Equality for People with Disabilities
Throughout this race for the presidency, I have centered my campaign on the most vulnerable people and the most marginalized communities.
People with disabilities are strong and resilient, but too often have been excluded from the rest of society and ignored by our politics.
I am determined to change that. We’ve been an accessible campaign, captioning our videos on social media, having accessible events and an inclusive website, and developing this plan by, for, and with Americans with disabilities. This campaign and our entire country still has a lot of room to improve, but I am committed to working hard every day as president because in America everyone counts.
When I'm President, we will fight for:
Equity of Opportunity
Education is the foundation of a person’s future, including for students with disabilities. This starts with fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to boost resources for local communities. The federal government needs to step up its support for students with disabilities, and in my People First Education Plan I proposed more than doubling our federal commitment to $120 billion over the next decade. We need to identify students with disabilities early on through Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) programs and invest $150 billion in modernizing school infrastructure so every campus is ADA-compliant. We will also invest in high-quality universal preK education for every 3-and-four-year old to enable every young learner to start with a strong foundation.
We know that great teachers make all the difference in the lives of students, particularly those with disabilities, and I’m proposing that we raise teacher pay to retain top educators and expand residency programs to keep more special education teachers in the classroom. We will also break the school-to-prison pipeline with juvenile justice reforms in my First Chance plan and pass the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act to protect students with disabilities from abusive disciplinary practices. As president, I am committed to ensuring that every student has a nurturing environment and the skills to succeed in a 21st century economy.
Beyond raising the minimum wage to at least $15 dollars and connecting future increases to the cost of living, we will eliminate the subminimum wage repealing Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act, an unjust loophole that allows workers with disabilities to be paid mere pennies every hour. Building on President Obama’s leadership, the federal government will also recommit to being a model inclusive workplace by hiring more people with disabilities to reflect the diversity of America, enforcing Section 501 and 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and using the procurement process to support entrepreneurs with disabilities. I was also the first candidate with a plan to eliminate lead exposure with $51 billion investment and test all children’s blood levels, understanding the impact lead has on people’s abilities. Furthermore, youth with disabilities are more likely to experience abuse and neglect than those without disabilities, and I’m the only candidate with Foster Care plan to ensure foster families able to care for the needs of disabled youth and parents with disabilities are not separated from their children.
Full Community Inclusion
People with disabilities have the right to participate fully in American life and our policies must facilitate their full inclusion in our communities. That begins with their right to vote and their participation in our democracy. As president, I will tear down barriers that exclude people in the democratic process and expand the franchise with additional polling sites, vote-by-mail, more days of early voting, making Election Day a federal holiday, and by ensuring all voting machines and locations are fully accessible for Americans with disabilities.
Second, full community inclusion means that housing opportunities and transportation options are extended to everyone. My People First Housing Plan ensures individuals with disabilities have priority in accessing housing units designed for their needs, increases the supply of accessible housing by at least 450,000 units, and ends chronic homelessness by 2028 with $50 billion investment. I’ve also proposed doubling federal investment with $120 billion for mass transit with universal design principles so that people can use physical infrastructure like sidewalks without incident and we also need to invest in our technological infrastructure to achieve universal for high-speed broadband coverage. People with disabilities are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, and as president, I will require state and local governments to have a disability-inclusive evacuation plans and will hire more Disability Integration Specialists at FEMA. As the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, I understand that we need to connect the dots between different issues so that every resident can fully participate in their community and our entire nation has more inclusive prosperity.
Third, we need to reform our immigration and criminal justice systems to become a more fair and just nation. My People First Immigration Plan became the blueprint for the entire Democratic field and is based on compassion and common sense. I completely reject the Trump Administration’s approach of cruelty and will repeal the public charge rule, prohibit deportation of immigrants with medical relief and humanitarian visas, and entirely reform the immigration system with sensible solutions. I also was the first candidate with a plan to reform policing with a national use of force standard to prevent brutality. Research suggests up to half of people killed by police may have had a disability. My First Chance Plan for criminal justice reform also makes courts fully accessible, ends violence against people incarcerated and disabled, and increases Department of Justice enforcement of discrimination against people with disabilities.
Dignity for People with Disabilities
Health care is a human right. As president, we will make Medicare available to everyone, achieving universal coverage at the lowest cost and ensuring people with disabilities have the right to live independently with dignity. That’s why we will reject institutionalization and oppose Medicaid work requirements, and instead promote home-based community care, and end the distinction between physical and mental health care. I will defend the Olmstead v. L.C. decision, pass the Disability Integration Act to expand long-term support services, and improve reimbursement rates in underserved communities. We will also pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act to ensure all workers are protected from abuse and treated with dignity.
As president, America will lead the world by striving to be the most inclusive nation on the planet for people with disabilities. We will ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and convene a global summit with heads of state to address the rights and protections of people with disabilities, the world’s largest minority group. The moral leadership of America is one of our greatest strengths and will not shy away from the advancement of human rights.
Millions of Americans with disabilities live in poverty and we have a responsibility to extend economic security to everyone in our society. When I’m president, we will reform and expand Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as part of a 21st Century Safety Net. We will end the SSDI “benefit cliff” that acts as a barrier for people with disabilities to earn an income, reduce unjust wait times, and eliminate asset limits that discourage saving. These benefits need to empower people with disabilities to seek out economic opportunities and enable them to become self-sufficient.
We also need to change the structures of work to help people succeed in a modern economy. Every worker also deserves at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, which will reduce gender pay inequality and disproportionately benefit workers with disabilities. I also support a national sick leave standard and predictable schedules to protect workers. One in three families has a member with disabilities and need time and additional support to care for their loved ones. In my Economic Plan for Working Plans, I proposed increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to ensure hard work pays more, included a $3,000 Child Tax Credit (CTC) to help with the rising cost of raising a family, and create a universal child care program capped at 7 percent of household income. Combined, these new policies and investments will help reduce poverty by more than half in the next decade, disproportionately improving the lives of Americans with disabilities and their families.
A Bold Call for Civic Action
We must not only improve our policy, but also change our culture. There are no second-class citizens in the United States. In America, everyone counts. We need to renew our sense of empathy in this country, and always remember the common humanity that unites us. Standing up and fighting for the disability community is not a partisan or a political issue; it’s an issue of right and wrong, of going backwards or moving forward. When President H.W. Bush signed the ADA, he said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” And after three decades of progress for people with disabilities, there are still barriers to inclusion that hold us back from our full potential. The next president has the opportunity to fight for the rights of people with disabilities and that’s exactly what I will do.
Equity of Opportunity
1. Invest in Public Education
Education is the foundation of a person’s future. That’s why in my People First Education Plan, I proposed a $120 billion investment in public schools, including fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for accessible, affirming, and inclusive environments for all students. My plan will raise teacher pay to retain special education teachers, expand residency programs for specialized training, strengthen Title IX protections for students with disabilities and the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, and support apprenticeship programs, including for students with disabilities, to work directly after graduation. We will also create more pathways for students with disabilities to complete higher education with advising programs and tuition-free public universities, community colleges, and job training. Our public education system must make sure all students can succeed, including those with disabilities.
2. Support Meaningful Employment
People with disabilities, who disproportionately live in poverty, face significant barriers to employment. Many do not benefit from many basic workplace protections such as the minimum wage. As president, I will update our nation’s labor laws and federal contracting practices to be fully inclusive of people with disabilities.
Full Community Inclusion
1. Inclusive Community Planning
Our communities are not designed for people with disabilities. I have called for more inclusive community planning practices as a part of my People First Housing and People and Planet First Climate plans. Skyrocketing rents, gentrification, and natural disasters are forcing people farther away from their friends, families, jobs, and communities. These trends particularly hurt those with disabilities, who already face impediments to mobility. Over the course of this campaign, I have called for doubling federal investment into public transit, improving community resilience in the face of natural disasters, and investing in affordable, equitable housing. We can both improve inclusion and combat climate change at the same time. Efforts at environmental sustainability cannot come at the expense of people with disabilities, and investments in community infrastructure and resiliency are opportunities to improve accessibility as well. I am committed to cultivating strong and inclusive environmental policy that centers marginalized communities, including the disability community
2. Reform Our Broken Immigration System
Our nation’s immigration system is a reflection of our values and an affirmation of what kind of society we want to be. The discrimination faced by people with disabilities in our immigration system and at our border must end. During my campaign, I have been proud to lead on the issue of immigration and standing up for asylum seekers with disabilities and immigrants in our nation. I reject the idea that folks with disabilities should be excluded from the American dream. My People First vision for immigration reform is fully inclusive of people with disabilities.
4. Criminal and Civil Justice Reform
The justice system of the United States fails people with disabilities, both in not meeting the existing legal mandate and moral imperative to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and abuse and in also in subjecting people with disabilities to violence at the hands of law enforcement and our mass incarceration system. As President I will make our justice system fully inclusive and protect people with disabilities.
5. Advance Democratic Participation
Our nation must ensure that disabled people are afforded every protection of law and the rights of citizens afforded to their fellow Americans. There can be no second-class citizens in the United States, and as president, I will ensure the needs of Americans with disabilities are reflected in every aspect of our democracy. Over 60 to 80 percent of polling places in the United States remain inaccessible under ADA standards and the time commitment of voting is particularly difficult for individuals with disabilities who may need to make accommodations with their employer to exercise their right to vote.
In August, the Democratic National Committee decided not to proceed with plans to hold a virtual caucus in Iowa. The virtual caucuses were an opportunity to include more people in our democratic process: new voters, those who have irregular work schedules, and people with disabilities who cannot participate in the typical caucus process. I was disappointed in the DNC’s decision and made my opposition to their decision clear.
We need more, not fewer, ways to include Americans who have disabilities in our democratic process. That is why I support funding for more accessible polling locations and transparency in accessibility for polling locations, accessible voting systems, expanding voting by mail, automatic registration including at disability services agencies, expanded early voting, and Election Day as a federal holiday. I have also called for bridging the school modernization gap to ensure our schools, places where many Americans cast their ballots during elections, are ADA-accessible, including through the Rebuild America’s Schools Act.
For more information, see my plan on Democracy and Voting Rights, October 2019.
6. Hold airlines accountable for equipment loss, or damage.
People with disabilities have the right to be able to travel around the country without the constant fear that they will land and the equipment they depend on for their lives will meet them in the same condition as when they departed. I will support the Air Carriers Access Amendments Act which will strengthen enforcement, include a private right to action, and increase accessibility and safety for all passengers.
Dignity for People with Disabilities
1. Universal Health Care
The United States remains one of the few high-income countries without truly universal health care coverage. Over 27 million Americans remain without health insurance and millions more are underinsured, overburdened by the costs of health care. At the same time, state governments have placed onerous ‘work requirements’ under Medicaid programs that have forced tens of thousands of people off these programs, disproportionately affecting those with disabilities. My vision for a healthier United States is to build a system based off Medicare while preserving Americans the flexibility to pursue private insurance through an employer, union, or large-unit negotiation.
2. Champion Human Rights Abroad.
People with disabilities around the world face many of the same challenges and hardships as people with disabilities face in the United States, often with far less resources and in more dangerous political and social contexts. As president, I will seek to advance the human rights of persons with disabilities around the world, directing USAID and the State Department to place a greater emphasis on improving the lives of people with disabilities around the world, including by establishing an Office of International Disability Rights at the State Department. I will also work with the Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and convene a global summit with heads of state to address the rights and protections of people with disabilities as part of global development and public health goals.
1. Economic Security for All
Across our nation, millions of disabled people rely on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to survive. Yet these benefits are often so limited, conditional, or difficult to receive. As president, I will ensure these benefits are able to meet their mandate of supporting people with disabilities living dignified lives, with the ability to pursue additional sources of income and marry who they love.
2. Empower Families.
People with disabilities, like everyone else, must be free to start families and provide them with lives of dignity, in addition to possessing the certainty that their families will be able to help care for them in turn. I will prioritize the creation of a new 21st century safety net for working families that is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and their families.