Equality For

People with

Disabilities

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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.

Economic Empowerment

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. 

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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.

  • Reimagine Pre-K through 12 Education. Our underserved public schools too often fail students with disabilities and the federal government has not lived up to its promise under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to support local communities with the resources they need. In my People First Education plan, I have called for fully funding the IDEA, ensuring the federal government funds 40 percent of special education costs, as promised, rather than the 15 percent today, and working with local communities to develop roadmaps to direct these new investments, including in inclusion of disabled students in general education classrooms, provision of communication resources such as accessible technology, and expanded access to early intervention and targeted assistance to support students who take alternative assessments under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • I have also called for universal pre-k and support programs to identify students with disabilities early through Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) programs to ensure they are provided the support they need to succeed. I will also bridge the school modernization gap with $150 billion in investments to rebuild school infrastructure, ensure schools are ADA-compliant, and integrate schools with professional opportunities in their local communities.
  • We will also invest in our educators through a teacher’s tax credit to raise incomes and teacher retention. I have called for a national teacher residency program to support educators with the training and certification they require and improve the recruitment of teachers from diverse backgrounds. These policies would particularly support special education teachers, who face higher certification standards and lower retention rates, contributing to a nationwide shortage.
  • I will also reform school discipline, improve juvenile justice, and break the school-to-prison pipeline, which disproportionately denies students with disabilities a full life. This includes ending the use of police officers as disciplinary agents, expanding access to counseling, ending the criminalization of youth, passing the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act, and implementing strong protections against the use of seclusion and physical and chemical restraint to protect students with disabilities from abusive disciplinary practices, including through the Keeping All Students Safe Act. I will also support the enforcement of the Equity in IDEA rule which requires the collection of data to ensure that students of color with disabilities are protected from over identification, segregation and discipline.

    For more information, see my Children First Education Plan, October 2019.
  • Encourage Students with Disabilities Prioritize Health in College. I will work with Congress to amend the Higher Education Act and ensure federal financial aid is not denied to students who need to take leaves of absence in postsecondary education to address disability related health issues.
  • Support Youth Transitioning to Adulthood. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes provisions for transition planning of students into adulthood through Individualized Education Programs, with input from teachers, community leaders, and others involved in the student’s education. The 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA raised the age at which transition planning would start from 14 to 16. I would reverse that change, requiring students to start at age 14 and allow them to plan their time in high school and better prepare for their future. I also support stronger measures to ensure the adults involved in a student’s life coordinate with each other in developing transition plans as the student moves through middle and high school.
  • Justice for Foster Families and Parents with Disabilities. As part of my Children First Plan for Foster Families, I am committed to ensuring children with disabilities and parents are fully supported by our child welfare system. As president, I will implement new federal policies to recruit, train, and support foster families able to care for the needs of youth with disabilities in foster care, implement protections to prevent parents with disabilities from losing custody or adoption rights as a result of their disability, and support programs to allow personal care attendants and direct care workers under existing programs to support children in a family they work with.

    For more information, see my Children First Plan for Foster Families, October 2019.
  • Support Families with Children who have Elevated Blood Lead Levels. Communities around the country, from small towns to large cities, continue to suffer from the effects of lead poisoning from paint, soil, and old pipes. Early childhood lead poisoning can contribute to long-term learning disabilities. I have proposed a $50 billion investment to remediate end lead poisoning as a major public health threat, including by directly removing lead and funding support services including such as counseling and tutoring.

    For more information, see my People First Plan to Eliminate Lead Exposure, June 2019.

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.

  • Advocate the Employment of People with Disabilities. In order to facilitate economic opportunity for people with disabilities, as president I will recommit to the Obama administration’s goal of making the federal government a model inclusive employer and increase government subcontracting with disability-owned businesses, including by enforcing Sections 501 and 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Additionally, I will work with Congress to fully fund the Vocational Rehabilitation system, which provides funding to states to assist people with disabilities in helping them prepare for and obtain competitive, integrated employment and end months-long waiting lists for jobseekers with disabilities.
  • End the Subminimum Wage for Workers with Disabilities. Under current federal law, workers with disabilities can be exempted from the federal minimum wage. In the Fight for $15, I will not leave behind those with disabilities. I will repeal section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows for the subminimum wage and pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act to eliminate the subminimum wage and establish programs to support workers, their families, and employers during the transition to Competitive Integrated Employment. I would also pass the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act to double the Disabled Access Credit, increase deductions, and support small businesses in complying with the ADA.

    For more information, see my Working Families First Plan, August 2019.

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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

  • Double Federal Investment into Public Transit. Millions of Americans with disabilities rely on public transit, from buses to rail, to navigate their communities, participate in civic life, and protect their independence. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) made significant strides in strengthening accessibility in public transit across the country. As we plan our communities in the face of climate change, I will build on these protections, including by doubling federal investment into public transit, as I described in my People & Planet First climate policy, investing in paratransit services in areas where public transit does not serve the needs of individuals with disabilities, and ensuring federal funding proactively meets accessibility standards and universal design principles for riders with disabilities. The roads, streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike belts, and parks of our communities, regardless of size, must be fully accessible to and safe for everyone.

    For more information, see my People & Planet First Plan, August 2019.
  • Incentivize Zoning Reform. I have also called for inclusive zoning reform, creating incentives through federal funding towards not just affordable housing development but also equitable and accessible transit-oriented community planning in my People First Housing plan.

    For more information, see my People First Housing Plan, June 2019.
  • Ensure ‘Ride Sharing’ Platforms are Accessible. The arrival of ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft have disrupted the traditional transportation industry, often leaving people with disabilities behind. As president, I will require strict enforcement of non-discrimination laws in the technology industry and develop a roadmap for ride sharing fleets and autonomous vehicles to be fully accessible. I will work with members of the disability community, advocates, local communities, companies, and federal regulators, to include partnerships with local governments to co-own vehicles, and train drivers and develop technologies equipped to support the needs of passengers with disabilities, such as locking down wheelchairs safely and interfaces for people who are blind or low-vision.
  • Build Accessible, Equitable, and Affordable Housing. People with disabilities face challenges finding and securing affordable, accessible housing. As part of my People First Housing Plan, I will ensure that every disabled person in our nation has access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing. I will support the Office of Fair Housing and Opportunity in enforcing disability protections in housing, ensuring individuals with disabilities have priority in accessing housing units designed for their needs. I am committed to the construction of at least 3-million affordable housing units for individuals, reserving accessible units for people with disabilities, including through HUD’s Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program. Additionally I will incentivize private developers to build housing with universal design principles.
  • Advance Fair Housing for People with Disabilities. I will also reissue the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule that I implemented as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, since repealed under the Trump administration. This landmark rule created a framework for state and local governments to implement non-discrimination standards, including against people with disabilities. I will also oppose efforts by Public Housing Authorities to deny tenants the ability to have service animals or pets. People with disabilities and mental illness face disproportionately greater rates of eviction despite protections under law. My People First Housing Plan also establishes a right to counsel for those facing eviction. My platform is designed to end youth homelessness by 2024 and chronic homelessness, both of which disproportionately affect people with disabilities, in the United States by 2028.

    For more information, see my People First Housing Plan, June 2019.
  • Expand Internet Access. For people with disabilities, as with many others, the arrival of the internet has led to unprecedented opportunities for employment, self-expression, and discovery previously closed off. Ensuring high-speed broadband coverage across the United States will continue to allow people with disabilities to access new opportunities. As president, I will direct the Department of Justice to issue guidelines for ADA accessibility for the internet, ensuring people with disabilities are able to access the digital world. Furthermore, I will require all government agencies and public institutions have easily accessible digital pages, make forms and applications easier to complete remotely and through mobile technology, and defend net neutrality, including through Title II protections, to support internet access, competition, and consumer rights.
  • Combat Climate Change. As the world braces for climate change and the resultant increase in natural disasters, the United States must ensure that climate-proofing efforts at sustainability and disaster preparedness are inclusive of the needs of those with disabilities. As we witness after each disaster, whether it is Hurricanes Maria in Puerto Rico or Harvey in Houston, the elderly and those with disabilities who are unable to move out of harm’s way are too often left behind. The most important step we can take is immediate action to combat climate change, but we must also invest in community resilience and disaster preparedness to prevent these tragedies. That includes updating out-of-date flood maps, reinstituting the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, protecting against electrical grid disruption from forest fires and natural disasters that leave millions stranded without power, investing in pre-disaster mitigation grants, climate- and disaster-proofing our power grids to protect against blackouts, and helping communities rebuild.
  • Support Inclusive Disaster-Preparedness. I will restore the number of Disability Integration Specialists at FEMA to its previous levels, before cuts from the Trump administration, and enure States that receive FEMA assistance have disability-inclusive evacuation plans. I will support the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion in Disasters Act which will allow disability-led organizations on the ground like Centers for Independent Living, to access FEMA funds to support the needs of disabled and aging constituents. I also support the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act that ensures that individuals with disabilities forced to evacuate are able to retain the services they received in their home state under Medicaid.

    For more information, see my People & Planet First Plan, August 2019.

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.

  • Repeal the Public Charge Rule. As president, I will repeal the Trump administration’s vindictive public charge rule that forces individuals with disabilities who rely on public services who are in immigrant families, including U.S. citizen children, to choose between necessary health care, affordable housing, or food on their plates and the right to live in the United States.
  • Uphold a Just Asylum System. Asylum seekers with disabilities are among the most vulnerable groups of people who seek refuge in the United States. The Trump administration’s draconian asylum policies, including the ban on asylees who pass through Mexico and his ‘Metering’ and ‘Remain in Mexico’ policies that leave vulnerable asylum seekers, including those with disabilities, in danger. In October, I visited Matamoros, Mexico, where I met a number of asylum seekers with disabilities fleeing violence in Central America. While Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is written to exempt asylum seekers with disabilities and others from vulnerable communities, the people I met were required to remain in Mexico, a place where they had little support and an uncertain future. I have seen first-hand the effect of these policies on the vulnerable and I am committed to reversing them. As president, I would immediately end the “Remain in Mexico” and “Metering” policies of the Trump administration, ensuring all asylum seekers are able to present their claims to U.S. officials and ensure no asylum seekers are left stranded in dangerous conditions.
  • Defend Medical Relief and Humanitarian Visas. As president, I will prohibit the deportation of individuals with a medical relief claim and expand the availability of humanitarian visas for people with disabilities and medical needs, counter to the Trump administration’s efforts to fast-track deportations of individuals with severe medical conditions. I also oppose immigration raids at sensitive locations such as hospitals. Furthermore, I will ensure that disabilities will not be used as a reason to deny anyone a visa or path to citizenship as part of my vision for broader immigration reform.

    For more information, see my People First Immigration Plan, April 2019.

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.

  • Root Out Discrimination. Discrimination against disabled people is unacceptable. As president, I will strengthen enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), fully fund the Legal Services Corporation to support local legal aid programs, restore the Office of Access to Justice at the Department of Justice that was established by President Obama and dissolved by President Trump, empower and expand the Disability Rights Section at the Department of Justice, and create an accessible federal system for people to report non-ADA compliant businesses, facilities, and infrastructure.
  • Combat Sexual and Domestic Violence Against People with Disabilities. People with disabilities are significantly more likely to face sexual assault and domestic violence, yet funding for programs that assist victims of sexual and domestic violence has stagnated over the last few years. As president, I will increase funding for programs that assist victims with disabilities of sexual and domestic violence through defending and renewing the Violence against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention Service Act.
  • End Police Violence. Encounters between Americans with disabilities and the police too often end in tragedy, often a result of heavy-handed policies, inadequate training, and lack of empathy and understanding of those with disabilities. In fact, up to half of people killed by police may have had a disability. My People First Policing Plan will institute a national use of force standard, expand training for officers to recognize mental illnesses and disabilities, and end qualified immunity for police officers. It would also increase the use of alternatives to police officers in responding to 911 calls, including social workers, counselors, and others. Lastly, I will direct the Bureau of Justice Statistics to collect and publicize data on the intersection of race and disability among those who have experienced police use of force and support amending the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013 to include reporting on not just deaths of individuals in detention or police custody but also any disability acquired under those conditions.

    For more information, see my People First Policing Plan, June 2019.
  • Stop Surveillance and Protect Privacy. People with disabilities, especially those with mental health disabilities, are too often stigmatized and viewed as being particularly prone to violence. We must de-link the important conversation around gun violence prevention with fear-mongering around mental health. People with disabilities are not more likely to commit violence; indeed, they are more likely to experience it. As president, I will oppose efforts to increase surveillance on people with disabilities or create registries of people with mental health disabilities and support home-based community care over institutionalization.
  • Make Courts Accessible. Every person in our nation is entitled to a fair trial. As president, I will require courts to provide appropriate accommodations for people with disabilities, as defendants, witnesses, jurors, and family members. This must include those who have difficulties in communication due to being deaf, hard of hearing, or blind, especially for individuals who do not speak English or American Sign Language, have intellectual and developmental disabilities, require mental health treatment, or do not have access to counsel who can support their needs. In addition, I support expanding a right to counsel in civil cases, such as eviction, child welfare, and in cases where vital human interests are at stake, as some states have done with strong results.
  • Invest in Witnesses Training Programs. People with disabilities, in particular intellectual and developmental disabilities, are frequently deemed to be unreliable witnesses in trials. Individuals with disabilities who have experienced crimes have been revictimized by a court system that did not understand their expression of their experiences. As president, I will support training for prosecutors, judges, and public defenders to work in an understanding, effective, and compassionate way with people with disabilities who are witnesses or victims of crimes.
  • End Violence Against People Incarcerated with Disabilities. People in state and federal prisons are three times more likely to report having at least one disability and the use of violent and excessive force against disabled prisoners or the denial of adequate medical care is widespread. I will direct the Department of Justice to adequately enforce all laws and regulations to protect the rights of disabled prisoners, require prisons to have designated staff empowered to protect the needs of prisoners with disabilities, require publicly available data collected on the condition of prisoners with disabilities, and pass legislation reducing the number of people with disabilities incarcerated in the first place, including by increasing access to criminal justice diversion programs, and providing community-based mental health services. I will also end solitary confinement as a means of punishment, which particularly harms those with disabilities and who require mental health treatment, eliminate barriers to re-entry including in education and training programs for the incarcerated, supporting a smooth transition of disability and health benefits, including continuity of care, during a person’s discharge and ending barriers to employment including by ‘banning the box’ to end discrimination on the basis of a criminal record.

    For more information, see my First Chance Plan, October 2019.

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.

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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.

  • Support Independent Living. I will also fight to ensure that health care does not deny those with disabilities the ability to live in the community, rejecting institutionalization and instead relying on Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). As president, I will:
  • Defend the Olmstead v. L.C. decision and strengthen its commitment to full inclusion.
  • Expand support through Medicaid and Medicare programs for accessibility improvements to homes.
  • Pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act to raise standards for, protect, and expand the employment of domestic workers.
  • Implement the Obama administration Home and Community Based-Settings rule to ensure all people are able to make use of long-term support services through the Disability Integration Act.
  • Ending any asset test for coverage under my health care plan to ensure individuals with disabilities can work without sacrificing their care.
  • Renew and strengthen the Administration for Community Living, an entity within the Department of Health and Human Services established by the Obama administration and neglected by the Trump administration, to implement policy with the input of those with lived experience in the disability community.
  • Defend, renew, and strengthen the Money Follows the Person program, a program that has enabled almost 100,000 people to transition out of institutions and improve their quality of life through the bipartisan EMPOWER Care Act.
  • Ensure Health Care is Never Denied to Anyone. My approach to health care would ensure all Americans are covered, without waiting periods, asset tests, or the punitive ‘work requirements’ as under the Medicaid programs of many states today. These restrictions disproportionately affect people with disabilities who are left without health care, with tens of thousands of people dying during these periods where they have no coverage.
  • End the Stigma of Mental Health Care. I will end the distinction between mental and physical health care. This is particularly important for the millions of Americans living with mental health disabilities. As a part of my health care plan, I will ensure that Medicare and any private insurance plan has full coverage of mental health care, including by passing the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act, allowing mental health professionals to practice independently under Medicare, investing in trauma-informed care and in mental health care providers, and in community-based mental health care. Additionally, I will prioritize the crisis in maternal mental health, including universal screening and treatment for maternal mental health conditions.
  • Invest in Health Access in Rural, Low-Income, and Underserved Communities. Each year, thousands of Americans in communities across the country lose access to health care because of closing or consolidating hospitals and clinics, living further and further away from the care they need. Individuals with disabilities, who face significant impediments to mobility, are particularly affected by these closures. As President, I will implement universal coverage, improve reimbursement rates in underserved communities, and expand high-speed internet access for services such as telemedicine. I will also raise the cap for residency programs funded through Medicare and reform our immigration system to ensure we have doctors who can serve these communities with the training needed to address the needs of patients with disabilities.

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. 

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Economic Empowerment

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.

  • Expand SSDI and SSI Benefits. About 9 million disabled workers—including more than 1 million veterans, receive Social Security Disability Insurance; for more than 80 percent of these beneficiaries, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are their main source of income. Unfortunately these benefits are often insufficient and barely over the poverty line. I will boost SSDI benefits and will also increase SSI benefits. As President, I will require the SSI federal benefit rate to be at least 100% of the federal poverty line and index these benefits to the cost of living.
  • Eliminate the SSDI “benefit cliff”. Currently, once SSDI recipients earn a certain amount of income their benefits stop. This “benefit cliff” de-incentivizes SSDI recipients from returning to work or seeking independent sources of income. As president, I will replace this benefit cliff with a gradual benefit offset, with $1 of benefits being offset from SSDI for every $2 of earnings over the earnings disregard threshold. This threshold will be set no lower than the Substantial Gainful Activity threshold of $1260 a month, indexed to inflation. Lastly, earnings will never cause an SSDI beneficiary’s eligibility to be terminated. Instead, benefit eligibility will be suspended in any month that a beneficiary’s earnings rise to the level that no benefit is payable. For as long as an individual remains has a disability, according to the Title II definition, they will remain eligible for SSDI benefits and will be immediately able to receive them should their earnings decrease.
  • End Unjust Wait Times. Applicants for SSDI and SSI commonly wait several months or even years for a hearing. Thousands die each year, waiting for benefits. As president, I will give the Social Security Administration sufficient administrative resources to address this application backlog, including the ability to hire more administrative law judges, by eliminating the requirement that the Social Security administrative budget be included in the caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. I will also make the disability-benefit application process fairer and less adversarial to applicants, as well as ensure that beneficiaries are not penalized for overpayments resulting from SSA errors or administrative backlogs. Additionally, I will eliminate the 2-year Medicaid waiting period for SSDI recipients. SSDI recipients, by definition, are unable to work and can therefore not access employer-based insurance. Yet every year, thousands of people die waiting for health insurance through Medicaid. As president, I will work to ensure that individuals receiving SSDI are automatically enrolled in Medicare, as any American who lacks health insurance would be under my health care plan.
  • Eliminate Asset Limits on SSI. Asset limitations on public benefits such as SSI discourage saving and lock some of the most vulnerable Americans into poverty. The current asset limit of $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples have not been updated since the 1980s. As president, I will eliminate these asset limits entirely to allow for economic mobility and end this barrier to marriage. Additionally, I will raise the monthly SSI general income disregard from $20 to at least $125 and earned income disregard from $65 to at least $400, updating these standards for the first time since the 1970s, and index the new standards to inflation, in order to allow for people with disabilities to obtain other sources of income which will not count against their benefits.
  • End Marriage Penalty. Currently, SSI benefits penalize people with disabilities who are otherwise entitled to benefits but who seek to marry and/or live with family, friends, or other loved ones. As president, I will update the deeming rule and eliminate the In-kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) provision which cuts benefits for people in shared living situations such as living with family or renting, end the marriage penalty in SSI to extend marriage equality to people with disabilities, and work to remove barriers denying immigrants and refugees access to this vital safety net program.

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.

  • Expand and Reform the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit is the most effective anti-poverty program in America. The program today primarily covers families with children - I will expand it to include families with qualifying dependents, including the elderly and adults with disabilities. This single reform would support millions of families who take care of children, siblings, and others with disabilities and significantly reduce poverty in families with members who have disabilities. I would additionally ensure that unpaid caregivers are able to earn credit for Social Security benefits at an adjusted rate to support their long-term retirement and economic security.
  • Guarantee Paid Family and Medical Leave, a National Sick Leave Standard, and Predictable Schedules. Each year, millions of parents, guardians, and caretakers support their family members who have disabilities and millions of parents and guardians with disabilities lead their families. These families face disproportionate challenges to their stability and economic security. I would institute up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for families, expanding job protections and covering the full diversity of American families to include multi-generational families, siblings, and LGBTQ families, establish a national sick leave standard through the Healthy Families Act, and pass the Schedules that Work Act to protect workers from unreasonable and last-minute scheduling changes.
  • Support Raising Children with Disabilities. Millions of families in our country struggle with the costs associated with raising children, which can be particularly high for families with children who have disabilities, and finding appropriate child care, especially for children with disabilities that need supportive staff and accessible facilities. The relative child poverty in America is higher than Mexico, Russia, and Lithuania, and almost double that of countries like Canada, France, and Poland. My Working Families First plan would aim to cut that by two-thirds, including by ensuring each family would receive a $3,000 child allowance for each child, establishing universal child care, and implementing universal pre-K education.

    For more information, see my Working Families First Plan, August 2019.