Disability and Poverty

This post is at the request of my readers, in particular those in my Facebook group. Many have repeatedly said that they want to do something and want to be involved and help. But, because of the dynamics in our Congress right now, there just are not a lot of actionable items right now. As I state in my free 12 step citizen lobbying course, it’s best practice to have a specific ask for your legislators.

disability and poverty

First, some very frightening statistics. Honestly, gathering this data was one of the most depressing posts I have every done.

Statistics on Disability and Poverty:

  1. Nearly 1 in 3 people with a disability lives in poverty. The rate for non-disabled people is about 1:10 or 11.
  2. If you have a disability in the U.S., you’re twice as likely to be poor as someone without a disability. You’re also far more likely to be unemployed. And that gap has widened in the 25 years since the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted.
  3. Overall, twice as many people with disabilities live in poverty as compared to those who are typically developing and less than 30 percent of working-age people in this population are participating in the workforce, far less than the 78 participation rate for other Americans, according to the Senate report.
  4. The poverty rate for working-age people with disabilities is nearly two and a half times higher than that for people without disabilities.
  5. The poverty rate for working-age people with disabilities is nearly two and a half times higher than that for people without disabilities. Indeed, recent research finds that half of all working age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a disability, and nearly two-thirds of those experiencing longer-term poverty have a disability.
  6. People with disabilities are also much more likely to experience material hardships—such as food insecurity; inability to pay rent, mortgage, and utilities; or not being able to get needed medical care—than people without disabilities at the same income levels. The same goes for families caring for a child with a disability.
  7. About 8 in 10 persons with disabilities weren’t in the labor force in 2012, compared with about 3 in 10 persons with no disability, the Labor Department said.

Are you ready to cry yet? I have cited my sources at the bottom of this article if you wish to do further reading. But, let’s press on.

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How to Contact your Legislators about Disability and Poverty.

Here are some links to help you find your legislators about this important issue.

  • Your two Senators, find them HERE.
  • Your Representative in Congress, you have one. Find him/here HERE.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, find his information HERE.
  • The White House/President, find him HERE.
  • The Secretary of Labor, information HERE.
  • The Office of Disability Employment Policy, information HERE.
  • The Secretary of Education, information HERE.

I know that seems like a lot, but once you fine tune your email or pitch for the phone, will be easy. We have the same message, so you won’t have to rewrite it each time. Here is a rough draft of what you can say. You can either craft this as an email to send or what you want to say if you call their offices. I also have it as a Google Doc so that you can view it and download it and work with it on your own computer. You can get it there and either make a copy or download. Pay attention to the red words, that is what needs to be changed.

Letter Template about Poverty for Legislators

Dear {insert name},

Are you aware that almost a third of American adults with a disability lives in poverty? And that less than 30% of American adults with disabilities are in our work force? By assisting people with disabilities, we can eliminate a large portion of poverty in America. Most adults want to work, there are just many barriers. Sadly, despite 25+ years of ADA, the gap has actually widened instead of getting better.

You can see why I am excited when I hear our leaders say that they want to help this problem. And as one of your constituents, I wanted you to know that I want you to join them. Specifically, this is what I would like to see:

  • ongoing support of federal programs that are proven to help families get out of poverty, such as SNAP and EITC; these programs need to be preserved, not cut or eliminated
  • introduction or co-sponsorship of new bills that encourage employers to hire people with disabilities or develop innovative inclusion programs
  • expansion and increased federal funding for training programs for adults with disabilities
  • full 40% funding of IDEA so that our schools have necessary resources to teach our children with disabilities the skills they need to be an independent, successful adults
  • introduction, funding and expansion of programs that are innovative and inclusive, such as the programs that Walgreens has done (some distribution centers have a 40% hiring rate of people with disabilities)
  • expanded protection in the workplace for parents who are caregivers
  • more ODEP and DOL studies and outreach campaigns so that America’s employers learn that hiring people with disabilities is a benefit, not a liability

People with disabilities are still some of the most marginalized people on the planet. Almost every minority group in America has seen great strides in recent decades, but despite 25+ years of ADA and 40 years of IDEA, we have not changed outcomes for people with disabilities. We need more champions in our legislature speaking up for our families. I appreciate your assistance and support in this matter.


Keep advocating!

I hope this helps. Of course there are many other things that can be included, but I just wanted to give a framework to get started. Good luck and let me know if you have any interesting results!

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