Our National Leadership Program Needs A Director – and Fellows!

Fellows wanted in Policy, Communications, Media, Inclusion and Development! 

respectability-fellows-standing-in-front-of-wh-summer-2015
RespectAbility Fellows standing in front of the White House in Summer 2015

RespectAbility is searching for a talented professional who is interested in working with young professionals to develop their skills and launch their careers. This person will be an essential part of our team as our Leadership Program Director. In this role, the Director will work directly to support talented young leaders who aspire to careers in policy, communications or media.

The Director will be responsible for recruiting diverse Fellows, providing needed accommodations and overseeing a program of guest speakers and work that will have a national impact to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. If you or someone you know is interested in joining our team, please see the full job description on our website here: National Leadership Program

Our National Leadership Program provides participants with access to high level guest speakers, personalized skills training as well as the chance to work on serious projects that will advance RespectAbility’s mission. Since 2013, 74 different, diverse Fellows have participated in our program. Many have gone on to jobs at the White House, government agencies, think tanks, advocacy organizations, political campaigns, nonprofits and more. Others have pursued advance degrees at Georgetown, Columbia and at other top schools.

RespectAbility is actively recruiting talented young leaders for our Spring, Summer and Fall 2017 cohorts. Fellowships are available in public policy, strategic communications, religious inclusion and nonprofit development. To learn more about our program, please visit our National Leadership Program site.

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RespectAbility Receives Grant from Ford Foundation to Create Harriet Tubman Fellowships

headshots of Ming Canaday and Eddie Ellis with text: The First Cohort of the Harriet Tubman Fellow

The First Cohort of the Harriet Tubman Fellows: Ming Canaday and Eddie Ellis

Washington, Dec. 21 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, is delighted to announce that the Ford Foundation awarded a grant, which has enabled RespectAbility to create and offer Harriet Tubman Fellowships to select participants in the National Leadership Program. Tubman acquired traumatic brain injury when a slave owner hit her with a heavy metal weight leading to epileptic seizures and hypersomnia. Her work, while living as an individual with a disability, to free slaves and then for women’s suffrage is one of the great stories of how people with disabilities can help make a nation stronger and better.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, published a groundbreaking op-ed in The New York Times called “Internships are Not a Privilege,” which discussed how the practice of requiring people to do unpaid internships before they get good policy jobs harms diversity efforts and discriminates against people who cannot afford to do them.

“We are thrilled to have this new transformative support,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “Thanks to the Ford Foundation, we will be able to strengthen and diversify our National Leadership Program for young leaders with and without disabilities who are going into public policy, advocacy, journalism, public relations and other leadership roles. Previously, many people who wanted to participate in the program could not do so because while it offered free lunch and a transportation stipend, it was an unpaid program. Now we will be able to pay $15 an hour to many of the fellows who otherwise could not afford to do such a leadership program.”

The National Leadership Program has three cohorts of Fellows – in the fall, spring and summer – for a total of at least 24 Fellows. Eight will be Harriet Tubman Fellows.  Our National Leadership Program enables young leaders to gain critical skills, contacts and experiences necessary to be accepted into graduate school or go directly into careers in public policy, media or advocacy.

The Ford Foundation’s grant will enable RespectAbility to include more participants with multiple minority status and/or low-income candidates who cannot afford the nine weeks of unpaid training. Two to three Fellows each cohort will be awarded with the Harriet Tubman Fellowship, which is a paid Fellowship.

“With the paid fellowships, we will be able to do our part to overcome the unequal opportunities sometimes created by unpaid internships,” RespectAbility Board Chair Donn Weinberg said. “Having the resources to pay our Fellows will allow us to offer this opportunity to people who otherwise might not be able to afford to gain the skills and the connections they need to enter careers in public policy, media or advocacy. This will be a significant factor in fully realizing our goals for diversity, recruitment and attracting quality applicants.”

Today only 65 percent of people with disabilities graduate high school and only seven percent complete college. For those lucky few who do complete college, only 53 percent of graduates with disabilities are currently employed as opposed to 84 percent of graduates with no disability. As a program that is fully accessible for people with disabilities and offers full-time in-house job coaching, skills development, networking opportunities, assistive technology and personal care support, our program has been designed to alleviate this situation.

The grant also will enable RespectAbility to hire a personal care assistant or interpreters as needed by any Fellow participating in the National Leadership Program.

“Many people with disabilities are faced with choosing to have a personal care assistant at home to help with necessary supports such as getting up in the morning and using the facilities or having personal care support at work,” Mizrahi said. “This grant allows us to offer the Fellowship to individuals needing this on-the-job assistance, which often becomes cost prohibitive to individuals, at no cost to them.”

RespectAbility’s Treasurer, Cal Harris, and Board of Advisors members, Janie L. Jeffers and Randall Duchesneau, will help shape the Harriet Tubman Fellowship program. Harris and Jeffers each have major leadership roles in Washington. A C5-C6 quadriplegic from a spinal cord injury during gymnastics, Duchesneau currently is a consultant based in Philadelphia who previously served as RespectAbility’s first Director of the National Leadership Program.

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Polling Shows People with Disabilities Split Vote Between Trump and Clinton

Near unanimous bipartisan agreement that a candidate should treat people with disabilities with dignity and respect

View All Poll Data (PDF, Accessible PPT)

Washington, Dec. 14 – Two separate bipartisan polls showed results that may surprise Washington insiders: voters with disabilities and their family and friends voted in big numbers for President-elect Donald Trump. While polls showed that many voters felt Trump made fun of people with disabilities, he was seen as stronger on changing Washington and failed economic policies that hold people with disabilities back.

RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, commissioned questions on two different national polls.

In a bipartisan pre-election and election night survey conducted by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group, voters with disabilities split their votes between President-elect Trump (46 percent) and Secretary Hillary Clinton (49 percent). On the same poll, voters with disabilities identified themselves as 41 percent Democrat, 21 percent Independent and 31 percent Republican, demonstrating that on Election Day more Independents with disabilities voted for Trump than Clinton.

In an earlier poll by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg PhD of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Republican pollster Whit Ayres PhD of North Star Opinion Research from late October, more voters with disabilities (40 percent) supported Trump compared to voters with no connection to the disability community (36 percent). The survey also showed that people with disabilities were more likely to say that the country is on the “wrong track” (59 percent) than were those without any disability connection (54 percent).

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RespectAbility Announces New Officers and Welcomes New Members to Its Board

Donn Weinberg re-elected as chair, ADA co-author Steve Bartlett as Vice Chair, Cal Harris Treasurer and Shelley Cohen Secretary
New members include communications stars Andrew Egan and Calvin Harris, philanthropist Aaron Orlofsky, criminal justice expert Janie L. Jeffers and CEO coach Dr. Dee Soder

RespectAbility team posing for a photo in front of a banner saying RespectAbility

RespectAbility Board Members, Staff and Fellows with Clarence Page, who lead our team in a great discussion on journalism regarding people with disabilities and the issues we care about during our December board meeting; From L to R: Calvin Harris, Tonya Koslo, Thomas “Doc” Sweitzer, Andrew Egan, Shelley Cohen, Dana Marlowe, Donna Meltzer, Philip Pauli, Clarence Page, Byron Murphy, David Richman, Linda Burger, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Matthew Wagner, Donn Weinberg, Dionne Joseph, Samantha Fleischer, Jonathan Murray, Ben Spangenberg, Hillary Steen

Rockville, Md., Dec. 13 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, is proud to announce the election of new officers, as well as new additions to the boards of directors and advisors. Rich in diversity and expertise, the board includes a cross section of national leaders from U.S. Congress, Hollywood, philanthropy, communications and private sector. Moreover, the board of advisors added respected leaders in nonprofit management with deep roots in disability issues.

“We are thrilled to bring such a talented group of leaders with fresh perspective to our boards,” stated Donn Weinberg, Co-Founder and Chair of RespectAbility. “People with disabilities have long been denied entry into the workforce, ultimately depriving 70 percent of working-age Americans a chance to impact our evolving economy. The diverse and bipartisan board we assembled is dedicated to this fight.”

In addition to welcoming five new members to RespectAbility’s boards, Weinberg was re-elected chair for another term. Former Rep. Steve Bartlett was elected Vice President. New board member Calvin Harris was elected Treasurer, and Secretary Shelley Cohen was re-elected to serve another term.

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Two Key Trump Picks Have Close Disability Experience

Philip Pauli, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi posed and smiling for a photo wearing business suits

RespectAbility’s Philip Pauli and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Washington, Dec. 9 – According to multiple news reports, President-elect Donald Trump has announced his choice for Secretary of the Interior, five-term Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Currently the highest-ranking woman in Congress, McMorris Rodgers has been praised by the disability community for her strong history of advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, and RespectAbility congratulates the Congresswoman on her nomination.

In addition, news outlets are reporting that Trump will name Goldman Sachs veteran, Gary Cohn, to head the National Economic Council, where he would have significant influence over the administration’s economic policy, including corporate taxes and U.S. trade policy. Cohn, who has dyslexia, credits this disability with leading to many of his successes.

McMorris Rodgers has been a strong proponent of measures to support people with disabilities, such as the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which allows people with disabilities to set up tax-free savings accounts, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures access to education for children with disabilities.

“As part of America’s New Congress, we are here to advance real solutions,” McMorris Rodgers said in her comments on the signing of the ABLE Act in 2015. “Solutions that make people’s lives better. Solutions that empower all Americans – no matter where they come from or how much money they make or what challenges they face.”

Earlier this December, McMorris Rodgers received the United States International Council on Disabilities’ Dole-Harkin award, which honors leaders who have been crucial players in the global disability rights movement.

Much of McMorris Rodgers’ work on disability is based on helping people with disabilities live independent lives.

“We want to live independently, we want to work, we want every opportunity for those with disabilities to have the opportunity to live the American Dream,” McMorris Rodgers said at a rally for the National Council on Independent Living last year.

Her dedication to disability rights comes from her experience raising a son with Down syndrome. Raising a child with a disability has made her “a better person and a better legislator,” McMorris Rodgers said.

McMorris Rodgers is active in the Down syndrome community as well, as the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus. She also helped launch the first season of Born This Way, a reality TV show that follows the lives of young adults with Down syndrome, at the Washington, D.C., premiere in December 2015.

As Secretary of the Interior, McMorris Rodgers would manage federal lands for conservation and mineral development and oversee national parks, giving the Congresswoman an opportunity to continue in her fight to bring equal opportunity to people with disabilities.

Trump’s Pick to Head National Economic Council Openly Talks About His Dyslexia

Gary Cohn headshot

Gary Cohn

As a child growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Gary Cohn was called an “idiot” by teachers and classmates. Yet Cohn graduated from both high school and college, something the majority of students with disabilities do not do. After graduation, he found a job in sales for U.S. Steel and later took a chance that led him to Wall Street.

“The one trait in a lot of dyslexic people I know is that by the time we got out of college, our ability to deal with failure was very highly developed,” Cohn told Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote about the businessman’s experiences in the book David and Goliath. “And so we look at most situations and see much more of the upside than the downside. It doesn’t faze us.”

While visiting New York, Cohn devised a plan to meet a broker and initiated the sharing of a cab with him to LaGuardia Airport, using the time to network. Cohn left the cab with the man’s number and had a job on Wall Street with his firm the next week.

“I’ve thought about it many times, I really have, because it defined who I am,” Cohn told Gladwell. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dyslexia. I never would have taken that first chance.”

Trump’s proposed Cabinet is missing disability representation. Cohn’s openness regarding disability is a welcomed occurrence in a Trump administration, as fully one-in-five Americans has a disability and the majority of Americans have a loved one with a disability.

“It is vital for the Trump administration to reflect America, including talented people with disabilities,”RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who has dyslexia herself, said. “The administration needs people who have real, proven experience in enabling people with disabilities to receive the education and training they need to succeed in gaining jobs and independence. There are 56 million Americans with disabilities, and only 30 percent currently are employed, while 70 percent have expressed a desire to be. Without ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities, specifically relating to employment and education, a Trump administration would be leaving too many Americans behind.”

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Trump’s New Labor Secretary Needs to Focus on Jobs for People with Disabilities

Andy Puzder headshot

Andy Puzder

Washington, Dec. 8 – As news reports say President elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate fast-food executive Andy Puzder as labor secretary, RespectAbility congratulates Puzder on the nomination but encourages both Trump and Puzder to include people with disabilities in their jobs programs.

An adviser and contributor to Trump’s campaign, Puzder is the chief executive of CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., the parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains, which employs more than 20,000 people.

Only one in three working-age Americans with a disability has a job, despite the fact that studies show that 70 percent of the 21-million working-age people with disabilities are striving for work. More than 78 percent of non-disabled Americans are employed.

RespectAbility looks forward to working the new potential secretary of labor to ensure that all people with disabilities who choose to work are given opportunities to find competitive, integrated employment.

“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. “Companies including Amazon, Starbucks, Pepsi and others have shown that employees with disabilities are loyal, successful and help them make more money. People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to workplaces that benefit employers and organizations. If we find the right jobs for the right people, it can and does increase the bottom line of companies.”

Puzder has spoken out against raising the federal minimum wage and criticized the Affordable Care Act, calling for its repeal.

“People with disabilities need access to good jobs and healthcare so that they too can achieve the American dream,” said Mizrahi.

Eleven million people with disabilities of working age are living on government benefits. In an op-ed last summer, Puzder said such benefits “can lock [people] into poverty.”

“As the Trump administration focuses on jobs for Americans, the inclusion of all people, including those with disabilities, in competitive paying positions needs to be a top priority,” Mizrahi added. “Puzder has called for a change in the benefits system. People with disabilities are not looking for hand-outs but cannot be put in a position where they would lose supports for personal care assistants and other necessary items to live an independent life. People with disabilities want jobs and deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”

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Media Access Awards Honors Speechless, Born This Way for Normalizing Disability

Speechless' Cedric Yarbrough, Scott Silveri, Melvin Mar and Micah Fowler smiling and posing with Silveri and Mar's award

Speechless’ Cedric Yarbrough, Scott Silveri, Melvin Mar and Micah Fowler (Photo Credit: Michael Hansel)

Los Angeles – As Hollywood came together to celebrate people with disabilities, media creators recognized the importance of accurate representation of the largest minority in the U.S.

Scott Silveri’s new hit show on ABC, Speechless, which features a young man with cerebral palsy (Micah Fowler), won three awards including two for Silveri (Writers Guild of America West Evan Somers Memorial Award and SAG-AFTRA Disability Awareness Award along with director/producer Jake Kasdan and producer Melvin Mar).

Danny Woodburn smiling and pointing

Danny Woodburn (Photo Credit: Michael Hansel)

The honors were presented at the Media Access Awards, an event promoting disability and its depictions in film, television, and new media. In attendance were key entertainment leaders with ties to disabilities. It was emceed by actor/comedian Danny Woodburn who also was awarded the Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award for both his acting career and his disability advocacy work.

Casting Director Susie Farris, who cast Fowler, was awarded with the Casting Society of America Award. She spoke about the importance of Fowler’s character not being an inspiration. Speechless now reaches seven million people.

Silveri, who grew up in a family intimate with disability issues with a brother who has cerebral palsy, talked about not even thinking about including people with disabilities in his work for many years. When he came up with the idea of Speechless, he said he found networks willing and interested. Silveri thanked disability advocates who have been working for years to open the doors for him. “If we’re going to be storytellers,” Silver said, “then we have to include disability.”

Speaking of “white able-bodied male jerks” who write for Hollywood, Silveri said many don’t get the importance of inclusion of people with disabilities but they are not trying to be wrong.

A&E's Drew Tappon & Born This Way Executive Producer Jonathan Murray posed with Murray's award

A&E’s Drew Tappon & Born This Way Executive Producer Jonathan Murray (Photo Credit: Michael Hansel)

Another major winner was creator and executive producer of A&E Networks’ Born This Way Jonathan Murray, who said people with disabilities “have been placed on the sidelines and the margins of primetime television.”

“With Born This Way airing on A&E, that is no longer the case,” Murray added.

His newest show, Emmy-winning Born This Way, features seven individuals with Down syndrome. During its first season, the show increased its viewership by more than 80 percent, which Murray says proves that shows featuring people with disabilities “is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good business.”

Awarded with the Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award, Murray has been promoting the importance of including all minorities in his various television series such as The Real World, The Challenge and Project Runway.

The Media Access Awards aim to recognize depictions of disability that are accurate, inclusive and multi-faceted. The ceremony honors industry professionals who have advanced disability-related narrative in fields including writing, producing, casting, performance and directing.

Born This Way's Jonathan Murray and Speechless' Jonathan Murray posing and smiling

Born This Way’s Jonathan Murray and Speechless’ Jonathan Murray (Photo Credit: Lauren Appelbaum)

By promoting success stories of people with disabilities, both Speechless and Born This Way help to change negative perceptions of people with disabilities, especially among employers.

“Each year 300,000 young people with disabilities reach the age to enter the workforce,” Murray said. “However, despite polls showing that most of these young people want to work, they often hit a roadblock because of negative stigmas. So it is wonderful that views of Born This Way see young adults in our series contributing to their workplaces, and, in one case, starting her own business. It is also wonderful that our viewers see our cast as individuals, each with distinct personalities and dreams.”

Deborah Calla standing behind podium and Allen Rucker seated in wheelchair on stage

Media Access Awards Chairs Deborah Calla and Allen Rucker (Photo Credit: Lauren Appelbaum)

Deborah Calla and Allen Rucker chaired the awards ceremony. Co-chairs included Ray Bradford, Pam Dixon, Jenni Gold, Sam Maddox, Paul Miller, Adam Moore, Kim Myers and George Sunga. Other winners included actress Jamie Brewer (SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award), who has Down syndrome, and MacGregor Arney (Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Scholarship), an upcoming young actor with cerebral palsy.

Zach Weinstein, who presented Arney with his award, summed up one purpose of the awards ceremony. Talking about his 13-day-old son, he said he is happy to known he will grow up in a world “where disability is going to be normalized.”

Said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, “It is time for people with disabilities to be seen in Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera. We have so much to contribute to storytelling, entertainment and success.” RespectAbility is a nonprofit working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.

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Honoring All Veterans on Veterans Day: What are Trump’s policies for veterans with disabilities?

Washington, Nov. 11 – As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, it is important to truly remember our veterans and ensure we are taking care of their needs.

One of their top priorities is employment. Government policies that help veterans with disabilities get and keep jobs are a win-win because they allow veterans the dignity and financial benefits of work and also grow our economy and save taxpayer money.

One year ago, President Elect Donald Trump said, “I will” when asked if he is committed to getting more veterans and people with disabilities employed.

“You gotta give them hope, build their spirit,” Trump said during a town hall in Newton, IA. “The unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story.”

Trump has provided some specifics on how he would help veterans and people with disabilities who are not employed. According to his campaign website, Trump’s plan to reform the Veterans Administration includes increasing funding for job training and placement services (including incentives for companies hiring veterans), educational support and business loans.

There are currently 495,000 veterans who are unemployed. Many of them need job training and/or psychological counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are 3.8 million veterans with a disability. In Iraq and Afghanistan, 50,000 troops received significant injuries, 2.6 percent of whom had a major limb amputation. Of the approximately 2.7 million veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, nearly 20 percent have PTSD. In 2016 so far, 352,619 soldiers have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Answering a question by a veteran on healthcare at last year’s town hall, Trump claimed he’s “been the strongest by far toward the veterans.”

“Our veterans are being treated in many cases worse than the illegal immigrants that are coming in,” Trump said. “The waiting time in a reception room for a doctor now is the longest in the history of the Veterans’ Administration. People are waiting five or six days. Can you imagine you or me or anybody waiting five or six days to see a doctor?”

Trump detailed his plan that if a veteran visits a VA and is told he has more than a day’s wait, he can go to a public or private doctor or hospital nearby.

“If you go to the doctor’s office and you have a day wait, you can’t get service, then you’re going to go to a private doctor, or you’re going to go to a hospital nearby – public or private. You’re going to get yourself taken care of and we’re going to pay the bill,” Trump said, claiming this plan would be cheaper than what’s currently happening.

“Tens of thousands of veterans are dying waiting for a doctor – on things that could be cured with a pill, with a minor procedure,” Trump continued. “We’re going to take care of that. We’re gonna make the vets proud again to be an American.”

Trump’s written plan also acknowledges veteran’s “invisible wounds” by increasing funding for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and suicide prevention.

“This funding will help provide more and better counseling and care,” Trump’s plan states. “With these steps, the Trump plan will help the veteran community put the unnecessary stigma surrounding mental health behind them and instead encourage acceptance and treatment in our greater society.”

Ensuring veterans have every opportunity available is a nonpartisan issue, with many politicians paying attention to the prevalence of PTSD among returning veterans and veterans’ ability to have the opportunity to achieve a good standard of living.

Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who successfully unseated Republican incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk for the U.S. Senate seat, has a unique perspective because she is veteran who became disabled while serving in Iraq.

“As a disabled Veteran, the issue of post-military transition is deeply important to me. I have dedicated my life to serving my country, and honoring those men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our nation. While serving at both the IDVA and the VA, I launched innovative programs and helped write legislation to help Veterans find jobs and to combat Veterans’ suicide and homelessness, especially for those veterans with disabilities. I get my own healthcare at Hines VA, so I am committed to making sure the VA health system works and delivers great health outcomes for all Vets.”

Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who just won re-election, introduced the Careers for Veterans Act, which ensures “veterans are able to take advantage of the skills they acquired in the military and transition them to licenses and credentials needed for civilian employment.”

“Further, the bill would require the federal government to hire 10,000 qualified veterans and give preference to disabled veterans,” he added.

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Trump Cabinet Possibilities: Where is the Disability Representation?

Washington, Nov. 10 – RespectAbility has obtained an internal document from the Trump transition team titled “Trump Cabinet Possibilities.” We have been told the people listed below currently are being vetted for 22 key posts within the Trump administration.

Looking at the list, it is clear that few of the people have any experience in working with the disability community and none of them self-identify publicly as being people with disabilities themselves.

“Fully one-in-five Americans has a disability and the majority of Americans have a loved one with a disability,” RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “It is vital for the Trump administration to reflect America, including talented people with disabilities. The administration needs people who have real, proven experience in enabling people with disabilities to receive the education and training they need to succeed in gaining jobs and independence.”

Mizrahi lists New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Gov. John Kasisch, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, California Rep. Brad Sherman, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as “proven leaders who have extensive experience in advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.”

In terms of qualified people with disabilities, Mizrahi highlights Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who lost his re-election bid to Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth; Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, Steven Tingus, who served as deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation (disability, aging and long-term care policy) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush; and Melissa Ortiz, a Republican woman who has worked on several campaigns, as well as others.

“There are also some very successful Obama Administration officials with disabilities who are in the midst of a highly complicated set of efforts to partner with the states implementing the completely bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act,” Mizrahi added, identifying Janet Lebrek and Jennifer Sheehy as two current government appointees with disabilities as people Trump should consider.

Janet Lebrek, who lost her vision by the age of 10 years old, currently is the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and oversees programs that help people with disabilities find employment and live more independently.

Jennifer Sheehy, who became paralyzed in 1994, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

“There are 56 million Americans with disabilities, and only 30 percent currently are employed, while 70 percent have expressed a desire to be,” Mizrahi added. “Without ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities, specifically relating to employment and education, a Trump administration would be leaving too many Americans behind. A Trump Administration should reflect all of America – including talented people with disabilities.”

new poll showed that half of voters either have a disability or a loved one with a disability. The poll also showed that voters were more likely to support candidates who prioritize ensuring that children with disabilities get the education and training they need to succeed as well as expanding job and career opportunities for people with disabilities.

Other minorities also are missing from the list, which includes just eight women, one Hispanic, two African Americans and no known members of the LGBTQ community:

Attorney General: Atty. Gen. Pam Boni, Gov. Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Jeff Sessions
Central Intelligence Agency Director: Jose Rodriguez
Chief of Staff:  Reince Priebus
Director of National Intelligence: Todd Wilcox
EPA Administrator: Joe Aiello, Carol Comer, Myron Ebell, Robert Grady, Leslie Rutledge
National Security Advisor: (Blank)
Office of Management and Budget: Sen. Jeff Sessions
Secretary of Agriculture: Gov. Sam Brownback, Chuck Conner, Gov. Dave Heineman, Charles Herbster, Mike McCloskey, Ted McKinney, Sid Miller, Gov. Sonny Perdue, Gov. Rick Perry, Bruce Rastetter, Kip Tom, Don Villwock
Secretary of Commerce: Gov. Chris Christie, Dan DiMicco, Lew Eisenberg, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. David Perdue, Gov. Rick Perry, Wilbur Ross
Secretary of Defense: Mike Flynn, Stephen Hadley, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., Sen. Jeff Sessions, Sen. Jim Talent
Secretary of Education: Ben Carson, William Evers
Secretary of Energy: Robert Grady, Harold Hamm
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Rich Bagger, Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Gov. Rick Scott
Secretary of Homeland Security: Gov. Chris Christie, David Clarke
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: (Blank)
Secretary of the Interior: Gov. Jan Brewer, Gov. Mary Fallin, Robert Grady, Harold Hamm, Forrest Lucas, Cynthia Lummis, Gov. Sarah Palin
Secretary of Labor: Victoria Lipnic
Secretary of State: John Bolton, Bob Corker, Newt Gingrich
Secretary of Transportation: (Blank)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Rep. Jeff Miller
Treasury Secretary: Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Carl Icahn, Steven Mnuchin
White House Counsel: Donald McGahn

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Down Ballot Candidates who Support Opportunities for People with Disabilities Win Big

Washington, Nov. 9 – RespectAbility congratulates Mr. Donald Trump on his win of the presidency. We look forward to working with his new administration in the future and sincerely hopes he will work with diverse parts of America in every sense of the word.

Looking down ballot, several senate and gubernatorial candidates who support opportunities for people with disabilities (PwDs) won big Tuesday night – confirming the results from a new poll released last week. The poll showed that voters were more likely to support candidates who prioritize ensuring that children with disabilities get the education and training they need to succeed as well expanding job and career opportunities for people with disabilities. The poll also showed that voters with disabilities overwhelmingly thought that America was on the wrong track.

There are 56 million people with disabilities (one in five Americans), more than 35 million of whom are eligible voters (one-sixth of the electorate). The poll showed that half of voters either have a disability or a loved one with a disability.

RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, reached out to candidates for president, governor and U.S. Senate – requesting them to complete the #PwDsVote disability questionnaire on multiple disability topics ranging from employment, education, violence and abuse, criminal justice, healthcare and more.

On the presidential level former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton filled out the full questionnaire. Mr. Trump did not. However, both Clinton and Trump completed the AAPD/NCIL presidential questionnaire.

Forty down ballot candidates, including 26 for Senate and 11 for governor, from both sides of the aisle (25 Democrats, 14 Republicans, 1 Green Party) responded to the #PwDsVote questionnaire, showing that disability rights is a nonpartisan issue. The responses also were geographically diverse, coming from states all around the country as politicians are paying more and more attention to the disability community.

Of those who responded, 11 candidates have won their election as of Wednesday morning. These include Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), all of whom have won their senate races; Rep. John Carney (D-DE), Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT), who won races for governor; and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), who has won re-election to Congress. Please follow the links in the table below to read more about each of these candidates’ disability policies that affect 56 million Americans.

State Winning Candidate Race
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (D) Senate
Delaware Rep. John Carney (D) Governor
Illinois Rep. Tammy Dukworth (D) Senate
Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) Senate
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) Governor
Nevada Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) Senate
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) Senate
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R) Senate
Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin (D) Congress
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) Senate
Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R) Governor
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