Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by my friend, Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, the director of interfaith engagement with the American Association of People with Disabilities, calling for the 2016 presidential candidates to address disability concerns. I also have been keeping a close watch on how the candidates are addressing the questions and concerns of those with disabilities and their families, and believe faith groups should sign on to this letter urging candidates to support life-changing policies for people with disabilities, like my own son.
By Curtis Ramsey-Lucas
Earlier this year the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), along with the Texas Disability Project, Disability Rights Texas, and other disability advocacy groups launched the national REV UP campaign in an effort to make the disability vote count. REV UP stands for Register, Educate, Vote, Use (your) Power. The REV UP campaign is promoting the growing influence of the disability vote nationwide while working to ensure access to the polls on Election Day for Americans with disabilities.
For its part, the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of AAPD, is mobilizing people of faith to sign a letter encouraging candidates to address disability concerns in their campaigns. To date over 150 individuals and organizations have signed the letter including American Baptist Churches, USA, American Muslim Health Professionals, Christian Reformed Disability Concerns Ministry, Lutheran Services in America Disability Network, National Council of Churches, USA, National Council of Jewish Women, The Sikh Coalition, The Jewish Federations of North America. The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, and the Union for Reform Judaism.
The letter notes that Americans with disabilities “make remarkable and valuable contributions to our communities,” yet, “continue to face discrimination in many areas including employment, transportation, and education.” More than 25 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities face unemployment and poverty rates twice the national average. The letter encourages candidates for public office to address these disparities and set forth a “vision to encourage the civil rights of people with disabilities, and to promote their full inclusion in society.”
The letter encourages candidates to support policies that create jobs, increase access to affordable housing and transportation and removed barriers to education still facing Americans with disabilities. It furthermore calls for “continuation of reforms passed into law as part of the Affordable Care Act that help people with disabilities lead healthy lives and increase their access to long term services and supports, as well as further expansion of mental health and substance use services.”
Faith communities have long encouraged their members to engage in responsible citizenship, including voting, and many serve as polling places on Election Day. The IDAC letter builds on these endeavors by encouraging candidates for public office to make a greater effort to engage the concerns of the disability community. It is our hope that in doing so, the American experiment of self-government increasingly includes and reflects the voices, concerns, and wisdom of people with disabilities.
To sign the letter, visit:
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is the Director of Interfaith Engagement with American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). He coordinates the work of IDAC, a diverse, nonpartisan coalition of national religious organizations from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh traditions whose core spiritual values affirm the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. IDAC mobilizes the religious community to take action on disability policy with Congress, the President and Administration, and society at large. AAPD is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities
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