Warren Pledges More Support for People With Disabilities

(CN) – Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren kicked off 2020 by releasing a plan she said would protect the rights and equality of the 61 million Americans who live with disabilities. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., acknowledges the crowd during a campaign event at the Old South Meeting House on Tuesday in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

She began the plan by commending activists who have fought for the rights of the disabled, including Judith Heumann, President Obama’s special adviser on disability rights for the U.S. State Department.

“Fighting a world that has excluded, exploited, and institutionalized them, they have put their lives on the line for a more just future and changed this country for the better for everyone,” Warren wrote of the activists. 

She pledged to create a National Office of Disability Coordination and fight for economic security, accessible living and education, and civil liberties like the right to vote and have custody of children. 

“People with disabilities have the same rights to full participation in the economy and fair wages as everyone else, and I won’t stop fighting until they get them,” Warren wrote, highlighting the pay and hiring disparities that confront people with disabilities, particularly black and Native American workers. 

She said she would recommit to President Barack Obama’s plan for people with disabilities to represent 14% of the federal workforce, and better protect the financial resources of people with disabilities with the creation of a position at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Warren pledged as well to rewrite the government programs Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income, which she says trap people in poverty with low monthly payouts and fewer benefits for those who marry or get financial support from family or friends. If workers earn even one dollar above the earnings threshold for SSDI, Warren added, they lose all their benefits. 

Supplemental Security Income, meanwhile, does not even provide benefits that meet the U.S. poverty line, Warren pointed out, promising she’d fight to change that. 

Herself a former public school special education teacher, Warren also laid out a plan to help young people living with disabilities get a good education, pledging an additional $20 billion a year to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

“That’s more funding for hiring paraprofessionals and supporting teachers to meet students’ needs; more funding to help schools provide augmentative or alternative communication services for students with severe language or speech disabilities; more funding for the development of culturally responsive special education practices; more funding for transition planning to prepare students with disabilities for the future, and much, much more,” said Warren, who represents Massachusetts in the Senate. 

She also promised to bring down the costs of assistive technologies and enforce anti-discrimination laws that work to prevent disability discrimination in hiring practices that use algorithms. Warren said she would additionally address barriers at polling places that make it difficult for people with disabilities to vote.

Warren has not yet announced her fundraising totals for the fourth quarter of 2019. Opponents Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigeg and Joe Biden raised $34.5 million, $24.7 million and $22.7 million, respectively. She trails Biden and Sanders in most polls

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