Yesterday marked the official launch of RespectAbility USA, a non-profit organization whose mission is helping the 57 million Americans with disabilities achieve the American dream. In RespectAbility’s version that dream, Americans with disabilities are respected members of the workforce and wield significant political power. The current reality, according to RespectAbility, is that 70 percent of working-aged Americans with disabilities are unemployed.
Americans with disabilities are also underrepresented in politics. At the 2012 presidential conventions, both political parties mentioned the word “disability” a mere average of once per every 25,000 words, said RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi yesterday on the organization’s first conference call.
RespectAbility USA aims to change this underrepresentation by making connections with politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as partnering with existing disabilities organizations, the private sector, the media, faith-based groups, philanthropists, technology researchers and innovators and celebrities.
“Americans with disabilities live in or near poverty, are dependent on others, and feel excluded from the mainstream of their communities. Americans with disabilities, like others, want to realize the American dream; they want to be — and be seen by others as — motivated, capable, proud, self-supporting, and contributing citizens,” said Donn Weinberg, RespectabilityUSA’s founding Chair, who previously served as the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Chairman of the Board and continues to serve as the Foundation’s Executive Vice President.
The group plans to hold three focus groups in order to better understand the hopes, dreams, and challenges of Americans with disabilities in order to transmit that information to policy makers and leaders.