Washington, May 31 – As voters head to the polls in South Dakota next week, RespectAbility is releasing its South Dakota Disability Voter Guide.
South Dakota ranks first in the nation for employment of people with disabilities as more than half the working-age people with disabilities (50.1 percent) in South Dakota have a job. Indeed, individuals with disabilities in South Dakota are TWICE as likely to be working as those in the worst performing state of West Virginia where only 25.6 percent have jobs. Rounding out the top five states in terms of best outcomes are North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.
There are 108,112 people with a disability living in South Dakota, 47,700 of whom are of working age (between the ages of 21 and 64). The 4,000 youth with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 20 living in South Dakota have increasing chances to successfully transition into the world of work. South Dakota’s voters are looking to know where the candidates stand on important disability issues in order to increase opportunities for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.
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. They each have significantly different views on the issues.
Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has not yet filled out the questionnaire. However, several Republican candidates who have since dropped out of the race did respond to the questionnaire including former Gov. Jeb Bush, who addressed all of the questions, and Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. John Kasich, all of whom filled out parts of 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.
RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said, “Our community is looking for jobs so we can achieve the American dream, just like anyone else. It is vital for us to know where the candidates stand economic, stigma, education, safety, transportation, housing, healthcare, foreign affairs and other issues. The candidates have hugely different ideas about how to deal with the issues. Thus, it’s extremely important to read their full answers so you can understand their vast differences.”
South Dakota’s 50.1 percent labor force participation rate (LFPR) for people with disabilities is the highest in the United States, and well above the national average of 30 percent. South Dakota should be proud of this achievement, as it serves as a role model for all other states aiming to increase employment rates for people with disabilities. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
Despite having the highest employment rate for people with disabilities in the United States, South Dakota allegedly unnecessarily relies on nursing facilities to provide services to people with disabilities. In a recent investigation, the Justice Department found that thousands of South Dakotans who rely on the state for necessary services must live in nursing facilities to receive aid, all while being isolated from their communities. This practice is in violation of the community integration mandate of both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the ruling of Olmstead v. L.C., which require states to make services available to people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, regardless of age or type of disability. South Dakota’s sparse and majority rural populations make the distribution and access of health services difficult. Following the leadership of Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the success of people with disabilities in employment, South Dakota has the potential over time to improve on community integration. The state also can become a role model and agent of change in creating solutions to this national issue.
RespectAbility has submitted comments for all 50 state’s drafts of the Unified Plan as required under Section 102 of The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The South Dakota WIOA draft is very well done. It creates a win-win-win strategy and system for vital improvements for South Dakota’s workforce system and its ability to serve people with barriers to work, employers and taxpayers alike. This draft plan will capitalize on the partnerships and collaborations necessary to empower youth transitioning from school to work. It is to be strongly commended. The high expectations, pre-employment pipeline, commitment to metrics, and partnership between government agencies will go a long way to sustaining success.
However, the gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is still 33.6 percent. This lack of employment for people with disabilities creates poverty, powerlessness, and poor health. Polls and studies show that people with disabilities want the opportunity to have the dignity and independence that jobs provide.
America has 1.2 million youth with disabilities, between the ages of 16 and 20. Each year 300,000 of them age into what should be the workforce, but stigmas and lack of knowledge about the capabilities of people with disabilities means that most do not find employers willing to hire them. Young adults with disabilities in all of these states are hoping to find work. They have high expectations and deserve the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Young people with disabilities may simply need some thoughtful help to transition into the workforce.See data on all 50 states here: State Data.
RespectAbility will continue to urge Mr. Trump to submit his ideas for the disability community. When he does so, we will update the guide. The questionnaire is being distributed to more than 50,000 people who care about disability issues, more than ten thousand of whom live in the early primary states and the heads of more than 100 national disability organizations, many of whom will share with their own lists. RespectAbility also has placed online ads sharing the questionnaire.
RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. Its groundbreaking publication, The RespectAbility Report, covers the intersection between politics and disability, and has covered 100 percent of the candidates on both sides of the aisle. Their reporters are people with disabilities themselves, and people who care deeply about disability issues. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes as voters go to the polls.