An increasing number of influential policy makers and elected officials have announced plans and initiatives to combat poverty. For disabled Americans, poverty is the common thread that continues to compound many of our core concerns. Access to education, employment, transportation, housing is made even more difficult when disability is accompanied by poverty. Current data suggests that disabled adults are up to three times more likely to live in poverty than their nondisabled peers, and that the poverty rate for disabled adults in the United States increased from 19.9 percent in 2000 to 30.5 percent in 2013.
With this in mind, the National Council on Disability (NCD) is making poverty the primary focus of our policy work over the next year. Beginning with the next two quarterly meetings in July and December, NCD will examine factors in existing and proposed public policy and government programs that either trap disabled Americans in poverty or help them escape it. With continuous advances in technology, health care, and education along with ever-changing attitudes in society—and given the scope of the problem—Americans with disabilities deserve every opportunity to achieve their own economic independence.
Of particular interest to NCD are the ways financial incentives and public policies have perpetuated cycles of poverty for people with disabilities. NCD’s 2017 annual Progress Report will ask important questions designed to help us find answers to a better future, including: How can we dismantle the barriers that prevent Americans with disabilities from receiving a quality higher education? What does entrepreneurship look like for Americans with Disabilities? What is needed to develop and design a 21st century cross-agency agenda to uplift disabled Americans? How can the federal government help Americans with disabilities to better participate in and leverage existing or proposed initiatives to acquire and accumulate wealth?
“Many public policies developed decades ago came from the assumption that recipients with disabilities were dependent and must stay on assistance programs for survival forever,” said NCD Chair Clyde Terry. “That mindset no longer reflects the expectations for, or the reality of, Americans with disabilities in the 21st century. Today, perhaps the best definition of independent living is a paycheck and money in the bank. In order to work, public policy must progress with the times in order to facilitate maximum self-sufficiency and independence.”
Caution and forethought is required to assure that any proposed policy changes in the fight against poverty do not inadvertently cause harm to Americans with disabilities, but rather further our common goals of economic self-sufficiency for all. As such, we strongly encourage individuals and organizations concerned about or working on poverty issues as they relate to people with disabilities to participate in NCD’s public town halls by presenting comments either in writing or in person during NCD’s upcoming quarterly meetings this July and December to inform and facilitate our work.
More information will be made available closer to the time of each meeting.