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

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

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) is a federal civil rights law that is designed to keep disabled people from being discriminated against in employment, commerce, and public programs, including education.[3] Complaints about violations of the ADA are handled by the US Deparment of Justice's Civil Rights Division.[4]

Trump/GOP agenda

  • 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,[5] 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.[6]

Employment for People with Disabilities

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/GOP agenda

  • 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]

Disability Assistance (SSI/SSDI)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs two federal disability benefit programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).[11] SSI and SSDI are both programs for disabled persons, but SSI is "means-tested," which means a person must be low on both income and resources in order to qualify. SSDI, on the other hand, is available to anyone who has worked (or whose parents/spouse have worked) for a certain number of years and paid into the federal insurance fund known as FICA. There is no income requirement for SSDI.[12] People on SSI receive medical coverage under Medicaid, which is funded jointly by the federal and state governments. People on SSDI are covered by Medicare, which is a part of the federal Social Security program.[13]

Congressional District Breakdowns

Recent Updates

  • Disability rates have risen in the US, especially in rural areas[14], but this is almost entirely due to changes in the nation's population: there are more women in the workforce, baby boomers are becoming older and more disabled, and there are simply more people in the country.[15][16]
  • Growth in disability claims has slowed to its lowest rate in decades, and will continue to slow as Baby Boomers retire.[17][18]


Trump/GOP agenda

  • 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.[19]


10 million Americans with disabilities are currently covered by Medicaid. [20] Medicaid is the largest health care payer for patients being treated for autism and other developmental disorders. [21] The Community First Choice option is expected to end January 1, 2020. [22] 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. [23] The Congressional Budget Office estimates that there will be a decrease of approximately $12 billion over the next ten years.[24]

Olmstead (community vs. institutionalization)

The Olmstead Decision guarantees disabled people's civil right to live in their communities, rather than in institutions.

Trump/GOP agenda

  • 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.[25][26]
  • 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[27], 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.”[28] In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the court decided that IDEA requires a child’s IEP "must be appropriately ambitious in light of his (sic) circumstances," rejecting 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 (sic) circumstances.” [29]

Trump/GOP agenda

  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos's voucher plan would result in giving money to private/religiously affiliated schools.[30] 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.[31]
  • 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.”[32]
  • 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.[33]
  • 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. [34]
  • 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.[35]

Mass Incarceration

Human rights abuses in prisons disproportionately impact people with disabilities because many prisons currently ignore the American with Disabilities Act.[36] Rather than comply with the American with Disabilities Act and provide accommodations, prisons often put people with disabilities in solitary confinement.[37] This will be exacerbated by the reported reductions in civil rights enforcement in the Trump administration's budget.[38]

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.[39] [40]
  • 31 states are currently enrolled in the Medicaid Expansion through the ACA,[41] and have an incentive to oppose a repeal plan.