Fair Shake Network
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." 

-- Margaret Mead

To Change the text size hold down your Ctrl key and press your - or + key or use the scroll on your mouse.

2018 Candidate Answers

Karen Nance

(D) Cabell District/Circuit 18

Disability Rights

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

 The current protections under the West Virginia Human Rights Act make it illegal to discriminate against persons with disabilities, but it is difficult to prove discrimination. Employers often will not hire a person with disabilities due to the high cost of providing accommodations. Government grants to assist the employer with the cost of adapting the worksite would be helpful. The funds need to be increased. I feel that part of the problem is that persons with disabilities do not know their rights and educational programs on their rights would help.

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?

There are policies in place that allow persons with disabilities to file complaints against government and businesses. The complaint processes are often complicated, lengthy, and slow to resolve. I would work to initiate additional programs to assist persons with disabilities in filing the complaints and to speed up the process. Again, I feel that part of the problem is a lack of knowledge on how these processes work. Educational programs would help.

3. 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.

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?

All of West Virginia’s facilities that offer services, programs, and activities for the public need to be accessible. Persons with disabilities who are being denied access to any service, program, or activity must be provided with information on the process for filing complaints and given access to an employee who is charged with coordinating, and carrying out the State’s responsibility under the Act. If the public office has less than 50 employees, contact information on a State employee who can coordinate and carry out the State’s responsibilities under the Act, should be readily available in every office.


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

I do support the Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act in West Virginia in its current form that includes preexisting conditions. The Affordable Care Act provides health care to thousands of West Virginians those with and those without disabilities.

5. Do you support funding the Medicaid Waivers sufficiently to eliminate the waiting lists and make them accessible to those who need them? Why?

West Virginians in need of health care services cannot wait for treatment as their condition worsens and they suffer. I do not support Waiver programs because it is impossible to adequately foresee future need; thus, there is no way to guarantee there will be sufficient funds when budgets are developed. Individuals who need medical services should be provided medical services when they need them. Their care should not depend on fixed budgets. I support a Universal Health Care program. Since we are currently stuck with the waiver program, I do support fully funding it with the best guess needs assessment.

 Community Services

6. What strategies will you use to ensure every West Virginian with a disability has access to a Center for Independent Living?

I would seek funding for additional Centers for Independent Living from State and Federal sources. Locating the Centers where they are needed will require a survey of eligible West Virginians.

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

With most Federal programs the State must provide a cash match. The best way to maximize Federal dollars is to provide as much match as necessary to acquire all the Federal funds offered.

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

Federal funding, no matter the program, is supposed to follow guidelines that meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Given the latest issues with FEMA funds not being managed in a responsible way, I would recommend additional oversight.


9. 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.

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

West Virginia needs to develop and fund a transportation program for persons with disabilities. The State can partner with private, nonprofits where they are available. However, where a partnership is not possible, the State should fully fund the program. The programs could be located in existing EMS/Fire Stations where there are no public transportation facilities.


10.  A. How will you make sure all schools are aware of and access all transition services available for youth with disabilities?

       B. 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.     School personnel currently receive training on services and accommodations required by students with disabilities. Students and their parents/guardians need to be trained in students’ rights and how to file an official complaint if their rights are violated. One of the barriers to enforcing existing laws is the lack of knowledge about rights and the process to file a complaint and hopefully, get a satisfactory resolution. Sometimes school administrators do not fully inform students and parents/guardians on the complaint process. The process requires a written complaint; it is easy to ignore a complaint that is not in writing. If providing a written complaint is an issue due to a disability, the school should assist the complainant with filing it and the process. More can be done in this area and I would support making changes.

B.    The use of advocates and access to legal assistance is the best way to enforce laws that are being ignored.

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

There should not be barriers to post-secondary education/training, services, and supports that are necessary for persons with disabilities to achieve their life goals. As I understand it, many programs limit the number years of post-secondary education/training. If additional education is required for a person with disabilities to achieve, it should be available and I will support expanding these educational opportunities.

12. 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?

I believe that inclusion is not only the law, but important for the social and educational growth of all students. What is frustrating is that the laws to insure inclusion already exist, but educators fall short on enforcement. There are advocates, but not enough and many students and their families do not know how to contact them. The system is not working and needs revised. The biggest education challenge is hiring accredited special education teachers and aides. In many cases, an individual aide is required to allow a student to be included in classrooms with students w/o disabilities. Thus, funding is often the problem. I would support increasing funding.


13. 71.3% of working age West Virginians with disabilities are not in the workforce. What steps will you take to change that?  How will you ensure all working West Virginians with disabilities are paid at least minimum wage and eliminate sub-minimum wage?

I stand for a living wage for everyone regardless of who they are. There are salary jobs and contract piece jobs that may pay less than minimum wage depending on the number of hours of work required. The State can look into these jobs to determine if they are targeting persons with disabilities in order to take advantage of those workers. West Virginia needs to make training and post-secondary education more available to persons with disabilities as well as work with employers to adapt work sites for West Virginians with disabilities. A partnership between employers and persons with disabilities can be initiated by West Virginia. The new program could be a kind of clearing house of jobs for persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, it is difficult to regulate prejudice that keeps many qualified persons with disabilities out of the work force. Educating employers about the value of employees with disabilities would help.



Please contact Paul Smith if you are having any problems viewing this website.