What Democratic Presidential Candidates will do for Americans with Disabilities
*this piece was last updated February 19, 2020 to remove Andrew Yang and introduce Mike Bloomberg
According to a study from Rutgers University, disabled voter turnout rose by 8.5 points in 2018. I expect this number to rise in 2020, given the Trump administration’s continued assaults on the rights of people with disabilities.
The below looks at six candidates and their candidacy as it relates to the disabled community. The piece is shortened from before to keep it digestible, but I want to give credit to Alice Wong and the #CriptheVote movement she created for inspiring me to put this together.
I’m extremely encouraged by some of these plans. They are specific and delve into vital issues, including housing, employment, and equality.
There are some commonalities amongst the candidates. They all want to pass the Disability Integration Act, end subminimum wage, expand healthcare for people with disabilities, and fully fund the IDEA.
Mike Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor
Any person with a disability who’s traveled to New York City has learned the hard way that the city is not accessible to those with disabilities. I lived there for several years and was consistently disappointed. New Yorkers with disabilities were not a priority under Bloomberg and so far it’s not looking good for his Presidential campaign either.
Bloomberg does not have a section dedicated to people with disabilities on his campaign site nor has he put out any official statements, so it’s hard to know his stances on vital issues like housing, transportation, equal education opportunities, and job opportunities.
And while Bloomberg was Mayor, his utter ignorance of disability issues was a persistent issue. For example, he was criticized years ago after Bloomberg publicly embarrassed a man in a wheelchair during a press event.
In the most wealthy city in the country, people with disabilities have higher rates of poverty and unemployment, with little support from the city. When enacting policies that would directly impact the disabled, Mayor Bloomberg excluded disability advocates from the conversation.
Mayor Bloomberg and the city were sued by the Brooklyn for Center of Independence for the Disabled because of poor planning in emergency situations for the disabled. In 2013 it was ruled the city discriminated against people with disabilities by failing to plan for them in case of emergency.
So far it’s unclear what he will do for people with disabilities, and how his views have changed since his tenure as Mayor. Bloomberg should be questioned by reporters on the issue.
Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States and Senator
Joe Biden has a history in government that predates the birth of most of you reading this post.
The former Vice President has updated his website to expand upon his section on disabilities to include some specifics, broken down by topic. Compared to his key competitors, Biden’s layout is lazy and weak, and he is the only top candidate without a comprehensive plan to help the disabled.
- To finally fully fund the IDEA so children with disabilities are adequately educated
- A plan for long-term care by (in part) protecting Medicaid and giving tax relief to solve long-term care expenses
- Law enforcement reform, so police officers interact better with the disabled community.
Biden needs to speak openly and clearly about his specific plans for people with disabilities.
- During the 2008 campaign, Biden co-signed Barack Obama’s plan to empower people with disabilities (source)
- Was a sponsor of the IDEA
- Cosponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act (source)
- Cosponsored the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (source)
- Worked with Congress on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, which aimed to provide additional services to people with disabilities (source)
Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend Indiana
Mayor Pete came out with a robust plan for people with disabilities in late 2019.
Buttigieg Plans To:
- Invest $300 billion towards improving mental health and addiction care
- Increase the employment of people with disabilities in part by increasing federal subcontracting with disability-owned businesses
- Will end severe punishment and seclusion for those with disabilities in schools
- Will use co-response teams to alleviate unnecessary police harm and detention to those with disabilities
- For SSDI, he will reduce the wait times to receive SSDI and eliminate the “Trial Work Period”
- Will establish a new office within the White House to improve disability efforts
- Require federally funded transportation projects to be fully accessible
- Develop an Accessible Technology Bill of Rights
Amy Klobuchar, Senator, Minnesota
You can find Senator Klobuchar’s full plan here, which she released in early January.
The Plan Will:
- A tax credit of up to $6,000/year for long-term care providers
- Reinstate parts of the ACA that Trump rolled back that limits access to medical aids
- Reinstate the 72 guidance documents that DeVos rescinded
- Increase tax credits for businesses who employ people with disabilities
- Fund training to combat workplace disability discrimination
- Increase funding for accessible housing
- Support US participation in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Bernie Sanders, Senator, Vermont
During Sanders’ time in office, he has championed several progressive issues that would impact the lives of people with disabilities in every corner of the United States.
Senator Sanders also answered the AAPD’s in-depth questionnaire, and he has a section of his website called, Fight for Disability Rights, where he lays out his priorities:
- Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Put an end to ableism and discrimination of disabled people
- Will create a National Office of Disability Coordination
- Will create an Office of Disability within the DOJ
Elizabeth Warren, Senator, Massachusetts
Elizabeth Warren has the most thorough plan, and her campaign is working extensively with the disabled community. I called out the Warren campaign previously for her outdated use of the term “special needs,” and her campaign was extremely responsive. She’s stopped using the term. Her plan personally made me cry.
Warren’s Plan Will:
- Invest in technology for better assistive devices that will ultimately lead to more independence
- Expand the Fair Housing Act
- Pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act
- Eliminate the SSDI and Medicare waiting periods
- Fund schools to become ADA compliant so students with disabilities have equal access to education
- Build Green program will provide accessible public transit options
- Pass the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion for Disasters Act