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independent living policy for wonks and wonkettes

Vanita Gupta to Keynote 2015 NCIL Conference

Generation ADA: Rise Up! 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living (Image: red power fist outlined by a black circle)Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, is set to deliver the keynote address at the 2015 NCIL Annual Conference in Washington, DC. In addition to her tremendous contributions to the legal sector of Civil Rights, Gupta has been a strong advocate in legal matters regarding education and disability rights.

A significant figure in the fight to promote equal rights for all, Gupta has recently spoken on behalf of the United States Department of Justice regarding matters ranging from the unlawful flagging of scores of LSAT test takers receiving disability accommodations by LSAC (Law School Admissions Council), to advocating for parenting rights of individuals who have mental or physical limitations and have been wrongfully refused rights relating to their own children. Upon her graduation from New York University School of Law, Gupta began her legal career with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, her first notable case succeeded in the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 individuals in Tulia, Texas.

Gupta was appointed to her current position by President Barack Obama in October 2014, and prior to that she held the title of Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Gupta represents a groundbreaking trifecta for her current position: the first woman, the first South Asian, and, at 39, the youngest Assistant Attorney General in the department’s history. Born in the Philadelphia area to Indian immigrant parents, Gupta holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. In 2011, the National Law Journal recognized Gupta as a Top 40 Minority Lawyer Under 40.Ms. Gupta is married to Chinh Q. Le, Esq., Legal Director of the Legal Aid Society in Washington, D.C. The couple has one son.

New Discounted Accessible Guestrooms Available at the Marriott Metro Center!

Generation ADA: Rise Up! 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living (Image: red power fist outlined by a black circle)

A new block of discounted accessible guestrooms is now available at the Marriott Metro Center, just one block from the NCIL Conference at the Grand Hyatt. These reduced rate rooms are available to NCIL attendees starting at $249 / night plus tax. Recently, all of the ADA Accessible rooms were booked at the Grand Hyatt and Embassy Suites, so we’ve opened up this new block of accessible rooms. If you need an accessible room and haven’t reserved your guestroom yet, contact Marriott today! As we prepare for one of our biggest conferences ever, these rooms may go quickly.

To reserve your room at the Marriott Metro Center, you can use NCIL’s custom link, or you can call: 1-800-393-2510 and make a reservation under the “NCIL Annual Meeting Overflow Room Block”.

Additional details are available on our conference webpage. See you in July!

NCIL Pre-Conference Presents… ILA: Where We Are & Where We Are Going

Sunday, July 26, 2015, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Don’t Miss Out!

Now that the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) has been passed and the Independent Living program has moved from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), many of you may be asking “Well that’s nice, but how does this affect me and my organization? Is there anyone who can help me understand what is going on and when to implement the changes in WIOA? Is ACL aware of the confusion and misinformation that state entities have regarding the rules and regulations?” If you have been asking these questions, then this session is for you!

Generation ADA: Rise Up! 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living (Image: red power fist outlined by a black circle)The session will start with an overview of changes to the Independent Living program contained within WIOA, and will update on progress related to the transfer of the program and NCIL’s work on developing recommendations for rules and regulations.

Breaking News!

Kathy Greenlee, Administrator of ACL; Sharon Lewis, Principal Deputy Administrator of ACL; and Jamie Kendall, Acting Director of the Independent Living Administration (ILA) will join us for this session to answer questions and to listen to feedback from the field about ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ experiences now occurring in states.

We hope to see you all on Sunday, July 26 at 1:00 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt for this most important and informative session!

Special Alert: Attend NDLA’s ADA Anniversary Celebration Free with NCIL Conference Registration!

Generation ADA: Rise Up! 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living (Image: red power fist outlined by a black circle)The Americans with Disabilities Act is turning 25, and disability advocates from all over the country are celebrating! On Monday, July 27, the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) is hosting the Americans with Disabilities Act 25th Anniversary: A Celebration of Pride, Power, and Promise. This incredible event will be the largest ADA Anniversary event in the country and will include disability rights leaders, members of Congress, Administration officials, and NCIL friends and family.

Tickets are on sale now, but the first 1000 people who register for the NCIL Conference will receive a free ticket to the party! Don’t delay your registration – we’re expecting a huge turnout for this year’s Conference, and you don’t want to miss the action!

Action Alert: Tell ACL to Reject Guidance That Strips Authority from CILs and SILCs!

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) issued sub-regulatory guidance related to state designations on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the guidance is not in line with the intent of the law, and it takes a significant amount of power away from SILCs and CILs. This is unacceptable!

The issued guidance gives the designated State entity (DSE) power to approve what is included in the SPIL. The DSE’s signature on the SPIL should be required to indicate their agreement to fulfill their duties as the DSE, not their agreement to the content of the plan! Moreover, the guidance gives authority over administration of the IL Programs – including submitting the SPIL to ACL and holding hearings – to the ‘State’. This authority should rest with the state’s SILC and CILs. This is absolutely NOT what the law intended.

Please join us in demanding that ACL retract this guidance immediately, and that they work with NCIL before re-issuing any future guidance. Please send an email right now to the Independent Living Administration’s Acting Director Jamie Kendall (, and call ACL at (202) 401-4634.

Strengthening Relationships Among CILs and the SILC: Building and Maintaining a Statewide Partnership

CIL-NET & SILC-NET Present… A National Teleconference & Webinar

July 9, 2015; 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Register online or by using the printable registration form (PDF).

IL-NET Logo - CIL-NET + SILC-NETDoes your state have a strong, mutually beneficial relationship between the SILC and CILs? If you do, you certainly know that it takes lots of work to build and maintain a statewide Independent Living network. Those of you that don’t may feel like things will never improve or that changes from WIOA have brought difficult new issues to the forefront.

Please join us to learn effective strategies for collaboration and network building between CILs and the SILC in your state. Your presenter will provide concrete examples of how SILCs and CILs can work together in partnership to create a strong statewide network to advocate, collaborate on the SPIL, and deal with changes and challenges as a team.

This training isn’t just for SILCs. Given the new enhanced role of CILs in the SPIL process and the nature of the topic, CILs are encouraged to participate as well!  [Read more...]

Owning Our Stories Event Connects Storytelling, Empowerment, and Employment

By Jaggar DeMarco, NCIL Summer Intern

Owning Our Stories Logo - Supported by a grant from the HSC FoundationOn June 8th, over 40 people gathered together in the back room of Potter’s House, a community space and café in Washington, DC for the sole purpose of empowering people with disabilities through storytelling. Hosted by NCIL and supported through a grant from The HSC Foundation, the Owning Our Stories open mic night was the first event of its kind to connect storytelling to individual empowerment and finding employment.

While the setting of the room was simple, four off-white walls with a single tapestry in one corner and a handful of disability rights posters illuminated by a string of draped lights at the back of the room, what happened there was quite profound. A group of individuals with disabilities proudly shared their stories, both original works and meaningful written pieces, to the audience. There is rarely a space designed specifically for embracing one’s identity as person with a disability, but this evening did just that.

The presenters represented a cross generational intersection of advocates in different parts of their careers. The group of diverse speakers allowed the audience to hear a wide array of stories.

The night was hosted by Allie Cannington, Youth Transitions Fellow at NCIL and the individual behind the Owning Our Stories concept, and MCed by Lawrence Carter-Long, a local disability rights advocate and Public Affairs Specialist with the National Council on Disability. Carter-Long kicked off the night’s storytelling with a preview of his upcoming radio piece on the takeover of the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia by a group of disability advocates. Cannington shared Laura Hershey’s powerful poem and disability anthem, “You Get Proud by Practicing” to honor the love and legacies of Ki’tay D. Davidson and Stella Young. NCIL’s Executive Director, Kelly Buckland, spoke about his experience as a person with a disability in college before the ADA and how a single person got him interested in disability rights work and changed the trajectory of his whole life. Interestingly enough, the ADA was signed into law on the 20th anniversary of the day of his accident.

Other speakers included Maria Town, Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, and Rebecca Cokley, Executive Director of the National Council on Disability. Their titles didn’t matter that evening, as they each shared personal stories of people that had been instrumental in their growth as leaders in the Disability Rights Movement. Sara Vogler read a powerful original poem. Jeremiah Perez shared his personal story to highlight importance of education and activism in finding employment and personal growth.

As both a member of the audience and a speaker at the event, I was in awe of the supportive nature of the room. Too often people with disabilities feel as if they cannot speak up for themselves. But the Owning Our Stories open mic night allowed every participant to be their truest authentic self.

Disability Activists Urge Princeton University to Denounce Professor Peter Singer’s Comments, Call for His Resignation

Disability rights activists from Pennsylvania Not Dead Yet and New Jersey Centers for Independent Living, as well as groups representing parents of people with disabilities, marched to Princeton University and held a protest on June 10, 2015. Activists want Princeton to publicly denounce recent statements by Professor Peter Singer, promoting ending the lives of disabled infants through denial of health care, and for Princeton to take other steps to address what the activists describe as Singer’s “hate speech” toward disabled people.

Not Dead Yet Logo“Since about 1980, Singer has promoted public policy that would legalize the killing of disabled infants in the first month of life,” said Stephen Drake, Not Dead Yet’s research analyst and expert on Singer. “More recently, he has expanded his position in the context of health care rationing.”

In 2009, the New York Times Magazine published an article by Singer titled ‘Why We Must Ration Health Care.’ In the article Singer spoke hypothetically of assigning a life with quadriplegia as roughly half that of a life without any disability at all. On this basis, Singer laid out a case for denying health care to people with significant disabilities on the basis that these lives have less value than the lives of nondisabled people. A response signed by 20 disability rights organizations (including NCIL) was submitted to the magazine, criticizing the decision to seek out Singer as an analyst of healthcare and for the specific content of the article.

“This was probably Peter Singer’s most direct assault on the value of the lives of people with physical disabilities past the age of infancy,” said Drake.

On April 26, 2015 on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” Singer again rationalized the killing of disabled infants. Three days later, the National Council on Disability, a council appointed by the U.S. President to provide advice on disability policy, issued a press statement on Singer’s comments during the show. According to the NCD release:

Singer told Klein that health care rationing is already happening, and surmised that hospitals routinely make decisions not based on need, but rather on cost. He then used the presumed practice to rationalize the killing of disabled infants by arguing in support of “non-voluntary euthanasia” for human beings who Singer contends are not capable of understanding the choice between life and death, including “severely disabled infants, and people who through accident, illness, or old age have permanently lost the capacity to understand the issue involved.”

In addition, Not Dead Yet issued a petition to Princeton through

“We understand the importance of academic freedom,” said Alan Holdsworth of Not Dead Yet Pennsylvania. “But Princeton has a policy on ‘Respect for Others’ which ‘deplores expressions of hatred directed against any individual or group.’ If Singer’s comments about killing disabled babies don’t qualify as hatred toward a group, then I don’t know what does.”

Protesters are demanding that Princeton take four actions to address Singer’s comments:

  • Call for Singer’s resignation.
  • Publicly denounce Singer’s comments.
  • Hire a bioethicist from the disability community in a comparable position to provide a platform for views that contrast with his.
  • Create a disability policy program at Princeton to educate future leaders on an inclusive community.

An Update from the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee

By Fred Hess, Subcommittee Member

Hi fellow transportation fixer uppers. My name is Fred Hess. I am an Advocacy Coordinator in Western Pennsylvania (PA) and work for Disability Options Network (DON), the CIL located in New Castle, PA. I am on 3 different transportation committees: NCIL’s Transportation Subcommittee, the PA Transportation Alliance and a regional transportation committee called Alliance for Transportation Working in Communities (ATWIC) in SW PA. I was proud to be a member of ATWIC’s steering committee and we came up a large report on the problems with transportation for people with disabilities.

I recently attended a presentation at the Lawrence County Commissioner’s board from the Southwestern PA Transportation Commission (SPC) where they were using disability information that I shared from the various groups I participate in as a guideline. So that just shows you that the work we do really does count. I stressed the need for 1000 pound lifts on transportation vehicles. I also made this point at the National Council on Disabilities (NCD) Forum in Pittsburgh on May 4 that several of our colleagues attended. That was a very interesting meeting, as we had some important people from the disability community all in one spot. If you’re going to get your issues out into the public, there was no better place to do it. We discussed transportation systems throughout the state and nation and how they affect people with disabilities. The largest problem from what I gathered is the train access. This isn’t limited to Amtrak. It seems that a lot of other inner city trains are badly in need of accessible stations and passenger cars.

We work to achieve our goal of no longer needing community advocacy anymore because the whole world will be accessible. It’s good to keep in mind that to get there we need to take little steps and you and I are taking them every day. Keep up the good work and one day one day the world will be our oyster.

For more information, contact Fred Hess at 724-652-5144 or

Join Our Partner, The LEAD Center, for WIOA From a Disability Perspective Part 3: Understanding Changes Regarding Youth Services

The LEAD Center, funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Policy, is hosting a four-part webinar series titled “WIOA From a Disability Perspective.”

LEAD Center LogoThe Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) places expanded emphasis on funding activities for youth, including out-of-school youth and youth with disabilities. WIOA also amends the Rehabilitation Act requiring VR agencies to collaborate with local education agencies to improve coordination of pre-employment transition services to students with disabilities.

Join this webinar to learn more about cross-system collaboration and WIOA opportunities to support career counseling, skills training, job exploration, leadership development, and financial literacy education for youth with and without disabilities.

This is the third of a four-part webinar series. After registering for this webinar, be sure to view the previous webinar’s archive and register for the remaining webinars in the series – space is limited:

Please note: This webinar will be captioned and a link to download the presentation will be sent to registrants prior to the webinar. To request any other reasonable accommodations, please contact Brittany Taylor at within 48 hours of the webinar.