Pete Buttigieg Releases Plan to Secure a New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities

Pete Buttigie a New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities
Mayor Pete Buttigieg — Plan to Secure a New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities

Dignity, Access & Belonging — A New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities

Mayor Pete Buttigieg released an ambitious and comprehensive plan to break down obstacles for people with disabilities in a society that has long ignored their needs, and ensure that our country works for everyone.

Our country is stronger when we draw on the talents and capacity of every American,” said Buttigieg. “I’m committed to working alongside the disability community as President to systematically dismantle discrimination against people with disabilities, and ensure our government works for them.”

Pete’s plan will build a more inclusive society by doubling workforce participation rates of people with disabilities by 2030 and ensuring that 85% of students with disabilities learn in general education classrooms for at least 80% of the day. The plan secures parental rights for parents who are at risk of losing custody of their children in over 20 states when diagnosed with a disability. It provides access to new online tools that support independent living, including by guaranteeing ‘Internet for All,’ making net neutrality the law of the land, and creating an Accessible Technology Bill of Rights. 

From inaccessible public transportation to segregated education, or difficulty finding a good-paying job, people with disabilities are forced to navigate a world that all too frequently wasn’t built with them in mind. These hurdles are even higher for people with disabilities who belong to other marginalized groups.

As President, Pete will tirelessly advocate for people with disabilities with a plan to:

  • End the subminimum wage.
  • Make inclusive education a national expectation.
  • End corporal punishment, restraint, and seclusion in schools. 
  • Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Act.
  • Lower burdens on unpaid family caregivers, including by providing credit toward Social Security.
  • Require all new transportation projects with federal funding to be certified as 100% accessible. 
  • Eliminate the “benefit cliff” for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and update critical and abolish the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage, which is expected to save 10,000 to 20,000 lives per year over the next decade.
  • Ensure that people with disabilities can receive long-term care in their home and community by working with Congress to pass the Disability Integration Act.


Equitable opportunity for all students means that every child with a disability has access to high-quality, inclusive public education. Today, this is not the case. Students with disabilities are disproportionately segregated, suspended, and have lower high school graduation rates. Pete is committed to ensuring that students with disabilities get the public education they deserve. As President, he will:

Make inclusive education a national expectation and ensure that 85% of students with intellectual and multiple disabilities are in general education classrooms for 80% or more of the day by the end of the 2025 school year.

To create an expectation of inclusion so classrooms represent our society’s diversity, Pete will strengthen data collection to promote accountability; invest in the supplementary aids, services, and supports to promote inclusion; and bolster teacher education to promote inclusive schools.

Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Act.

End corporal punishment, restraint, and seclusion in schools.

While schools are prohibited from suspending students for behavior caused by their disability, students with disabilities are suspended at disproportionately high rates, especially disabled students of color. Pete will support the Ending Corporal Punishment in School Act and encourage states to pass legislation that eliminates suspensions for discretionary infractions. He will also direct the Department of Education to issue guidance on alternatives to punitive disciplinary practices.

Build on the promise and success of the Autism CARES Act, including by supporting greater investment in research on the needs of autistic adults and supporting autistic-led initiatives.

Ensure services for students with disabilities don’t end in high school.

For students with disabilities, the transition from high school to college or career can pose major challenges. Pete’s administration will better coordinate students’ programs and services, ensuring relevant federal agencies match eligibility requirements, timelines, and strategies.

Strengthen Title IX protections and support students with disabilities who face sexual assault in college.

Pete’s administration will reverse the Trump administration’s weakening of Title IX by amending Title IX regulations as outlined in his Building Power plan. He will streamline support services for students with disabilities and require that students in college are made aware, via accessible formats, of the services available to them.

Civil & Voting Rights

Reinvigorate enforcement of Olmstead v. L.C. and the ADA in the DOJ Civil Rights Division to aggressively protect the rights of disabled people.

Improve ADA compliance by lowering barriers to understanding one’s rights and making it easier to report problems.

Pete’s administration will create an accessible form available in multiple formats and language that shows one’s rights, including for education and housing. Parents or guardians will be able to  easily understand what rights their child has in school, know what authoritative information to point school officials to, and  easily report their school as non-compliant when that is the case.

Make sure that parents with disabilities do not lose custody or adoption rights based on the fact that they have a disability.

The right to raise a family with dignity and respect is a value we all share, and Pete’s administration will lead in combating bias and stigma against parents with disabilities–especially disabled parents of color–and ensure federal policies better support them.

Train first responders and police to identify and appropriately respond to individuals with disabilities.

Pete Buttigieg’s administration will integrate mental health clinicians and co-response teams into the first responder workforce and train first responders in de-escalation, therapeutic and care approaches as alternatives to arrest, and hospitalization for people who just need mental health care. Pete will also invest in rigorous law enforcement training and require de-escalation and higher standards for use of force for all police interactions.

Make the voting process and polling places accessible to everyone.

Pete will make registration and voting easier with automatic registration, early voting, and vote-by-mail, as well as expand funding for accessible voting machines and increase accessibility at polling places.

Competitive Integrated Employment

Today, only three in ten Americans with disabilities are employed, compared to about seven in ten people without disabilities. Moreover, a person with a disability is twice as likely to be poor as a person who does not. Pete is committed to dramatically increasing opportunities for competitive integrated employment. Embracing Senator Tom Harkin’s goal, Pete will work to double labor force participation for people with disabilities by 2030, the 40th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with a focus on closing racial inequities. To accomplish this goal, his administration will:

End the subminimum wage.

Pete will end the subminimum wage by repealing Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act and supporting the Transformation to Competitive Employment and Raise the Wage Acts. He will support capacity building to help with the transition from sheltered workshops to competitive integrated employment.

Create a national network of apprenticeships and an Internships for All program that provide greater opportunities for competitive integrated employment.

Pete Buttigieg’s administration will invest $5 billion over the next decade in a national apprenticeship program that ensures access to a well-paying job—especially for people with disabilities—within 30 miles of their home. Pete will also incentivize companies to offer paid internships to students from underrepresented backgrounds, including students with disabilities.

Increase federal subcontracting with disability-owned businesses, including by enforcing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Ensure all workers have access to paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

Pete supports the FAMILY Act, which provides at least 12 weeks of paid family leave per year, and enhancing its benefits to include caregiving responsibilities for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and chosen family members. Pete’s administration will decouple medical leave benefits from family care and new child leave benefits to provide a longer total potential leave for workers. Pete will also set up a national system of paid sick leave, as outlined in his Empowering Workers plan.

Social Security

In 2018, the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was more than twice the rate for those without disabilities. Median annual earnings for workers with disabilities are just $23,000. Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are too often the only programs keeping these individuals afloat. To make it easier for people with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, Pete will:

Eliminate the “benefit cliff” for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) so benefits gradually phase out until recipients reach nearly $45,000 in annual earnings.

Eliminate SSDI’s ineffective current work incentives.

Pete will eliminate the “Trial Work Period” and “Extended Period of Eligibility” and allow beneficiaries to receive partial benefits at wage levels between $1,220 and $3,687, with the benefit amounts fluctuating as recipients’ wages change.

Reduce excessive wait times for SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals cases.

Pete Buttigieg will fully fund the Compassionate And Responsive Service (CARES) plan so people in need of benefits can receive them. He will also exempt the SSA’s administrative budget from sequestration.

Enable SSDI participants to start receiving income benefits as soon as they are admitted to the program.

Eliminate SSDI’s 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage.

More than one out of nine SSDI recipients die during this waiting period. This reform is expected to save 10,000 to 20,000 lives per year over the next decade.

Update critical SSI thresholds to allow people to receive greater assistance as costs of living rise.

All people with disabilities should be able to live full and meaningful lives at every stage of life. Ensuring that individuals can learn, live, work, shop, and socialize in their own communities requires access to affordable, quality, home- and community-based long-term services and supports. To this end, Pete will:

Ensure that people with disabilities can receive long-term care in their home and community by supporting the Disability Integration Act.

Enhance the Medicaid program to ensure people with disabilities on Medicaid have access to care in their homes and communities.

Pete will do this by increasing Medicaid eligibility, eliminating Medicaid’s bias towards institutional care, ending Medicaid waiting lists, and permanently funding the Money Follows the Person program, which eliminates barriers that restrict using Medicaid funds for community-based care.

Raise standards for pay, benefits, and training for direct care workers.

Pete will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and create a national Direct Care Workforce Standards Board, composed of direct care workers and their representatives, providers, consumers and consumer advocacy groups, to advise relevant agencies on direct care workforce issues.

Lower burden on unpaid family caregivers, including by providing credit toward Social Security.

For a given period of years, the caregiver of a child, senior, or dependent with a disability will be awarded credit toward Social Security benefits as if they earned 50 percent of the average earnings of a full-time, year-round worker.

Accessible Transportation

Over 18 million Americans with disabilities face barriers to travel, including more than five million who use wheelchairs. Although the ADA prohibits discrimination in public transportation, inadequate funding and enforcement have still left too many barriers for people with disabilities. Pete will strive to ensure that all transportation systems, especially public transit, are safe and accessible for all. He will:

Require transportation projects with federal funding to be certified as 100 percent accessible.

All projects must have appropriate accommodations for the needs of people with both chronic physical and mental health conditions, such as adequate staff training and a supply of accessible vehicles.

Incentivize private taxi and ride-sharing companies to offer accessible services.

Pete’s Department of Transportation will vigorously enforce the ADA’s non-discrimination policies for private companies and use the federal procurement processes to incentivize companies to make vehicle fleets more accessible.

Ensure that air travel is accessible.

Pete Buttigieg will push to modify the Air Carrier Access Act to provide increased statutory protections and improved enforcement. He will also incentivize airlines and airports to train all personnel on handling wheelchairs and other mobility devices correctly and collaborate with disability groups and the airline industry to explore modifying federal regulations so wheelchairs can be tied down inside of airplane cabins.

Promote safe streets by incentivizing states to work with cities and counties to build accessible roadways and increase accessible sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian signals.

Expand accessible transportation in rural communities.

Pete will expand and replicate successful pilot programs, such as partnerships with ride-sharing companies; improve access to accessible, non-emergency medical transportation services; expand federal grant programs like TIGER Grants; and increase resources for the Rural Transit Assistance Program.

Health Care

Americans with disabilities face many challenges and barriers when interacting with the health care system. Having a disability is a major contributor to health care disparities. Pete will invest in the prevention of chronic diseases, as adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have a stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer than those without a disability. To advance comprehensive, affordable health care for all, Pete will:

Ensure people with disabilities have affordable coverage through Medicare for All Who Want It .

Expand access to telehealth to make it easier to receive health care at or near one’s home.

Dramatically reduce drug prices, as outlined in Pete’s Affordable Medicines for All plan.

Mental Health Care

Pete will provide every American with access to comprehensive mental health and addiction services as outlined in his Health and Belonging in America plan. Pete’s plan focuses on strengthening communities and community systems of care to help people with a mental health disability thrive wherever they feel most comfortable. In particular, he will:

Ensure that every American has access to comprehensive coverage for mental health care.

To achieve this, Pete will enforce mental health parity in health care coverage and integrate the behavioral health care system with the physical health care system.

Dramatically increase access to community-based mental health care services through annual $10 billion Healing and Belonging grants.

Housing & Disaster Preparedness

All people with disabilities deserve access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing. Housing and other infrastructure decisions must take into account that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by climate disruption and natural disasters. To promote accessible housing and make sure that individuals with disabilities will be safe in the event of natural disasters, Pete will:

Ensure people with disabilities can find safe and affordable housing by reinstating the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.

Combat the epidemic of homelessness among individuals with disabilities.

Help ensure that people with disabilities participate in disaster preparedness efforts and, after a disaster, can return to their homes and communities.

Inclusive Technology

Technology can be a tremendous asset to people with disabilities, but it must be accessible, usable, and understandable. Inclusive technology can make classrooms and workplaces more accessible while also saving costs for employers. As President, Pete will affirm America’s leadership in innovation to:

Ensure full high-speed, affordable broadband coverage for everyone through an $80 billion Internet For All initiative and make net neutrality the law of the land.

Develop an Accessible Technology Bill of Rights that will be a gold standard for government and private uses of smart technologies.

This Bill of Rights will emphasize that access must be built in at the beginning of development processes. The committee will include disability experts and advocates that promote universal design and together develop best practices for industry.

Prioritize the goal of full digital inclusion across all federal agencies to ensure that Americans with disabilities can access all the benefits of technology.

Pete will accelerate the adoption of accessibility standards across the federal government and invest in user experience (UX) research so digital products and services are designed with and tested by users with disabilities.

Global Leadership

A Buttigieg administration will promote the equal rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities worldwide, including efforts aimed at inclusion, belonging, and inherent dignity as codified in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. To advance the rights of people with disabilities globally, Pete will:

Strongly support ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Advance the human rights of persons with disabilities globally.

Pete Buttigieg’s administration will develop targeted assistance initiatives that raise awareness about persons with disabilities and their rights, support livelihood opportunities, strengthen protection from hate crimes, and build the capacity of local disability organizations. He will also develop a national strategy for disability-inclusive international development.

Pete Buttigieg Releases Plan to Secure a New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities“Pete Buttigieg — a society that intuitively sees, accounts for, and values the talents and experiences of people with disabilities. Read his full plan HERE.”

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