Over the past half-century, the United States has made great strides toward removing barriers to employment, education, economic security, and more for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), together with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Olmstead, laid critical groundwork for equal opportunity as well as deinstitutionalization. Medicaid has grown into the nation’s primary provider of home- and community-based services, which enable people with disabilities to live independently and to work. And the Affordable Care Act not only cut the nation’s uninsured rate in half—it also put in place critical protections such as essential health benefits that established mental health parity and prohibitions on lifetime limits as well as discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.
Yet 28 years after the ADA’s passage, much work remains. People with disabilities face poverty rates nearly three times higher than people without disabilities. They are disproportionately likely to live and work in conditions that are hazardous to their health and are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, which are only becoming more frequent due to climate change. And they are massively overrepresented in our nation’s prisons and jails, with people behind bars at least three times as likely to report a disability as the general population. Meanwhile, ongoing attacks on Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and even the ADA itself have proven that the disability community continues to be the canary in the coal mine in the current political climate.
Yet disability policy all too often lives in a silo, separate and apart from other policy discussions about poverty and inequality, climate change, criminal justice reform, and more. As progressives, we can—and must—do better. That’s why the Center for American Progress is launching the Disability Justice Initiative, a project focused on expanding opportunity for people with disabilities and applying disability as a lens across our work to build out an inclusive policy agenda that does not leave behind the 1 in 5 Americans with disabilities — including and especially multiply marginalized communities such as people of color with disabilities.
Please join the Center for American Progress, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and a panel of cutting-edge women disability thought leaders for the launch of the Disability Justice Initiative, in conjunction with the 28th anniversary of the ADA, because the future is female—and accessible.
Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President, External Affairs, Center for American Progress
Keri Gray, Director, Rising Leaders Initiatives, Disability: IN
Noorain Khan, Program Officer, Office of the President, Ford Foundation
Elena Hung, President and Co-founder, Little Lobbyists
Mia Ives-Rublee, Disability Caucus, National Women’s March
Julia Bascom, Executive Director, Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Rebecca Vallas, Vice President, Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress