Key actions and positions posted on the intersection of disability, education, jobs, immigration, climate, criminal justice and more.
Richmond, VA, Sept. 16 – Democratic candidate and former Governor Terry McAuliffe has responded to a detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues. The questionnaire is from RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit disability organization that does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.
One-in-five Americans has a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People with disabilities are America’s largest minority group and the only one that, due to accident, aging or illness, anyone can join at any time. Indeed, there are more than 1 million people with disabilities living in the Old Dominion state.
McAuliffe is running against Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, and you can read Youngkin’s response here.
The full text of RespectAbility’s questions and McAuliffe’s responses follow:
EDUCATION & SKILLS: In our nation’s public schools, there are 6.5 million students with disabilities. The changing demographics of America are reflected in these students, with over 56 percent of them being Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) individuals with disabilities and 11.4 percent of students with disabilities nationwide, almost 720,000, identify as English-language learners. The gap in graduation and drop-out rates between students with and without disabilities continues to undermine their futures. For example, in the class of 2019, only 65 percent of Black students with disabilities, 69 percent of Hispanic students with disabilities, 76 percent of white students with disabilities, 78 percent of Asian-American students with disabilities, and 71 percent of Pacific Islander students with disabilities completed high school. What is your plan for ensuring that all students with disabilities, including English Language Learners, receive a quality and appropriate education to acquire critical and marketable skills?
I believe that every Virginia student–no matter their ability status, background or zip code–deserves a world-class education. A recent study indicates that nearly three-quarters of school divisions nationwide found it exceedingly difficult to meet the needs of their students with disabilities during the pandemic. And the federal government has failed to provide adequate funding over the years to support these students, and we have to do better. This is unacceptable and I believe every Virginia student deserves access to a world-class education, no matter their ability level or what language they speak.
As Governor, I secured a record $1 billion in funding for K-12 education, and my administration worked with CVS on a new job training program for young adults with disabilities, helping them get on-the-job experience delivering care across Virginia. I also created new employment initiatives that directed all executive branch agencies to create new training programs designed to help Virginians with disabilities acquire critical skills to enter and remain in Virginia’s best-in-the-nation workforce.
I launched my campaign with a commitment to deliver a record $2 billion investment in education that will fully fund our Standards of Quality, invest in our students and teachers, and increase work-based learning opportunities for our students. I will ensure that these investments make a world-class education accessible to students of all abilities, including English Language Learners. We cannot afford to leave any student behind and as Governor I will fight to ensure every student succeeds.
EMPLOYMENT & ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national employment rate for working-age people with disabilities in America was 38.8 percent, compared to 78.6 percent of people without disabilities. These disparities vary from state to state and differ by race. In fact, 40 percent of working-age people with disabilities who are white have jobs compared to only 32.1 percent of those who are Black, 39.4 percent of those who are Hispanic/LatinX and 43.2 percent of those who are AAPI. Compounding the problem, the pandemic has ravaged the disability community and more than 1 million workers with disabilities lost their jobs during the pandemic. If elected, what will you do to advance opportunities for people with disabilities who want to work and earn an income, just like anyone else? How will you support employers, large and small, to recruit and hire workers with disabilities? How will you promote evidence-based policies and best practices leading to meaningful careers as well as disability entrepreneurship opportunities?
Promoting employment for people with disabilities is extremely important for people with disabilities and our economy. As Virginia’s 72nd Governor, I signed Executive Order 46 and created new employment initiatives that provided all executive branch agencies with new training programs designed to help Virginians with disabilities enter and remain in the workforce. I was proud to visit the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center to recognize the first graduates of this groundbreaking job training program. Graduates of this program are eligible to receive jobs from any of the 340 CVS Pharmacy locations across the Commonwealth. As governor, I also laid the groundwork for the successful passage of Medicaid expansion, which includes funding for programs like Medicaid WORKS, an incentive program that supports employment for people with disabilities.
As Virginia’s next governor, I will continue that momentum, making it easier for Virginians to access in-demand credentials and bringing quality, good-paying jobs to the Commonwealth. I understand the need for more workforce programs that are accommodating to people with disabilities and as Virginia’s next governor, I will increase funding for colleges, K-12 education, and businesses to improve access to and availability of these critical services. I will also leverage Medicaid funding to increase Virginia’s supply of affordable permanent supportive housing. My opponent however has no interest in ensuring people with disabilities earn a livable income.
ACCESS & INCLUSION: The disability community lives by the motto “Nothing about us, without us” that we must have a seat at any decision-making table that affects us (which is every table, as disability cuts across all other demographics), because those with lived experience know solutions that work and must be part of any effective solution. As such, campaigns are most successful when they develop connections to constituents with disabilities, recruit volunteers with disabilities, host public events in accessible spaces and make their campaigns accessible online. Whether or not you have a formal platform, what specific plans do you have to incorporate the voices of disability into your decision-making processes, if elected? What steps, if any, have you taken to make your campaign accessible for people with disabilities, and creating opportunities to hear our voices?
As Virginia’s 72nd Governor, I prioritized building an inclusive and welcoming Commonwealth and worked to expand opportunities for individuals with disabilities. During my campaign I have participated in disability forums, where I had the privilege of hearing the issues affecting Virginians with disabilities. If elected, I will maintain an open door policy and will take every opportunity to listen to the issues affecting people with disabilities. In 2017, when national Republicans proposed a health care bill that would hurt Virginians with disabilities or mental illness, I traveled to Washington to meet with our congressional delegation and make sure that advocates’ voices were heard. One of my proudest moments as Governor was when I signed Conner’s Law, which allows parents to obtain child support for any child over the age of 18 with a severe disability, after a courageous fight by Conner and his mother to change Virginia law.
As Virginia’s next governor, I will continue to listen to Virginia’s disability community to build inclusive policies for Virginians living with disabilities. I will work with advocates in Richmond to secure world-class, affordable health care for all people with disabilities, build an education system that works for all Virginians, and make sure that our world-class workforce training programs offer opportunities for everyone, regardless of a person’s ability level.
FIGHTING STIGMAS: There are significant stigmas that create attitudinal barriers that limit options and perpetuate low expectations for people with disabilities. As public figures, elected officials have multiple opportunities to help fight stigmas by demonstrating a commitment to community inclusion, celebrating the contributions of people with disabilities, and marking key celebrations such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. If elected, what will be your plan to fight stigmas, highlight the disability community, and promote higher expectations for success?
Making Virginia the most open and welcoming state in the nation has always been one of my top priorities. In 2015, I was proud to have the chance to meet with Conner and Sharon Cummings and sign Conner’s Law, which allows parents to obtain child support for any child over the age of 18 with a severe disability, after a courageous fight by Conner and Sharon to change Virginia law. At the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics of Virginia in 2016, I stood with more than 1,300 exceptional Virginia athletes and signed the ABLE Act, which made Virginia the first in the country to allow individuals with disabilities—and their families—to set up special, tax-exempt accounts to save for future living expenses. In 2017, I signed a law to strengthen anti-bullying protections for Virginia students.
As our next governor, making sure every person with a disability is included as a full member of their community will continue to be my first priority. I will increase funding for permanent supportive housing that allows people with disabilities to live in community settings, pass a comprehensive anti-bullying law to protect our students, and I will work with Virginia’s disability community to build inclusive policies for people living with disabilities. I will fight every day to ensure we celebrate the achievements of Virginians with disabilities and continue our progress in reducing stigma, giving all Virginians access to world-class education, good-paying jobs and affordable health care, regardless of ability levels.
KEY ISSUES: Housing, criminal justice, climate issues, voting rights, transportation and every other area have significant impacts on people with disabilities. What additional policies and priorities, other than those already discussed above, do you plan to focus on to improve the lives of people with disabilities? If you have yet to develop them, what is your plan to learn about disability issues?
Health Care Accessibility and Affordability: As Virginia’s 72nd Governor, I made it a priority to ensure that health care was affordable and accessible for Virginians with disabilities. I signed ABLE legislation making Virginia the first state to create tax-exempt accounts for people with disabilities to save for future expenses and included $45 million in my outgoing budget to add Medicaid waiver slots for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I established the No Wrong Doors program that connects Virginians with disabilities to over 27,000 programs and services offered by the Commonwealth, using a person-centered approach to meet every person’s individual needs. As governor, my health care plan will increase access to coverage and outcomes for people with disabilities by strengthening Medicaid, implement a reinsurance program to lower health insurance premiums, and combat rising prescription drug prices.
Affordable Housing: I believe that we need to ensure that all Virginians have a safe and affordable place to call home, regardless of disability. I fought for that as Virginia’s 72nd Governor, when I issued an executive order expanding affordable housing for people with disabilities. I also invested in permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, mental illness and substance use disorders, and as Virginia’s next governor, I will increase those investments and leverage Medicaid to make additional funding available. My administration will increase the supply of affordable housing and draw down federal dollars to increase access to critical housing voucher programs helping disabled, low-income, and elderly Virginians to afford housing.
For more information about how to register to vote, how to cast your ballot or to get assistance in voting, please visit the official website of the Virginia Dept. of Elections.
RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. RespectAbility does not rate or endorse candidates.