Castro unveils sweeping disability plan

Castro unveils sweeping disability plan
© Greg Nash

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on Wednesday issued a comprehensive disability plan that his campaign called “the most ambitious and intersectional agenda this cycle” to advance disabled people’s rights and opportunities.

The plan would make major investments in special education and infrastructure to ensure schools are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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It would also expand affordable housing to ensure access for disabled people, adding at least 450,000 accessible units, and developing disability-inclusive natural disaster evacuation plans.

The plan also includes a section on “Dignity for People with Disabilities,” calling for an end to institutionalization and defending the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision, which held that mentally disabled people have the right to live in communities rather than institutions if professionals determine it to be appropriate.

Castro’s plan calls for ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and convening a global summit with other heads of state to address disabled rights.

The plan calls to do away with the Social Security Disability Insurance “benefit cliff” that prevents disabled people from earning an income and to scrap the Trump administration’s expansion of the “public charge” rule expanding the types of public aid immigrants can be denied a green card for receiving, which advocates have said will particularly harm disabled people.

“There should be no second-class citizens in America. I’m fighting for a future where everyone counts, including people with disabilities,” Castro said in a statement.

“But progress doesn’t happen by accident. We have to be intentional with our policies so that everybody has the ability to prosper. That’s what this People First Disability Plan is all about -- connecting the dots between different issues to lift up people that have been left out,” he added.

“There are no highly paid lobbyists walking the halls of congress advocating for the poorest disabled Americans to have a better life, and we don’t have deep pockets for campaign contributions. Which makes what Julián Castro has done all the more remarkable,” Matthew Cortland, a disabled disability rights lawyer based in Massachusetts, told The Hill.

“Secretary Castro has proposed raising the maximum benefit a disabled SSI recipient can possibly get from just 74% of the federal poverty level to at least 100% of the federal poverty level, ending the Social Security Administration’s hostile approach towards disabled people, and tearing down the barriers in the SSI program that prevent disabled Americans, including me, from marrying,” Cortland added.