Pete Buttigieg Is The Latest Presidential Candidate To Release An Exclusive Disability Plan— The Most Comprehensive One Yet

pete-buttigieg
Democratic presidential candidate, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released the most … [+] comprehensive disability plan in the field on November 2, 2019.Getty Images

According to a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely Democratic candidates, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, surpasses former Vice President Joe Biden for second runner-up. Senator Elizabeth Warren is first, slightly ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders.

The presidential candidates have been under scrutiny of the disability community for ignoring them as a voting population in the early campaigning stages. While each of the candidates set foot in their candidacy announcements by appealing to the other minority groups, such as people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ community, they didn’t make the same conscious effort for the disability community, the nation’s largest minority group.

After hearing the cries from the disability population, the 2020 democratic presidential candidates are slowly, but surely, beginning to address them.

With the Iowa caucuses just three months away, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the latest candidate to release an exclusive disability policy plan, following Senator Kamala Harris’ lead from August.

In a White Paper released this morning on the mayor’s website, titled Dignity, Access, and Belonging: A New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities, the campaign team writes, “As President, Pete will build a culture of belonging for everyone. He is committed to systematically dismantling institutions that discriminate against people with disabilities, and, with and alongside them, helping to build a new, long-overdue era for this community. Pete will retrofit our government, so it works for—and not against—people with disabilities. He will help bring about a society that intuitively sees, accounts for, welcomes, and values their lived experiences.”

Mayor Buttigieg’s campaign team sought expert input from the community and staff in shaping the most comprehensive disability policy plan in the 2020 field to date. This is the candidate’s latest effort to be inclusive of people with disabilities, following his promise to hire them as campaign staff last April.

In a 19-page report, the office of Mayor Buttigieg outlines in detail the executive plan he plans to enact if elected president to improve the quality of life and to increase educational and vocational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Policies and programs are outlined in the following: 


Competitive Integrated Employment

  • End the subminimum wage.
  • Double labor force participation rates of people with disabilities by 2030, the 40th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act.
  • Create a national network of apprenticeships and an Internships for All program that provide
  • greater opportunities for competitive integrated employment.
  • Increase federal subcontracting with disability-owned businesses, including by enforcing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Ensure all workers have access to paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

Education

  • Make inclusive education a national expectation and ensure that 85% of students with intellectual and multiple disabilities are in general education classrooms for 80% or more of the day by the end of the 2025 school year.
  • End corporal punishment, restraint, and seclusion in schools.
  • Improve student mental health including by requiring schools to teach Mental Health First Aid.
  • Build on the promise and success of the Autism CARES Act, including by supporting greater investment in research on the needs of autistic adults and supporting autistic-led initiatives.
  • Increase funding to recruit, support, and retain special education teachers.
  • Expand trauma-informed care and healing-centered engagement in schools.
  • Ensure services for students with disabilities don’t end in high school.
  • Strengthen Title IX protections and support students with disabilities who face sexual assault in college.

Civil and voting rights

  • Reinvigorate enforcement of Olmstead v. L.C. and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the DOJ Civil Rights Division to aggressively protect the rights of disabled people.
  • To improve ADA compliance, create an accessible federal form available in multiple formats and languages that shows one’s rights and makes it easier to report problems.
  • Make sure that parents with disabilities do not lose custody or adoption rights based on the fact that they have a disability.
  • Train first responders and police to identify and appropriately respond to individuals with disabilities.
  • Make the voting process and polling places accessible to everyone.

Social Security

  • Eliminate the “benefit cliff” for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) so benefits gradually phase out until recipients reach nearly $45,000 in annual earnings.
  • Eliminate SSDI’s ineffective current work incentives.
  • Reduce excessive wait times for SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals cases.
  • Enable SSDI participants to start receiving income benefits as soon as they are admitted to the program.
  • Eliminate SSDI’s 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage.
  • Update critical SSI thresholds to allow people to receive greater assistance as costs of living rise.

Long-term services and supports

  • Ensure that people with disabilities can receive long-term care in their home and community by supporting the Disability Integration Act.
  • Enhance the Medicaid program to ensure people with disabilities on Medicaid have access to care in their homes and communities, including by ending waitlists for waiver programs.
  • Raise standards for pay, benefits, and training for direct care workers.
  • Lower burden on unpaid family caregivers, including by providing credit toward Social Security.

Accessible transportation

  • Require transportation projects with federal funding to be certified as 100 percent accessible.
  • Incentivize private taxi and ride-sharing companies to offer accessible services.
  • Ensure that air travel is accessible.
  • Promote safe streets by incentivizing states to work with cities and counties to build accessible roadways and increase accessible sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian signals.
  • Expand accessible transportation in rural communities.

Health care

  • Ensure people with disabilities have affordable coverage through Medicare for All Who Want It.
  • Expand access to telehealth to make it easier to receive health care at or near one’s home.
  • Dramatically reduce drug prices, as outlined in Pete’s Affordable Medicines for All plan.
  • Mental health care
  • Ensure that every American has access to comprehensive coverage for mental health care.
  • Dramatically increase access to community-based mental health care services through annual $10 billion Healing and Belonging grants.

Housing and disaster preparedness

  • Ensure people with disabilities can find safe and affordable housing by reinstating the
  • Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.
  • Combat the epidemic of homelessness among individuals with disabilities.
  • Dramatically increase accessible public housing by prioritizing accessibility in new construction and rehabilitation.
  • Help ensure that people with disabilities participate in disaster preparedness efforts and, after a disaster, can return to their homes and communities.

Inclusive technology

  • Ensure high-speed broadband coverage for all through an $80 billion Internet For All initiative.
  • Develop an Accessible Technology Bill of Rights
  • Prioritize the goal of full digital inclusion across all federal agencies.

Global leadership

  • Strongly support ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Advance the human rights of persons with disabilities globally.
  • Develop a national strategy for disability-inclusive international development.

A recent survey shows that fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. The study was endorsed by former Representative and Dallas Mayor Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg’s latest release of the white paper will grasp the attention of many voters who have a connection with disabilities. There will also be critics among the crowd who will view his multi-faceted plan as too ambitious or ill-focused.

As the youngest contender in the running, Buttigieg doesn’t have that much experience under his belt, let alone experience with implementing disability policies. As mayor, the only notable initiative regarding disability that he has done is making a neighborhood park playground accessible.

Perhaps with youth comes more opportunities to grow and tackle more things in the further. However, as much as it is commendable that Buttigieg and his team came up with this all-inclusive disability plan, the people in this community will eagerly wait to see how much of it actually gets implemented, if he is elected President.

forbes.com