5 More Disability Questions Midterm Election Candidates Should Answer

There’s still time for voters with disabilities to ask candidates what their most pressing disability concerns are. But time is running out and it can be hard to know exactly what to ask for.

It’s nearing the heart of midterm election season. The first instinct of many voters and activists with disabilities at times like this is to turn to the congressional races and focus their attention on the major threats, opportunities and issues facing people with disabilities nationwide. But it is also important to challenge people running for national and local elections. An article published here in June suggested five disability issues particularly relevant to national and local election candidates, including:

  • pedestrian access and security
  • accessibility in local businesses
  • home care and other community services
  • end the sub-minimum wage
  • accessibility to vote

Of course, that’s not all. Here are five After Questions voters with disabilities might want to ask state and local candidates seeking their votes:

1. How would you address how police practices affect people with disabilities?

Precise official data is hard to find and studies vary somewhat. But there’s fairly broad agreement that “between a third and a half of the total number of murders committed by the police” are people who have some sort of disability. The statistics are particularly high for black people with disabilities. In other words, having any kind of disability seems to make encounters with the police more risky for people with disabilities than for people without disabilities. put again another one contrary to what some people might naturally think, the police not appear to be extremely cautious, understanding, or gentle in their dealings with people with disabilities.

The solution most often proposed is better training for police officers. Disability awareness training typically attempts to teach officers to recognize certain behaviors as the product of a disability, rather than disobedience or threats. He is also interested in communication practices taking into account people who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, autistic, intellectually disabled or mentally ill. All this has a certain surface logic. Training like this can surely help prevent tragic misunderstandings. And maybe they do. But while disability awareness training for the police is probably necessaryit’s not sufficient.

It’s easy for applicants to endorse “more training” for the police. But voters with disabilities may want to push for something deeper that includes more fundamental changes in police use of coercion and force, and real challenges to the implicit biases of racism and ableism that primarily put the lives of disabled people at risk.

This is even more important now, with the entry into service of the new 988 mental health emergency line. Indeed, the first response to a reported mental health crisis is often the dispatch of police. And unfortunately, it can still set the wrong tone and aggravate the danger rather than prevent it. Applicants should at least have an understanding of this issue that goes beyond simplistic assumptions about police and people with disabilities, and beyond simplistic solutions.

2. Will you commit to making local government buildings and facilities fully accessible?

It’s not a new problem, but it’s still a problem in thousands of cities and towns across the United States. Accessibility in at least some government buildings has been required since long before the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prompted the government to improve building access as early as the late 1970s. And the Architectural Barriers Act first established mandatory accessibility standards for federal buildings in 1968.

Despite impressive progress over the decades, many if not most municipalities still have barriers to break down at city halls, municipal offices, civic centers, schools, libraries, and parks and recreation facilities. And while funding for these improvements can come from a variety of sources, they are almost always the direct responsibility of local elected officials.

Accessibility improvements need to be a higher priority, which means committing funds to them. It also requires vigilance, to ensure that day-to-day maintenance and infrastructure works include accessibility as a key objective, not an afterthought. On the positive side for politicians, accessibility to local public facilities is one of the few tangible improvements for people with disabilities that local authorities have the power to actually achieve. That’s the kind of promise they can actually keep.

3. What is your vision of public education for students with disabilities?

The ADA and older educational equity laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, require “free and appropriate public education” in “the most inclusive setting.”

Candidates for school boards in particular should be asked about their views on educating students with disabilities. Do they tend to support inclusion or advocate maintaining separate programs, classrooms, and facilities for students with disabilities? Do they support the financing of truly efficient housing? Or do they frequently question the value and necessity of helping students with disabilities individually – perhaps while approving generous funds for soccer teams and sports facilities?

Unfortunately, it can be quite easy for applicants to hide or disguise more regressive or skeptical attitudes about the value of investing in students with disabilities or the “relevance” of truly integrating them into school communities. Therefore it may be useful to ask less specific questions about the general philosophy of the candidates in terms of education and disability. Ask: “Are you going to support students with disabilities?” and almost all applicants will answer “Yes”. Asking applicants to explain their general philosophy of educating students with disabilities can yield much more interesting and informative responses.

4. How would you integrate accessibility into major local development projects?

City, town, county and regional governments carry out a lot of daily maintenance and service work. But they also usually engage in longer-term “economic development” planning. These large projects do more than renovate a street or a building. They aim to transform entire communities. This makes it a unique opportunity to include voters with disabilities and greater accessibility in all facets of a community’s future ambitions.

Accessibility and justice for people with disabilities must be essential aspects economic development plans From the beginning. And it must be about more than just compliance with disability rights laws. Economic development and infrastructure plans should strive to make communities truly usable, friendly and equitable for people with all types of disabilities. This means maximum access, freedom of movement, equal benefits and affordability. This includes buildings, streets and sidewalks, public transit services and facilities, as well as proximity to essential services and an area’s unique historical, recreational and cultural institutions.

None of this is “special attention” to a tiny minority. This becomes evident when we consider both “the disabled” and the aging population, which is experiencing high rates of disability and an increased need for thoughtful accessibility. Candidates who come forward with big visions for the future should be asked, and again, how exactly they would ensure that the future of their communities is accessible.

5. What measures would you support to protect people at high risk from Covid-19?

While state and local governments did a lot to help their citizens through the Covid-19 pandemic – and also received a lot of criticism for their efforts – they were also often the most anxious and fastest-moving sectors of government. at drop security measures. Overall, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses are at greater risk from Covid, and remain so today. Each individual faces their own risk and has their own opinion on what this means and what their governments should do about it. But voters with disabilities may still want to know if local officials are aware of their higher risk and what they would be willing to do to mitigate it.

What will aspiring city council members or county legislators do if Covid takes hold of a recurring but relatively minor issue, like seasonal flu? And what would they be prepared to do if, (and probably when), there were more dangerous variants and surges of Covid.

Voters with disabilities at high risk and with chronic conditions should not hesitate or feel too isolated to ask candidates if and when they would support voluntary mandates or recommendations – such as for masks or vaccines – to make communities safer. for high-risk residents, especially during power surges. And candidates who prioritize small freedoms or economic activity over the health of certain citizens should be required to explain themselves further, beyond the usual politically appealing slogans we all recognize around Covid.

Finally, candidates for local office should not only be able to answer questions about disability policy. They should also develop their own specific disability policy positions and proposals relevant to the offices they seek. Above all, candidates must be able to answer the central question that concerns voters with disabilities: “Why should voters with disabilities vote for you?” »

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