Collin County Democratic Candidates Asked to Weigh In On Disability Issues!

Keeping true to its core mission of  Educating and Advocating for people with disabilities, CCDWD sent questionnaires to Democratic candidates on the 2018 Primary ballot in the Gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, U.S.  House of Representatives District 3  and 32, Texas Senate – Districts 8 and 30,Texas  House of Representatives – Districts  33, 66, 67, 70 and 89.  Also surveyed: Collin County Judge and County Commissioners – Precincts 2, 3, and 4 and Collin County Democratic Party Chair.

The Gubernatorial, Senate, and House questionnaires contained 20 disability-related questions, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives contained 17 disability questions;  the Collin County Judge and Commissioners Court contained 8 questions, while the Collin County Democratic Party Chair contained 4 questions.

We will post their responses here as they are received.

Colin Allred Completes the 2018 CCDWD Candidate’s Questionnaire for the U.S. House of Representatives-District 32!

QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If so, please describe.

I will consult with disability advocacy organizations and hire legislative staff who are fluent in disability issues and law. I would also invite input and feedback from constituents with disabilities who are impacted by these issues. At present, I have a member of my campaign Advisory Board, Julie Ross, who focuses on disability issues and healthcare.

QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If so, please describe.

My campaign video has captions for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, and I have deliberately made efforts to select locations for my public events that are wheelchair accessible. My campaign has also utilized a PA system at events with larger crowds to accommodate individuals who are hard of hearing. Our campaign headquarters has designated accessible parking and is wheelchair accessible. I have been making continuing updates to my website to make it more accessible to people with vision impairment, and utilize social media tools such as Twitter picture descriptions to make my social media accounts more accessible.

QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

I have spent my career as a civil rights attorney fighting for equality, including standing up to restrictive and unfair voter identification laws, which disproportionately impact voters with disabilities.

I worked to protect the right to vote right here in North Texas as the voter protection director for the Dallas-Fort Worth region on Wendy Davis’s gubernatorial campaign. In that role, I oversaw the voter registration efforts of hundreds of volunteers and a comprehensive poll watcher program that helped thousands of North Texans vote who might not have been able to otherwise. From helping voters get voter IDs and teaching others about the new law, to helping our volunteers register new voters despite all of the barriers that the state of Texas places in the way of folks who want to register their neighbors. Voter identification laws disproportionately impact voters with disabilities, and expanding access for all voters in North Texas is something I feel passionately about.

As an appointee in the Obama Administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, I also helped protect and expand fair and equal housing, including for people with disabilities.

QUESTION 4: What is your plan/commitment to reducing myths and stigma that contribute to barriers for independence, inclusion, and equality for people with disabilities? Please describe.

We must fight against the derogatory rhetoric aimed at people with disabilities. The government sets an example for its people, and we need to think about the language we use to talk about people with disabilities, including recognition that people are much more than their disability. In order to lessen barriers for entry to inclusion in places like the workforce, I will fight against attacks on lifelines for people with disabilities such as SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare – which are often disparagingly described as ‘entitlements’ – and cuts to other services that include mandatory work requirements for those who rely on state and federal assistance to maintain their freedom, health care and self-determination. We must fight against the stigma of mental illness, PTSD, and addiction by defending mental health and substance disorder treatment as essential health benefits. I will vote to eliminate sub-minimum wage practices that unfairly pay people with disabilities less for their work. I will also support competitive employment and civil rights for people with disabilities.

QUESTION 5: Do you legislative or practical experience in regard to supporting workforce training, competitive employment, fair wages, and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what do you envision?

I believe we need more workforce and vocational training in North Texas, and that should be available and accessible to all people. I want to further our understanding of the correlation between poverty and disability and to work to expand opportunity for employment and employment opportunity for people with disabilities. In Congress, I will fight to raise the minimum wage to $15, because fair and living wages affects all people.

QUESTION 6: What is your experience and/or commitment to ensuring that children with disabilities have access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings?  What do you see as barriers to this civil right for children with special education needs?  Please describe.

Vouchers do not permit students with disabilities the protections of the IDEA Act. I strongly oppose vouchers because of the discrimination that it permits against marginalized students and the diversion of public funds for private use. I believe that education is the building block to ensuring equal opportunity in our country. Children deserve access to good quality public education that is inclusive and accommodating to all. That means schools must have the resources to provide for specialized needs of each child.

QUESTION 7: Which reforms or specific actions have you proposed (or would be willing to support) in regard to people with disabilities and eligibility and access to state & federal safety nets (i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, SSDI)? How will you insure that people with disabilities have access to vital healthcare and support services?

We can do better in this country. Health care isn’t a luxury item you can go without—it’s a matter of life and death. You don’t choose when you get cancer, get into a car accident, or have a child born with a serious medical condition. Access to quality, affordable health care shouldn’t depend on how much money you make, how wealthy your parents are, or how generous your employer is.

That is why I believe that we should make access to Medicare available to every American. Medicare is the most efficient health insurance provider in the nation, has no profit motive and low overhead, and is already accepted by doctors and hospitals across the country. By allowing all Americans to buy into the Medicare system, and subsidizing those who can’t afford it, we will create more competition in the health insurance market and close the final gaps in coverage that the Affordable Care Act has not been able to reach.

I recognize, however, that this fight will not be easy. That is why I also support protecting the Affordable Care Act. The immediate task in front of the Congress is to stabilize the ACA markets that have been upended by the efforts of President Trump, Pete Sessions, and Republicans in Congress to sabotage the ACA. The bipartisan Alexander-Murray deal in the Senate should be passed immediately to restore the cost sharing subsidies that the Trump Administration ended in 2017. In addition we must look for ways to restore, or replace, the individual mandate that was jammed into the Republican tax bill. Without these common sense steps, health care premiums will go up, and Americans will suffer because Washington is too busy playing politics.

I would, specifically, oppose cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, SSI and SSDI. I would oppose lifetime and annual limits on benefits, and any attempts to remove ACA protections for people with chronic illnesses and pre-existing conditions.

QUESTION 8: What solutions have you supported or proposed that permit people with disabilities who receive federal and state benefits while also employed? Please describe.

The ABLE Act was a good start – I support programs that will permit people with disabilities to maintain employment as well as earn increased wages and enjoy career advancement without risking vital services. Universal health care would also provide everyone with quality healthcare while enabling more individuals to focus on career, education and employment.

QUESTION 9: What is your experience or plan to expand access to healthcare for people with disabilities and chronic illness who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare?

How would you address the lack of access to affordable healthcare and coverage for people with pre – existing conditions and chronic illness? Please describe.

Access to healthcare is a fundamental right — one that too many of our fellow North Texans have been denied for too long. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 Dallas County residents — over 500,000 people — lack health coverage, and Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation. Many North Texans who do have insurance still must contend with high premiums, high deductibles, and large out-of-pocket costs.

If elected to Congress, I will work to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act and fight for Medicare access for every American. At the same time, I will encourage Texas to expand Medicaid coverage to include more Texas and work to lower premiums and prescription drug costs.

QUESTION 10: Do you have a plan to provide home and community – based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions and congregate settings? What have you proposed (or would propose) to address the shortage of qualified nursing and community attendant supports that people with disabilities rely on to live independently? Please describe.

We must support programs such as Meals on Wheels, Money Follows the Person and Community First Choice to ensure that people with disabilities are not forced into institutions.

We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 and fight for universal health care, as well as encourage training and support for these important fields that are experiencing workforce shortages. We also need to reduce the cost of and expand access to higher education to allow more people to get the training they need to become nurses.

QUESTION 11: What experience or plan do you have to address disability justice, police brutality, and the school – to – prison pipeline for children with disabilities (particularly children who are also children of color)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over – represented in the criminal justice system? What actions will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe.

We must ensure that students with disabilities are identified early and have access to special education while fully funding public schools and rejecting vouchers that do not offer IDEA provisions. We must also address the fact that a disproportionate number of students with disabilities and students of color are subject to expulsion and suspension (which interrupts access to quality education). Because of a lack of healthcare, treatment, and related services, people with mental illness and substance abuse disorder are overly represented among jail and prison populations, often charged with non-violent offenses. We must also address policing practices that have not adopted strategies for safe interactions with people with disabilities.

QUESTION 12: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue?  Please describe.

Unlike the incumbent Pete Sessions, I would support the VAWA. This statistic is alarming. I would begin by listening to the recommendations of statewide and national disability organizations to find ways to best address the issue of sexual assault and abuse of people with disabilities.

QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian life and employment? How have you addressed, or would respond to the lack of healthcare and mental health services for veterans who do not receive VA benefits? Please describe.

We need to invest in and expand the VA and I will fight any efforts to privatize it. The VA is an integrated health care provider that knows what veterans need, but it requires more resources to make sure that no veteran has to wait for the care they need. Part of that care should be the legalization of medical marijuana and cannabis as a non-addictive alternative to opiods and to treat PTSD and other battlefield injuries.

To help veterans re-enter the workforce, we should offer tax incentives to businesses for hiring veterans and access to capital and training for veterans seeking to start their own businesses.

QUESTION 14: Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the community? Please describe.

I worked in the Obama Administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where a major focus of our work was on affordable and accessible housing. I will continue to support fair access to housing for all Americans as a member of Congress.

QUESTION 15: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e. assistive technologies, etc.) that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.

I believe we can and should develop initiatives that will encourage universities and employers to support the principles of Universal Design.

QUESTION 16: The hard-fought struggle for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is under assault by H.R. 620 – The ADA Education & Reform Act.

H.R.620 puts the burden on the person with disability to prove that a business owner has denied him/her access to a place of public accommodation and allows the business owner to indefinitely postpone compliance. This bill would undermine the important progress of the ADA. If elected (or re – elected) would you support or oppose this bill?

As a civil rights attorney, I will strongly oppose HR620 and any legislation that seeks to undermine the progress made by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

QUESTION 17: The Disability Integration Act (S.610/H.R. 2472) is bicameral, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to address the fundamental issue that people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) are being forced into institutions and losing their basic civil rights. The DIA builds on the over 25 years of work ADAPT has done to end the institutional bias, and provide seniors and people with disabilities home and community-based services (HCBS) as an alternative to institutionalization. If elected, (or re-elected) would you support or oppose passage of H.R. 2472?

I would be proud to add my name to the roster of bipartisan support for DIA

Mr. Allred has opponents.   Brett Shipp,  Ed Meier, George Rodriquez, Lillian Salerno, and Ron Marshall have not completed the questionnaire.  We will post their responses as we receive them.

Julie Luton Completes the CCDWD 2018 Texas House of Representatives Candidate’s Questionnaire–District 70!

QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If yes, please describe. If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

I do not have a designated advisor specifically for disability issues. However, I have several campaign supporters who either work with or are members of this community who are willing to advise me as necessary. I also plan to meet with organizations, experts and advocates in the disability community to better understand and guide my decisions on disability issues and the policy changes that are needed to address those issues.

QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

I have volunteers who have disabilities, disabled children, and are former special education teachers. Although I don’t have a professional advisor, I strive to be accessible and inclusive. I have a team member with a neuromuscular disease who feels quite comfortable advising me and informing me of issues that are important to her and to others with disabilities. I have a team member who is a former special education teacher and is the co-founder and board member of a non-profit dedicated to disability inclusion advocacy who helps me shape policy. I actively seek out the participation of those with disabilities and ask for their input. I welcome all residents to join my campaign team so we can serve the needs of the community with compassion and respect.

QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving or a plan to improve the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

I am still a candidate for office rather than an officeholder, but I have given great thought to how to help improve the lives of people with disabilities. Workforce initiatives, Medicaid expansion, transportation initiatives, etc. are so important. However, I would like to focus on a recent problem that has occurred with the Texas Education Agency … an 8.5% enrollment cap on providing Special Education services. I have spoken with mothers of children who have been directly impacted by this decision. TEA has been tasked to implement changes, but they need to be monitored to be sure their plan is effective and in accordance with the law as well as best practices. We must also make sure that TEA’s plan is implemented effectively and appropriately. Vulnerable students with many different types of disabilities should have the opportunity to utilize services that may help them manage the severity of their diagnoses. I would also like to increase funding and accessibility for early childhood education. These programs need more educators and staff to provide excellent care.

QUESTION 4: Do you have a plan/commitment to reduce stigmas about people with disabilities that are barriers to employment, independence and equality? If yes, please describe. If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

This is a complex issue that deserves a multi-pronged approach. Bullying behavior/language toward people with disabilities begins at an early age in the schools (most likely modeled by parents at home). Encouraged by the Texas Education Agency, districts need strict guidelines and procedures on discouraging discriminatory language and behavior. In addition, schools/districts could implement Disability Awareness Experiences that focus on understanding differences. As far as employment is concerned, our state could establish job targets to increase the number of people with disabilities working in the state government. In addition, financial incentives such as preferential treatment in government contracting could be offered to those businesses that create positive environments for employees with disabilities.

QUESTION 5: Do you have legislative or practical experience in regard to supporting workforce training, competitive employment, fair wages, and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If no, what do you envision?

I have a vision for improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities. I have researched this topic and found that earnings inequalities are very common between non-disabled employees and those employees with disabilities. This inequality seems to grow larger as educational levels increase, leading me to believe that the problem lies with lack of awareness/education of businesses rather than any training/education lack of employees who are disabled. I believe this offers an opportunity for the government to provide education to businesses and to offer increased financial incentives for complying businesses. We must also continue to work with higher education institutions and job skill training programs to ensure that they are fully inclusive so that people with disabilities are competitive in the workforce.   In addition, stronger, clearer language in existing laws could help reduce discrimination while enforcement of existing protections should be increased. And we must monitor wages to be sure employees with disabilities are receiving fair pay, as they have even more need than non-disabled employees for fair wages since they most likely have increased medical/transportation/housing challenges.

QUESTION 6: What is your experience and/or commitment to insuring that children with disabilities have access to Early Childhood Intervention as infants and toddlers?

I am very committed to early education for all children, but especially with children with disabilities. Studies have shown that the earlier the intervention, the higher the chance of positive impacts for children. We need to assure appropriate funding for programs such as LifePath Systems ECI and that cuts to Medicaid, preventing parents from seeking needed services, are stopped are to ensure children are receiving early intervention.  In addition, we must be sure our public schools are identifying children for PPCD services beginning when a child turns 3 in accordance with federal law.

QUESTION 7: For school age children with disabilities: how will you address the need for students with disabilities to have access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings? What is your response to the TEA’s actions in regard to the confirmation that TEA had capped special education enrollment at 8.5%? Please explain.

Not only was the TEA 8.5% enrollment cap disgraceful, it was also a violation of IDEA and it was unlawful. I personally know students who have been impacted by this situation. The Department of Education has entrusted the TEA to devise a plan to remedy their violation of federal law. We must carefully monitor that they do this sufficiently and that their plan is implemented effectively. Furthermore, as our population grows, it should be expected that the number of students needing special education services will increase, creating a strain on local school districts. We must ensure that we provide the funding and resources our local public schools will need to address this strain. We also must make sure that we are prepared for the need to increase special education staffing again by making sure funding is available to train and hire teachers and paraprofessionals.

Our schools remain highly segregated by ability despite laws meant to protect students and ensure they have access to a free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Students with disabilities who do not have access to appropriate education have greater difficulty mastering necessary coursework and suffer other side effects from being secluded in their schools. Research indicates that children who are in inclusive school environments have lower rates of depression, have higher academic achievement and earn more through employment when they exit high school. We need to advocate for initiatives and pass legislation to ensure we are training special education and general education teachers to effectively co-teach in inclusive classrooms.

QUESTION 8: Do you have a plan to reform the benefits system (Medicaid, Medically-Dependant Children’s Insurance Program, Medicaid Buy-In, Managed Care, etc.) to enable people with disabilities to work without losing vital federal and state supports? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

It only makes financial sense (both for those with disabilities and for the government that is obligated to provide medical services) to encourage working amongst those who are able. I support increasing eligibility for benefits for working employees with disabilities.

Although increasing eligibility for benefits would be very helpful, I realize that the majority of Medicaid recipients are children who couldn’t work if they wanted to. We should also increase the budget for all disability-related services, including Medically-Dependent Children’s Insurance Program, STAR Kids health insurance, Home and Community-Based Services, the Medicaid Buy-In, and Community Living Assistance and Support Services. We must also educate for the general public so they will know the challenges adults and children with disabilities face so we can get public buy-in for budget increases. For example, we should communicate that most of these specialized services are not for sale (even if you could afford them) on the free market for health insurance nor can they be obtained in the non-profit sector. We must also communicate that institutional care isn’t as effective and is more expensive, not to mention less humane. We should welcome advocates and experts who work directly with people in these existing programs to testify before the House about new bills and programs that could improve care and decrease costs.

QUESTION 9: One in six Texans are uninsured. What is your plan to expand access to healthcare for all Texans including people with disabilities and chronic illness who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare? Please describe.

Accepting the Medicaid expansion would bring much-needed revenue to our state. Our governor needs to do the right thing and advocate for this money. With more dollars to work with, the state could also funnel more funds to community-based living arrangements rather than institutions that are more expensive, take more Medicaid resources, and do not adequately care for the residents.

We should expand the Medicaid Buy-In to include adults as not all disabilities begin or are diagnosed in childhood. Some of our residents with disabilities are forced to live in poverty to qualify for Medicaid (especially when some services are not even available on the free market even if they could afford them) when they could otherwise be productive, employed citizens.

QUESTION 10: In light of the opioid crisis in America, what is your position (for or against) on the legalization of Medical Marijuana as an effective treatment for people with disabilities and those who have chronic pain and illness?  Please describe.

I am in favor of legalizing medical marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain and illness. It’s heartbreaking that families have to move from Texas in order to access medical marijuana in other states. We must offer compassion to desperate families.

QUESTION 11: Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions and congregate settings? How would you address the critical need for wage increase for Community Attendants (who presently earn as little as $8 per hour) and place workforce shortages at critical levels for people with disabilities who rely on attendants to remain free from institutionalization? Please describe.

I believe employees who care for vulnerable populations need to make a living wage to encourage quality employee participation. Although I don’t know an exact amount that would be adequate, I think a minimum target would be an hourly rate that is at MINIMUM 2X the U.S. poverty level for an individual.

We need to fund programs that currently exist, like the Community First Option and Home and Community-Based Services so we can reduce waiting list times. This would increase available jobs for potential Community Attendants and attract more attention.

We need to expand hiring programs that offer jobs beyond home health nursing. Community Attendants do not require nursing degrees or advanced education. The attendants could offer compassionate, in-home care at a reduced cost than institutionalized care, thus keeping Texans in their homes and saving the state money.

QUESTION 12: Texas currently operates 13 State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs) for people with Developmental Disabilities. These facilities are under a settlement agreement with the DOJ for civil rights violations. These institutions are extremely costly, have witnessed a census decline, and account for nearly half of all Medicaid costs. What do you propose should be done in regard to SSLCs? How would you address the Medicaid waitlist that currently has over 143,000 people with Developmental Disabilities (the longest waitlist in the nation) waiting up to 14 years for services in order to remain living in the community?

Funding must be increased to decrease the waitlist. When medically possible, those with disabilities should be able to live in their communities with access to appropriate medical services.

Shutting the doors on fellow Texans with disabilities is neither humane nor cost-effective, plus these institutions cost us money in lawsuits and settlements with the Department of Justice. We must fully fund community and home-based service programs.

QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan to:

  • ensure that individuals with disabilities receive services that would prevent them from being swept up into the criminal justice system,
  • divert individuals with disabilities who are arrested to treatment options in lieu of jail where appropriate,
  • receive needed accommodations in the criminal justice process and while incarcerated, and
  • offer appropriate reentry support to help individuals with disabilities leaving jails and prisons reintegrate into communities and secure jobs? If yes, please describe.   If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

As with most issues, education is key here. Criminal justice professionals must be trained on how to handle mental health issues and physical disabilities. In addition, there must be mandated procedures to assure the safety and access to needed medical care for arrested individuals with disabilities. I believe there should be specially trained advocates who can intercede on behalf of victims, accused or convicted individuals with disabilities to assure their rights are not abridged.

QUESTION 14: What experience or plan do you have to address disability justice, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline for children with disabilities (particularly children who are also children of color)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over-represented in the criminal justice system? What actions will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe.

Training law enforcement professionals on the appropriate way to handle both intellectual and physical disabilities is an important part on the path to improving disability justice. Many situations that lead to prison could be avoided if professionals were well versed (or had access to experts) on disability issues. While speedy reactions are sometimes important, sometimes slowing down before rushing to an arrest could be instrumental in reducing the population of those with disabilities in jail. Once incarcerated, those with intellectual disabilities (or suffering from addictions) should have the opportunity to receive counseling and help with these issues, thus reducing the likelihood of re-entry into the prison system again after release.

QUESTION 15: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue? Please describe.

This is a long-term problem that will require many different solutions. I would like to see law enforcement officials educated on warning signs of abuse from caregivers (including family). Instituting expanded employment background checks on those who are caregivers in a community setting or an institution is a must. Education and discussions on sexual behavior, consent, abuse and appropriate relationships should be introduced whenever possible to vulnerable populations.

QUESTION 16: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian life and employment? How have you addressed, or would respond to the lack of healthcare and mental health services for veterans who do not receive VA benefits? Please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

Veterans, especially those who face disabilities, deserve our highest level of thanks and financial, emotional and employment support. Funding must be increased for VA benefits. More hospitals in more communities should be made available to serve veterans with disabilities. We need to continue funding research for medical issues that affect our veterans with disabilities. Increased mental health services should be made available to those suffering from disabilities from service.

QUESTION 17: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e. assistive technologies, etc.) that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

Legislation can be introduced to encourage increased funding for scientific endeavors and research that focuses on our communities that have disabilities. Scientific progress must continue to make strides in addressing mobility and medical improvements.

QUESTION 18: Do you have a plan to address the lack of accessible transportation options that are a barrier to work for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

Lack of transportation options is an impediment of our community as a whole. We need mass transit options, including those that are appropriate for those with disabilities. Until those mass transit options exist, cities need to offer low-cost programs that get those with disabilities to/from work, shopping and medical professionals.

QUESTION 19: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e., assistive technologies, devices) that improve the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

As mentioned above, legislation can be introduced to encourage increased funding for scientific endeavors and research that focuses on our communities that have disabilities. In addition, incentives and tax credits can be offered to those companies that focus on disability science and medical equipment/assistive technologies and devices that make life easier for those with disabilities.

QUESTION 20: If you could sponsor any single piece of legislation that would benefit people with disabilities, what bill would you propose?

As public education is near and dear to my heart, I would propose a bill that increases funding and services for those with disabilities, beginning with early education and developmental training for infants, toddlers and school-aged children. This funding could also serve to hire qualified educators and caregivers so waiting times for services would be drastically reduced.

Sharon Hirsch Completes the CCDWD 2018 Texas House of Representatives Candidate’s Questionnaire–District 66!

QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues?

ANSWER 1:  I have a small team of trusted individuals who I work with when making decisions on issues that a House Representative may be asked to deal with. At this time, I have no specific advisor in the field of disability issues, though I have had conversations surrounding this topic with interested parties and expect those to continue.

QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities?

ANSWER 2:  My campaign welcomes all individuals who are interested in being involved with our efforts. I do not have office space and currently meet in my home. All public events have been and will continue to be held in accessible locations.

QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving or a plan to improve the lives of people with disabilities?

ANSWER 3: I have not held office before so I do not have a voting record to refer to. I do support the Texas Democratic Party’s platform regarding disability issues and share their mission of enacting policies and programs that ensure the ability to lead a productive and quality life in the least restrictive environment.

QUESTION 4: Do you have a plan/commitment to reduce the stigmas about people with disabilities that are barriers to employment, independence and equality? If yes, please describe. If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 4: I believe that education is critical to reducing stigmas about not only people with disabilities, but also any group of individuals that experience barriers to equality. Furthermore, we must ensure that all laws establishing disability rights are strictly enforced.

QUESTION 5: Do you legislative or practical experience in regard to supporting workforce training, competitive employment, fair wages, and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If no, what do you envision?

ANSWER 5: I recently completed the Leadership Plano program. For our class project, we chose to work with the Adult Transition Program through Plano ISD to offer assistance with resume building and interview planning and preparation for their students. We also collaborated with local businesses and held a job fair and informational session. It was a rewarding private/public partnership that not only assisted these young adults, but also helped make their teachers aware of additional opportunities within the community.  I believe that these sorts of programs are important to provide education to community members about the need for employment initiatives in support of people with disabilities.

QUESTION 6: What is your experience and/or commitment to insuring that children with disabilities have access to Early Childhood Intervention as infants and toddlers?

ANSWER 6: I fully support the statewide Early Childhood Intervention program within the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that helps support children with developmental delays or disabilities along with their families.

QUESTION 7: For school age children with disabilities: how will you address the need for students with disabilities to have access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings? What is your response to the TEA’s actions in regard to the confirmation that TEA had capped special education enrollment at 8.5%? Please explain.

ANSWER 7: In my work with Plano ISD both at the campus level and in the special education department, I witnessed our students with disabilities receiving access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings. That is the law and those are the standards school districts must adhere to. When elected, one of my priorities is to ensure that our schools are properly funded so that they are capable of providing those services necessary to meeting the needs of ALL students. Texas has a history of underfunding schools and asking districts to cut corners. My goal is to end that practice. I oppose any effort to impose an arbitrary cap on special education enrollment.

QUESTION 8: Do you have a plan to reform the benefits system (Medicaid, Medically-Dependant Children’s Insurance Program, Medicaid Buy-In, Managed Care, etc.) to enable people with disabilities to work without losing vital federal and state supports? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 8: Keeping in mind the goal of ensuring that people with disabilities live a full life in the least restrictive environment, I support benefits systems that do not penalize an individual’s access to vital services due to employment.

QUESTION 9: One in six Texans are uninsured. What is your plan to expand access to healthcare for all Texans including people with disabilities and chronic illness who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare?

ANSWER 9: I support the expansion of Medicaid as offered by the federal government, which would bring billions of dollars back to Texas in order to provide coverage for additional people. It would also help hospitals that are heavily burdened by uncompensated care. In addition, I support a health program that would give access to people who find themselves in a coverage gap.

QUESTION 10: In light of the opioid crisis in America, what is your position (for or against) on the legalization of Medical Marijuana as an effective treatment for people with disabilities and those who have chronic pain and illness? 

ANSWER 10: I fully support the legalization of medical marijuana as a treatment for all individuals who would benefit. I also understand that this may not be the appropriate treatment for some people. We need to work with the medical community and the general public to educate people on the possible dangers of prescription pain medication, proper use of the medication, and availability of alternative and natural remedies.

QUESTION 11: Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions and congregate settings? How would you address the critical need for wage increase for Community Attendants (who presently earn as little as $8 per hour) and place workforce shortages at critical levels for people with disabilities who rely on attendants to remain free from institutionalization? Please describe.

ANSWER 11: More funding must be allocated for home and community-based services. For all workers, I support an increase in the minimum wage. Having cared for an elderly parent and volunteered with a hospice organization, I have seen how hard attendants work and have also recognized the high level of turnover. I support legislation aimed at increasing wages for community attendants.

QUESTION 12: Texas currently operates 13 State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs) for people with Developmental Disabilities. These facilities are under a settlement agreement with the DOJ for civil rights violations. These institutions are extremely costly, have witnessed a census decline, and account for nearly half of all Medicaid costs. What do you propose should be done in regard to SSLCs? How would you address the Medicaid waitlist that currently has over 143,000 people with Developmental Disabilities (the longest waitlist in the nation) waiting up to 14 years for services in order to remain living in the community?

ANSWER 12: I support bipartisan legislation like SB 602, which would have given the state an opportunity to study the SSLCs and bring forward recommendations on how to better allocate resources to produce more favorable outcomes for Texans with IDD. I recognize that these facilities are expensive to operate and that the funds may be better used to reduce the Medicaid waitlist and provide more dollars for resources at the local level. Expanding the Medicaid waiver list should be a priority.

QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan to:

  • ensure that individuals with disabilities receive services that would prevent them from being swept up into the criminal justice system,
  • divert individuals with disabilities who are arrested to treatment options in lieu of jail where appropriate,
  • receive needed accommodations in the criminal justice process and while incarcerated, and
  • offer appropriate reentry support to help individuals with disabilities leaving jails and prisons reintegrate into their communities and secure jobs?

 If yes, please describe.   If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 13: It is important that individuals with disabilities be treated fairly and are protected by policies and laws regarding interactions with the criminal justice system. In researching these issues, it appears that there needs to be more training of personnel working in related systems so that they can provide appropriate support, treatment, sentencing, etc. as well as the inclusion of knowledgeable professionals in all proceedings. At all times, individuals with disabilities should have an advocate working on their behalf so that there is a clear level of understanding by all parties and strict adherence to policies and laws. When appropriate, alternatives to incarceration should always be considered.

QUESTION 14: What experience or plan do you have to address disability justice, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline for children with disabilities (particularly children who are also children of color)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over-represented in the criminal justice system? What actions will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe.

ANSWER 14: It appears that while there are policies and laws on the books that offer protections against injustice, there may be lack of oversight or adherence to those policies. Education and vigilance should be prioritized. In addition, a review board that regularly monitors these cases could be established to prevent cases of overreach and abuse.

QUESTION 15: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue? Please describe.

ANSWER 15: In reading more about the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse in this community, two common themes were education and vigilance. Educating young people about their bodies and sexuality as well as educating caregivers and family members about how to recognize abuse are both critically important. I also believe we need to find better ways to report abuse and have specially trained professionals to adjudicate the cases.

QUESTION 16: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian life and employment? How have you addressed, or would respond to the lack of healthcare and mental health services for veterans who do not receive VA benefits? Please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 16: I have recently begun conversations with a veteran, who is also an attorney, to obtain a better understanding of the issues facing all veterans; including employment, addiction, housing, and healthcare. Accessing mental health services is a challenge for many individuals in our communities and is a pressing need witnessed by local law enforcement, first responders, and nonprofit organizations. Finding ways to better identify those needing help, increasing funding for essential services, and looking at promising holistic approaches should all be investigated.

QUESTION 17: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e. assistive technologies, etc.) that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 17: For high school and post high school students, the Transition Services required under IDEA should include a new focus on the use of assistive technologies to better equip people with disabilities to function independently via recently available technological advances. Furthermore, our community colleges could be directed to offer classes of a similar nature to people with disabilities who are no longer under the auspices of our public schools.

QUESTION 18: Do you have a plan to address the lack of accessible transportation options that are a barrier to work for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 18: Public and accessible transit is sorely lacking from many communities in Texas. I believe some of this is due to financial constraints, lack of understanding and political will to act, and unwillingness to adhere to mandated requirements. I will explore options including coordination of services between local transportation providers to maximize the use of their vehicles. Furthermore, studies suggest that broader coordination between the public and private sectors as well as service providers (e.g. medical community, educational facilities, social services agencies, employment agencies, etc.) could better meet access and mobility needs.

QUESTION 19: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e., assistive technologies, devices) that improve the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.  If no, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 19: From a policy development standpoint, we must align technology innovation with input from people with disabilities. Furthermore, we must make accessibility and inclusion of these innovations relevant, user-friendly, and easy to incorporate into the lives of those who can derive benefit from them.

These innovations can reduce obstacles that people encounter in their daily lives. It can facilitate participation and full enjoyment of the benefits of today’s digital society by providing access to information and experiences. Most importantly, new innovations will create opportunities for more independence.

QUESTION 20: If you could sponsor any single piece of legislation that would benefit people with disabilities, what bill would you propose?

ANSWER 20:  I would sponsor legislation that addresses the deficiencies in healthcare access and delivery, as well as the cost of those services. The bill would include provisions to strengthen our healthcare system and reduce barriers to providers.

Your questionnaire brings to light a myriad of issues facing Texans with disabilities. In the course of my research, I am lead to believe that in spite of the numerous laws and provisions in place, there has been chronic underfunding to provide much needed services. I will commit to further study of these issues and will lead with compassion when addressing these concerns. As a community, it is important that all people have the opportunity to live to their fullest and contribute to the best of their ability.

Adam Bell Completes the 2018 CCDWD Candidate’s Questionnaire for the U.S. House of Representatives-District 3!

QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 1. Yes, I have historically relied on information from gathered from attendance of Collin County Democrats with Disabilities and Kate Garrison.  I also attended Democrats With Disabilities Caucus during the 2016 State Convention.  Additionally we have consulted with Charmaine Soloman, Founder and Chairman of the Board, of My Possibilities, in Plano.  On staff we have Bethany Bennett, an advocate for adults with cognitive/developmental disabilities.

QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 2. Absolutely, in fact we have disabled persons volunteering for the campaign.  Volunteers include persons that are hearing impaired, physically disabled and with developmental disabilities and we have room for anyone else that want to join the team!

QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 3.Without question.  I am uniquely affected, as my mother has Multiple Sclerosis, which has taken her mobility.  I have worked to raise money to find a cure for MS.  I was a part of the discussion in 2016 to ensure persons with disabilities were able to vote curbside and in fact helped people with disabilities at the polls.  Additionally, all of my offices are ADA compliant and completely wheel chair accessible.

QUESTION 4: What is your plan/commitment to reducing myths and stigma that contribute to barriers for independence, inclusion, and equality for people with disabilities? Please describe.

ANSWER 4. I know first-hand how people with disabilities are misunderstood, their needs are not met and how they are excluded from opportunity or even access.  From simply explaining the difference between van accessible and traditional accessible parking spaces to complete strangers in parking lots to fighting with the local golf course about their discrimination of persons with mobility assistance vehicles on the greens.  I commit to always be a voice that stands up for the inclusivity of those with disabilities.

QUESTION 5: Do you legislative or practical experience in regard to supporting workforce training, competitive employment, fair wages, and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what do you envision?

ANSWER 5. Yes.  My company has hired and successfully employed persons with physical disabilities.

QUESTION 6: What is your experience and/or commitment to insuring that children with disabilities have access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings? What do you see as barriers to this civil right for children with special education needs? Please describe.

ANSWER 6 I would work towards a plan that is modeled after Allen Independent School Districts Child Find Program (outlined below) and ensure that Federal Oversight by the Department of Education is in place and effective ensuring that States are not underfunding districts and preventing them from meeting the needs of children with disabilities. Additionally, I would penalize districts that put arbitrary caps on enrollment of children disabilities, which is happening in many Texas ISDs. Allen Independent School District Child Find Program works to identify and serve all children with disabilities residing within its jurisdiction who are in need of special education and related services including but not limited to: Speech and/or Language Impairment, Autism, Specific Learning Disability, Intellectual Disability, Emotional Disturbance, Orthopedic Impairment Other Health Impairment, Visual Impairment (including blindness), Auditory Impairment (including deafness), Traumatic Brain Injury, Multiple Disabilities

QUESTION 7: Which reforms or specific actions have you proposed (or would be willing to support) in regard to people with disabilities and eligibility and access to state & federal safety nets (i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, SSDI)? How will you insure that people with disabilities have access to vital healthcare and support services?

ANSWER 7. I would support reform and additional funding to relieve the intake and hearing back log of SSDI applicants.  Applicants run the risk of losing their home, starving or even dying before their case is even heard.  This is unconscionable.

QUESTION 8: What solutions have you supported or proposed that permit people with disabilities who receive federal and state benefits while also employed? Please describe.

ANSWER 8. I support the Ticket to Work Program…The Ticket to Work Program is supplement individuals with disabilities who want to continue to work.

QUESTION 9: What is your experience or plan to expand access to healthcare for people with disabilities and chronic illness who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare? How would you address the lack of access to affordable healthcare and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and chronic illness? Please describe.

ANSWER 9. I support a Federal mandate to ensure that States are no longer able to refuse to expand Medicaid Coverage to include more of those in need.

QUESTION 10: Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions and congregate settings? What have you proposed (or would propose) to address the shortage of qualified nursing and community attendant supports that people with disabilities rely on to live independently? Please describe.

ANSWER 10. I support, S.910/H.R. 2472  Disability Integration Act and  Home Modification Grants

QUESTION 11: What experience or plan do you have to address disability justice, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline for children with disabilities (particularly children who are also children of color)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over-represented in the criminal justice system? What actions will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe

ANSWER 11. I would work towards implementation of initial training and continuing education programs that educate officers and teach them how to deal and interact with people with disabilities.  Crisis Intervention Team training is a proven and effective way to reduce the threat of unnecessary police violence against persons with disabilities.

QUESTION 12: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue? Please describe. ­­­­­­­

ANSWER 12. Incentivize and implement Community Level Protection services that educate communities about the signs of abuse and the heightened risk of child and adults with disabilities.  Help others see people with disabilities as valued and unique individuals.  Promote community based inclusion.  Encourage communities to share the responsibility of caring for and looking out for those most vulnerable in our communities.

QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian life and employment? How have you addressed, or would respond to the lack of healthcare and mental health services for veterans who do not receive VA benefits? Please describe.

ANSWER 13. With Veterans Suicide Rates reaching one vet every 20 minutes, additional resources and focus towards mental health services in our VA system will be a priority along with federal assistance towards community based organizations that work to reintegrate soldiers into civilian life.

QUESTION 14: Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the community? Please describe.

ANSWER 14. I support, S.910/H.R. 2472 Disability Integration Act and Home Modification Grants

QUESTION 15: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e. assistive technologies, etc.) that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.

ANSWER 15. I support S.910/H.R. 2472 Disability Integration Act as well as initiatives that promote increased employment and access to all persons with disabilities.

QUESTION 16: The hard-fought struggle for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is under assault by H.R. 620- The ADA Education & Reform Act. H.R.620 puts the burden on the person with disability to prove that a business owner has denied him/her access to a place of public accommodation and allows the business owner to indefinitely postpone compliance. This bill would undermine the important progress of the ADA. If elected (or re-elected) would you support or oppose this bill?

ANSWER 16. I oppose the bill.  The design of the bill is aimed at putting the burden on the already aggrieved and basically making ADA complaints disappear.  Businesses are already afforded the opportunity to be inclusive, but the proposed legislation would serve as a free pass for businesses to delay compliance if a person with a disability is unable to stay on top of the complaint process

QUESTION 17:  The Disability Integration Act (S.610/H.R. 2472) is bicameral, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to address the fundamental issue that people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) are being forced into institutions and losing their basic civil rights. The DIA builds on the over 25 years of work ADAPT has done to end the institutional bias, and provide seniors and people with disabilities home and community-based services (HCBS) as an alternative to institutionalization. If elected, (or re-elected), would you support or oppose passage of H.R. 2472?

ANSWER 17. If the bill is not passed in this current legislative session I will support any future versions.

Lorie Burch Completes the 2018 CCDWD Candidate’s Questionnaire for the U.S. House of Representatives-District 3!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 1:  My wife, Kim, previously worked in Special Education for 15 years for Carrollton/Farmers Branch ISD Schools as well as Region 10 Education Service Center as an Adapted Physical Education Teacher/Consultant, and is an excellent resource for me when I need advice about disability issues, as she understands the current laws and how important it is to provide accessibility and accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, one of my campaign managers is a Speech-Language Pathologist with a background in both private clinics and public schools, and is able to provide a different perspective on these topics. I have also had several meetings with Michael Thomas, executive director of My Possibilities, and he has agreed to be a campaign advisor.

QUESTION 2:  Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 2. The campaign is inclusive to everyone, including those with disabilities. There are ways to get involved with our campaign in almost every single aspect from voter outreach to volunteering. We have ways for those who can’t block walk to phonebank instead. For those who wish to block walk but request that someone accompany them, we make sure that resource is available. Additionally, we have provided many of our interested volunteers with the option of writing postcards to voters from home if they experience limited mobility, and we deliver the postcards to them in order facilitate this process. Several of our current volunteers are individuals with disabilities, and we are committed to making sure that they are able to participate in every possible way with our campaign. For example, my stepfather is a Vietnam Veteran with disabilities who has participated in my campaign both as an advisor and volunteer.

QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 3. In my experience as an estate planning attorney, I have had the opportunity to work with many diverse families, including families with special needs. These experiences have allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the unique challenges individuals with special needs and their families face in education, housing, living conditions, economic support, and job training. As an advocate and community volunteer, I have also had many opportunities throughout the years to demonstrate my support of individuals with disabilities. Most recently, I served as a sponsor for the Hugs Diner Gala – an organization that provides real-world job training for adults with disabilities. I also participated in Wyatt Elementary School PTA’s Ability Awareness Day, which allowed students students to simulate what it is like to live with a disability by rotating through stations that helped them to understand, respect, and be sensitive to those with all different abilities. My wife Kim has also been a key volunteer and has assisted in planning and coordinating many Special Olympics State Competitions and Area Events. Kim also coordinated and planned Kid-netic Games, an event for athletes that are physically impaired, since it began over 8 years ago. We have also included our daughters in these events, both as volunteers and spectators to cheer on the athletes. As as family, we have felt it is important to demonstrate our commitment to the special needs community, because these opportunities help to give us a greater understanding of the experiences of others.

QUESTION 4: What is your plan/commitment to reducing myths and stigma that contribute to barriers for independence, inclusion, and equality for people with disabilities? Please describe.

ANSWER 4. Education is key. In order to eliminate many stigmas and myths surrounding things like disability, we have to make sure our communities are educated. Many people don’t realize what qualifies as a disability, and this is especially true in the cases of “invisible disabilities”, where there may be no physical evidence of an individual’s unique needs. As I mentioned earlier, Kim and I recently participated in an event at our youngest daughter’s school in order to promote disability awareness among the Elementary school students. These experiences are invaluable for our children to learn empathy and compassion for those who have different abilities than they do.  Once elected, I plan to support local coalitions in having conversations about issues impacting the community. I certainly believe that individuals with disabilities deserve opportunities to participate in these discussions, and I will work with my team to be sure that we provide an accessible environment for that to happen.

It is also crucial that the individual elected for this position be able to connect with the issues facing individuals with disabilities. Health and Human Services programs make up a large percentage of our state and federal budgets, and the number one consumers of these services are people with disabilities.  Because of this, our elected leaders must have a greater understanding of the overall system, as well as the individuals who make up our communities with special needs. Without this awareness, we will have difficulty combating the current stigmas and barriers that face this population, and we will continue to suffer from inefficiencies and waste within the system that hinder our ability to the lives of more American people.

QUESTION 5: Do you legislative or practical experience in regard to supporting workforce training, competitive employment, fair wages, and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what do you envision?

ANSWER 5. When I served as National President of the American Business Women’s Association, one of my top priorities was advocating for equal pay for all, regardless of a person’s race, religion, or disability. During my time at this organization, our board passed the first fully inclusive non-discrimination policy, allowing us to support more women from all backgrounds – including those with disabilities. In 2014, I testified in favor of Plano’s Equal Rights Ordinance – which protects many groups, including individuals with disabilities, from employment or housing discrimination within the city. As your representative in Congress, I hope to continue to support policies like these for our communities and workplaces. It is my belief that if companies are educated about the opportunities that evolve when they hire individuals with disabilities, it will not only benefit those individuals – but the culture and productivity of the companies who hire them as well. Here in Collin County, we have already seen businesses thriving through partnership with individuals with disabilities, such as the Hugs Cafe in McKinney – where the staff provides workforce training to adults with disabilities.

QUESTION 6: What is your experience and/or commitment to insuring that children with disabilities have access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings? What do you see as barriers to this civil right for children with special education needs? Please describe.

ANSWER 6. During my time as a candidate, I have had the opportunity to meet with many teachers and parents of children with disabilities who are terrified of how the voucher system would impact their child’s education. I am committed to opposing any legislation that would remove funding from our public schools in order to fund for-profit institutions. Although we have strong laws in place in to support students with disabilities in our public schools, these laws are not effective when our schools do not have the necessary funding and support to provide individual services for students that need them. Free Appropriate Public Education is an established right for these children by law, but we have a long way to go when it comes to accommodating our children with disabilities. In addition to supporting greater funding for public education and strongly opposing a voucher system that removes money from ourpublic schools, I would like to see greater action in our schools to creatively provide opportunities for our students with disabilities. As I mentioned earlier, it is important that our children begin learning awareness and empathy during elementary school years. For example, more programs to allow partnerships between students with disabilities and their peers through peer mentorship will help both groups learn and grow in a positive way while utilizing the resources we currently have available.

QUESTION 7: Which reforms or specific actions have you proposed (or would be willing to support) in regard to people with disabilities and eligibility and access to state & federal safety nets (i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, SSDI)? How will you insure that people with disabilities have access to vital healthcare and support services?

ANSWER 7: There are several reforms and actions that I support and have proposed. Every single citizen, including those with preexisting conditions, deserves access to healthcare. Expanding Medicare and Medicaid to cover every single American would solve an issue that many members of the community face – not having their healthcare needs met. I would also be in favor of making sure that SSDI and other forms of disability payment aren’t taxed, and further evaluating the payments provided each month to beneficiaries, since SSDI is the only income that some people with disabilities receive.

QUESTION 8: What solutions have you supported or proposed that permit people with disabilities who receive federal and state benefits while also employed? Please describe.

ANSWER 8. I am in full support of any policies related to healthcare, education, housing, or career opportunities that would ensure individuals with disabilities are able to achieve their highest potential. In proposing new legislation to support individuals with disabilities, I would seek advice from subject matter experts and community leaders, such as the Executive Director of My Possibilities, to better understand and be an advocate for those individuals who are employed, while continuing to need federal or state financial assistance.

QUESTION 9: What is your experience or plan to expand access to healthcare for people with disabilities and chronic illness who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare? How would you address the lack of access to affordable healthcare and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and chronic illness? Please describe.

ANSWER 9: As stated in question 7, I would support extending and expanding Medicare and Medicaid, so that every single American has appropriate access to health care. It is unethical and immoral for insurance companies to deny care or coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions or chronic illness. When legislation comes forward to expand Medicare and Medicaid, we must have provisions to that ensure that individuals with disabilities receive appropriate coverage.

QUESTION 10: Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions and congregate settings? What have you proposed (or would propose) to address the shortage of qualified nursing and community attendant supports that people with disabilities rely on to live independently? Please describe.

ANSWER 10. Here in Collin County, one of the biggest challenges to individuals with disabilities who prefer to live in their own homes is transportation. Although we can also expand availability of community-based programs for these individuals, without addressing our area’s transportation issues we cannot expect that our community members will be able to take advantage of these expanded services. As a congressional representative, I will support funding for infrastructure and transportation, as well as work with community leaders to be sure that the issue of accessibility in our public transportation is addressed here in Collin County. In response to the shortage of home-based nurses and community attendants, I would support increased access to educational programs for students and tuition incentives to encourage individuals with interest in these career paths to pursue them.

QUESTION 11: What experience or plan do you have to address disability justice, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline for children with disabilities (particularly children who are also children of color)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over-represented in the criminal justice system? What actions will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe.

ANSWER 11: I am an advocate for criminal justice reform. While attending law school at George Washington University in D.C., I spent a semester as an intern-investigator with the city’s public defender service, and it became clear to me that not everyone was receiving the equal treatment from our justice system that they deserved. The first step in reforming our criminal justice system is to provide opportunities for law enforcement officials within our community to participate in discussions with the everyday people they serve. I would encourage these conversations to be accessible to individuals with disabilities, sot hat they share their backgrounds and unique needs with community leadership in order to keep our officers more informed and connected with our citizens.

QUESTION 12: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue? Please describe. ­­­­­­­

ANSWER 12: We need to create a culture that calls attention to these issues. We have seen progress in sexual assault victims speaking up for themselves in the past year, but we have a long way to go to help community members speak up for one another when they witness inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct. We can start by shedding light on this issue, and making community leaders aware of the staggering statistics surrounding sexual assault of individuals with disabilities. This issue starts with leadership, and making sure that our elected leaders are held accountable for their own inexcusable actions in relation to sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.

QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian life and employment? How have you addressed, or would respond to the lack of healthcare and mental health services for veterans who do not receive VA benefits? Please describe.

ANSWER 13. When we make the choice to send our servicemen and servicewomen into combat, we have a responsibility to care for them when they come home. Our government consistently allocates greater and greater resources to our military, while failing to appropriately fund and staff the VA system. This is inexcusable. Any time our Congress considers increasing funding for our military, our representatives have a duty to also consider the status of the VA and determine whether additional funding is needed to support our troops when they return home.

QUESTION 14: Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the community? Please describe.

ANSWER 14. I am in support of programs which allow individuals with disability a greater variety of housing options to fit their individual needs. As mentioned in question 10, I do feel that addressing our transportation services in Collin County should be a priority when developing accessible housing options for our residents with disabilities. Without access to appropriate transportation to allow for individuals to travel within our community, our housing options will fall short for this community.

QUESTION 15: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e. assistive technologies, etc.) that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.

ANSWER 15. I would absolutely promote funding for research on technology and innovations to help people with disabilities experience increased independence. Investments like these help to grow our economy by reducing barriers to enter the workforce.

QUESTION 16: The hard-fought struggle for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is under assault by H.R. 620- The ADA Education & Reform Act. H.R.620 puts the burden on the person with disability to prove that a business owner has denied him/her access to a place of public accommodation and allows the business owner to indefinitely postpone compliance. This bill would undermine the important progress of the ADA. If elected (or re-elected) would you support or oppose this bill?

ANSWER 16. I would oppose H.R. 620, and any similar attempts to put business or corporate interests above the needs of everyday Americans. Employers need to comply with the law in order to provide their employees with reasonable accommodations so that they may carry out their duties in the workplace.

QUESTION 17:  The Disability Integration Act (S.910/H.R. 2472) is bicameral, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to address the fundamental issue that people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) are being forced into institutions and losing their basic civil rights. The DIA builds on the over 25 years of work ADAPT has done to end the institutional bias, and provide seniors and people with disabilities home and community-based services (HCBS) as an alternative to institutionalization. If elected (or re-elected), would you support or oppose passage of H.R. 2472?

ANSWER 17. I would support The Disability Integration Act. Community-based services, as I referenced above with examples such as My Possibilities and Hug Cafe, are valuable resources for our community as well as for the individuals with disabilities that they serve.

Ms. Burch has opponents.  We will post their responses when we receive them.

Sam Johnson Completes the 2018 CCDWD Candidate’s Questionnaire for the U.S. House of Representatives-District 3!

QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 1. Yes I do have designated advisors. My wife is an elementary school counselor and the 504 coordinator at her school, a role she has held for years and throughout our marriage. This has helped me become intimately familiar with disability issues in education. I also personally have worked with clients to help ensure they are compliant with the ADA and other anti-discrimination laws. As with all decisions in my campaign, we host roundtables with my core team to talk through the various contingencies on policies we are considering, and if someone on my core team doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of a given issue, I reach out to someone who does and invite them to join our discussion.

QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 2. Yes. My campaign headquarters is accessible and inclusive to everyone regardless of any immutable characteristic, including a disability. Likewise, our campaign culturally is open to everyone who wants to work with us, and we continue to seek out new people with new perspectives all the time. I was asked at the very beginning of my campaign if I would ensure all campaign events were accessible for people with disabilities, and I’m proud to say that I have followed through on that promise.

QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 3. I’m not sure if my life experiences rise to the level of what I perceive to be a “proven record on improving the lives of people with disabilities,” but I have worked with clients to help them ensure that they are ADA compliant both in regards to their facilities and their policies. That also includes advising them sometimes against their immediate financial interest in order to guide them to do the right thing and be inclusive for all of their employees. Nevertheless, I believe as a representative it will also be my responsibility to bring light to the unknown facts about living with disabilities, such as its impact on employment, education, and even dealings with law enforcement. By helping ensure these matters are heard and considered, I will work also to bring further progress in law and culture to ensure America grows in its capacity for accessibility and inclusiveness.

QUESTION 4: What is your plan/commitment to reducing myths and stigma that contribute to barriers for independence, inclusion, and equality for people with disabilities? Please describe.

ANSWER 4. As with so many underserved and underrepresented populations, I plan first and foremost to listen to people with disabilities and leaders in organizations that represent them to continue attaining greater knowledge and understanding of the successes and challenges in the community. Coupled with that is my commitment to speak publicly about these issues, and about the need to work on them and find solutions not just as a legislator, but as a member of our community. I’ve spent years fighting for justice and fair treatment for all people, and that commitment will not stop once I’m in office. I will push for expansion of laws and regulations that ensure our businesses and institutions are inviting to people of all abilities. That commitment will carry on even clearer and will without question include tearing down stereotypes and stigma broadly and unfairly associated with people with disabilities.

QUESTION 5: Do you legislative or practical experience in regard to supporting workforce training, competitive employment, fair wages, and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what do you envision?

ANSWER 5. I have significant practical experience in these areas. I advise small companies who have limited resources but focus on ensuring a fair and equal environment for employees with disabilities, and I advise large, national companies with considerable resources

QUESTION 6: What is your experience and/or commitment to insuring that children with disabilities have access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings? What do you see as barriers to this civil right for children with special education needs? Please describe.

ANSWER 6. As referenced above, my wife is a school counselor and has been for over 12 years. She is the 504 Coordinator for her elementary school, she’s the Career and Technology Education representative for her elementary students in special education moving to junior high, and she attends ARD after ARD to be an advocating voice for her students with various disabilities. In graduate school, her course list included Special Education Law, Law and Disabilities, Psychology of Disability, and Individuals with Disabilities. Her learning and experiences are part of our nearly-daily conversations. She brings home her heartache about certain situations where parents and school personnel don’t see eye-to-eye or where children aren’t getting the services they need due to lack of resources. One major issue she encounters is the need for accommodations for Section 504 students without federal funding for the implementation of this law. Students may need services for dyslexia – yet there aren’t enough funds for dyslexia specialists to make intervention class sizes small enough to meet everyone’s needs. Students with hearing disabilities or auditory impairments may need FM systems, yet the school district doesn’t receive money to provide 504 accommodations, so the child may have to wait for parents to be able to provide such a support or for insurance companies to be able to agree to fund it.

In addition to having these stories being told to me by my wife who lives this experience week after week, we have had to navigate a different school district’s procedures to getting our 6-year-old son the attention he needs for his recent ADHD diagnosis. The frustration we feel as parents is nothing compared to the maddening ordeals that parents of students with greater needs must face. It can be intimidating to sit in an ARD meeting surrounded by a team of 10+ school professionals who may sometimes seem to speak their own language to a parent who is trying to understand an IEP or an FIE.

Finally, I’ve spoken with many voters about their frustration with transition services around the time of a student’s graduation. We need to improve special education programs to help students be more prepared for life after graduation. We can be enhancing transition services to improve outcomes for students with special needs as they enter the work force and become more independent. By providing excellent services that bridge the school setting to the employment setting, students with disabilities will be more successful, and their families can rest knowing they are better prepared for the “real world.”

QUESTION 7: Which reforms or specific actions have you proposed (or would be willing to support) in regard to people with disabilities and eligibility and access to state & federal safety nets (i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, SSDI)? How will you insure that people with disabilities have access to vital healthcare and support services?

ANSWER 7. We have to reexamine the recent tax law that was passed by the Republican Congress and signed by President Trump, because it does away with so many tax incentives and increases the deficit considerably. The next step for the GOP is to attack what it calls entitlements, but what I call citizen support programs. I’ve been talking nearly my entire campaign about the need to protect, preserve, and progress our citizen support programs including Medicaid, Medicare, and SSDI. These are vital programs that not only ensure we are serving people with disabilities, but that they have access to the resources they need. I support working toward a Medicare for all system that would also help relieve the heavy medical expense burdens that so many Americans face, including Americans with disabilities.

QUESTION 8: What solutions have you supported or proposed that permit people with disabilities who receive federal and state benefits while also employed? Please describe.

ANSWER 8. As we know, people with disabilities face an inequitablepay gap compared to people without disabilities. That fact alone undermines any argument that people with disabilities should become ineligible for citizen support programs at the state or federal level. Moreover, policies and laws relating to persons with disabilities are aimed at leveling the playing field, not giving a windfall. The simple truth is that individuals with disabilities often have greater expenses for health care, durable medical equipment, mental health treatment, and accessibility improvements/equipment. I support action to continue access to citizen support programs to supplement the income of people with disabilities.

QUESTION 9: What is your experience or plan to expand access to healthcare for people with disabilities and chronic illness who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare? How would you address the lack of access to affordable healthcare and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and chronic illness? Please describe.

ANSWER 9. As stated above, I support working toward a Medicare for all system. That is a necessary result, but one which must be deliberate and achieved over time. In the meantime, propose (i) requiring pharmaceutical companies to give Americans the best price they give any other country for a given medicine, and (ii) protecting Americans from the convoluted contracts that health insurance companies use to pocket premiums and then deny legitimate claims.

We also need to reexamine the thresholds for Medicaid and Medicare to make sure we are helping Americans thrive with dignity and respect, and work to broaden the coverage of these programs to more citizens in general, including people with disabilities. These protections would expand access to healthcare as a starting point. We must keep a prohibition on health insurance companies using a preexisting condition to discriminate against citizens who’ve had prior (or current) health needs.

QUESTION 10: Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions and congregate settings? What have you proposed (or would propose) to address the shortage of qualified nursing and community attendant supports that people with disabilities rely on to live independently? Please describe.

ANSWER 10. I support free community college for all Americans. This would be an important first step toward addressing the shortage of nurses and other care extenders that could greatly benefit many home health care patients, including those with disabilities. With regard to home and community-based services, I think Congress needs to consider enacting programs and supporting organizations who work to provide the independence desired by people with disabilities by ensuring they can still have the care they need from the location at which they will feel most at home and most independent.

QUESTION 11: What experience or plan do you have to address disability justice, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline for children with disabilities (particularly children who are also children of color)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over-represented in the criminal justice system? What actions will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe.

ANSWER 11. At the Federal level, there are numerous steps we can take. We need to deschedule marijuana, for several reasons. First, it’s medicinal uses not only can help reduce costs of medication, but also help address many of the substance abuse issues Americans face, particularly the opioid epidemic. This also removes a big feeder of people of all ages into the prison system. America spends $30 billion a year on drug-related offenses, much of which ends up lining the pockets of private health insurance companies.

Mental health issues are serious, legitimate medical conditions that deserve the recognition and treatment options they need, and ensure that people with disabilities and others can access mental health treatment. I’m a big proponent of additional anti-bias and anti-discrimination training for law enforcement, including funding community policing initiatives that get officers interacting in a positive way with the citizens they police on a daily basis. By building these relationships and trust, we build greater avenues of communication and reduce the deadly risks of miscommunications when interacting with police.

QUESTION 12: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue? Please describe. ­­­­­­­

ANSWER 12. This begins with the culture we continually fail to change in our country. Rather than reprimanding and separating predators, we “pass the trash” and permit ideas of misogyny and bullying to reign. This begins with leaders, and it is time for elected officials and community leaders to openly and vociferously denounce these mindsets. We also need to educate those in the education on this most particularly disturbing fact of living with a disability to give those educators the tools to recognize and prevent these acts from occurring and help protect the victims. Congress must expand the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to not ensure that sentences for those convicted of a hate crime based on an actual or perceived disability are more serious, something the current version of the act fails to do. Finally, victims of these heinous acts need to be provided with therapy and other resources to help them cope with the offenses that have been made against them.

QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian life and employment? How have you addressed, or would respond to the lack of healthcare and mental health services for veterans who do not receive VA benefits? Please describe.

ANSWER 13. We have so much work to do to better respect and protect our veterans. As I said above, I believe it is long overdue for America to recognize mental health as a legitimate health need, and we should be dedicating extra resources to our veterans, many of whom left for service without a disability but returned with one. We need to work with care provides and veterans, including veterans outside of the VA community, to examine what more we can do from a funding and resource perspective to support those who have served. These services need to be available to veterans regardless of the nature of their discharge, as they are transitioning back to civilian life regardless of what may have happened while they were on duty.

QUESTION 14: Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the community? Please describe.

ANSWER 14. Most regulation of development and building for residential property is done at the state and local level, however Federal law can and should play a role in ensuring multifamily and other living communities are adequately designed and constructed to be affordable and accessible for people with disabilities. Federal resources also need to be allocated, in our Congressional District in particular, to help bring better public transportation, and the disability assistance programs that come with it. Expanding community activities, know-your-neighbors programs, and community policing also help create an environment of integration and accessibility on an interpersonal level. The government can also work with private companies to incentivize them to innovate new products and designs to accommodate people with disabilities seen and unseen. When my wife was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, she faced many new challenges, many of which were not readily visible, but all of which impacted her daily life. There were many times where seemingly simple designs or products would have made her encounters with our home, businesses, and even our children much less painful for her, and I believe we can utilize business partners to work with people with disabilities to understand their wants and needs and work together on solutions – especially if we’re able to work with businesses that are owned by people with disabilities!

QUESTION 15: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e. assistive technologies, etc.) that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.

ANSWER 15. Expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship among people with disabilities is a primary way we can advance such innovations; by working with companies owned by people with disabilities we have access to companies who truly understand the challenges and solutions for members of this community. I would also support further investigation and research by working with people with disabilities to identify common and unique challenges and then to figure out how we can work to develop and implement innovations to make access, independence, and employment a more equal scenario.

QUESTION 16: The hard-fought struggle for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is under assault by H.R. 620- The ADA Education & Reform Act. H.R.620 puts the burden on the person with disability to prove that a business owner has denied him/her access to a place of public accommodation and allows the business owner to indefinitely postpone compliance. This bill would undermine the important progress of the ADA. If elected (or re-elected) would you support or oppose this bill?

ANSWER 16. I will oppose the ADA Education & Reform Act. Our laws should be working toward inclusiveness and accommodations for members of our community with disabilities, not placing higher burdens on them when they’re already having to fight against inequality.

QUESTION 17:  The Disability Integration Act (S.910/H.R. 2472) is bicameral, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to address the fundamental issue that people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) are being forced into institutions and losing their basic civil rights. The DIA builds on the over 25 years of work ADAPT has done to end the institutional bias, and provide seniors and people with disabilities home and community-based services (HCBS) as an alternative to institutionalization. If elected (or re-elected), would you support or oppose passage of H.R. 2472?

ANSWER 17. I will support passage of the Disability Integration Act. People who need LTSS are just that: people. They have rights and hopes and dreams, and have every right to have a government who will be by their side and ensure none of their rights are diminished

Mr. Johnson has opponents.  We will post their responses when we receive them.

 

Todd Maternowski Completes the 2018 CCDWD Candidate’s Questionnaire for the U.S. House of Representatives-District 3!

 

QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 1: Yes. Some of my core staff have disabilities.

QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If so, please describe.

ANSWER 2: Yes. I’m very comfortable working with disabled people, including my own brother, and have no issue whatsoever with including them in my campaign.

QUESTION 3: Do you have a proven record on improving the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 3: As mentioned earlier, my brother is disabled, and he and I have built a small business together, Maternowski Brothers Piano & Organ Co., which we’ve owned and operated since 2009. Because it allows my brother to “be his own boss,” he has been able to thrive under setting his own schedule, and working around his physical limitations.

QUESTION 4: What is your plan/commitment to reducing myths and stigma that contribute to barriers for independence, inclusion, and equality for people with disabilities? Please describe.

ANSWER 4: Disabled people are no different from anyone else; they have the same hopes and dreams as any able-bodied person, and I’ve found, anecdotally, that disabled persons are often more highly motivated than others to perform top-notch work. If given the opportunity to shine, they will! My mother, who was a special education pre-K teacher in DISD, showed me the kids in her classrooms, and I gained a special insight into how society unfairly pigeonholes the disabled as helpless, limited, or dangerous. Nothing could be farther from the truth! But those false notions are very much prevalent in our society, and must be exposed and corrected.

QUESTION 5: Do you legislative or practical experience in regard to supporting workforce training, competitive employment, fair wages, and entrepreneurial opportunities for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If not, what do you envision?

ANSWER 5: No legislative, as this is my first-ever run for political office. However, as mentioned earlier I have had a very hands-on experience with my brother in the workforce, first supporting him through a series of other jobs, before starting our own company in order to allow him to thrive. I would love to get the chance to work for fair wages and equitable treatment for all disabled people.

QUESTION 6: What is your experience and/or commitment to insuring that children with disabilities have access to free, appropriate public education in inclusive settings? What do you see as barriers to this civil right for children with special education needs? Please describe.

ANSWER 6: My mother was a special ed pre-K teacher, and so I was given a front-row seat to the difference a solid education can make. Her class was far too large –legally over the limit, which is more common than not—and in schools where the overwhelming majority of the kids were black or Hispanic. These children didn’t have the same access to special needs care that wealthier kids did in other districts, so they were already at a huge disadvantage. However, through the power of compassion through teaching, those children in her class were introduced to the power of language, of art, of reading, of singing along and laughing –to the point where their parents said that even on Saturday and Sundays they would dress themselves and stand at their doors, ready to go to school in the mornings. These are great stories but there aren’t enough of them, especially here in Texas, where special education kids were denied the treatment they require by corrupt state politicians. That’s a shame, but it can be corrected with increased funding and higher special ed teachers’ pay.

QUESTION 7: Which reforms or specific actions have you proposed (or would be willing to support) in regard to people with disabilities and eligibility and access to state & federal safety nets (i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, SSDI)? How will you insure that people with disabilities have access to vital healthcare and support services?

ANSWER 7: I support the introduction of a no-nonsense single-payer healthcare system, which would allow all Americans –disabled or otherwise—to get the care they need, when they need it, without having to constantly worry about skyrocketing premiums, denials of service, high deductibles, and whether their doctor is in-network. This is especially true for disabled persons, as they generally make far less income than a non-disabled person in the same position, and are thus even more stressed by basic medical/economic decisions. Access to affordable, universal healthcare will go a long way towards providing the disabled with peace of mind.

QUESTION 8: What solutions have you supported or proposed that permit people with disabilities who receive federal and state benefits while also employed? Please describe.

ANSWER 8: While everyone who can should be encouraged to work, sometimes people with disabilities are pushed into a “no man’s land,” where the pay they receive from work is not enough, but they make too much to receive adequate benefits from SSI. Add in the fact that disabled people make less for the same amount of work, and you have a serious problem. The federal government can and should re-write the formula for determining benefits, to give the disabled a much-needed break.

QUESTION 9: What is your experience or plan to expand access to healthcare for people with disabilities and chronic illness who don’t qualify for Medicaid and Medicare? How would you address the lack of access to affordable healthcare and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and chronic illness? Please describe.

ANSWER 9: As mentioned in an earlier question, I support universal healthcare, which would completely do away with pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps, and all the other for-profit aspects of our current system that unfairly discriminate against the disabled.

QUESTION 10: Do you have a plan to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities who would rather live in their own homes instead of institutions and congregate settings? What have you proposed (or would propose) to address the shortage of qualified nursing and community attendant supports that people with disabilities rely on to live independently? Please describe.

ANSWER 10: The nursing shortage is a serious issue for everyone: the low pay and hard hours chase a lot of quality candidates away. More federal student loan subsidies (and loan forgiveness plans for those who qualify) would go a long way toward attracting more candidates into nursing programs, and a fully-funded national support network could help alleviate the day-to-day issues nurses face once they start the job.

QUESTION 11: What experience or plan do you have to address disability justice, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline for children with disabilities (particularly children who are also children of color)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over-represented in the criminal justice system? What action will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe.

ANSWER 11: Whenever there is a high-profile mass shooting, politicians are quick to blame the “mentally ill.” This needs to stop. The mentally ill are no more predisposed to violence than anyone else, but few if any Americans are aware of that. In addition to various criminal justice reforms such as the elimination of cash bail and the reduction of nonviolent drug sentences, I would invest heavily in pre-K programs for the disabled (particularly in minority communities), where much of the groundwork in creating a healthy, adjusted adult can be set down.

QUESTION 12: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue? Please describe.

ANSWER 12: Increased sentences for those who abuse or target the disabled are long overdue.

QUESTION 13: Do you have a plan for veterans with disabilities facing barriers transitioning from active duty to civilian life and employment? How have you addressed, or would respond to the lack of healthcare and mental health services for veterans who do not receive VA benefits? Please describe.

ANSWER 13: There is a huge gap between what veterans need and what veterans get, but recent attempts by Congress to fix that resulted in poorly-planned and poorly-executed stopgaps. Vets need a comprehensive, universal healthcare system where vets can go to any doctor –not just a phone answering service—and get the care they need, when they need it.

QUESTION 14: Do you have a plan for accessible, affordable, integrated housing to allow people with disabilities to live in the community? Please describe.

ANSWER 14: Affordable housing is one of the single biggest issues facing city governments today. As real estate prices rise, low-income workers are left out, and often pushed out of the housing they have. On a federal level, we can provide HUD subsidies for city and local governments to spend on low-income housing development.

QUESTION 15: Do you have a plan to advance innovations (i.e. assistive technologies, etc.) that promote increased employment, access and independence for people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.

ANSWER 15: Of course! New innovations are making our lives easier every day. Advancements in assistive technologies have helped disabled persons overcome issues that might have been considered insurmountable 20 or 30 years ago. I see no reason to stop innovations now.

QUESTION 16: The hard-fought struggle for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is under assault by H.R. 620- The ADA Education & Reform Act. H.R.620 puts the burden on the person with disability to prove that a business owner has denied him/her access to a place of public accommodation and allows the business owner to indefinitely postpone compliance. This bill would undermine the important progress of the ADA. If elected (or re-elected) would you support or oppose this bill?

ANSWER 16: I would oppose it. A law with no “teeth” is no law at all, and this bill effectively neuters the ADA.

QUESTION 17:  The Disability Integration Act (S.910/H.R. 2472) is bicameral, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to address the fundamental issue that people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) are being forced into institutions and losing their basic civil rights. The DIA builds on the over 25 years of work ADAPT has done to end the institutional bias, and provide seniors and people with disabilities home and community-based services (HCBS) as an alternative to institutionalization. If elected (or re-elected), would you support or oppose passage of H.R. 2472?

ANSWER 17: I would support it. 

Mr. Maternowski has opponents.  We will post their responses when we receive them.

Mike Rawlins Completes the 2018 CCDWD Collin County Democratic Party Chair Questionnaire!

       

QUESTION 1:  Do you have informed designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If yes, please describe. If not, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 1:   Speaking from my role as County Chair, we routinely consult with CCDWD, and in particular, Kate Garrison, in regard to disability issues. Decision making on such issues follows customary processes for making decisions in committees, or to individuals delegated by committees.

QUESTION 2:  Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with
disabilities? If yes, please describe. If no, what plans do you have to
accomplish this?

ANSWER 2:  Any public events that my campaign conducts will be in public venues that are accessible to people with disabilities. Accommodations will be made for those with hearing impairment, as may be known in advance
and not cost prohibitive. For private events – generally by invitation in
private homes – accommodations are made on a case by case basis as
is appropriate for an attendee.

QUESTION 3: What are your plans to attract people with disabilities to join the CCDP? Please describe. If none, what plans do you have to accomplish this. 

ANSWER 3:  Many questions similar to this are asked of County Chair candidates – “What are your plans for attracting persons _______ to join the party?” The bottom line answer to all of these is that we try to attract anyone and everyone who is supportive of the Democratic Platform and wants to help elect Democrats. It ultimately comes down to current members and leadership being personally welcoming to all who come to us, and particularly in leadership setting an example.  For persons with disabilities this also means creating a physical environment that is welcoming, such as providing ADA compliant facilities for those with physical disabilities and mobility requirements. It can mean developing our website with alternate text for pictures for those with vision impairment, and captioning for videos for those with hearing impairment. As our editorial and review policies mature we have some work to do in the latter areas for mass communications, and this will be a priority moving forward.

QUESTION 4: What are your plans to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to CCDP meetings, events, and conferences? Please describe. If none, what plans do you have to accomplish this?

ANSWER 4:  The Rules of the Texas Democratic Party, Article I Statement of Principles, A. Beliefs, clearly mandate that we meet the provisions of the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act. This has been and remains a priority for the CCDP. The CEC specifically made this a priority in selecting a new office space before the TDP made it a rule, and construction was completed last year to make our restroom facilities ADA compliant. As another example, I personally took the lead in procuring a wireless microphone system to better accommodate those with hearing impairments at our CEC meetings and other functions. We are currently actively engaged with CCDWD in planning for the 2018 County Convention to accommodate all who wish to attend.

Mr. Rawlins has opponents.  We will post their responses here when we receive them.

Byron Bradford Completes the 2018 CCDWD Candidate’s Questionnaire for County Commissioner – Precinct 4!

 QUESTION 1: Do you have designated advisors and clear processes for making decisions on disability issues? If yes, please describe.  If no, what are your plans to accomplish this?

ANSWER 1: Currently, I do not have any personnel dedicated to this, however, once I am elected I can assure you and your constituents this is very important to me and my family. As a disable veteran, I have a vested interested in the treatment and access daily activities for all people.

I will visit with the County Human Resource manager and see what programs we have in place to help facilitate this need in accordance with the American Disability Act.

QUESTION 2: Is your campaign accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities? If yes, please describe. If no, what are your plans to accomplish this?

ANSWER 2: Yes, we are always willing to make accommodations to better serve our community.

QUESTION 3: Do you have a plan to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive services that would prevent them from being swept up into the criminal justice system? Does your plan include­­­?

  • Options in lieu of jail where appropriate, and increase access to needed accommodations while incarcerated? Please describe.
  • Options in lieu of detention and incarceration of individuals with disabilities who are arrested for nonviolent offenses? Please describe.
  • Support for individuals with disabilities leaving jails and prisons to prevent recidivism and to reintegrate people with disabilities into their communities? Please describe.

ANSWER 3: Currently, I am working with City House, Grace to Change and Collin County Homeless Coalition to address and meet these needs. Furthermore, I am looking forward to creating an alliance with the local medical providers to ensure citizens are receiving the treatment they need and deserve to assimilate back into society without harming themselves or anyone else.

QUESTION 4: What experience or plans do you propose to address disability justice, police training, and the high rate of police brutality (More than half of all victims are people with disabilities)? How would you address the prevalence of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorder, and developmental disabilities as over-represented in the criminal justice system? What actions will you take or have taken, to prevent reentry of people with disabilities into the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses? Please describe.

ANSWER 4: We must ensure our law enforcement teams are receiving adequate training on how to function with people whom has a disability.  Funding this type of training will be the responsibility of the county. Bottom line, officers must be held accountable for acts that violate the civil right of our citizens, especially citizens that are protected under the Title 7 Civil Rights Act.

QUESTION 5: Bail reform efforts were unsuccessful in the last session of the Texas Legislature. What would you describe as successful bail reform? What obstacles exist that have prevented bail reform efforts so far? What is your plan to remove the obstacles?  Please describe.

ANSWER 5: As a Collin County Commissioner, I can build an alliance with the Federal and State Representatives that would sponsor or support this legislation. This is a legislative issue that can be addressed at the local level with proper representation. We need leadership that possess compassion, empathy and concern for our residents.

QUESTION 6: Both children and adults with disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault; people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. How would you address this issue? Please describe.

ANSWER 6: We must create more community involvement, educator awareness and better reporting mechanisms. Also, the county needs to create a committee to oversee, investigate and monitor organization that has this segment of people in their care.

QUESTION 7: How do you see the role of County Commissioner as positively impacting access to qualify, affordable healthcare services for people with chronic illness and disabilities?

ANSWER 7: Formulating better relationships with the Collin County medical community will be a great start to helping the indigent, homeless and mentally ill residents receive better treatment and care.

QUESTION 8: For years, individual cities have struggled to provide its citizens with transportation, trying one temporary or band aid solution after another. Since the exit of TAPS, the lack of para-transit in Collin County has garnered much concern and attention.  However, just “fixing” para-transit does not address the larger problem:  that of leaving people with disabilities and seniors isolated from mainstream community life. What is your plan for a unified, county-wide transportation system that includes accessible transportation for seniors and people with disabilities? Please explain.

ANSWER 8: I am an advocate for rail transportation. 60 Days after I am elected, we will start looking for permanent and long-term solutions to make traveling more feasible for personnel that are aging and those that have disabilities. As American citizens, they too should be able to move around freely with minimal to no assistance.

There are no other Democratic candidates in this race.  The incumbent is Republican Duncan Webb.