Disability Rights

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This is a collaborative knowledge base; feel free to propose edits/additions that you believe are important for others to know. Contributions will be reviewed and approved based on quality and accuracy.

How You Can Resist
How You Can Resist

  • Call your member of Congress by dialing tel:844-6-RESIST and tell them to vote against the Republican "American Healthcare Act." Find out what your member of Congress has said about the House repeal plan here.
  • Find out when your Senators and US Representative are holding town halls and other Upcoming Events/Opportunities. Show up and tell them to vote against the Republican "American Healthcare Act."
  • Click here to find an organization looking for volunteers.

Actions Taken by the Federal Government
Laws Proposed by Congress

Legislative Actions[edit]

Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice

  • HR 1121 ensures that people cannot be excluded from a plan due to a pre-existing condition and that patients will not pay more based on their health care status.[1]

Harmful Legislation

  • S.J. Res 25 rolls back protections under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. [2]

  • HR 620 amends the Americans with Disabilities Act to include a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action.

See also the State and Local Pages for state-by-state legislative tracking.

Americans with Disabilities Act[edit]

  • Trump's potential to limit enforcement of the American with Disabilities Act, further evidenced by the proposed budget reductions to resources for civil rights enforcement,[3] could allow employers to discriminate against people with disabilities in the workplace, in schools, and in housing, and deny people with disabilities reasonable accommodations without being held accountable.[4]
  • Trump's properties have been sued eight times over 19 years for violating the Act, with three cases currently pending.[5]
  • In 2001 Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended a decision stating that individuals could not sue states for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.[6]

Employment for People with Disabilities[edit]

  • People with disabilities are significantly less likely than those without disabilities to be employed (17.5% compared with 65% in 2015), [7] and the Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay workers with disabilities less than federal minimum wage. [8]
  • Trump's proposed budget would expand apprenticeship programs and training for disabled workers, but decreases funding for the Department of Labor by 21% overall. [9].
  • This would cut funding for several job training programs, including those that assist seniors, disadvantaged youth, and unemployed Americans. It would also cut training grants for occupational safety & health administration. [10]


  • Trump's proposed budget guts the EPA, which would disproportionately affect people with disabilities, both because of decreased air and water safety, and because climate change has an increased affect on vulnerable groups such as disabled people, children, older people, and people with medical conditions.[11]


  • Trump's plan to repeal Obamacare would disproportionately impact Americans with disabilities, 10 million of whom are currently covered by Medicaid. [12]
  • Cuts to Medicaid also impact people with disabilities' ability to get the resources needed to live and work in their communities instead of being warehoused in institutions. [13]
  • The Community First Choice option is expected to end January 1, 2020. [14] Established by the ACA, the CFC program allows states to provide home-based attendant services to the elderly, chronically ill, and people with disabilities. The states that currently have an approved CFC program are California, Maryland, Montana, Oregon, and Texas. [15] The Congressional Budget Office estimates that there will be a decrease of approximately $12 billion over the next ten years.[16]
  • The proposed GOP bill will phase out 1.3 million people, including veterans, who currently receive treatment for mental health and addiction services through Medicaid.[17]
  • 2.8 million people with substance abuse issues will lose coverage under the proposed bill. [18]
  • Medicaid is the largest health care payer for patients being treated for autism and other developmental disorders. [19]
  • The proposed GOP bill ends the requirement that Medicaid covers mental health and addiction services after 2020.[20]

Olmstead (community vs. institutionalization)[edit]

  • The Olmstead Decision guarantees disabled people's civil right to live in their communities, rather than in institutions.
  • Trump's new budget proposal would slash funding for Meals on Wheels, which will adversely affect the health and well-being of elderly disabled people, as well as pushing many of these individuals out of their homes and into institutions, in violation of Olmstead.[21][22]
  • Trump's budget would completely eliminate funding for several community services programs, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income families with paying for home heating costs. Disabled people are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as are people without disabilities[23], so this will make it harder for disabled Americans to stay in their homes.


Every child with a disability has a right to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Supreme Court has found the definition of a FAPE to mean special education and related services that “(A) have been provided at public expenses, under public supervision and direction, and without charge; (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency; (C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary school education in the State involved, and (D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program (IEP). Appropriate IEPs are “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.”[24]

Trump/GOP agenda[edit]

  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos's voucher plan would result in giving money to private/religiously affiliated schools.[25] Students with disabilities are not guaranteed the same protections when using a voucher in a private/religiously affiliated school as they are in a public school.[26]
  • There are also serious concerns about whether a Trump administration would enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, given that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called the inclusion of students with disabilities “the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.”[27]
  • During DeVos's confirmation hearing, she stated that enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act should be left to the states, seemingly unaware that this is a federal law.[28]
  • Trump’s budget proposal maintains $13 billion in funding for IDEA special education programs, but cuts funding for TRIO programs, which provide support for disabled students. [29]
  • Trump's budget proposal's push for "school choice"/vouchers will hurt disabled children by reducing or eliminating the protections and funding that currently exist for students who need disability-related educational resources.[30]

Recent Updates[edit]

  • 3/22/2017: Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District was decided 8-0 finding that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires a child’s individualized education plan (IEP) “must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances.” Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the opinion, made it clear again that “for children fully integrated in the regular classroom, this would typically require an IEP ‘reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade.’” He also said that that “the goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” The Court rejected the “merely more than the bare minimum (or de minimis) test applied by the Tenth Circuit, finding instead that schools are required to show that an “IEP is reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.” [31]

Mass Incarceration

  • Trump's criminal justice policies could increase incarceration, which would disproportionately impact people with disabilities, given that 31.6% of prisoners and 39.9% of jail inmates have a disability.[32]
  • Human rights abuses in prisons disproportionately impact people with disabilities because many prisons currently ignore the American with Disabilities Act.[33] Rather than comply with the American with Disabilities Act and provide accommodations, prisons often put people with disabilities in solitary confinement.[34] This will be exacerbated by the reported reductions in civil rights enforcement in the Trump administration's budget.[35]
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has argued against a Supreme Court case limiting states' ability to execute people with mental and intellectual disabilities.[36]

Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy

  • Disability rights have often been considered a bipartisan issue, meaning that some Republicans in Congress may not support some of these proposals.[37] [38]
  • 31 states are currently enrolled in the Medicaid Expansion through the ACA,[39] and have an incentive to oppose the new GOP health care plan.