Pete Buttigieg releases plan to create "a new era of inclusion for people with disabilities"

“Pete knows that we need both a massive shift in federal policies and a more inclusive and welcoming society”

Published November 2, 2019 7:01AM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Galivants Ferry Stump on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Galivants Ferry, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Galivants Ferry Stump on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Galivants Ferry, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Pete Buttigieg — the Indiana mayor who has emerged as one of the top candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2020 election — released a plan Saturday morning which promised to create “a new era of inclusion for people with disabilities.”

After describing the “physical and invisible obstacles” faced by citizens people with disabilities in the U.S., the Buttigieg campaign called for the elimination of the sub-minimum wage for disabled individuals; the establishing of a national network of apprenticeships and an “Internships for All” program that would help disabled individuals in the workplace; an end to the “benefit cliff” for Social Security disability insurance; and a number of measures to protect disabled students.

Some of those student protection measures distinguish Buttigieg’s proposals from those of other candidates, according to Marisol Samayoa, a spokesperson for the Buttigieg campaign. Samayoa said the plan was developed in consultation with the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, the Center Accessible Technology in Berkeley and Paralympian Anjali Forber-Pratt, a prominent advocate of disability rights.

The unique aspects of Buttigieg’s plan include setting a goal of getting 85 percent of students with intellectual and multiple disabilities in a general education classroom for 80 percent or more of the day by 2025. He would also end corporal punishment, restraint and seclusion in schools due to the manner in which those practices disproportionately target disabled students.

The Buttigieg campaign also says it differentiates itself from others by calling for the doubling of labor force participation for disabled individuals by 2030, the 40th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also promises to reform the voting process to an effort to ensure that disabled individuals have the same ease of access to voting as the general public. The campaign additionally promises to prohibit the practice of denying parents with disabilities custody of their children or adoption rights based on the fact that they have a disability.

“Since decades-old programs were designed to further disable people with disabilities and keep them on the margins, Pete knows that we need both a massive shift in federal policies and a more inclusive and welcoming society,” the Buttigieg campaign said in a statement which also praised famous Americans who were disabled, including abolitionist and women’s suffragist Harriet Tubman (who had a traumatic brain injury and a seizure disorder), President Abraham Lincoln (who suffered from depression) and musician Stevie Wonder (who is blind).

Buttigieg publicly declared neurodiversity to be a goal of his campaign last month, acknowledging that the increase in autism diagnoses was due to more people coming “out of the shadows.” In an interview with the progressive organization Supermajority, Buttigieg said that “there are so many contributions that . . . kids and adults with autism can make, but we’ve got to unlock their potential, too.” He also discussed his husband Chasten’s experiences teaching theater to autistic students, saying that it showed him “just what is possible if you have teachers equipped with the right insight and expertise.”

Buttigieg has not been alone among the Democratic candidates in bringing up disability rights. The campaign of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the race Fridaytold Salon last month that it opposed blaming mass shootings on mental illness over insufficient gun control laws.

“All countries have citizens with mental illness, but only America has more guns than human beings — 390 million firearms in a country of 329 million people — which takes the lives of 40,000 people annually,” the O’Rourke campaign said. “Access to guns — not mental health — is the cause of this epidemic.”

Recent surveys have consistently shown Buttigieg among the top four candidates running for the Democratic nomination, generally trailing behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), actress Cady McClain ("All My Children"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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