people and for me, that’s been a positive thing.” – Shark Tank star and businessman Daymond John, who has Dyslexia

Rockville Md., Feb. 5 – 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 5.6 million African Americans living with a disability in the U.S., 3.4 million of which 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.

Only 28.7 percent of working-age African Americans with disabilities are employed in the U.S. compared to 72 percent of working-age African Americans without disabilities. This is in line with the rest of the country, with fully one-in-five Americans having a disability and just 30 percent of those who are working-age being employed, despite polls showing that most of them want to work. This leads to approximately 40 percent of African Americans with disabilities living in poverty compared to 22 percent of African Americans without disabilities.

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Deafblind Lawyer Haben Girma Advocates for Disability Rights

headshot of Haben Girma wearing a blue dress and pearls

Haben Girma

Haben Girma has been advocating for herself since she attended elementary school in Oakland. She became the first Deafblind person to graduate from law school when she earned her degree from Harvard Law School in 2013. She is a civil rights attorney who advocates for disability rights, a public speaker who travels the country changing people’s perceptions of the disability community in the media and has been featured in Forbes “30 Under 30” and on NBC and NPR.

In 1983, five years before Girma was born, her mother Saba Gebreyesus fled Eritrea, a city in Africa with approximately six million people, taking two weeks to walk to Sudan and sleeping in trees “surrounded by hungry hyenas.” But she was determined to give Girma the opportunities her son wasn’t given; he also was born deafblind.

After her mom settled in California, Girma was born in Oakland in 1988. In elementary school, she learned Braille and later used a Bluetooth keyboard hooked up to a Braille reader to communicate with others. At school, she gained access to the materials she needed to be able to learn. She credits her supportive teachers and classmates, accessible materials such as interpreters and other accommodations, and developed study skills and homework strategies for her success.

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