2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability
Tom Steyer’s Responses
Employment: What are your views on paying a subminimum wage based on disability?
Every worker deserves to make a minimum wage of at least $15 per hour. I stand with the unions and advocates who have been fighting for better wages for American people. In addition to supporting a $15.00 dollar minimum wage, I support and will advocate for living wages for all Americans.
All people have significant value to contribute to our society, but we are behind in creating access to those opportunities for people with disabilities. Our economy has left too many people behind, and people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than their peers. We must ensure that all Americans have access to economic security —and the chance to excel. This is why I support a living wage for all Americans, with no more carve outs that let corporations under-pay people with disabilities. In order to create a just economy, we have to treat people as we would wish to be treated: equally.
Assistive Technology: What do you plan to do to increase access to assistive technology for people with disabilities who need it to effectively and independently engage in their communities?
Technology has opened new possibilities for all Americans, and particularly for people with disabilities. Assistive and adaptive technologies can be a lifeline for individuals who rely on such technologies for their education, mobility, career, and social life. Yet access to these technologies is not equally available to all.
The modern economy is a knowledge economy. People with disabilities lack full access to the technologies that can help them engage effectively and independently with the modern world: especially internet technologies. We need to extend the full protections and enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the technologies that are –now more than ever – defining our workplaces, and ensure that government and the private sector are designing and distributing accessible technologies worldwide.
A Steyer Administration will work to ensure that all people with disabilities have equitable and affordable access to the technologies they need. We will begin by example, and ensure that all government workers have access to the workplace tools they need and that all government products — including websites and technology tools — are designed with ADA best practices from the start. My administration will also support a research and development program for assistive technology specifically for senior citizens and the disabled.
This effort will continue at the ballot box: The Right to Vote is fundamental for full engagement in society. To increase participation of all Americans, I would initiate a Vote At Home system that would make voting more convenient, provide voters with postage-paid absentee ballots, allow voters more time to participate in our democracy, as well as increase overall election security. This would, in particular, make it easier for Americans with disabilities to cast their ballots. Together, we can reconnect with America’s founding principle: a democracy of, by, and for the people.
Special Education: How would you propose to strengthen the IDEA when it is reauthorized so that it truly fulfills its stated purpose of preparing children with disabilities for post-secondary education, employment, and independent living, including children with the most significant disabilities?
All students deserve the right to learn. The first step is to fully fund IDEA and re-commit to the original promise of federal funding to schools. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that our public schools are welcoming and well funded, with structurally sound facilities that are accessible for students with disabilities. That way, these students can be fully included in classrooms and can access the education they need to thrive.
Mental Health Services: What is your vision for a system of services to support people with mental illness?
Every American deserves the Right to Health Care. The ability to access the care they need is foundational to our sense of safety and possibility. It is key to our economic prosperity. I understand that different communities face different health care needs. For too long, tribal nations, women, veterans, rural communities, people with disabilities, and communities of color have been denied a full suite of health care services.
Mental health parity in a key component of overall health for Americans. Whether one is struggling with addiction, cognitive disability, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my administration will allocate $100 billion specifically to mental health services. If you are sick, or need assistance or professional care, you will get that under my plan.
Workforce Shortage: Please explain how you would address this immediate and growing workforce shortage?
Creating and expanding the workforce pipeline in the health services arena requires investment and creation of opportunity. I will reduce the burden of student loan debt by guaranteeing two years of free college, refinancing student loan at lower interest rates, passing a Student Borrowers Bill of Rights, and forgiving the student loan debt of teachers and other public servants who have dedicated their time and energy to serving our communities.
As president, I will conduct a comprehensive review to address the underfunding of our healthcare system and workforce needs so that we can properly resource health systems, recruit and retain service professionals and providers, and close our nation’s healthcare gap.