For decades, Congress took important steps to affirm and secure the right of people with disabilities to a life in the community and to achieve that vision. We must continue that forward movement. The vision is based on social justice and civil rights and is also affordable. All branches of the federal government play critical roles in ensuring that the civil rights of persons with disabilities are realized, and the goals below should be considered broadly on how they can be achieved through legislative, regulatory, and other administrative action. It is critical that the White House have positions devoted to disability outreach, engagement, and policy. People with disabilities want to live, learn, work, pay taxes, and be productive and fully included in their communities. People would rather live in the community than in nursing homes or institutions.

People with disabilities, individually and collectively, offer an important and needed voice in our nation. Ensuring voting independence, accuracy, and access continue to be key issues for this constituency. ​Access to the ballot is critical for democracy, yet people with disabilities often face substantial obstacles to exercising their right to vote. ​The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) required fully accessible voting machines for people with disabilities by January 1, 2006. This promise has not been fulfilled. Too many polling places and voting technologies and practices throughout the country remain inaccessible and continue to disenfranchise voters.

Young man in wheelchair voting
Civil Rights and Voting Rights Priorities for the 118th Congress
  • Protect against forms of discrimination based on disability, ethnicity, race, sex, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, familial status, age, language, national origin, genetic information, or any other protected status;  
  • Protect and promote stronger enforcement of existing civil rights laws for people with disabilities, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Fair Housing Act; Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA); the Rehabilitation Act; Help America Vote Act (HAVA); National Voter Registration Act (“motor voter”); Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act; Air Carrier Access Act; and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act;  
  • Protect the authority of and increase funding for federal government entities that enforce disability rights laws, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and civil rights offices in the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Education, and Transportation; 
  • Ensure that federal government programs and services are fully accessible and navigable, with high-quality customer service; 
  • Advance the use and recognition of supported decision-making agreements and state legislation fostering and respecting the use of supported decision-making and other less restrictive alternatives to full guardianship and/or conservatorship;​​  
  • Provide incentives to states to provide least restrictive alternatives to guardianship and/or conservatorship and enact reforms that support these choices. 
  • Protect, enhance, and ensure adequate funding for federal protection and advocacy programs for people with disabilities; 
  • Preserve and enhance legislation and social programs that protect the rights of children and youth with disabilities, particularly those who are served by foster care systems; 
  • Prohibit the use of aversive interventions including chemical and mechanical restraints. Prohibit the use of seclusion, prone restraint and other restraints that restrict breathing and are life-threatening, and any physical restraint where a person does not pose an immediate danger to themselves or others. Support sanctions for improper use of restraint or any use of seclusion; 
  • Provide protection and oversight for cases of abuse and neglect as well as provide training to prevent abuse and neglect; 
  • Ensure that legislation, regulations, and policies addressing issues such as physician-assisted suicide, stem cell research, end-of-life care, organ transplants, and research on human subjects includes protections against abuse and discrimination on the basis of disability;  
  • Promote and protect equal rights of children and adults with disabilities in all parts of the world, by supporting the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); and 
  • Ensure access to service animals including emotional support animals to promote full participation in the community for all individuals with disabilities. 
  • Provide strong enforcement of and adequate funding for HAVA to address the right of people with disabilities to vote privately and independently in any federal election, to rectify continuing failures to meet the provisions of the law, and to make recommendations for improvement; 
  • Ensure that any new voting reform legislation provides equal and full access to voting systems and polling places for voters with disabilities and does not disenfranchise voters with disabilities regardless of their guardianship status; 
  • Address potential barriers to voting for people with disabilities including voter identification requirements, changes in voting methods and/or voting technology, accessibility, and polling place closures; 
  • Fully implement laws that protect the voting rights and access of people with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), HAVA, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Voting Rights Act;  
  • Incentivize automatic voter registration when receiving a driver’s license or state ID card, or upon reaching legal voting age; and 
  • Support legislation to require that ballots are available in accessible formats, allow all eligible voters to vote by mail and utilize early voting, and allow individuals with disabilities to have assistance while at the polling place.