The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recent publication, “High Risk Series” (2015), clearly points out the vast problems of administration and effectiveness of federal disability programs. These very same problems have been cited in previous reports spanning over twenty years. To address these issues, reform must begin within the Executive Branch. A recent report by the Romano Group, LCC proposed establishing a National Office of Disability Coordination (NODC) in the Executive Office of The President of the United States. This office would be responsible for developing coordinated federal disability policies and advise the President on necessary changes in the organization, management, budgeting, and personnel allocation of the federal agencies involved in all aspects of disability.
Will you commit to creating a National Office of Disability Coordination to be headed by a cabinet level executive?
What are you doing to make sure qualified people with disabilities will be a part of your political team and, if elected, as part of your administration?
Jill Stein and the Green Party would support the creation of a National Office of Disability Coordination with a cabinet level executive. It is the goal of the Green Party not only to catch up with the efforts of other developed countries in terms of their accessibility and full participation of people with disabilities, but to lead the world in terms of civic and societal participation and independence. The Green Party recognizes that the United States has not done enough to realize these goals. A federally coordinated effort is necessary in order to adopt best global practices and to lead in the development of increased accessibility, employment and independence. We support all efforts to make all government agencies, publications, and participation activities to be fully accessible to people of all disabilities.
We are committed to ensuring that qualified people with disabilities are included in a Green administration. Currently, our small campaign team includes a Fundraising Production Manager who is disabled, and also works as National Fundraising Director for the Green Party of the United States. In addition to creating a National Office of Disability Coordination with a cabinet level executive, our administration will lead the way in terms of hiring qualified people with disabilities.
2. REDUCING UNEMPLOYMENT AND ENSURING EMPLOYMENT OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN THE FEDERAL WORKFORCE
People with disabilities experience one of the highest rates of unemployment of any minority group. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was at 12.1%, which is nearly three times higher than the 4.8% unemployment rate of people without disabilities. The next administration must make employment for people with disabilities a top priority.
A. REHABILITATION ACT
Although legislation such as the Rehabilitation Act has served to advance and expand the opportunities of people with disabilities in the workforce, there are still many barriers that must be considered and overcome to increase employment for people with disabilities to comparable levels for people without disabilities.
What will you do to strengthen Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act and ensure the Federal government is a model employer of people with disabilities?
How will you ensure the provisions under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act will be fully enforced by the Department of Labor and that Federal contractors will meet their affirmative action obligations under the law?
The federal government needs to do a much better job hiring and promoting people with disabilities. The 12% unemployment rate for people with disabilities may be an understatement. For some groups such as those with sensory disabilities, the unemployment rate is reported to be as high as 80%. The Green Party is committed to providing jobs to more people with disabilities. No citizen should be denied their full employment potential because accommodations have not been made. The Rehabilitation Act has helped, but it is drastically underfunded and too many clients of rehabilitation programs are not getting the support they need under the program.
In order to increase the participation level of people with disabilities in the federal government, we must track and publish not only the rate of disability hiring, but also the comparative statistics for different levels of disabilities. Managers must have an environment that encourages the hiring and promotion of people with disabilities and be recognized for accomplishing these goals.
The Green Party does not see compliance as the goal of hiring people with disabilities. We see this as a minimum threshold. The goal of our society should be to be a global leader in accommodating and hiring people with disabilities. We should be setting the bar as to what is possible and what other nations can aspire to.
B. FAIR WAGES
Many people with disabilities are underemployed. Despite similar education, people with disabilities who are working earn less on average than workers without disabilities. The median earnings for workers with disabilities is less than two thirds the median wages for workers without disabilities (Disability Statistics & Demographics Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, 2011). Furthermore, the 1937 Section 14c provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act authorizes employers to pay sub-minimum wages to workers who have disabilities.
Do you plan to phase out the 1937 Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act?
How will you expand supported employment services to people with disabilities?
How do you plan to build an infrastructure to address the underemployment and wage gaps experienced by people with disabilities?
We support the repeal of Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act. No one in the United States should be exempted from minimum wage laws. Companies like Pizza Hut and Goodwill Industries that have benefitted from this provision have done so at the expense of the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. The argument that this provision puts more people with disabilities to work is fallacious at best. The practice is indefensible.
We advocate for a federal program to promote the capabilities of people with disabilities and the unique perspectives this community can bring to the workplace.
We must also be dedicated to removing any and all obstacles that are unnecessary to the hiring and training of people with disabilities. For example, many government jobs require a valid driver’s license even when there is no functional need for this requirement. This requirement must be adhered to by hiring organizations even when it results in discrimination against a person with a disability who could otherwise perform the job but who is precluded from having a driver’s license as a result of their disability.
To ensure that progress is made on wages and employment rates, we must monitor wages and hiring. The Department of Justice currently follows up on relatively few complaints of discrimination in the workplace. The need for additional resources and monitoring of violations of the EOE and ADA are required to ensure compliance with these directives.
Opening doors for entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities is vital to addressing employment for people with disabilities. The next administration will need to create new opportunities for people with disabilities to start their own businesses and compete for government contracts.
How do you plan to ensure that people with disabilities can open and sustain small businesses?
How do you plan to include business-owners with disabilities in the competitions to obtain government contracts?
It is not enough to offer platitudes about funding people with disabilities. Programs that have encouraged entrepreneurship within the community of people with disabilities, such as the Randolph Sheppard Act, must be radically revised and reinvented to better suit the current business environment. For example, managing vending machines is not a 21st century business. Programs must be put in place that will encourage independent business start-ups in technology, in hospitality services, in business services and in all aspects where people without disabilities are thriving and creating the businesses and enterprises of the future. Similar programs must be created and promoted for people with a wide range of disabilities. In addition, the government needs to make a concerted effort to seek out and foster contractors that are owned by and employ people with disabilities.
D. TRANSITION FOR YOUTH WITH DISABILITIES
Youth with disabilities often find themselves distanced from the opportunities to learn job skills through work in their formative years leading to unemployment and underemployment throughout their lives.
How do you plan to engage youth with disabilities in pre-employment opportunities that will lead to successful transitions from school to work and/or higher education?
How would you reform the public workforce system to ensure people with disabilities, especially youth with disabilities, are fully integrated into the economic development of regional economies?
The Green Party believes that children with disabilities must be afforded every possible opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge that children without disabilities are afforded. Pre-employment begins in school and children with disabilities need to be educated with the assistive technologies that are available while they are in school and the assistive technologies that will be needed in their future places of employment. Students with sensory disabilities need to be taught sign language, Braille, and the use of communication technology as a mandate, not as an elective process decided by local schools. Denying these skills, whether as a cost constraint or as an inconvenience to the local schools, effective denies literacy to the student with the disability. These students need to learn the tools that will enable them to effectively find, maintain and prosper in employment in the careers of their choosing.
We also would advocate for both internship and apprenticeship programs for students with disabilities, including such opportunities within the federal government and at the White House.
E. ENSURING APPROPRIATE FLEXIBILITY IN PUBLIC PROGRAMS TO SUPPORT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN THE WORKFORCE
Of the federal and state expenditures combined for working age people with disabilities, 41 percent is spent on income benefits (e.g., SSI and SSDI) and 55 percent on health care (Medicaid and Medicare). A paltry 1.2 percent of federal and state expenditures go to educating, training and employment programs for people with disabilities.
With 4.6 million people with disabilities on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and 8.9 million people on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), how would your administration reform these federal income support programs so people with disabilities can receive income supports without being required to preclude working so they can secure employment or return to employment sooner?
Medicaid eligibility and programmatic requirements now create barriers for individuals with disabilities seeking to enter or return to the workplace because they cannot access needed supports such as personal care attendants, power wheelchairs, complex rehab technology, other rehabilitation devices and services, home and community based services, medical supplies and therapies. Do you support initiatives that would allow workers with disabilities to continue to work past age 65, maintain eligibility from state to state, and carry their Medicaid benefits into private employment settings? How would you work with the private sector to address the critical independent living supports that many private insurance programs do not cover for people with disabilities?
It is more effective to spend a dollar training a person with a disability to be qualified for a job than it is to pay that same dollar out in SSI or SSDI benefits. The amount of money allocated to training and vocational rehabilitation does not need to be incrementally increased. It needs an exponential change with increases of 300 to 400 percent in magnitude. This is an investment and will ultimately save the SSI and SSDI programs several multipliers of this investment.
Finding and accepting work should never be an experience where the person with a disability is penalized or dis-incentivized for becoming productive. We propose a softer phase out of Social Security and Medicaid benefits that will enable the job seeker to maintain some of these benefits for longer periods of time. We also propose that expenses incurred as a direct result of the disability be credited from adjusted gross income. The costs of devices such as mobility aids, Braille displays, CCTVs, TTY devices and other assistive devices needed to be employable can be impediments to finding and maintaining work and are not elective expenses. These expenses should be directly creditable and not be subject to medical expense thresholds as tax deductions.
Medicaid should be a continued program for people with disabilities unless their employer provides private health insurance with comparable benefits and costs to the employee. If the employer does not offer such benefits, the person with a disability should be able to continue with Medicaid benefits. If a person with a disability elects to use an employer’s insurance, there should be no waiting period for returning to Medicaid if the person becomes unemployed, regardless of the reason for the change in employment status.
3. ADVANCING THE CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES TO BE INTEGRATED IN SOCIETY
The vast majority of Americans with disabilities and older Americans prefer home and community based services that allow them to live independently in their communities, however, states and insurance providers of Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) still restrict access to community-based services which results in unwanted institutionalization, depriving institutionalized individuals of their fundamental freedoms and cutting short their lives. This reliance on institutional placement is also far more expensive than services in the community.
If elected, will you support the Disability Integration Act (currently S.2427/HR.5689) – bipartisan civil rights legislation that establishes in statute the right of Americans with LTSS disabilities to receive services and supports in the community and be integrated in society – and sign this or similar civil rights legislation into law?
What other investments will you make in expanding long-term services and supports?
If elected, I will support the Disability Integration Act. The emphasis for vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities often ignores the need for long term independence for those no longer in the workplace and for those who may find it impossible to return. Homemakers, seniors and retirees still need independence, and as noted in the question, finding local support and assistance to develop independence is more cost effective and more dignified than institutional living solutions.
Access to affordable and reliable transportation allows people with disabilities important opportunities to go to school, work, take care of their health, live where they desire, and participate in all aspects of community life. Because our nation’s investments in transportation infrastructure have disproportionately favored cars and highways, those who cannot afford cars or do not operate cars often lack viable transportation options.
A. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Access to public transportation is a key to independence and full community participation for people with disabilities.
What would you do to expand access to affordable and accessible transportation for people with disabilities, especially in rural areas?
Public transportation is not only an important issue to the Green Party as it affects people with disabilities; this is also an important environmental issue. We want to promote the use and increased adoption of public transportation to have a positive impact on the planet.
As public transportation is a required mode of transport for many people with disabilities, we are in favor of federal policy and assistance in subsidizing buses and trains for those people who are precluded from driving their own vehicles due to their disability. It is also important to make sure that regional transport is available to people living in rural areas. All public transportation should meet minimum requirements in terms of accommodating mobility devices and should have audio information announcing stops. Mobile apps with transit information, routing capabilities and navigation instruction should also be made available free of charge to users of public transportation and should be fully accessible.
B. TRANSPORTATION NETWORKING COMPANIES
Transportation networking companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft have the potential to increase transportation options for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, TNCs have discriminated against people with disabilities by refusing rides to individuals with service animals and individuals using wheelchairs.
What would your Administration do to ensure all people with disabilities have access to the services provided by TNC’s?
There has been significant progress with companies like Uber and Lyft in 2016 in regards to the problems detailed in this question. We are encouraged by the responsiveness of these companies and their commitments to continuing their responsiveness to people with disabilities. The involvement of Uber in particular to sponsor and speak at conventions for people with disabilities shows a commitment to inclusion of the disabled community. However, if these improvements do not continue, additional regulation may be required if the industry does not fully integrate the needs of disabled passengers.
C. AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
As autonomous or self-driving vehicles move towards becoming a reality, they promise new mobility options and increased independence for people with disabilities who have missed out on the benefits of a century of automotive history.
What will your Administration do to ensure people with disabilities are not left at the side of the road but realize the maximum benefits possible as self-driving technology continues to develop and advance and regulations get promulgated?
We are very excited by the potential of autonomous vehicles. The benefits of this technology may include reducing the number of cars on the road, reducing the average size of vehicles, reductions in areas dedicated to parking, especially in urban areas, and large reductions in fatalities and injuries from traffic accidents. For the community of people unable to drive due to their disabilities, autonomous vehicles will provide a freedom unknown for several generations. We support and will continue the efforts of the NHTSA in being ahead of the regulatory curve and anticipating the broad adoption of this technology. We also support the increased awareness and adjustments of the auto insurance industry in recognizing the financial savings that will be realized by the reduction of accidents that result from operator error in vehicles and commercial transportation.
D. AIR TRAVEL
Air travel can be complicated for everyone, but people with disabilities encounter many additional barriers to air travel. From the time we enter the airport, we are faced with obstacles that not only result in frequent delays and missed flights, but they also put our dignity and safety at risk. People with disabilities frequently experience inaccessible facilities and equipment in airports, overly intrusive and discriminatory TSA security screenings, breakage of mobility and medical equipment, unsafe and harmful transport and transfers by airport staff, inaccessible aircraft facilities and amenities, and additional fees. Air travel can be extremely difficult for people with disabilities, including those who must travel for work, sometimes rendering it nearly impossible.
As President, what would you do to address this issue?
One of the problems most often encountered by people with disabilities at our airports are inadequately trained airport personnel. We would encourage airport contractors work with the various disability advocacy organizations for training in work to assist and enable all their customers. TSA should have disability awareness training integrated into their programs and leadership should be in regular contact with the various disability advocacy groups.
Accessible mainstream communication and information technologies, as well as assistive and adaptive technologies, often allow people with disabilities to secure and maintain employment, participate in educational activities, and experience entertainment like everyone else.
A. SECTION 508 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT
The U.S. Congress enacted section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973, a statute that requires the federal government to purchase information technology that is accessible to and usable by employees with disabilities in the federal government and by customers with disabilities accessing federal government services online. Despite this longstanding requirement, many federal websites and online government services remain inaccessible to users who are blind, people with low vision, people with intellectual disabilities and other disabilities.
Would you make it a priority to ensure federal agencies make their websites and all other information technology accessible? How will you implement this?
Implementing Section 508 compliance is a priority for the Green Party. Accessible websites are as important in 2016 as is access to physical locations. Without full accessibility, people with disabilities are being treated as second class citizens. Websites and government services that are not accessible create a de facto segregation for people with disabilities. The Obama justice department has kicked this can down the road for eight years and has not acted to ensure digital accessibility as a right for people with disabilities. Under a Jill Stein administration, this would become a priority initiative.
B. THE INTERNET OF THINGS
The Internet of Things, including smart homes and other connected devices, has the potential to increase the independence and community integration of people with disabilities. Connected devices are being developed and released for sale at breakneck speed with new devices coming to market every day often without any accessibility or usability requirements. Universal design and accessibility features must be included in these devices in order for the Internet of Things to realize the potential it has to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. Under Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities have access to modifications, accommodations, and auxiliary aides or services to participate in the activities and services of both local and state government and places of public accommodations, a protection that currently does not exist on the Internet of Things.
What will you do to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to the Internet of Things as provided to nondisabled individuals?
The procrastination and deferential attitude of the Justice Department under President Obama on this issue is both inexplicable and unfortunate. It is clear that the internet of things is important to fully participate in life in the 21st century. Universal design must become an imperative and companies that ignore the needs of people with disabilities must be held accountable for any products or services developed that are not accessible. It is encouraging that many companies have realized the benefit of connected devices that can be controlled with smartphones and through screen readable websites. Companies that develop products and services that are not accessible should not be approved for federal contracts or purchases. We would also discourage state and local government agencies, especially any that receive funding from the federal government, to not purchase from or contract with companies that are not Section 508 compliant. We also recognize that while some companies are working hard and dedicating financial and personnel resources to this effort, other companies are continuing to develop inaccessible products. These non-compliant companies should be immediately removed as vendors for the federal government and a list of inaccessible products must be easy to find on the GSA website.
Due to the enactment and implementation of a key civil rights law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, or the “special education” law), high school graduation rates for people with disabilities have increased 45 percent since 1995, with an associated decrease in dropout rates for students with disabilities. Similarly, enrollment in college has doubled for students with disabilities. Nevertheless, local school districts struggle to serve students with disabilities and students with disabilities seeking a higher education continue to face enormous barriers to success.
A. IDEA FUNDING
When IDEA was passed in 1975, Congress pledged to fund 40% of the differential cost of serving students with disabilities. The closest the federal government has come to meeting that pledge is 19% in 2010. Higher levels of funding will ensure more students with disabilities receive the supports they need in K-12, are able to complete high school, and have the opportunity to go on to postsecondary education and postsecondary employment.
Do you support funding IDEA at higher levels?
The IDEA program should be fully funded. The Green Party sees this as an opportunity for members of all political parties to promote what should be a program emulated by developed countries around the world.
B. CURRICULUM AND TRANSITION
In some localities, students with disabilities are not taught the challenging curriculum available to students without disabilities.
How would you ensure that students with disabilities have the same access to ambitious educational opportunities that other students have?
How would you increase the number of high school graduates with disabilities and what would you do to ensure more college graduates with disabilities secure employment and are hired by the private sector?
Schools must provide students with disabilities full access to tools and educational professionals that are capable of giving these students the opportunity to excel. Schools that are not able to afford these tools and staff should be subsidized so that no student is denied the opportunity of their other classmates. To promote high school graduation rates, we must remove technology barriers and provide the professional support required to reduce the hurdles encountered by students with disabilities.
C. ELIMINATING BULLYING AND THE USE OF RESTRAINTS AND SECLUSION
Bullying of students with disabilities is a long-standing problem. So is the use of restraints and seclusion, especially for students with disabilities.
Do you support amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to protect young students with disabilities from bullying and the use of restraints and seclusion, and to require state educational agencies and local school districts systems to report incidents of bullying and the use of restraints and seclusion, and to provide interventions to reduce bullying and the use of restrains and seclusion?
Yes, we do recommend amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to protect young students with disabilities. Bullying has become a pervasive problem. Additionally, the behavior of the candidates from both establishment political parties have not been ideal role models for the behaviors we would like to see in our elected leaders. We encourage increased intervention and leadership on this issue at a local level while recognizing that examples set at the highest level of government can influence behaviors throughout our state and local government systems as well.
D. EDUCATIONAL INCLUSION OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Students with disabilities frequently lack access to the general education classroom.
What steps will you take to expand access to the general education classroom and broader inclusion for students with disabilities?
Students with disabilities must be afforded the same level of opportunities as any other students. In order for this to occur, assistive technologies must be made available to students with disabilities along with appropriate classroom training in these assistive technologies. There is a legacy of separating students with disabilities from other students that is unwarranted and often counterproductive. Students with sensory disabilities can learn in integrated environments with training in use of assistive technologies. Students with cognitive disabilities may need appropriate assistance from professional educators who understand the unique needs of these students. Regardless of a student’s disability, a quality free education is a right.
Americans with disabilities face many obstacles and barriers to voting, including inaccessible polling places and voting equipment, difficulty getting to the polling place, and poorly informed election officials and poll workers about access issues.
What will you do to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to the fundamental right to vote?
Do you support providing funding to states so they can purchase new accessible voting systems to replace the first generation accessible voting systems that have outlived their useful life?
There is no question that voting is a right that must be promoted, facilitated and most importantly protected. The right to vote is central to our political system and any vote not cast as a result of inaccessible voting technology is unacceptable. I am in favor of replacing antiquated first generation technologies for voting. Our military has the latest technology. Our national security agencies have the latest technology. Our citizens with disabilities should have the most recent technologies available for the purposes of voting and poll workers should have training on how these systems work.
I will go one step further with this. In addition to federal elections using accessible voting, I believe that the political parties should also make sure that voting in primaries and at state caucuses, county and state conventions should also be accessible.
8. AFFORDABLE, INTEGRATED and ACCESSIBLE HOUSING
The lack of affordable, accessible housing has taken an egregious toll on the lives of people with disabilities who continue to be warehoused in nursing homes and other institutional settings.
As President, what will you do to address the need for affordable, integrated accessible housing for people with disabilities?
Integrated and group housing for low income people with disabilities has seen progress in the last decade but is still inadequate for the needs of our citizens. As President I would support policies and laws that expand these programs. However, there is an additional concern not discussed in much of our policy discourse on housing. While a well off person with disabilities can find services, and a low income person can find support programs, there is a lack of affordable housing and support for those caught in the middle. This is especially true for states that have not participated in the Medicaid buy-ins as a result of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act where people with disabilities have found themselves moved from independent living to institutions even while in prime working years. We need to create programs that incentivize building housing that meets the demand of people of all incomes. The market incentivizes luxury homes and condos and there are programs to support low income housing but the middle class is often left out of the supply being created.
9. HEALTH CARE
People with disabilities rely on both public (Medicaid) and private insurance options to obtain coverage to meet their health care needs. Access to affordable comprehensive health care coverage is essential for people with disabilities to live independently and maximize the quality of their lives. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities continue to lack access to the services and supports they need. In addition, despite existing legal protections, people with disabilities are subject to discrimination in both the financing and provision of health care services.
What will you do to address discrimination in the financing and provision of health care services to people with disabilities? Will you make enforcement of existing health care nondiscrimination protections for people with disabilities a priority?
How will you work to expand access to affordable, comprehensive health care coverage for people with disabilities?
How will you work to improve the Medicaid program, including ensuring access to home and community based services and the elimination of the bias toward institutional services in the Medicaid program?
Our current health care system is designed to allow well-connected for-profit industries to make money off sick people. It is no wonder that people with disabilities fall through the cracks - because if they can’t make a profit off you, they don’t want to provide you with services. I am a strong advocate of a single-payer system in which every person in America would be given a health care card entitling them to all essential health care. Nearly all of the other developed nations in the world have such a system and it provides health care to all at much less cost than the US system. Once we transition to this “Medicare for All” system we won’t be worrying about discrimination. Everyone will be covered whether they be people with disabilities, veterans, or the poor.
 “Disability, Voter Turnout, and Voting Difficulties in the 2012 Elections,” report to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Research Alliance for Accessible Voting, by Lisa Schur, Meera Adya, and Douglas Kruse, June 2013.
 “Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21 June 2016. Web. 24 Aug. 2016. <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm>.