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Disability and Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success

New Report on Disability and Criminal Justice Reform Shows 750,000 People with Disabilities Behind Bars

Offers Specific Recommendations to Include Disability Lens in Justice Reform Process

Download the Disability and Criminal Justice Reform 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.

Washington, June 20 – As the White House and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle consider criminal justice reform, a new white paper, “Disability and Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success” was released today by the nonprofit disability organization, RespectAbility. The report uses public data previously available but never before assembled and analyzed. It makes a series of recommendations to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline for people with disabilities, to enable incarcerated individuals with disabilities to receive the literacy and life skills they will need when they exit the justice system as well as have access to their human rights, and to help returning citizens become productive members of their communities. [continue reading…]

Advocates Protest Disability Snuff Film “Me Before You”

Washington, June 3 – Disability rights advocates in cities across the United States and around the world are protesting the latest Hollywood movie to end with the assisted suicide or euthanasia of the lead disabled character. Protests already have been held in New York City, Boston and Denver, with more planned throughout opening weekend in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities.

Me Before You is scheduled for general audience release on Friday, June 3rd. Some cities also have been providing advance screenings. Members of Not Dead Yet UK protested at the London premier on May 24th and garnered significant mainstream media coverage (GuardianBuzzfeed) during the protest and in the days following.

“The last big example of this tired theme was Million Dollar Baby, which came out before the major growth of social media but still resulted in protests covered in the New York Times,” said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet (USA). “We can’t begin to keep track of the people and cities involved this time.”

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RespectAbility Hires National Leadership Director, Advances Leadership Opportunities

head shot of Brian Rowe

Brian Rowe

New Hire Brian Rowe Offers Nine Years Experience in Disability Field Promoting Skills

Rockville, Md. – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower Americans with disabilities to achieve the American Dream, is proud to introduce our new National Leadership Director, Brian Rowe.

“RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program offers hands-on work experiences and coaching for Fellows over a period of at least nine weeks in a dynamic and supportive environment,” President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “We are excited to announce Brian Rowe’s hiring, which will enable our Fellows to gain leadership skills and develop a portfolio of contacts while advancing our agenda.”

Prior to joining RespectAbility, Rowe worked in the disability field for nine years. He was a Program Manager for a company providing residential support for people with disabilities in Virginia. Rowe worked to accomplish the mission of helping persons with disabilities find happiness in their own homes, in their personal relationships and as contributing members of their communities.  [continue reading…]

Freddie Gray: Nearly Half of People Killed by Police are People with Disabilities

Important to Understand Significance that Gray’s Disability had in Leading to his Death

Washington, May 23 – As the verdict comes down on the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore, the first trial of his accused killers has come to an end. One of six officers charged in connection with the arrest and subsequent death of Gray last April was acquitted. However, more attention needs to be paid to the fact that Gray was an individual with a disability and the role disability played in his involvement with the justice system.

Freddie Gray had a developmental disability from being raised in a home surrounded by lead paint in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty. Poverty, itself, is linked to racial injustice. Racism can make it harder to escape poverty or receive necessary supports for disability. As a report by The Ruderman Family Foundation notes, a third to one-half of all people killed by police are people with disabilities and this is an important lens that cannot be forgotten when examining cases like Freddie Gray’s.

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RespectAbility Doubles Board: Congressman, TV pioneer and other leaders join RespectAbility’s board

New members include principal authors of the ADA Steve Bartlett and Tony Coelho, as well as inventor of reality television, Jonathan Murray

Rockville, Md., May 10 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower Americans with disabilities to achieve the American Dream, is proud to announce that we have added major leaders to our boards of directors and advisors. Our diverse board of directors now includes the Congressional co-authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the inventor of reality television, and major leaders in philanthropy, communications, management and business. Our board of advisors includes experts who are steeped in disability issues and nonprofit management.

Founded in 2013, RespectAbility works to educate, sensitize and engage Americans to focus on what people with disabilities can do, rather than on what they cannot. RespectAbility seeks to increase the number and percentage of Americans with disabilities who engage in competitive, integrated employment, start and sustain their own businesses, lift themselves into the middle class and participate in their communities. In its first two-and-a-half years, RespectAbility met one-on-one with 43 of the nation’s governors and all of the presidential candidates, including those who have since suspended their campaigns, to discuss issues of concern to people with disabilities – especially employment and stigma. Collaborating with Jonathan Murray and A&E, RespectAbility promoted Born This Way through an event on Capitol Hill and social media, helping to get the show renewed for a second season. RespectAbility’s social media channels continue to grow, with more than 57,000 fans on Facebook and nearly 5,000 followers on Twitter.

“We are thrilled to add a wonderful group of leaders to our boards,” RespectAbility Co-Founder and Chair Donn Weinberg said. “For decades, approximately 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities have been outside the workforce. We are building a strong, coordinated and bipartisan voice for the 1-in-5 Americans who have a disability.”

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Rabbis Protest Trumps’ AIPAC Speech Over Disrespect for Minorities Including People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 21 – Some Rabbis and other Jewish Americans are protesting Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s lack of inclusion for minorities including people with disabilities ahead of his scheduled speech to the AIPAC Policy Conference this evening.

While many of AIPAC’s delegates who oppose Trump speaking tonight are upset with the businessman’s violent rhetoric on groups like Muslims and Mexicans, the Republican front-runner also has verbally attacked individuals with disabilities, expanding stigmas that have been undermining people with disabilities for ages.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, has expressed his concern about Trump’s level of intolerance for several groups including individuals with disabilities.

“We will hold him accountable to all of the groups that he is not just disrespecting but denigrating in his speeches and his policy commitments,” Jacobs said Monday morning. “It is unacceptable in America and it is unacceptable according to our Jewish tradition.”

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Urgent Memo on Jobs for People with Disabilities


To: The White House Administration, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Governors, Workforce Boards & Agencies, VR, Disability Leaders, Presidential Candidates and others who care deeply about poverty reduction and jobs for people with obstacles to work
Re: Urgent update on WIOA implementation, reviewing state plans and jobs for people disabilities: problems that must be addressed
From: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Philip Pauli and Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, holds huge promise for our nation’s workforce system, employers and people with barriers to work. This law provides states with the opportunity to dramatically reduce poverty and economic injustice. However, we are deeply concerned that too many of the state plans required by WIOA are missing key factors needed to empower people to overcome barriers to employment such as a disability.

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The Best—and Worst—States for Workers with Disabilities

New Data Shows People with Disabilities In Some States Twice as Likely to be Working as in Other States

Washington, D.C., March 11 – New data from the Disability Compendium’s 2015 Disability Statistics Annual Report shows that nationally only 34.4 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community were employed in 2014, compared to 75.4 percent for people without disabilities – a massive gap of 41 percentage points in the labor force participation rates. This leads to poverty, prison and poor health outcomes.

The new report shows a huge variation in the rates of employment for persons with disabilities between the states.

“The 2016 presidential campaign is largely a reflection of how much the American people are hurting economically. No group is hurting more than people with disabilities, whose gap in labor force participation rates from people without disabilities has increased dramatically,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility.

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#OscarsSoAble and the Failed Annenberg Report: The Missing Disability Dimension in Diversity Conversations & Actions

Washington, Feb. 27 – With the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, a spotlight has been put on the lack of racial diversity in the Oscars. Article after article focuses on the absence of Black, Hispanic, Latino and Asian Americans being nominated by the Academy. That is needed. However, it’s not enough.

“Diversity must really mean diversity – and that includes the one-in-five Americans who has a disability,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, said. “Disability needs to be part of every conversation on diversity. We support the #OscarsSoWhite response, but we are fighting for including for everyone.”

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Super Tuesday Disability Voter Guide Released: Candidates Showcase Huge Differences in #PwDsVote 2016 Questionaire

Washington, Feb. 26 – RespectAbility is releasing its Super Tuesday Disability Vote Guide. The #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaire was designed for people with disabilities (PwDs) and those who love them to know where candidates stand on the issues. The questionnaire asked all of the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to comment on 16 disability questions. Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders responded by addressing all of the questions, and have significantly different views on the issues. Dr. Ben Carson and Gov. John Kasich filled out parts of the questionnaire, and also have significantly different views. Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, the campaigns of Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump have not yet filled out the questionnaire.

Fully one-out-of-five voters have a disability, and 52 percent of likely voters have a loved one with a disability. Only 34 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities have jobs, despite the fact that the vast majority want to work. More than 11 million working age people with disabilities are now living on government benefits in our country.

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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


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