Midterm elections are just around the corner, and thousands of state and local offices are up for election. While it may be tempting to focus solely on Congressional races, voting on a state and local level is critical. Political campaigns do not typically seek the disability vote, but with over 38 million eligible voters with disabilities, the disability vote has the power to make wide-scale changes to make the United States more inclusive and accessible. While countless issues are important to people with disabilities, here are five policy issues to consider when selecting a candidate in the upcoming elections:
Voting is one of our nation’s most fundamental rights and a hallmark of our democracy. Yet, many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been excluded from this core aspect of citizenship for too long. Even after 30 years of passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 60% of polling places still have impediments that hinder people with disabilities from accessing the polls. Policymakers commonly overlook disabled voters’ distinctive and varying needs, and election accessibility is sometimes dismissed as a logistical and financial complication. This results in inaccessible polling places and voter registration offices, insufficient registration and voting accommodations, and incomprehensible election information for some voters.
People with disabilities have historically experienced obstacles in finding work. According to a 2021 report by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities was more than double that of those without a disability. People with disabilities want to work, and their ability to get and keep jobs should be protected through the enforcement of the ADA. Employment programs and supports should be expanded to safeguard opportunities for people with disabilities to work in competitive and integrated work environments. Businesses create a true culture of diversity and inclusivity by expanding their talent pool to people with disabilities.
Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS)
Community living is a right of all people with disabilities, regardless of age or type of disability. Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) that help people live in the community, prevent them from being placed in institutions and nursing homes, and help people move back to the community from institutional settings should be supported, funded, and expanded. While the HCBS program is regarded as critical among the disability community, it has been afflicted by workforce shortages and long waiting lists.
Police practices for persons with disabilities
People with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to encounter police, either as victims or perpetrators of a crime. Experts say people with intellectual disabilities may have trouble understanding police orders and may struggle to follow directions or manage their emotions. The lack of police training on identifying and adequately responding to intellectual and developmental disabilities has resulted in the senseless mistreatment, injury, and death of persons with disabilities in the United States. Training police officers to appropriately respond to calls involving persons with disabilities can make a significant difference in de-escalating a stressful situation or saving an individual’s life.
Accessibility to local businesses, government buildings, and major development projects
Despite the passage of the ADA in 1990, thousands of cities and towns across the nation still have physical barriers in city halls, civic centers, schools, and public libraries. Accessibility improvements should be viewed as a fundamental goal, not an afterthought, which includes pledging funds to these critical changes. Economic developments should ensure that communities are accessible and fair to people with disabilities.
People with disabilities have been boldly political throughout history—from the Capitol Crawl to the 504 sit-ins, people with disabilities have long used their voices and bodies to make political change. Persons with disabilities, their families, and allies can help bring disability issues into meaningful political conversations to find out what candidates will help the disabled community live valued lives through employment opportunities, investments toward accessible and inclusive communities, and so much more. It is important to motivate people with disabilities to vote, but those running for office and those administering elections should learn how to make the political process inclusive for everyone.
To learn about more ways to get involved, visit https://www.aapd.com/advocacy/voting/dvrw/.