Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged as president to work to ensure that Americans living with disabilities have the same educational and employment opportunities as everyone else in society in response to a request by faith-based organizations for political candidates to address disability concerns.
Clinton, the first candidate to respond to the REV UP Presidential Candidate Questionnaire issued by a broad coalition of individuals and groups including American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said throughout her political career as first lady, senator and Secretary of State she has included people with disabilities among her advisers, and that would continue in her presidential administration.
The Democratic nominee said one of the big problems still lingering more than 25 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act is the lack of opportunities for individuals with disabilities to find work that pays them a living wage.
“People with disabilities are an essential part of our workforce, and it is important to analyze and remove all of the barriers to ensuring them equal access, so that we can all benefit from their contributions,” Clinton said. “We made a promise to Americans when we passed the ADA, and I intend to keep that promise by changing the landscape of employment for people with disabilities.”
Clinton pledged to work to increase employment opportunities for all individuals with disabilities in ways outlined in a recent policy speech promising to “build an inclusive economy that welcomes people with disabilities.’’
“People with disabilities have the same right to work at a job that pays them minimum wage or more, in a place where they will interact with non-disabled individuals, and with the same opportunities for promotion as workers without disabilities,” Clinton said in her response to the REV UP questionnaire. “Among my administration’s highest priorities will be to eliminate the sub-minimum wage, increase access to competitive integrated employment, and ensure that a fair day’s work earns a fair day’s pay for all Americans.”
Clinton, who in her first job after graduating from law school with the Children’s Defense Fund went door-to-door in New Bedford, Mass., to gather testimonials about why children with disabilities were out of school, said education is key in helping youth with disabilities transition to full integration into their local economies.
“Under existing law, school districts must provide students with disabilities a free, appropriate public education,” she said. “Yet in too many districts, that legal mandate is not always enforced. I will fight so that students with disabilities are safe, empowered and learning at school.”
One question on the candidate questionnaire identifies bullying as a long-standing problem facing students with disabilities.
“No one should ever be made to feel badly for being different,” Clinton said. “Unfortunately, children with disabilities are more likely than other children to be bullied, including two-thirds of children with autism. We’ve even seen some bullying of people with disabilities from presidential candidates.”
This spring the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition collected signatures on an open letter to candidates as part of a national campaign to organize people with disabilities and others into a “disability vote” bloc with clout on par with other special-interest groups to be taken seriously by politicians.
Launched by the American Association of People with Disabilities, Texas Disability Project, Disability Rights Texas and other disability advocacy groups, the REV UP campaign is an acronym for Register, Educate, Vote, Use, (your) Power.
“Day in and day out people with disabilities make remarkable contributions to our communities,” Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, director of interfaith engagement for the American Association of People with Disabilities, said Oct. 7 in the Huffington Post.
Ramsey-Lucas, who also works as managing director of resource development at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said Americans with disabilities aspire to live independent lives and contribute their talent and energy to the nation’s future success.
“The time has come, and in fact is long past due, for the full slate of presidential candidates to share their priorities and their vision for ensuring the 56 million Americans with disabilities have the same access and opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Ramsey-Lucas said.