Last week, disability rights activists won a huge victory. Political candidates have finally pulled disability rights into the national political dialogue. It all started when Beto O’Rourke invoked disability rights as an important issue that he planned to address but only gave a short list of specific issues before he dropped out of the Democratic Primary. However, Pete Buttigieg broke the issue open by creating a comprehensive plan to fight for disability rights https://peteforamerica.com/policies/access/
This plan addressed a series of specific issues that affect people with disabilities, most of which have been left out of the national policy discussion. The most notable policies are:
- Implement competitive integrated employment that guarantees everyone with a disability makes at least $15 an hour and ends the use of the subminimum wage
- Incentivize companies to offer paid internships to people with disabilities
- Fully fund the IDEA Act. This would be huge since the Federal Government is only paying 15% of special education costs. This falls short of its commitment to fund 40% of special education costs in the IDEA Act. Meeting this commitment would increase the resources for special education programs
- Ensure that people with developmental disabilities do not lose custody over their kids because of their disability
- Increase accessibility to voting on Election Day
- End the Benefit Cliff for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by slowly phasing out a disabled person’s benefits until their income reaches $45,000 per year
- Increase Medicaid eligibility and end waiting lists
- Give family caregivers a Social Security credit that gives them 50% of the pay that a normal care worker would receive
- Increase accessible transportation
- Support the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is something that the United States has signed but Congress is yet to ratify it
This is a huge list of issues that have previously been ignored in national policy discussions. It gives a lot of momentum to our community and puts pressure on other politicians to fight for these policies. But as with any plan, there are certain changes that Buttigieg should make. First, he should support Medicare for All which would ensure that all Americans are paying into the same system. This is the only way to harvest the full efficiency that single-payer healthcare systems offer which multi-payer systems fail to offer. Second, he should emphasize sexual education for every single person with a disability. This would address the fact that women with a developmental disability have a 90% chance of being sexually assaulted at least once in their life and a 49% chance of being sexually assaulted at least ten times.
Despite these shortcomings, this is a great move by Pete Buttigieg. If these policies were implemented, it would drastically improve the lives of millions of individuals living with a disability.