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Elizabeth Warren: I’ll use the force of government to make tech work for people with disabilities

Our nation’s history of progress is marked by the tireless dedication of leaders unafraid of fighting for their rights and demanding that an unjust status quo be changed. Disability rights leaders have exemplified this fight. Their victories have made this country a better, more just place for everyone.

People with disabilities are fighting for a society that guarantees their and future generations’ economic security, equal opportunity, and inclusion. They are not alone in this fight. 

I recently released my plan to protect the rights and equality of people with disabilities—and fulfill the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law 30 years ago. A core part of my plan is ensuring that technology advances in a way that promotes independent living and accessibility.

In the U.S., 61 million people are living with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As president, I will fight to lower the costs of assistive technologies that increase accessibility for people with disabilities. 

If companies that receive government funding to develop their products will not or cannot offer key assistive technologies at reasonable prices, my administration will use its authority under the Bayh-Dole Act to license patented innovations to companies that will ensure that technologies are affordable and accessible to people with disabilities. I will also fight for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health to expand research into affordable and life-changing support for people with disabilities and break up big tech companies to stimulate competition and innovation.

As our society becomes more advanced, technology plays a bigger role in our lives. These technological advancements have brought many positive changes for people with disabilities, improving their health, their safety, and the accessibility of our society. But as our world becomes more dependent on these current and emerging technologies, the risk of alienating or unduly burdening people with disabilities increases.

Experts have warned of the alarming potential that artificial intelligence and its algorithms have for discriminating against people with disabilities. Across a variety of areas, including automated job screenings and housing, technological advancements have been obstacles to disability rights. As president, I’ll create a task force that pushes federal agencies to enforce existing anti-discrimination laws, creates new regulations specifically addressing discrimination in current and emerging technologies, and issues guidance to the industry to promote compliance.

In the Senate, I passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act to make hearing aids more affordable. As president, I will fight to pass my AIM HIGH Act to ensure that instructional technologies at colleges and universities are accessible to students with disabilities. Across all federal agencies, I will make websites, information, and technology inclusive and usable by all. 

Further, I’ll work to ensure digital equity. To accomplish this, I will push to pass the Digital Equity Act, which invests $2.5 billion over 10 years to help states develop digital equity plans and launch digital inclusion projects. This will be critical to creating a digital world that values all people, differently abled or not.

When I am president, the disability community will have a partner in the White House to combat ableism. It’s time we fight for a society where the four goals of the ADA are fulfilled: equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. It’s time we fight for the big, structural changes that will make a more just America a reality.

Elizabeth Warren is the senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts and a Democratic candidate for president.

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