Louisiana Gubernatorial Panel on Disability 2023

On September 19th, the Arc of Louisiana hosted a gubernatorial panel for candidates to answer questions on disability focused topics so that the community can have a more informed understanding of the candidates’ stance and potential policy initiatives.

LEND Scholar and Self-Advocate Jakeel Abdullah broke down the panel’s questions. Hear what candidates Shawn Wilson (D), Stephen Waguespack (R), Hunter Lundy (I), Richard Nelson (R), John Schroder (R), and Sharon Hewitt (R) had to say.

The governor’s primary election is set for Saturday, October 14. Early voting is available now until Saturday, October 7th.

1. Improving the lives of people with disabilities

Jakeel Abdullah, a member of the disability community, asked, “Do you have a proven record of improving or a plan to improve the lives of people with disabilities? If yes, please describe.”

2. On educational opportunities for students with disabilities

Sandra Trammell, a mother to a young woman with a developmental disability, asked, “Across the state, students with disabilities are not taught the challenging curriculum available to students without disabilities. As Governor, how would you work to ensure that students with disabilities have the same access to ambitious educational opportunities that other students have and that incorporate developmental milestones considered comparable to their peers without disabilities?”

3. Advancing opportunities for people with disabilities who want to work and earn an income

Kristen Powers, Executive Director of the Arc Caddo-Bossier, asked, “If elected, what will you do to advance opportunities for people with disabilities who want to work and earn an income, just like anyone else?”

4. On the provider reimbursement rate and Direct Support Professionals hourly rates

Brian Hensgens, LARC Executive Director, asked, “Louisiana is having a significant workforce crisis. As we continuously look for reasons for this crisis, we found that Louisiana is currently $5.00 below the nation’s average provider reimbursement rate, which has a direct effect on the hourly rates offered to Direct Support Professionals.  In other words, this low reimbursement rate is one of the leading causes of the workforce crisis.  How will you ensure that children and adults with disabilities have the direct support and services needed to continue living and working in their communities and stay out of expensive Medicaid-funded state-run institutions and nursing homes?”

5. Ending the housing crisis for people with disabilities

Paul Ganucheau, who is a Self-Advocate, asked, “The lack of affordable housing is a crisis in Louisiana and nationwide. In addition to being a workforce and economic development issue, it is a disability issue. Restrictions attached to receipt of support & services force some individuals with disabilities to choose between receiving support & services and having safe, decent housing. Other people with disabilities spend years on waiting lists for affordable housing, leaving some homeless. As governor, what would be your strategy for ending the housing crisis for people with disabilities?”

About Jakeel Abdullah

Jakeel Abdullah contributed to this article. Jakeel is a Self-Advocate and 2023-24 Louisiana LEND Scholar. To learn more, read Jakeel’s scholar bio here.