In this year’s hotly contested presidential election, there is much ado about who will be the most effective and prepared leader regarding a number of serious issues facing our country. Many of the publics concerns are: national security and the ever-present threat of global terrorism (including groups like ISIS), the economy, job generation, global warming, abortion, gun legislation, the Zika crisis, immigration, possible Supreme Court appointments and a long range of other ubiquitous issues.
Somewhere in the midst of these very critical national matters, lie the specific concerns that relate to people with physical and non-visible disabilities. Domestically, there are 54 million people with disabilities, making it the largest US minority class.
The following statistics represent some profound facts about disability in the US:
· 1 in 4 of todays 20 year olds will develop a disability before they retire (Council for Disability Awareness)
· A sample of factors that increase the risk of disability: Excess body weight, tobacco use, high risk activities or behaviors, chronic conditions such as; diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, anxiety or depression, frequent alcohol consumption or substance abuse. (Council for Disability Awareness)
· Persons with disabilities, on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, such as less education, worse health outcomes, less employment, and higher poverty rates. A country’s economic, legislative, physical, and social environment may create or maintain barriers to the participation of people with disabilities in economic, civic, and social life. Barriers include inaccessible buildings, transport, information, and communication technology; inadequate standards, services, and funding for those services. (The World Bank)
· People with diabetes, in general, report rates of disability that are significantly higher than those reported by the general U.S. population. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)
· Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of death in the United States. Around 630,000 Americans die of heart disease each year. It is also a leading cause of disability. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)
· Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. ( National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI)
· From 2000 through 2013, the age-adjusted rate for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin nearly quadrupled from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013. Most of the increase occurred after 2010. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)
What are the Major Disability and Veteran Issues?
An estimated 386 million people of the world’s working-age have a disability and that number is growing rapidly. All ‘Baby Boomers,’ people with disabilities and veterans from war populations doubles in the next 20 years and 70% of people with disabilities are presently unemployed in the US. Various policies can determine outcomes for people with disabilities, Social Security Income (SSI) and healthcare for the future direction of America.
Additionally, there are several significant issues that directly impact the lives of military veterans in the US. The military complex factors in all military active duty, reservist, and retired veterans, along with military spouses, partners, their children and other stake holders.
Interestingly, either one of these two very large demographics, has the ability to potentially swing the upcoming election. In essence, these two populations can easily determine the deciding votes towards who will become our next Commander in Chief. Considering this perspective -- it is imperative for candidates to carefully and distinctively provide their individual agendas that will appeal to these two specific demographics.
Regarding people with disabilities, all candidates (whether the representatives of the Republican, Democratic, Independent or Libertarian parties), must adequately address paramount concerns regarding their upcoming plans for the present state of health care in America.
Their individual ideas should disclose all possible legislative amendments to the “American Disabilities Act” (ADA), their unique opinions regarding Stem-Cell Research, proposed Disability Leave policies, their opinions regarding “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA), Section 504 regarding the “Rehabilitation Act,” and issues related to the “2001 New Freedom Initiative.” The individual opinions should also showcase certain perspectives that speak directly to people with various visible and non-visible disabilities, including people with mental health challenges.
Veterans related issues should also be specifically defined and outlined. Issues regarding prolonged wait times at VA facilities have plagued past Administrations. This issue alone is directly and indirectly responsible for the epidemic of unnecessary deaths and suicides from military members. Addressing challenges like workplace stigma and lack of adequate accommodations continue to manifest in the US. Large corporations and federal contractors should be provided with certain special tax incentives and other benefits, for employing people with disabilities and military veterans.
They should be challenged to offer innovative ideas that sufficiently address today’s employment issues such as: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI’s), and those suffering from complex forms of addiction and mental illness. Employer diversity and cultural training should be standard towards adequately and fairly dealing with the number of fluctuating changes within the modern-day workplace.
All of the presidential candidates must be clear in their discussions regarding these issues. They must be objective and inclusive. Their policies must be forward-thinking and innovative, with sensible approaches towards potential ‘break-through,’ and sometimes controversial medicines with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) Candidates must also illustrate exactly how they will regulate the pharmaceutical industry and their different ideas towards health care cost, and public access to these and other future medications. People must elect candidates that offer the greatest ideas and solutions regarding their individual and interest. They should not be focused simply on political ideology.
AAPD has been running the Rev Up campaign to encourage people with disabilities to vote. The also posed questions to both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump on disability-related issues. Read both of their responses here.
Whoever your candidate is… the US 2016 presidential election matters to everyone. I strongly encourage you to register to vote and let you voice be heard. It is your right and your responsibility as American citizens!
Ed Crenshaw is a US Navy veteran, diversity practitioner, disability subject matter expert and creator of the innovative “Preparing Employers to Reintegrate Combat Exposed Veterans with Disabilities” (P.E.R.C.E.V.D.) diversity training program. He is also the author of the books, “The P.E.R.C.E.V.D. Principles” and “The Employers Guide to Understanding Hidden Conditions Related to Suicide.” As a well-renown professional speaker, Ed is a passionate champion and respected advocate for people with disabilities.