RELEASE: CAP Launches Disability Justice Initiative

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress launched the Disability Justice Initiative at an event featuring Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and a panel of women disability thought leaders, making CAP the first national think tank to host a dedicated disability project.

Twenty-eight years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities still face poverty rates nearly three times higher than people without disabilities; are disproportionately more likely to live and work in conditions that are hazardous to their health and are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events; and are hugely overrepresented in our nation’s prisons and jails. While there has been tremendous progress toward deinstitutionalization over the years, community living remains a privilege and not a right for too many people with disabilities. The Disability Justice Initiative seeks to apply disability as a lens across policy issues, centering wholeness, intersectionality, and inclusivity to ensure both policymakers and the progressive community understand disability issues not in a silo, but as part of the broader set of issues progressives fight for every day.

“Don’t look at me with pity. I earned this wheelchair. I own this wheelchair. I’m proud of it, and I’m going to use it to get places a hell of a lot faster than you could ever run,” said Sen. Duckworth in her remarks.

Here’s what others said about the launch:

Rebecca Cokley, Director of the Disability Justice Initiative:

“We are immensely proud to be the first think tank to host a dedicated disability project. Disability policy has for too long lived in a silo, and this initiative seeks to shift that paradigm to build out an inclusive body of work that centers intersectionality and does not leave behind the 1 in 5 Americans with disabilities. As progressives, we know we can do better, and being progressive doesn’t make our policies inclusive. We’re not just bring new voices to the table—we’re building new tables altogether.”

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD):

“This new Disability Justice Initiative is much needed and long overdue, and I am pleased that the Center for American Progress is launching it ahead of the anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is critical that we look at policies aimed at expanding opportunities for Americans through a lens that includes the disability community, which is all too often considered separately. One in 5 Americans lives with a disability, and in the 28 years since I worked to pass the ADA, so many improvements have been made, but there is still much more work to be done to expand accessibility, equality, and opportunity. It is essential that policymakers look at the broader picture of our social justice and economic challenges that includes people with disabilities. I am grateful to the Center for American Progress for undertaking this effort.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA):

“Our country is stronger when we work together to build communities that include everyone; work for everyone; and draw from the gifts, talents, and value each of us has to offer. Efforts like the Disability Justice Initiative are an important way to better include disability advocates and leaders in policy conversations that impact each and every one of us, and I’m glad to see the Center for American Progress taking this important step.”

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI):

“We have made significant progress in breaking down barriers for people with disabilities, but many of us continue to face challenges in accessing employment, transportation, housing, and health care. The Disability Justice Initiative launched by the Center for American Progress will serve as an important platform to holistically engage on these issues. When we work together to achieve a common goal, we can create policies that foster equality and inclusion for all. I look forward to reviewing the vital work that comes out of such an important project.”

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For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Kyle Epstein at or 202.481.8137.