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8 Tips for Newly Elected Officials on How to Connect with Constituents with Disabilities

By Lauren Appelbaum and Hon. Steve Bartlett

Washington, D.C., Feb. 7 – As newly elected officials begin their service, it is important that America’s largest minority group are included in policy discussions in a meaningful way. Thus, RespectAbility put together an easy guide with eight tips for leaders and their staff to ensure they reach this important constituent group.

1) Start right away on building connections to people of disabilities and disability groups in the same way that you do with other groups of constituents. 

America has 56 million people with disabilities, more than 20-million of whom are working age. Polls show that the majority of constituents either have a disability or a loved one with a disability. The extended disability community — when you include family members, those with close friends with disabilities and those who work on behalf or volunteer for a disability cause — is 63 percent of Americans. We want to be included in all policies that impact our lives and we are ready to be your partners in success. [continue reading…]

Georgia Senate Candidates Deny Access to Voters with Disabilities

None of four Senate candidates even mention the word disability on their campaign websites, and none of their websites are fully accessible to voters who are blind or deaf

Photos of four candidates in Georgia Senate runoff elections. Georgia state flag in middleWashington, D.C., Nov. 12 – Despite there being more than 1.2 million Georgians with some form of disability, all four Senate candidates in the most hotly contested Senate races in America have thus far failed to reach out to voters with disabilities. Indeed, none of the four candidates even mention the word disability on their campaign websites, and none of their websites are fully accessible to voters who are blind or deaf.

The failure of Georgia Senate campaigns to reach out to voters with disabilities is in stark contrast to President-elect Joe Biden who made outreach to the disability community a key part of his winning strategy. A poll conducted by Democracy Corps on behalf of RespectAbility in the major battleground states in the days leading up to Election Day found that 60 percent of voters with disabilities say they have or were planning to vote for Joe Biden, compared to 35 percent of voters with disabilities supporting President Trump. This showed a shift from 2016, when a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group found that voters with disabilities split their votes between President Trump (46 percent) and Secretary Hillary Clinton (49 percent). [continue reading…]

Disability Allies Win Races for Senate & Governor

Updated Nov. 10

Washington, D.C., Nov. 4 – It is the morning after Election Day 2020 and many results are still being counted. RespectAbility stresses the importance of counting every vote, particularly as many people with disabilities chose to vote early – both in-person and via mail – in this election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states have not counted all of their early voting ballots yet.

Although many results are still not finalized, several candidates who support opportunities for people with disabilities already have been declared as winners. These individuals completed the 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire for presidential, Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. RespectAbility is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ending stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. [continue reading…]

Young Voters with Disabilities Say to #RespectTheVote

Washington, D.C., Oct. 22 – A new PSA featuring young adults with disabilities and their allies is urging all voters to have a plan to vote and hold their elected officials accountable.

When politicians plan who to reach out to in their campaigns, they rarely consider the disability population in America. One in four adults in the United States have a disability, all of whom deserve to be considered when policies and plans are made on a government level. Researchers at Rutgers University estimate that approximately 38.3 million people with disabilities already are eligible to vote in this year’s election, which is roughly one-sixth of the electorate. RespectAbility is urging even more to register and vote in the days ahead. [continue reading…]

2020 Disability Voter Guide

Three RespectAbility team members holding up signs that say "Earn My Vote". Red and blue borders. Text: 2020 Disability Voter GuideVoting has begun in the 2020 election, and the disability community has a lot at stake. The nonpartisan disability group RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates for President, Governor and the U.S. Senate the same seven key questions about issues affecting people with disabilities. Below you can read responses from candidates who have already taken the time to address the concerns of voters with disabilities.

RespectAbility is still accepting responses to the candidate questionnaire from campaigns, so if a candidate has not answered the questions, please invite them to do so. We hope that this information will enable you to make informed decisions in this election. You can find full, detailed converge online at https://therespectabilityreport.org.


Issue Voter Guides

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50 State Guides Released for Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities can learn candidate plans on disability, education, jobs, immigration, climate crisis, criminal justice and more 

Three RespectAbility team members holding up signs that say "Earn My Vote". Red and blue borders. Text: 2020 Disability Voter GuideWashington, D.C., Oct. 7 – As Americans are voting in record numbers and just before the Vice Presidential debate tonight, the nonpartisan disability group RespectAbility has released 50 state voters guides containing key information on where candidates stand on issues impacting Americans with disabilities.

Voters with disabilities are a massive pool of potential voters who have often been ignored in past elections. However, those voters are now more engaged and active than ever. According to a recent study by Rutgers University, up to 38.3 million eligible voters are people with disabilities. This represents a massive increase in participation by voters with disabilities compared to past elections. Further, millions more Americans have friends or loved ones with disabilities. [continue reading…]

14 Candidates for Governor and Senate Complete Disability Questionnaire

Washington, D.C., Sept. 14 – With 50 days left until Election Day and with many voters deciding to vote early, candidates across the political spectrum are reaching out to a previously ignored block of voters: people with disabilities.

Polling conducted earlier this year showed that more than half of the electorate in the battleground (59 percent) self-identifies as having a disability (16 percent), having a family member with a disability (32 percent) or having a close friend with a disability (11 percent).

According to Rutgers University, 14.3 million citizens with disabilities voted in 2018. Those voters will be crucial as both Democrats and Republicans vie for votes this year. In response to this opportunity, campaigns and candidates across the country are going on the record about their policies and plans to help Americans with disabilities. Those plans are being documented online by RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

RespectAbility is a non-partisan group and have been thorough in reaching out to Democratic and Republican candidates equally. The team at RespectAbility is still actively soliciting responses to their questionnaire from campaigns that have not yet done so.

RespectAbility has been actively engaging with campaigns to both educate them about disability issues and to get campaigns to complete RespectAbility’s 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire.  You can find full, detailed converge online at https://therespectabilityreport.org. [continue reading…]

Reporters who use wheelchairs break barriers to inclusion in political media by covering NH debate

174,000 people with disabilities live in New Hampshire

Manchester, NH, February 7 – Tonight, as seven candidates prepare to take the stage in the first Democratic debate after the Iowa caucus, RespectAbility’s Ben Spangenberg and Justin Chappell will be in the media spin room trying to get candidates on the record on disability issues. They are there on behalf of The RespectAbility Report, an online publication at the intersection of U.S. politics and disability.

Justin Chappell holds an iPad filming Bernie Sanders giving an answer to a question he askedSpangenberg has been with RespectAbility for more than four years, and currently serves as the director of its National Leadership Program for college students and recent graduates who want to become future leaders in the disability community. He and Chappell married two weeks after Spangenberg joined the staff. Together, they previously covered debates in the 2016 Election cycle, meeting all major candidates on both sides of the isle.

People with disabilities have been historically underrepresented in political campaigns, debate and coverage for far too long. I look forward to asking the candidates about policy changes that matter to the disability community,said Ben Spangenberg. [continue reading…]

Early Voting Begins: A Disability Voter Guide

First Edition of National Voting Guide Highlights Presidential Candidates’ Responses to 2020 Disability Candidate Questionnaire

Washington, D.C., Jan. 22 – As people with and without disabilities get ready to go to the polls to vote in their state’s primary elections, a disability rights nonprofit has released its first edition of the National Disability Voter Guide. While primary elections do not begin for a few more weeks, early voting begins earlier in many localities across the country. Early voting gives voters with and without disabilities the flexibility and choice to their ballots long before primary day.

Research conducted in the 2018 election shows that 74 percent of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. The upcoming elections and their results will have an impact on people with disabilities, so it is important to become familiar with the candidates’ positions on certain issues.

As a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, RespectAbility has invited all candidates in the presidential race on both sides of the aisle to submit their answers to a 2020 Disability Voter Candidate Questionnaire. This questionnaire covers some of the most important issues impacting people with disabilities including employment, education, immigration, criminal justice and accessibility. [continue reading…]

Reporters on Autism Spectrum to Cover Democratic Presidential Primary Debate

James Trout and Eric Ascher smile inside the spin room at the CNN Democratic Debate

James Trout and Eric Ascher inside the spin room at the CNN Democratic Debate

Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 14 – While many of the presidential candidates are focusing on how to help people with disabilities, several self-advocates currently are in Iowa showing that people with disabilities are capable of doing the work, if only they are given access to do so.

Eric Ascher and James Trout, both on the Autism spectrum, and Ila Eckhoff, who has cerebral palsy, are ensuring that the presidential candidates do not forget the one-in-four adults in America who have a disability by reporting on the campaigns’ efforts for The RespectAbility Report, an online publication at the intersection of U.S. politics and disability.

Eric Ascher filming Amy Klobuchar giving an answer on disability issues while James Trout looks on

Eric Ascher and James Trout, who are both on the Autism spectrum, interviewed several candidates while in Iowa, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (pictured above). This is Trout’s second campaign season doing so.

Ascher is the Communications Associate of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community. Ascher’s motivation for engaging the candidates is not only professional but also personal:

“I know firsthand how hard it is for qualified people with disabilities to find jobs. I spent two years after college looking for work. I honestly believe that stigma around disability played a major role in that fact. What candidates say can make a huge difference in the stigma people with disabilities face, and I am thrilled to be in Iowa so I can help them know how they can be good allies to the disability community.” [continue reading…]

Jewish Leader with Disability to Interview Presidential Candidates

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:

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