A New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities
People with disabilities are—as they have always been—an indispensable part of the American story. From trailblazing figures like abolitionist and women’s suffragist Harriet Tubman, who lived with a traumatic brain injury and a seizure disorder, to blind scholar Jacobus tenBroek, who laid the groundwork for the disability rights laws we have today, people with disabilities have pushed us to be a more just and welcoming country, and in the process, they’ve made America stronger by ensuring we draw on the talents and capacity of every American.
People with disabilities have pushed us to be a more just and welcoming country. In the process, they’ve made America stronger.
Today, one in four Americans live with a disability—some visible, some less so. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “1 in 4 U.S. adults live with a disability.” August 16, 2018. They are our friends, family members, co-workers, CEOs, and first responders; our teachers, physicians, and athletes. They are past presidents and senators such as Abraham Lincoln, who lived with depression, and Tammy Duckworth, a Veteran and Purple Heart recipient; activists such as Deafblind lawyer Haben Girma, who advocates that disability is an opportunity for innovation, and beloved artists and actors like Stevie Wonder and Ali Stroker. People with disabilities can and do live independent, dignified, self-affirming lives, and add incalculable value to the American story.
Yet in all facets of daily life, people with disabilities must contend with physical and invisible obstacles. These obstacles have been built up by a society that has long ignored the needs of people with disabilities. 560,000 people with disability, for example, rarely leave their home because transportation is not accessible to them. American Association of People with Disabilities and The Leadership Conference Education Fund.” Equity in Transportation for People with Disabilities.” Over 100,000 workers with disabilities can legally be paid subminimum wages, some as little as four cents an hour. “Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) List.” Wage and Hour Division (WHD). July 1, 2019 And in almost 20 states, parents diagnosed with a disability can lose custody of their children. Coakley, Rebecca. “10 disability policy questions every candidate should answer.” Center for American Progress. October 15, 2019. From riding the subway in cities to experiencing a segregated education because of low academic expectations, or being unable to find or maintain a job because of the lack of employment supports, people with disabilities must learn to navigate a world that all too frequently wasn’t built with them in mind. And these hurdles are even higher for people with disabilities who belong to other marginalized groups. This reality must change.
People with disabilities can and do live independent, dignified, self-affirming lives, and add incalculable value to the American story.
As President, Pete will build a culture of belonging for everyone. He is committed to systematically dismantling institutions that discriminate against people with disabilities, and, with and alongside them, helping to build a new, long-overdue era for this community. Pete will retrofit our government so it works for—and not against—people with disabilities. He will help bring about a society that intuitively sees, accounts for, welcomes, and values their lived experiences.
Pete will work with Congress to end the shameful subminimum wage. He will make equity-based inclusive education a national expectation, and ensure that people who have disabilities maximize their time in general education and receive the support necessary for success. Through Pete’s Medicare for All Who Want It plan, everyone will have access to comprehensive and affordable health coverage. He will make transforming our broken mental health care system a national priority by investing $300 billion to improve mental health and addiction care in communities across the country, and enforcing mental health parity. Pete will also work to guarantee that every American can actively participate in the democratic process by making the voting process and polling places accessible to everyone.
Since decades-old programs were designed to further disable people with disabilities and keep them on the margins, Pete knows that we need both a massive shift in federal policies, and a more inclusive and welcoming society. That’s why he will use the office of the presidency—and all the levers of government available to him—to tirelessly advocate for people with disabilities, so they no longer have to do it on their own.
Pete’s platform for people with disabilities will focus on:
Today, only three in ten Americans with disabilities are employed, compared to about seven in ten people without disabilities. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: Employment-population ratio - with a disability, 16 to 64 years, Series LNU02376950.” 2018. Moreover, a person with a disability is twice as likely to be poor as a person who does not. “Highlighting Disability / Poverty Connection, NCD Urges Congress to Alter Federal Policies That Disadvantage People with Disabilities.” National Council on Disability. November 13, 2017. Pete is committed to dramatically increasing opportunities for competitive integrated employment. Embracing Senator Tom Harkin’s goal, Pete will work to double labor force participation for people with disabilities by 2030, the 40th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with a focus on closing racial inequities. To accomplish this goal, his administration will:
Pete will end the subminimum wage by repealing Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act and supporting the Transformation to Competitive Employment and Raise the Wage Acts. He will support capacity building to help with the transition from sheltered workshops to competitive integrated employment.
Pete’s administration will invest $5 billion over the next decade in a national apprenticeship program that ensures access to a well-paying job—especially for people with disabilities—within 30 miles of their home. Pete will also incentivize companies to offer paid internships to students from underrepresented backgrounds, including students with disabilities.
Pete supports the FAMILY Act, which provides at least 12 weeks of paid family leave per year, and enhancing its benefits to include caregiving responsibilities for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and chosen family members. Grant, Kali. “Security and Stability: Paid Family and Medical Leave and its Importance to People with Disabilities and their Families.” Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality. October 1, 2017.; Setty, Suma. Heather Koball, Seth Hartig, TJ Sutcliff. “Disability Perspectives on Paid Leave.” National Center for Children in Poverty. February, 2019. Pete’s administration will decouple medical leave benefits from family care and new child leave benefits to provide a longer total potential leave for workers. Pete will also set up a national system of paid sick leave, as outlined in his Empowering Workers plan.
Equitable opportunity for all students means that every child with a disability has access to high-quality, inclusive public education. Today, this is not the case. Students with disabilities are disproportionately segregated, suspended, and have lower high school graduation rates. U.S. Department of Education, “Civil Rights Data Collection.”; Losen, Daniel., Cheri Hodson, Michael A. Keith II, Katrina Morrison, Shakti Belway. “Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?” The Center for Civil Rights Remedies. February, 2015. Pete is committed to ensuring that students with disabilities get the public education they deserve. As President, he will:
To create an expectation of inclusion so classrooms represent our society’s diversity, Pete will strengthen data collection to promote accountability; invest in the supplementary aids, services, and supports to promote inclusion; and bolster teacher education to promote inclusive schools.
While schools are prohibited from suspending students for behavior caused by their disability, students with disabilities are suspended at disproportionately high rates, especially students of color with disabilities. Losen, Daniel., Cheri Hodson, Michael A. Keith II, Katrina Morrison, Shakti Belway. “Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?” The Center for Civil Rights Remedies. February, 2015. Pete will support the Ending Corporal Punishment in School Act and encourage states to pass legislation that eliminates suspensions for discretionary infractions. He will also direct the Department of Education to issue guidance on alternatives to punitive disciplinary practices.
For students with disabilities, the transition from high school to college or career can pose major challenges. “Students With Disabilities: Better Federal Coordination Could Lessen Challenges in the Transition from High School.” U.S. Government Accountability Office. July, 2012. Pete’s administration will better coordinate students’ programs and services, ensuring relevant federal agencies match eligibility requirements, timelines, and strategies.
Pete’s administration will reverse the Trump administration’s weakening of Title IX by amending Title IX regulations as outlined in his Building Power plan. He will streamline support services for students with disabilities and require that students in college are made aware, via accessible formats, of the services available to them.
Pete’s administration will create an accessible form available in multiple formats and language that shows one’s rights, including for education and housing. Parents or guardians will be able to (1) easily understand what rights their child has in school, (2) know what authoritative information to point school officials to, and (3) easily report their school as non-compliant when that is the case.
The right to raise a family with dignity and respect is a value we all share, and Pete’s administration will lead in combating bias and stigma against parents with disabilities–especially parents of color with disabilities–and ensure federal policies better support them.
Pete’s administration will integrate mental health clinicians and co-response teams into the first responder workforce and train first responders in de-escalation, therapeutic and care approaches as alternatives to arrest, and hospitalization for people who just need mental health care. Pete will also invest in rigorous law enforcement training and require de-escalation and higher standards for use of force for all police interactions.
In 2018, the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was more than twice the rate for those without disabilities. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: Unemployment rate - With no disability, 16 years and over, Series LNU04074593.” 2019. Median annual earnings for workers with disabilities are just $23,000. U.S. Census Bureau. “2017 American Community Survey: Selected Economic Characteristics for the Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population by Disability Status.” 2018. Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are too often the only programs keeping these individuals afloat. To make it easier for people with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, Pete will:
Pete will eliminate the “Trial Work Period” and “Extended Period of Eligibility” and allow beneficiaries to receive partial benefits at wage levels between $1,220 and $3,687, with the benefit amounts fluctuating as recipients’ wages change.
Pete will fully fund the Compassionate And Responsive Service (CARES) plan so people in need of benefits can receive them. He will also exempt the SSA’s administrative budget from sequestration.
More than one out of nine SSDI recipients die during this waiting period. Szymendera, Scott, “Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare: The 24-Month Waiting Period for SSDI Beneficiaries Under Age 65.” Congressional Research Service. January 7, 2019. This reform is expected to save 10,000 to 20,000 lives per year over the next decade.
All people with disabilities should be able to live full and meaningful lives at every stage of life. Ensuring that individuals can learn, live, work, shop, and socialize in their own communities requires access to affordable, quality, home- and community-based long-term services and supports. To this end, Pete will:
Pete will do this by increasing Medicaid eligibility, eliminating Medicaid’s bias towards institutional care, ending Medicaid waiting lists, and permanently funding the Money Follows the Person program, which eliminates barriers that restrict using Medicaid funds for community-based care.
Pete will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and create a national Direct Care Workforce Standards Board, composed of direct care workers and their representatives, providers, consumers and consumer advocacy groups, to advise relevant agencies on direct care workforce issues.
For a given period of years, the caregiver of a child, senior, or dependent with a disability will be awarded credit toward Social Security benefits as if they earned 50 percent of the average earnings of a full-time, year-round worker.
Over 18 million Americans with disabilities face barriers to travel, including more than five million who use wheelchairs. Hosteteer, Martha and Sarah Klein. “Creating Better Systems of Care for Adults with Disabilities: Lessons for Policy and Practice.” Commonwealth Fund. September 25, 2018. Although the ADA prohibits discrimination in public transportation, inadequate funding and enforcement have still left too many barriers for people with disabilities. Position Statements: Transportation. The Arc. 2019. Pete will strive to ensure that all transportation systems, especially public transit, are safe and accessible for all. He will:
All projects must have appropriate accommodations for the needs of people with both chronic physical and mental health conditions, such as adequate staff training and a supply of accessible vehicles.
Pete’s Department of Transportation will vigorously enforce the ADA’s non-discrimination policies for private companies and use the federal procurement processes to incentivize companies to make vehicle fleets more accessible.
Pete will push to modify the Air Carrier Access Act to provide increased statutory protections and improved enforcement. He will also incentivize airlines and airports to train all personnel on handling wheelchairs and other mobility devices correctly and collaborate with disability groups and the airline industry to explore modifying federal regulations so wheelchairs can be tied down inside of airplane cabins.
Pete will expand and replicate successful pilot programs, such as partnerships with ridesharing companies; improve access to accessible, non-emergency medical transportation services; expand federal grant programs like TIGER Grants; and increase resources for the Rural Transit Assistance Program.
Americans with disabilities face many challenges and barriers when interacting with the health care system. Hosteteer, Martha and Sarah Klein. “Creating Better Systems of Care for Adults with Disabilities: Lessons for Policy and Practice.” Commonwealth Fund. September 25, 2018. Having a disability is a major contributor to health care disparities. Pete will invest in the prevention of chronic diseases, as adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have a stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer than those without a disability. “Disability Inclusion.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September 4, 2019. To advance comprehensive, affordable health care for all, Pete will:
Pete will provide every American with access to comprehensive mental health and addiction services as outlined in his Health and Belonging in America plan. Pete’s plan focuses on strengthening communities and community systems of care to help people with a mental health disability thrive wherever they feel most comfortable. In particular, he will:
To achieve this, Pete will enforce mental health parity in health care coverage and integrate the behavioral health care system with the physical health care system.
All people with disabilities deserve access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing. Housing and other infrastructure decisions must take into account that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by climate disruption and natural disasters. “Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Situations.” United Nations. To promote accessible housing and make sure that individuals with disabilities will be safe in the event of natural disasters, Pete will:
Technology can be a tremendous asset to people with disabilities, but it must be accessible, usable, and understandable. Inclusive technology can make classrooms and workplaces more accessible while also saving costs for employers. As President, Pete will affirm America’s leadership in innovation to:
This Bill of Rights will emphasize that access must be built in at the beginning of development processes. The committee will include disability experts and advocates that promote universal design and together develop best practices for industry.
Pete will accelerate the adoption of accessibility standards across the federal government and invest in user experience (UX) research so digital products and services are designed with and tested by users with disabilities. “USWDS: The United States Web Design System.” The United States Web Design System.; “A System to Help You Design and Write Content for VA.gov.” VA Design System.; “18F Accessibility Guide.” 18F.
A Buttigieg administration will promote the equal rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities worldwide, including efforts aimed at inclusion, belonging, and inherent dignity as codified in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. To advance the rights of people with disabilities globally, Pete will:
Pete’s administration will develop targeted assistance initiatives that raise awareness about persons with disabilities and their rights, support livelihood opportunities, strengthen protection from hate crimes, and build the capacity of local disability organizations. He will also develop a national strategy for disability-inclusive international development.
We must tirelessly advocate for people with disabilities, so they no longer have to do it on their own. If you’re with us, text ACCESS to 25859.
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