Tom Ridge

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge Calls Out Trump for Cuts to Disability Programs

A namesake in the Republican Party is going after President Trump.

Tom Ridge is not only the former governor of Pennsylvania, and the first man to lead the Department of Homeland Security, but he is an influential voice in the disability advocacy world.  

Now serving as chairman of the National Organization on Disability, Ridge disregarded party lines and criticized Trump for his “not only unjust but also fiscally foolish” cuts to federal funding for the Special Olympics and other programs that support people with disabilities.  

After the initial budget called for cuts to Special Olympics, Trump reversed the measure amid bi-partisan criticism.

“That reversal was welcome,” Ridge said in an op-ed in The New York Times. “But it was also incomplete. Most Americans do not know that the 2020 budget is still full of cuts that aim directly at many other programs that support people with disabilities.” 

 Ridge is uneased by the plethora of programs that are “on the chopping block” such as independent living centers, assistive-technology programs, supports for individuals living with brain injuries and family caregiver support services as well as a labor department that promotes the hiring of people with disabilities.  

“Combined, these cuts total in the tens of millions of dollars,” Ridge said. “Cutting funding to these critical programs — that turn tax consumers into taxpayers — is not only unjust but also fiscally foolish.” 

Having spent 13 years with the National Organization on Disability, Ridge has his pulse on this issue. One of the most important problems surrounding disability is the lack of employment opportunities.

Ridge called on the 12 most influential disability organizations — the National Down Syndrome Society, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Federation of the Blind and many others — to collaborate and approach Congress as one collective and powerful force.  

“Budget decisions that harm people with disabilities and their families will hurt our economy and weaken us all,” said Ridge. “Any business that hasn’t figured out how to benefit from the problem-solving abilities and the tenacity of people who spend their lives navigating a world that wasn’t built for them isn’t trying hard enough.” 

DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti is the vice chair of National Organization on Disability. 

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