WV Statewide Cross-Disability Advocacy Org.

Hours of Operation: Mon - Fri 8:00am - 8:00pm

Cathy Kunkel

Democrat: US House of Representatives 2nd District

Disability Rights

1.      What initiatives would you undertake to ensure the protection of the Civil Rights of West Virginians with disabilities?

A. I will support enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act to prevent discrimination against West Virginians with disabilities. I will work with the disability rights community to address violations that are brought to my attention.

2.      How will you ensure West Virginia state entities and businesses are in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act to prevent discrimination against West Virginians with disabilities?

A. The Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act. In Congress, I will work with the disability rights community to bring ADA violations by West Virginia state entities or businesses to the attention of the Department of Justice.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers all activities of State and Local Governments. The Act states that:

·         No qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services,                programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any public entity.

·         A public entity shall administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals

          with disabilities.  (a provision upheld by the Olmstead Decision of the US Supreme Court)

·         A public entity that employs 50 or more persons shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out

         its responsibilities under this part, including any investigation of any complaint communicated to it alleging its noncompliance with this part

         or alleging any actions that would be prohibited by this part.

3.      How can West Virginia best uphold the Olmstead US Supreme Court decision and comply with the most integrated setting provision in Title II of the Act?

A. The state needs to increase funding for the Employment Attendant Care Program and the Community Living Services Program to better allow persons with disabilities to pursue employment and to live in their own communities.

4.      Covid 19 hospital restrictions completely denied parents or guardians access to hospitalized individuals who have intellectual developmental disabilities. Taking into consideration their significant vulnerabilities and communication challenges this policy could impact the chance of recovery of the individual.  How would you address this?

 A. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights has recommended that during emergencies, people with disabilities not be separated from their sources of support, including caregivers. As a member of Congress, I would work with families and hospitals to make sure that hospitals are following this guidance.

5.      Would you support a study on the accessibility of the State Capitol Building and grounds, to assure that it is clear of any barriers and accessible to all citizens especially in an emergency?

A. I support this, but I am running for federal office, not the state legislature.


6.      Do you support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act in West Virginia?  Why?

A. Yes, the Medicaid Expansion has provided healthcare to tens of thousands of West Virginians who previously were uninsured and unable to afford necessary healthcare. I believe that healthcare is a human right and no one should be denied care because they cannot afford it.

7.      Do you support keeping the Medicaid Waivers completely funded to eliminating any wait lists and make them accessible to those who need them?  Why?

A. Yes, these waivers allow services to be provided that normally wouldn’t be covered under Medicaid. The I/DD Waiver, for example, provides for home services to help those with disabilities achieve the highest possible level of independence. I support full funding for these waivers so that these services can be available to all who need them without a waiting list. I oppose block granting Medicaid, which would eliminate these waivers.


Community Services

Community based programs help to enable people with disabilities live in the community.

8.      What strategies will you use to ensure every West Virginian with a disability has access to a Center for Independent Living? (Centers for Ind. Living provides skills training and supports to help people with disabilities to live independently in their community.)

A. Currently there are only 5 Centers for Independent Living in WV. I will support funding for transportation projects, including public transportation and paratransit, to improve access to these centers, as well as increasing federal funding for home and community-based services for people with disabilities.

9.      How will you maximize West Virginia’s access to federal funding to improve and sustain services and supports for people with disabilities?

A. As a member of Congress, I will work with the disability advocacy community and with the relevant state agencies to help secure federal funding for disability support services.

10.  How will you ensure FEMA funding received by West Virginia is used to meet the specific needs of survivors with disabilities following a disaster including a pandemic?

A. I will work with the disability advocacy community to interface with FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination to make sure that FEMA disaster relief in West Virginia is used appropriately to serve the needs of people with disabilities.


Transportation in West Virginia, especially in rural areas is a problem for anyone who doesn’t own a vehicle.  However, due to the lack of accessible transportation it is an even bigger issue for people with disabilities.  Transportation is critical to the ability of an individual to work, live, and fully participate in his/her community.

11.  What will you do to improve access to transportation statewide for all West Virginians, including people with disabilities?

A. Public transportation is lacking across WV.  I am committed to making our small towns more friendly towards seniors and those with disabilities who are unable to drive. This will require simplifying and streamlining access to federal transit funding for rural communities, providing technical assistance, and supporting integrated planning for transportation, housing and economic development to help connect people, including people with disabilities, to quality housing and jobs.



12.  How will you make sure all schools are aware of and access all services available for youth with disabilities to transition from school to work?

A. I will work with the disability advocacy community to make sure that school systems are aware of their responsibilities to provide individualized transition services to students with disabilities. I will also work to increase federal funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which has never been fully funded.

Additionally, I support greater federal funding for public education in low-income and rural areas, and federal funding to support wraparound services in skills, both of which will help our public schools have the resources they need to be able to better support students with disabilities

13.  How will you enforce existing laws ensuring access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education for all youth with disabilities and ensure local school systems understand and comply with their responsibilities?

A. I will work with the disability advocacy community to follow up with any local school systems that are not complying with their responsibilities to ensure equal access to public education for students with disabilities.

14.  How will you ensure the existence of post-secondary education/training, services, and supports that facilitate all youth with disabilities becoming working, productive citizens?

A. I will support greater funding for the Department of Labor to support state programs for vocational training and support services for youth with disabilities.

15.  Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been federal law since 1975, many students with disabilities are still segregated, bused to a single school in the county, or otherwise excluded from the education in the “least restrictive environment” provision of IDEA. The integration of students with disabilities into general education classrooms and activities with typical students has been shown to increase acceptance, expectations, and inclusion and to reduce fear, misunderstanding, and bullying.  What steps will you take to increase integration of all students with disabilities in schools throughout West Virginia?

A. As above, I support greater funding for public education, including for wraparound services in public schools, which will help schools have the resources they need to support and integrate students with disabilities into the classroom. I also support greater federal funding under the IDEA Act.


71.3% of working age West Virginians with disabilities are not in the workforce. WV is last in the country when it comes to employing people with disabilities.

16.  What steps will you take to change that? 

A. As above, I will support greater funding for public education and post-secondary education that is specifically aimed at helping youth with disabilities transition into the workforce. Supporting funding for public transportation and paratransit will also help those with disabilities be able to get to work and remain in the workforce.

17.  How will you ensure all working West Virginians with disabilities are paid at least minimum wage and eliminate sub-minimum wage?

A. I will support federal legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour and to eliminate the sub-minimum wage.