REV UP Your Community!

New resources available to register, educate, and engage voters with disabilities.

April 13, 2018

The REV UP Campaign is a nonpartisan initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) that aims to increase the political power of people with disabilities while also engaging candidates and the media on disability rights issues.

Today, we are proud to release three new products – National Disability Voter Registration Week Toolkit, Candidate Questionnaire Template, Candidate Forum Guide – the first of several resources meant to help national, state, and local disability-rights advocates to register, educate, and engage voters with disabilities.


National Disability Voter Registration Week Toolkit

The REV UP Campaign is coordinating National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) during the week of July 16-20, 2018 to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated about this year’s election, and prepared to cast a ballot in November. With numerous events and activities around the country during this time, we also hope to garner attention from media and candidates running for office.

The NDVRW Toolkit includes: a guide on how to organize voter registration events, ideas on other ways to participate in NDVRW, sample social media posts and graphics, and other resources. If you are planning voter registration events or other activities, please keep the REV UP Campaign updated on your efforts. You can reach us at

Access the National Disability Voter Registration Week Toolkit


Candidate Questionnaire Template

A candidate questionnaire is a great tool to help the disability community learn more about the candidates, specifically how the candidates would address issues that impact people with disabilities. They also educate the candidates and make them more aware of the issues that are important to the disability community.

This Candidate Questionnaire Template includes a variety of questions addressing topics that are important to the disability community. If you issue a candidate questionnaire for a state or local race, please keep the REV UP Campaign updated on your efforts. You can reach us at

Access the Candidate Questionnaire Template


Candidate Forum Guide

A candidate forum is a great tool to help the disability community learn more about the candidates, while providing an opportunity to interact with them directly. Forums are a space where candidates can directly address issues that affect the disability community. They also educate the candidates and make them more aware of the issues that are important to the disability community.

This Candidate Forum Guide links to existing candidate forum guides, highlights considerations specific to forums organized by the disability community, and outlines how to engage with other candidate forums. If you organize a candidate forum for a state or local race, please keep the REV UP Campaign updated on your efforts. You can reach us at

Access the Candidate Forum Guide


Look out for the REV UP Campaign’s Issues Guide and Election Accessibility Toolkit coming soon!


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The REV UP Campaign, launched by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in 2016, is a nonpartisan initiative that coordinates with national, state, and local disability organizations to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. The Campaign focuses on voter registration, education, access, and engagement. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!

GraceBrace – Give your Medical Equipment New Purpose

November 8, 2017 | Candice Tsegga Wallace

GraceBrace is a new online marketplace built on giving medical devices and equipment renewed life.

Users of the GraceBrace community have the ability to donate and sell new and gently used medical devices and equipment. Often times, when medical devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, etc. are replaced, the former equipment is stashed away and rarely unearthed again. Similarly, after recovery from an injury requiring a medical appliance such as crutches or a leg boot, the equipment is simply discarded in many cases. With GraceBrace, proprietors of these medical devices can grant them new purpose through exchange on our website.

GraceBrace sellers simply post a listing of their available medical equipment or device as for sale or as a donation. Buyers can easily search for equipment, specify their delivery method, and pay for their device through the website. The “invite new members” function also lets users help build our network. I am seeking your collaboration in being some of the first users of the exciting new website.

Over 8 million people in the United States depend on a wheelchair, use a cane, a walker, or crutches to assist with their mobility. My quest with GraceBrace is to abate waste and foster support for those with a medical device need.

Please share the news and join the community at You can also connect with GraceBrace on Facebook at


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Candice Tsegga Wallace is the Founder of GraceBrace. She resigned from her nine-year career in health care to fully nurture the vision of GraceBrace and continue her medical care work in a new impactful direction.

Disability Statistics Show Little Improvement in Many Measures for People with Disabilities

I was honored to have the opportunity to provide a reaction from a disability rights advocate to information presented at an event releasing the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium  on February 4. The compendium is put together each year by Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire through the Stats Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. AAPD is proud to be a partner in the Stats RRTC, to help connect people to the excellent research and data that the RRTC produces, and help plan the release event.

The compendium is an excellent resource for tracking how people with disabilities are doing compared to people without disabilities on a variety of measures and how the programs and services for people with disabilities we have in place are helping to improve those outcomes. The compendium provides information on the prevalence of disability in the United States, a variety of employment and labor force participation measures, poverty among people with disabilities, earnings, veterans, health insurance coverage, health measures, levels of participation in Social Security disability programs, special education, vocational rehabilitation, and Federal spending on people with disabilities. The companion annual report highlights state and trend data as well as digging in to some specific indicators.

Unfortunately, these statistics, as helpful as they are to assist us in assessing the progress people with disabilities have or have not made, do not paint a very positive picture.  Here are some of the stark statistics contained in the compendium and annual report regarding the lack of progress people with disabilities have made based on some key indicators:

  • Labor Force Participation: There remains a huge gap of more than 40% between the labor force participation of people with disabilities (34.4%) and people without them (75.4%).  Some disability groups do better than others with slightly more than one in two people who are deaf or hard of hearing engaged in the labor force, while slightly less than 1 in 4 people with a cognitive disability or an ambulatory disability are.
  • Median Earnings: People without disabilities have median earnings of $31,324 while people with disabilities have median earnings of only $21,232, nearly 1/3 less.
  • Poverty: People with disabilities live in poverty at twice the rate of people without them (28.1% vs. 13.3%). And the poverty level ranges greatly based on which state an individual with a disability lives in – from a low of 17.7% to an astounding high of 61.5%.
  • Health Indicators: 41.1% of people with disabilities are obese compared to only 25.2% of people without disabilities and nearly 1 in 4 people (24.5%) of people with disabilities smoke compared to only 15.3% without disabilities.

And unfortunately the trends over time don’t look too much better. These statistics provide a concrete reminder that we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that we have the programs and policies in place that will enable people with disabilities to become economically self-sufficient and achieve middle class life styles. We must continue to push for federal policy that ensures people with disabilities who need access to services and supports can earn and save without jeopardizing access to them. We must continue to work with employers to overcome misperceptions and myths that stymie the hiring of talented qualified individuals with disabilities. We need to continue to provide opportunities for young people with disabilities to engage in the labor force through mentoring, internships, and apprenticeships. We have to continue to advocate for policies that ensure that there is adequate affordable accessible housing and transportation. And we must continue to push for the Federal investment necessary to support individuals with disabilities to be fully integrated into their communities. If we don’t, next year’s statistics might not look much better.

5 Reasons Hiring People with Disabilities is Good for Business and the Rest of Us

January 6, 2015

The legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), at least in part, can be reflected back to us in the Millennials – an entire generation that has grown up with and benefited from the landmark law. In all that time (25 years), however, the employment opportunity for Americans with disabilities has changed little. America must get people with disabilities participating in the economic mainstream. But will business embrace hiring people with disabilities?

The answer is yes – absolutely. And here’s why.

Reason 1: People with disabilities represent a talented, untapped labor market.

In 2013, an estimated 70.7 percent of working-age adults were employed in the United States. By comparison, less than 30 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities participated in the workforce (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). Americans households with an adult member with a disability earned 38 percent less in 2012 – or, an estimated $37,300 in household income compared to $60,600 – than households without an adult member with a disability (Cornell University, 2014). Working-age adults with particular disabilities, such as developmental disabilities, fare worse. More than eight out of 10 working-age adults with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in the community. People with disabilities constitute the nation’s largest minority group and its highest level of unemployment. Senator Tom Harkin, in his final speech from the floor of the U.S. Senate, noted this disparity, saying “we must do more on employment of people with disabilities” (Nonprofit Quarterly, 2014).
This group’s notable absence from our collective workplace is troubling but also holds promise. People with disabilities represent a huge, talented and untapped labor market. has said they “may be the best workers no one’s hiring,” except that more and more businesses are hiring people with disabilities – and gaining a competitive edge. Germany software company SAP’s new Autism at Work program calls is “a skill play” (Disability Scoop, 2014).

So says a 2013 blueprint by Delaware governor Jack Markell, 2012-13 chair of the National Governors Association, which suggests that governors can respond to skilled workforce concerns by introducing businesses “to an often-ignored talent pool”: people with disabilities. The blueprint goes on to say that “individuals with disabilities are a valuable asset for business,” with businesses reporting such “positive outcomes” as productivity increases and “a workforce that reflects their consumer base.” The blueprint notes the particular success of Walgreens, for which distribution center employees with disabilities represent between one-third and more than 50 percent of its workforce. Studies of the Walgreens experience demonstrate “a 120 percent productivity increase,” declines in absenteeism, less turnover, and improved safety.

Other employers, such as Google, refers to workplace diversity as a “science of inclusion” that “makes [them] a better company” with better products for all of their consumers. A workplace inclusive of people with disabilities better positions business not only to represent and respond to consumer preferences, but also to leverage new, untapped skills and talents and gain an edge on the competition.

Reason 2: Hiring people with disabilities improves corporate culture.

Hiring people with disabilities doesn’t just improve the talent pool at the office – it also improves the office culture. A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), which surveys and analyzes the practices of high-performing businesses, found that one of the reasons employers proactively hire people with disabilities is that it supports their corporate culture. As the report states, this positive impact “is brought about in two ways: [it] adds highly motivated people to the workforce (which can lead to increased productivity) and it promotes an inclusive culture that appeals to the talent pool organizations want to attract.” That’s a win-win!

Reason 3: It also benefits the bottom line.

When i4cp conducted their recent survey, they targeted high-performing businesses, or businesses with impressive market share, revenue growth, profitability and customer satisfaction. Part of the data they looked at was how diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices impacted the bottom line. What they found isn’t surprising to those of us that think about D&I on a regular basis: high-performing businesses are twice as likely as low-performing ones to emphasize D&I as a matter of policy, and more than twice as likely to specifically include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in those goals. Forty-three percent of respondents found that hiring people with disabilities “produce[d] measurable or observable business benefits.”

This finding is not unique. A recent Best Practices guide by the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) suggests that “[s]uccessful businesses recognize that incorporating disability in all D&I practices positively impacts their companies’ bottom line.” The guide features examples from companies such as 3M, PepsiCo, and Merck among others of the benefits and importance of hiring people with disabilities.

And, there is more than survey or anecdotal evidence supporting this conclusion. A joint DePaul University-Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity report, “Exploring the Bottom Line: A Study of the Costs and Benefits of Workers with Disabilities” (2007), conducted cost-benefit analysis using data from 13 companies, finding that the average cost of accommodating employees with disabilities – at $313 – was far less than the benefits, which included lower absenteeism and longer tenure. A U.S. Department of Labor Job Accommodation Network (JAN) report similarly suggests “workplace accommodations not only are low cost, but also positively impact the workplace in many ways.” In more than half of the cases examined, requested workplace accommodations had no cost (e.g., scheduling flexibility, teleworking, dress code allowances). The JAN report identified other benefits stemming from the accommodations: retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, and reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, among others. The report also found that other accommodations had an average cost of $500.

Reason 4: It’s responsive to government guidelines and broader employment trends toward more inclusive workplaces.

The federal government has revised implementation guidelines for Sec. 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, changes that now require federal contractors to set an aspirational hiring target of 7 percent of people with disabilities. While this target only applies to contracts of $50,000 or more, with the significant role federal contractors play in the American workforce – representing 22 percent! – this regulatory revision is an important one.

Complimenting these targets is a new federal requirement for employers to collect information about the disability status of employees and job applicants. For years, businesses have hired without knowing whether an employee had a disability. Not knowing how many individuals with disabilities a business employs makes it harder, not only for them to report and show proactive hiring efforts, but also to take a proactive approach to accommodating their employees. It also makes it tough for businesses to do more to advance an inclusive workplace. And to prepare themselves to respond to a growing need to accommodate tenured and highly valued Baby Boom employees, who may incur disability as a part of the aging process (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014).

Plus, as touched on early, these same trends will be co-occurring across the consumer community. Businesses that hire people with disabilities will create more diverse workforces that better reflect their customers, respond to changing consumer preferences, and help them to enter new markets. It’s not just about being responsive to government guidelines; it about business being response to broader trends pushing toward workplace inclusion.

Reason 5: Finding talented people with disabilities is getting easier all the time.

Times have changed. New technologies and new ways of doing business mean that people with disabilities can be a vital part of today’s workforce with no-cost or low-cost accommodations. Text-to-speech technology, such as Dragon and Siri for iPhones and iPads, are commonplace and relatively inexpensive. The same is true for teleworking: often used to accommodate work-life balance, it also accommodates people with issues related to transportation.

Increasingly, the non-profit sector and businesses are teaming up on innovative projects to help build workplaces that value the role that disability plays in the workplace and market-place. The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is the result of one such partnership, between the USBLN and the American Association of People with Disabilities.
The DEI helps businesses that are seeking ways to enhance their diversity efforts around disability inclusion. While the private sector is identifying methods to truly integrate disability into overall diversity strategy, there remains a need for a universal disability inclusion index that is objective, evaluative, reflective and forward-thinking in a way that helps business reach the next level. The DEI is a forward-thinking tool that empowers and encourages companies to become industry leaders.

Where do we go from here?

Though a lot has changed in the two-decades-plus since the ADA, there is still more to be done when it comes to employing people with disabilities. Government is leading by example, setting the bar for itself and its contractors toward a more inclusive workforce. It’s also giving business new tools, like the revised Section 503 requirements. Business, for its part, is partnering with nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders in increasingly innovative ways. The DEI is just one example, but there are countless others.

We need more of these examples – more initiatives like those of the DEI, closer partnership between the public and the private sectors, and greater openness to new ways of doing business. There’s a lot riding on this: realizing the potential people with disabilities represent in the American workforce, which is good for business and the rest of us.

AAPD Seeks Volunteer Disability Mentoring Day Coordinators

September 26, 2013 | AAPD

In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) is observed every third Wednesday of October. DMD is a program that connects students and jobseekers with disabilities to thousands of mentors each year. DMD promotes career development through hands-on programs, job shadowing, and ongoing mentoring. This effort is made possible through the dedication and enthusiasm of AAPD DMD Coordinators. DMD Coordinators build partnerships with various members of their local communities to create events that serve as an introduction to the workplace for many people with disabilities.

With necessary support and training from AAPD, DMD Coordinators are working to leverage the talent of people with disabilities and close the disability employment gap. In 2012, over 16,500 students engaged with mentors in participating job shadowing programs from 250 locations across the country.

AAPD is now searching for volunteer DMD Coordinators. Become a part of the nation’s largest job shadowing program designed for Americans with disabilities! If you are interested in this opportunity, please fill out this sign-up form here. If you have any questions, please contact the Workplace and Leadership Initiatives Team at

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