Defending and expanding the rights of our disabled community

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John Wisniewski’s strong record for persons with cognitive and physical disabilities spans his entire public career. Since his first legislative session in 1996, John has never wavered in his support for protecting the rights of the disabled community and striving to guarantee a dignified quality of life.

He has supported bills that appropriated funding to build group homes, increased punishments for victims of abuse and abandonment, and offer tax relief to caregivers of wounded armed service members.

When he served as New Jersey Democratic Party chair, John demanded that meetings be fully accessible to individuals with disabilities so that no voice would be excluded from the conversation on how to move the state forward.

As governor, John will make sure our disabled community has a seat at the table of social and economic security. Considering our President has openly mocked individuals with disabilities on the campaign trail, it’s clear that states will have to be the backstop against Trump’s efforts to rollback disability rights.

With a population nearing 1 million, New Jersey is the 13th most populous state for persons with disabilities. Though the state should be proud to have the community as such a significant portion of our overall population, a number of sobering statistics indicate that a record of “more of the same” is not a viable option for our next governor.

The unemployment rate for disabled, working age persons in New Jersey is a staggering 62%. Furthermore, we have one of the largest gaps in the nation for unemployment between workers with and without disabilities at 38% and climbing. If any other demographic in the state were experiencing similar statistics, we’d call that what it is — an unemployment epidemic.

Besides federal Work Opportunity Tax Credits, there is no clear nexus between employers and disabled employees within New Jersey. Our state’s Human Services Department has handled various disability issues and is best positioned to fill this obvious need.

That’s why John Wisniewski will strengthen the Division of Disability Services through the establishment of a worker placement assistance program. It’s simply good business, a springboard to independence for those that are capable, and a problem too large to leave unaddressed any longer. Under this program, the DDS will develop a statewide mechanism to identify good paying jobs, coordinate job training initiatives, and construct effective ways to notify the disability community that they are available.

Housing is also a core component of disability rights. John has consistently voted for legislation broadening affordable access. In tandem with his affordable housing plan, John Wisniewski will work with the Department of Community Affairs, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and non-profits to incentivize developers to undertake projects that are more income diverse and expand housing options for disabled veterans and the broader community.

In terms of healthcare, John will ensure women with disabilities are treated with respect and dignity when it comes to reproductive health services and make sure they have the quality care they deserve. They must have access without physical or communication barriers and in formats accessible to them.

John Wisniewski will also address outstanding civil rights issues:

  • New Jersey must respect the dignity and legal authority of parents who have disabilities.
  • Alternatives to guardianship. We must explore greater self-determination and support decision-making, for men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • We need to examine how law enforcement engages individuals with disabilities through better training to ensure we are not violating the rights — and dignity — of those we encounter.

As part of John’s larger K-12 education plan, he will ensure that the provisions granted under the Individuals with Disability Education Act are fully implemented in order to guarantee applicable students a quality education in the least restrictive environment possible.

Additionally, John is appalled at the way charter schools are allowed to engage in disability student segregation to the point that a student body doesn’t reflect the diversity of the community it serves. This is why he wants a moratorium on charter schools until the entire program can be reviewed.

John will work hard to forge a strong partnership with disability advocacy groups across New Jersey to ensure the Garden State becomes truly accessible and welcoming to all of its residents.