Washington, May 3 – As voters head to the polls in Washington later this month, RespectAbility is releasing its Washington Disability Voter Guide.
There are 894,509 people with a disability in the state of Washington, 425,700 of whom are of working age (between the ages of 21 and 64). There are an additional 25,400 people ages 16-20 with disabilities, many of whom are hoping to enter the workforce. Washington’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, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich filled out parts of the questionnaire. They each have significantly different views on the issues. Despite numerous requests in person and by phone and email, the campaigns of Sen. Ted Cruz 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.
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 on 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.”
Washington currently ranks 21st in terms of percentage of employed people with disabilities (37.7 percent), compared with 76 percent of people without disabilities. View the rankings of all 50 states and compare.
RespectAbility expects Washington’s employment rate for people with disabilities to increase even more in the coming future, as the evergreen state is taking several promising measures to improve the employment rate of people with disabilities to ensure that the process of entering the workforce will be more accessible for all people, including those with disabilities.
Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee has taken measures personally to ensure the success of people with disabilities in the workforce, as evidenced by Executive Order 13-02. The order, signed into effect May 22, 2013, aims at increasing opportunities for people with disabilities within state government. It established a goal of five percent of Washington state government’s workforce to be comprised of people with a disability. Additionally, a Disability Employment Task Force was established to help state agencies with the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities. Despite the order only effecting the government sector, the task force also engages model private sector companies to share strategies, exchange best practices and provide technical assistance to boost the employment of people with disabilities in all employment sectors in Washington.
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) and Washington’s state plan has the opportunity to be the agent of change, as its legislation will implement new practices which will beneficially affect people with disabilities.
Washington State will be focusing on in-demand industry sectors as well as apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are an important avenue to self-sufficiency and higher wages for youth with barriers to employment. Not only are these types of programs being expanded, but there is also an increasing amount of collaboration between agencies who focus on youth transition issues. This is critical work and it is pleasing to see that progress is being made in this aspect.
Another note of promise comes in form of accessible resources. Washington state’s WIOA plan contains some of the most detailed plans related to accessibility and barrier solutions of any of the state plans. Washington plans to have secure wireless at comprehensive one-stops and even sets it as a specific goal.
However, the gap in the labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is 38.3 percent. While this is lower than 33 other states, 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 Cruz and Trump to submit their ideas for the disability community. When they do 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.