The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities (NJCDD), the lead advocacy organization supporting the foundation of the New Jersey Legislative Disability Caucus, joined Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, and other legislative leaders, as well as self-advocates from the state’s leading disability groups, to launch the historic bipartisan legislative caucus. The event took place on Livestream and can be viewed in its entirety at https://youtu.be/7W3ebBbY4Fs.
Approximately 25% of adults in New Jersey identify as having some type of disability. Despite progress after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30 years ago, people with disabilities in New Jersey continue to seek opportunities to be included and represented in all aspects of life as an integral part of the fabric of our society.
The New Jersey Legislative Disability Caucus will serve as a bipartisan forum within the New Jersey Legislature to promote inclusion by ensuring lawmakers and their staff consider the impact on the disability community when shaping ALL public policies in the Garden State through increased awareness and a greater understanding of the complexities of the disabilities service system and issues impacting individuals with disabilities and their families.
“As a New Jersey resident living with cerebral palsy, I am grateful to Senate President Sweeney and the founding legislators of this historic Caucus for including the voices and needs of people with disabilities in the legislative process,“ said Kevin Nunez, vice chair of NJCDD. “Through collaboration and education, this bipartisan caucus will help further remove barriers for people with disabilities and move our state closer to equal opportunity for all.”
While the Caucus got its start today with 28 founding members from the Legislature, participation in the Caucus is open to all legislators who agree to be champions for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey by meeting with them in their district offices; participate in quarterly education forums beginning in 2021; and above all, promote policies to improve the lives of people with disabilities and consider the impact on the disability community in shaping all public policies in New Jersey. People with disabilities, their families and organizations that serve, support and advocate for people with disabilities in the Garden State will serve as a resource for the NJ Legislative Disability Caucus.
“Despite progress, adults in New Jersey and across the country continue to be disenfranchised in many ways that impact their ability to fully participate in daily life,” said Neng Wang, Parent Advocate, Regional Family Support Planning Council. “The jobless rate for persons with a disability continues to be about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability and people with disabilities live in poverty at more than twice the rate of people without disabilities. This Caucus provides an important forum in the Legislature to begin turning these numbers around. I applaud Senate President Sweeney and the founding legislators for putting New Jersey at the forefront of inclusion with this Caucus,” Wang concluded.
Many of the founding members spoke at the kickoff, including Senators Sweeney, Kean, Gopal and Bucco and Assembly members Greenwald, Downey, Murphy, Benson, Lampitt and Vainieri Huttle. Self-advocates from NJCDD, Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, New Jersey Association of Mental Health & Addiction Agencies, Inc (NJAMHAA), New Jersey State Independent Living Council, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey also participated in the event, sharing their personal perspective on the significance of the Caucus as a person living in New Jersey with a disability.
“This bipartisan caucus presents the opportunity to further improve healthcare, education, transportation, housing and employment for New Jersey citizens with disabilities. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the many advocacy groups across this state who are committed to helping people with disabilities live selfdetermined, fulfilling lives so we can move New Jersey forward for everyone,” said Senate President and Caucus Chair Stephen M. Sweeney.
Founding Legislative Disability Caucus Members
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