Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pledged to include people with disabilities in his administration and work with Congress to increase opportunities for Americans who live with disabilities in responses to a request by faith-based organizations for political candidates to address disability concerns.
Trump, who has been criticized for several remarks interpreted as insensitive toward individuals with physical or mental disabilities, is the second 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.
“We greatly appreciate Mr. Trump submitting his response,” said an email from the American Association of People with Disabilities linking to questionnaires answered by both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The Trump campaign promised to review and reform administration programs related to people with disabilities and to consider possible creation of a National Office of Disability Coordination to harmonize policies currently spread out across various federal agencies.
Trump said people with disabilities have a right to be paid on parity with everyone else in the work force and qualify for government contracts. He said the federal government should have a minimal role in public education but pledged to enforce a federal court ruling that disabled children have a right to a free and appropriate education.
He said no student should be bullied in school because of a disability and would appoint a Cabinet-led task force to address the problem.
Trump, currently under scrutiny for comments and allegations of behavior demeaning to women, has in the past been criticized for statements about people with disabilities.
He was widely criticized last November after a rally in South Carolina where he seemingly mocked a New York Times reporter who has a chronic condition called arthrogryposis which affects the movement of his arms. Trump called the flailing arm motion a coincidence, claiming he didn’t know who the reporter was and couldn’t have been aware of his physical condition.
More recent reports allege Trump repeatedly called deaf actress Marlee Matlin “retarded” when she appeared on his Celebrity Apprentice TV reality show in 2011.
Earlier this month Trump seemed to imply that military veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder are not strong because they “can’t handle” the “horror stories” they’ve seen in combat.
The Huffington Post reported last month that at least eight times over the last 19 years properties owned by Trump have been subject to lawsuits for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He has released a campaign ad showing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stumbling at a 9/11 anniversary ceremony after being diagnosed with pneumonia alleging she doesn’t have the “stamina” to be president.
Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which among other things bans preexisting conditions such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy or autism.
Others say Trump’s Supreme Court appointments would likely be bad news for people with disabilities.
In his REV UP questionnaire, Trump said if elected president he would eliminate discrimination in both the financing and provision of health care services by revamping Medicaid, a public health care option used by many Americans with disabilities.
“Inflexible, one-size-fits-all regulations in federal programs including Medicaid have harmed, not served, people with disabilities,” Trump said. “The bias toward institutional care built into regulations promulgated by the HHS waste money and fail to deliver the services needed. My administration will work to eliminate unneeded regulation and allow for greater flexibility in regulations to ensure programs including Medicaid better serve the needs of people with disabilities.”