|Learn what the 2016 U.S. presidential candidates are saying about and doing to assist the disability community. The RespectAbility Report is a nonpartisan political commentary on the 2016 U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues. The RespectAbility Report is nonpartisan and neither rates nor endorses candidates. Check it out today!
Positive change will require strong bipartisan cooperation as well as public-private partnerships. Indeed, without the kind of bipartisan consensus on disability issues that existed in 1990 when ADA was passed, disability policy can go nowhere. For this to improve, elected officials will have to see Americans with disabilities as a powerful and swing voter group.
A full 51 percent of likely voters report either having a disability or a family member or close friend with a disability. They are actually swing voters, but most elected officials don’t know that fact. Unlike “Soccer Moms,” “Hispanics,” and “African-Americans,” Americans with disabilities are not yet seen as a voter group that matters. We are not so naïve as to think we can change the partisan gridlock in Washington, but with so many Americans with disabilities and 51 percent personally affected, there are many politicians on both sides of the aisle who have been touched in some way by family and friends with disabilities and are eager to get involved once they hear they can make a change.
In 2012 both major candidates for President were invited by a coalition of 80 disability groups to address disability issues at a major forum in the swing state of Ohio. Neither personally attended. Each sent a surrogate. The Romney campaign, despite repeated requests from disability groups, did not post any disability policies on its campaign website. Additionally, none of the 2012 Presidential primary or general election debates touched upon issues that specifically impact Americans with disabilities. Put simply, despite the existence of 57 million Americans with disabilities, they aren’t perceived as a power group or voting block.
For many years the State of the Union Address hasn’t included policies on disability issues beyond healthcare/PPACA. In addition, few major Senate, House or state governors races bring about substantive discussion on any of the issues that directly impact Americans with disabilities. There is a desperate need for vision implemented by the White House under a President who will harness the energy and strength of the public, private, nonprofit and religious sectors. When programs are showcased in a factual, non-partisan way, we can emphasize how to make government work better and cost less. But who will do it? It will be vital to ensure that responsible voices from both political parties are heard in the media. They will need to be joined by leaders from corporations, faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations.
Leaders need to see that their constituents with disabilities and their loved ones want results and that there is a political price to be paid if leaders are not responsive. At the same time, it is vital for people with disabilities to recognize the financial realities facing our nation. We cannot simply throw money at problems. We need to use cost-effective best practices. These need to be identified and showcased in site visits and educational programs for Capitol Hill leaders, Presidential candidates and their staffs. They need to see with their own eyes the “best practices” approaches that help people with disabilities achieve increased economic self-sufficiency and independent living.
Tell your representatives that this issue is important. TAKE ACTION!