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Georgia Disability Voter Access, Pollsters & Exit Polls

As the nation waits for the Georgia Senate runoff next week, disability organization calls on pollsters and media to track disability participation and access.

Photos of four candidates in Georgia Senate runoff elections. Georgia state flag in middleWashington, D.C., Dec. 28 – With the political universe centered on the Senate runoff in Georgia, the unique needs and barriers of Georgians with disabilities could very well factor into to the outcome of the race. Thus, the national nonpartisan disability inclusion organization RespectAbility is asking pollsters, polling firms and political consultants to track voters with disabilities in their demographic data, as well as voter access exit polling.

According to the 2019 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, the total number of Georgians with disabilities is 1,246,077, making up 12.1 percent of the total state population. 2018 employment data show that there are 658,811 working-age people with disabilities in Georgia. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 238,875 (or 36.3 percent) of those Georgians had a job.

Thus far, there has been little outreach to voters with disabilities from all four Senate candidates in the runoff race. As noted by RespectAbility in November, none of the four candidates even mention the word disability on their campaign websites. None of the Senate candidates’ websites are fully accessible to the 254,972 Georgians who are blind or low vision. And very few of the candidates’ videos have captions, making them inaccessible to the 328,000 deaf and hard of hearing Georgians. [continue reading…]

Lack of Dubbing or Audio Description Tracks on Foreign Films Create a “Hundred-Foot Concrete Wall” for People with Low Vision

Alexander Howard smiling headshot

Alexander Howard

Los Angeles, Dec. 24 – As a massive fan of cinema, I enjoy all kinds of films: tearjerkers, horror, action, comedies, big blockbusters and independent films. I also enjoy foreign-language films when I can watch them, that is. You see, I am visually impaired. I occasionally need “audio description” or an “English dubbed track” when I watch movies, especially foreign language ones. I am not able to read the subtitles fast enough to enjoy them or even understand them fully. For those who don’t know, audio description is an audio track available on some streaming services, blu-rays and in theaters. It is a human voice that describes the action on screen (and also reads subtitles). Dubbing is another tool where voices are cut over the original actor’s voices in foreign films and says the lines in English or whichever languages you choose. Both of these tools help me – and others with low vision – to enjoy movies, especially foreign language ones. However, the majority of foreign language films do not incorporate an audio description or dub tracks.

Roma was nominated in 2019 for Best Picture. It was directed by one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, Alfonso Cuaron. I love his movies and his style. Children of Men is one of my favorite films. Roma is in Spanish, but it’s a Netflix original. So, I was hoping it would have an audio description track because Netflix is great at making their content as accessible as possible. I planned a night to watch it and was so excited. Then I turned it on and was disappointed to find it only had a Spanish audio description. It has been two years, and I still am not able to watch Roma. [continue reading…]

New Focus Group Report Shows Lack Of Attention To Georgia Voters with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Dec. 22 – Control of the United States Senate depends on two runoff elections in the state of Georgia. While a lot of money is being spent by the candidates and other organizations to get out the vote, a new report about two focus groups indicates that Georgia’s disability community is not getting enough attention in these races. In fact, at the time these focus groups were conducted, none of the participants were able to recall having seen or heard anything from the Senate candidates regarding people with disabilities.

On behalf of RespectAbility and the Georgia Disability Vote Partnership (GDVP), Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps conducted 2 sets of online video focus groups among registered voters with disabilities in Georgia; one group of white women on December 16th and one group of Black women on December 17th. According to Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps, “for voters with disabilities, health care costs and accessibility are the dominant issues right now.”

A lot of money is being spent on nonpartisan voter communications and turnout in Georgia, but little of it is accessible or targeted to voters with disabilities who can make the difference. None of the candidates’ websites are accessible to the 254,972 Georgians who are blind or low vision. Additionally, very few of the candidates’ videos have captions, making them inaccessible to the 328,000 deaf and hard of hearing Georgians. [continue reading…]

New COVID Relief – What Does It Mean for People with Disabilities?

The new $900 billion stimulus bill promises more stimulus checks, extends unemployment supports and impacts everything from businesses to schools.

The U.S. Capitol dome. Text: New COVID-19 Relief and People with DisabilitiesWashington, D.C., Dec. 22 – After months of partisan gridlock and inaction, the Congress finally approved a massive coronavirus relief bill last night and sent it to the President’s desk. This mammoth bill, totaling more than 5,000 pages of legislative language and with more than $900 billion in spending, becomes law at the same time as the United States crosses the grim milestone of more than 316,000 dead because of the pandemic.

New, But Smaller Checks for Individuals With and Without Disabilities:

The new bill does include a new round of stimulus checks to be sent directly to millions of Americans with and without disabilities. This new, smaller check will be a one-time cash payment sent from the government to all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $87,000 ($174,000 if you are married) and each dependent child under age 17.

As was the case earlier this year, this will explicitly exclude approximately 13.5 million adult dependents who include high school or college students living at home and millions of people with disabilities. This is a major disappoint for many activists, given past bipartisan support to expand support for adult dependents.

Likewise, because this stimulus check is considered a rebate, it will NOT be counted against the asset limits faced by people with disabilities if spent within 12 months of receipt. However, people with disabilities who are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will have to file their taxes. This could create a major burden for many of the poorest people with disabilities and other low-income communities, many of whom may find access to filling out the forms a challenge. [continue reading…]

Jewish Disability Speakers Bureau Launched

Talented speakers available for online conferences, educational programs and other events

Los Angeles, California, Dec. 21 – Fully 1-in-4 adults has a physical, sensory, cognitive or mental health disability and people with disabilities can be the most talented people on earth. Indeed, Thomas Edison – America’s most famous inventor – was deaf. Harriet Tubman freed slaves while living with Epilepsy. Stephen Hawking unlocked secrets of the universe while using a wheelchair. Almost all the “sharks” on Shark Tank have learning disabilities and climate change activist Greta Thunberg is Autistic.

The same is true in the Jewish world. Our most celebrated leader, Moses, had a speech impediment, and delivered some of the most powerful messages in Jewish history. From journalists like Charles Krauthammer to paragons of justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jews with disabilities have continued to serve, and share gifts with the world.

The time has come for all Jewish organizations to benefit from the talent and perspective that Jews with disabilities have to offer. [continue reading…]

New Virtual Education Guide to Help Students with Disabilities

Updated guide provides advice, resources and guidance on ensuring success for students with disabilities during pandemic

Washington, D.C., Dec. 18 – As millions of students with disabilities and their parents head into the winter months of this pandemic and continued fluctuations between in-person, hybrid and remote learning, the national disability inclusion nonprofit RespectAbility is offering free resources with new updates to support students with disabilities during this crisis. The updated guide, entitled Virtual Education & Students with Disabilities: Supporting Student Success in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond, is available for free on RespectAbility’s website. The guide covers critical topics such as virtual resources from a wide range of disability advocacy organizations, home-based programs for students of all ages, live synchronous learning opportunities, social-emotional and mental health resources and state-specific information for parents of students with disabilities. [continue reading…]

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. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility’s COVID-19 Response: Collective Actions and the Ongoing Power of Change

Ollie, Steven, Nick and Leo Cantos, along with Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Calvin Harris and Vivian Bass at RespectAbility's 2018 Summit

Ollie Cantos, RespectAbility Vice Chair, with his triplet sons who are Eagle Scouts, along with RespectAbility Vice Chair Vivian Bass, Calvin Harris, Chair Emeritus and CEO Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

As part of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ COVID-19 Coordination Cohort, we have been helping lead the united efforts of more than 110 disability groups on Capitol Hill. We at RespectAbility are grateful to join so many other national disability organizations in standing with our community when we were needed most. Quite simply, we are family, and THAT is what families DO.

When COVID-19 began to ravage our own by threatening the lives, livelihoods and physical and mental health of our friends, colleagues and loved ones, we quickly activated all our assets at every level. We leveraged an “all hands-on-deck” approach to make a difference on multiple fronts. As has been true since our inception, we called upon thousands to get involved. True to who we are, we rallied like never before: [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Fellow Helps Create Educational Guide That Helps Thousands

Nicole Homerin smiling headshot in front of bushes and flowers. Homerin has long brown hair and is wearing a black shirt

Nicole Homerin

The RespectAbility National Leadership Program gave me an opportunity to learn and collaborate with experts in the field of disability advocacy and inclusion. I was able to learn about how my experience in the field of special education intersects with other areas of work that advance opportunities for individuals with disabilities. During my time in the National Leadership Program, I worked alongside a team of talented Fellows and staff with wide-ranging expertise to create an Educational Resource Guide to support distance learning for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of your support, our guide was extensively covered by national press, including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The guide also was downloaded more than 5,000 times via RespectAbility’s website, helping parents of children with disabilities and special educators cope during this pandemic. This experience allowed me to hone my research skills and collaborate with others to ensure the guide was accurate, accessible and user-friendly for individuals with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Enabling People with Disabilities to Keep Their Health Care During COVID-19

Randall Duchesneau smiling and wearing a black suit, blue shirt, and black and white checkered tie and glasses color photo

Randall Duchesneau

This year RespectAbility played a critical role in protecting people with disabilities during the pandemic in many ways, including economically. In March, when the pandemic took hold in the United States and the federal government prepared to respond, RespectAbility was on hand to help elected officials understand how their actions might help or hurt people with disabilities.

Over the course of my career, I have advocated for people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities. Last spring, I saw the effectiveness of RespectAbility’s work in advocacy in action. [continue reading…]

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