We Americans will be voting for a president this year (You already heard? Fancy that!), as well as many other public officials.
Election cycles in any country provide an opportunity to influence public policy. Depending on who is elected, those policies can make the lives of people with disabilities better or worse. For example, the rates of poverty and unemployment are much higher for people with disabilities than the general population. Although some people’s impairments are so severe that they cannot engage in the workforce, many eager, hard-working, and resourceful people with disabilities remain outside the labor force for various reasons including discrimination and lack of adequate training or public transportation.
Here are some U.S. statistics:
- Persons with disabilities experience the highest rates of poverty of any subcategory of Americans charted by the Census Bureau. Of the nearly 30 million individuals with disabilities ages 18–64, 27 percent live in poverty. This is more than double the rate of 12.5 percent for the entire population.
- Similarly disproportionate, participation in the labor force people by people with disabilities is only 19.5 percent, but 68.7 percent of people without disabilities participate in the labor force. (Office of Disability Employment Policy, Department of Labor.)
Both the Old and New Testaments command working for justice for people who are oppressed, providing for people who are in need, and speaking up for those who have no voice. For people in the United States, this year’s election cycle provides an excellent opportunity to influence local, state, and federal elected officials for the good of citizens who live with various disabilities.
Along with RCA Disability Concerns, our partner in ministry, CRC Disability Concerns is a member of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a public policy group based in Washington DC. IDAC started the national REV UP America — Make the DISABILITY VOTE Count campaign. The campaign includes a letter to candidates for public office which will urge them to “lay out a comprehensive agenda that addresses the civil rights of Americans with disabilities.” In addition, the letter urges candidates to engage with the one in five Americans who live with disabilities so that the candidates can understand better how to provide “access and opportunity for all Americans”.
Both CRC and RCA Disability Concerns have signed the letter. I encourage you to read the letter yourself and sign it, as well as encourage your church or organization to sign it. In addition, you can use this list from IDAC of questions for candidates to engage with people running for office to guide their decision-making and priorities to reflect issues of justice for citizens with disabilities.