Hillary Clinton Has a Long History of Supporting Disability Legislation

Gage Skidmore
Photo and Copyright by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both filled out #PwDsVote scorecards, with responses to what they will do to help the world’s largest minority group if they are elected. The disability community is a huge voting bloc that tends to vote based on who will help to provide the greatest benefit to a community that has largely gone ignored, and faces rampant discrimination in the United States.

In 2012, 15.6 million disabled people voted, out of the 35 million disabled people who were qualified and registered to vote. A lot of disabled people face barriers that prevent them from voting, even when they are eligible to vote. In the 2012 election, over 1/3 of disabled voters said they had trouble voting, and, therefore, the 2016 election has seen disability organizations reaching out to the candidates earlier, in an attempt to get the disabled voice heard. Both Bernie and Hillary have pages that discuss disability rights on their websites. However, both of those pages leave much to be desired and fail to give much about how to implement their plans to help disabled people, so they can better participate in society. Being fair, Bernie’s website has a bit more information than Hillary’s page, though her scorecard responses make up for that.

The GOP only offered responses from Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Chris Christie. GOP leader Donald Trump failed to respond, as did Democrat Martin O’Malley. Additionally, only Jeb Bush scored favorably with RespectabilityUSA, a newly created nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is working to help people with disabilities to contribute and participate in society. While Hillary and Bernie lead the way with a score of 100%, Jeb scored a 94%. Carson did the worst, with a paltry 38% rating, and Christie did only fair, with a rating of 69%.

While Hillary and Bernie both scored 100%, and the two answered the questions while obviously thinking of disabled people and their needs, Hillary’s responses were far more thorough! Her answers are expansive, and many of them include an outline of her plan to address said issues. Previous to this, Hillary had released a comprehensive plan outlining the care and service needs of the autistic community. Some of her answers outline that plan while others go into further depth about how she plans to help people with disabilities beyond autistics.

Bernie turned in his answers first, but keeping hers a bit longer allowed Hillary more time to answer every question in depth. One of the things we were most impressed with was her resume when it comes to helping the disabled community. We knew about some of the things she has done, but we did not know how comprehensive her support for disability rights truly has been. Hillary’s advocacy dates back to her days working as a lawyer when she advocated for disabled children to have access to an education, something many were being denied.

Beyond that, her resume includes:

As First Lady, Hillary:

  • announced a task force to address employment opportunities for disabled people, which worked with the “Able to Work” Consortium
  • proposed programs to expand on the ADA and increase the number of disabled federal employees, to get rid of disability-based discrimination
  • established the DOL’s Office of Disability Policy
  • worked with Congress to provide greater healthcare options and employment

As Senator Hillary:

  • was an original cosponsor of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and the IDEA Full-Funding Act of 2003
  • was a cosponsor and voted to pass the Individuals with Disabilities Education Reauthorization Act
  • voted to increase funding and discretionary funding for IDEA in the Senate, for an amendment to increase federal funding for IDEA, and to increase mental health care for veterans by $500 million over five years
  • cosponsored the Campus Care and Counseling Act of 2004, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004, the Mental Health Parity Act, the Personnel Excellence for Students with Disabilities Act of 2003, and Addiction Equity Act of 2008,
  • introduced the Heroes at Home Act of 2006, the Heroes at Home Act of 2007, and the Restoring Disability Benefits for Injured the Wounded Warriors Act, the Count Every Vote Act, and the bipartisan Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act
  • introduced an amendment to ensure that the CARES initiative incorporated veterans’ mental health needs
  • developed and co-sponsored autism legislation authorizing over $1 billion in funding for research, early detection, and early intervention

As Secretary of State, Hillary:

  • worked on global human rights initiatives, which included disability rights
  • worked with President Obama to build bipartisan support for the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Unfortunately, neither of the candidates for the Democratic nomination have addressed pertinent issues to the disability community, such as increasing income limits for necessary service programs so disabled people can work and still have said services, marriage equality for people with disabilities, or how to address the disability housing crisis with an actual plan that could alleviate the predicament. Still, their responses are far better than what we have seen in past elections! When it comes down to it, though, Hillary’s thoroughness and obvious dedication to helping the disability community, gives her a bit of an edge over Bernie on this issue, and many others.