the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Election Assistance Commission Wants to Hear From Voters with Disabilities

From: U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)

More than 35 million Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election. On November 8th, millions of these Americans exercised their right to vote and found that, because of the great strides we have made in recent years that they could do so with relative ease and dignity. However, despite vast improvement, many did not have this experience.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) wants to hear from voters with disabilities about their stories on Election Day. Please email us at: listen@eac.gov. Send us the good or the bad: we would like your feedback.

Here is an email we received from Jeanette McAllister of Franklin City, Virginia about her positive experience using an EAC certified machine:

“I just had the most WONDERFUL experience. I am totally blind and I voted myself in the November general election! I tested/voted on the new accessible voting machines during the primary – but that feeling cannot even begin to compare with how I feel this morning. I was in tears by the time I left the polling station – for the first time in years I VOTED without assistance.

To the manufacturers and trainers of the accessible voting machines, THANK YOU! Because of you I have the capability of exercising my rights as a US Citizen. To the poll workers in Franklin, Virginia, THANK YOU! Because of you, I can vote right along my sighted peers without feeling “frowned” upon. I am now an equal.

Thank you Franklin, Virginia!

(Note: My husband said I was “skipping” down the sidewalk this morning with my Guide Dog, Hannah – I was so excited!).”

While we are so very glad that Jeanette was able to vote privately and independently, fulfilling the promise of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), we are also aware of many voters with disabilities who encountered problems.

On Election Day, the EAC heard from voters with disabilities who faced negative experiences with the voting process, assistance at the polls, and physical access issues at their polling place. This is unacceptable in our great nation where the laws seek to provide access to all. We must do better.

HAVA contained landmark provisions requiring the secure, private, and independent casting of ballots for voters with disabilities. During the past twelve years, the EAC has worked closely with election officials to promote these access requirements and to foster a climate of understanding in providing assistance for voters with disabilities.

Leading up to the 2016 election, the EAC held a widely attended field hearing in Boston, MA with voters with disabilities, took testimony (PDF) to improve the process from over 100 voters with access needs, and distributed more than 10,000 of our federal voting rights cards (PDF) in Braille, large print, and plain language. Much work remains to be done to reach the promise of HAVA. As we take stock of the 2016 election and hear from voters and election officials, the EAC looks forward to leading further initiatives that will improve accessibility and empower voters with disabilities.

Action Alert: Anderson Cooper’s ADA Attack on 60 Minutes

The National Council on Independent Living is alarmed and appalled by the December 4th segment on 60 Minutes addressing the Americans with Disabilities Act and “drive-by lawsuits.” The segment, hosted by Anderson Cooper, was one-sided, rife with inaccuracies, and glaringly dismissive of the disability community.

Take Action

Contact Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes and ask that they air another segment that gives equal airtime to the struggle of the millions of Americans with disabilities who still lack basic access to our communities.

Instead of addressing the fact that 26 years after the passage of the ADA there are still so many businesses not complying with the law, Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes chose to focus on the largely overblown issue of “drive-by lawsuits.” To be clear, NCIL condemns the actions of those attorneys who are abusing the ADA and making profits off of the civil rights of people with disabilities. While small in number, the actions of these attorneys are harmful to the nearly 57 million Americans with disabilities, and the repercussions of their actions risk increasing the access barriers that we already face. That is unacceptable, and we cannot stand for it.

That said, NCIL supports the right of people with disabilities who have faced discrimination to file complaints and lawsuits. Twenty-six years after the passage of the ADA, people with disabilities are still discriminated against by businesses that either don’t take our needs into account or openly exclude us. With no oversight mechanism, we have seen businesses around the country wait to comply with the law until they receive a complaint, meaning that not only is the onus on the disability community to ‘monitor’ compliance, but also that until we complain we are excluded from their places of business. We are appalled that Anderson Cooper used his platform to shine a light on an undeniably small problem while paying no attention to the access issues millions of us face every day in our own communities.

On top of that, the segment was full of inaccuracies. First, Anderson Cooper stated that most states and the District of Columbia allow for monetary damages for accessibility violations under the ADA. This is false. The reality is that monetary damages are based on state laws in only a handful of states, and several of these states – including California where some examples in the segment were based – have recently passed legislation disallowing damages in addition to making it harder to file a claim under the ADA in the first place. Second, the segment presented compliance with the ADA as overly burdensome and bordering on unnecessary. In reality, the ADA is just one of a multitude of laws, requirements, and codes that businesses have to comply with, and implying that it is unnecessary is wrong and offensive. The segment implied that ADA compliance should only be necessary if people with disabilities patronize a business, while the fact of the matter is the people with disabilities often don’t patronize businesses precisely because they aren’t accessible to us! People with disabilities are full-fledged members of our communities, and the intent of the ADA was to ensure that all public spaces are accessible to all people.

Lastly, NCIL has grave concerns with the fact that Anderson Cooper did not include any disability activists in the segment. The only people with disabilities shown in the segment were portrayed as pawns being used by the unethical attorneys, and this is incredibly offensive. Twenty-six years ago, the ADA was passed because of the hard work and dedication of disabled activists all over the country. Now, 26 years later, we continue to fight for our civil and human rights to be recognized. The 60 Minutes segment’s portrayal of people with disabilities was patronizing and inaccurate, and we demand better.

We strongly urge Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes to air another segment that gives equal airtime to the struggle of the millions of Americans with disabilities who still lack basic access to our communities.

Thank You for Your Support on #GivingTuesday!

giving-tuesday-logoThe National Council on Independent Living thanks you for your generous donations on #GivingTuesday! Your gift will support NCIL’s mission to advance independent living and the rights of people with disabilities. With your help, we will create a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.

If you missed the opportunity on #GivingTuesday, it’s not too late.

Make a year-end gift today:

NCIL Mourns the Passing of Kent Mickelson

Kent Mickelson Photo Credit Washington SILCIt is with great sadness that we write to inform you of the passing of Kent Mickelson, a longtime NCIL Board member and CIL director who passed away on December 1, 2016. Kent was a passionate advocate who spent his life fighting for the civil and human rights of the disability community. The disability rights movement has lost a strong and passionate advocate and friend.

Kent was a tireless advocate for over three decades. He served as the Executive Director of several Centers for Independent Living, including the Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living (DRAIL) and the Center for Independence of People with Disabilities (CID) in California, and most recently, the Alliance of People with disAbilities in Washington state. Sheri Burns, fellow Californian and NCIL Region IX Representative, described Kent as “a humorously bombastic and friendly guy who was extremely passionate about IL and lit up a room with his laugh and funny stories.”

Kent was a dedicated advocate, serving on several NCIL, state, and national committees. He served on NCIL’s Board of Directors 1997-2003 and 2009-2011. He served on NCIL’s Rehabilitation Act Subcommittee (1990-2010) and was a contributor to the changes in the Rehab Act that were passed in WIOA. Kent contributed to our community in countless ways, and he was also a close and personal friend to many. Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of NCIL and longtime friend of Kent, said “I considered Kent a dear friend and a really effective advocate. We will miss him greatly.” As a previous Board member and leader within NCIL, Kent’s picture will be added to NCIL’s Wall of Fame here in the office.

Kent will be missed dearly by the whole NCIL community, and we would like to express our condolences to Kent’s family and friends during this difficult time.

We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project

Today, the National Council on Independent Living’s Diversity Committee releases “We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project.” This project includes a video and toolkit that can be utilized for educational training for disability organizations and agencies. The video discusses the narratives of 5 people with disabilities on the margins that have been victimized by police brutality and other forms of systemic violence. The We Can’t Breathe Toolkit was designed to equip disability organizations, agencies, and community members with the tools to process the video and build policies, programming, and advocacy that center intersectional organizing. The project addresses how state violence affects people with disabilities who are also women, people of color, and LGBTQ+. This training intentionally utilizes an intersectional framework to combat the racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia that pervade disability organizations and agencies.

In conjunction with the release of the We Can’t Breathe Project, there will also be a Facebook and Twitter chat this evening, November 30th from 7pm – 8pm EST. Anyone can participate in these conversations through the Facebook event page and/or NCIL’s Twitter page. For more information contact Keri Gray (gray.keri.12@gmail.com) or Dustin Gibson (dustinpgibson@gmail.com).

Full Toolkit | Facebook | TwitterVideo

Background image of Black women holding a banner and leading a march. It includes Twitter, Facebook and NCIL logos. The text centered on the image reads WE CAN'T BREATHE: The Deaf and Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project. The date and time listed is Wednesday, November 30th at 7pm EST. #DisabilitySolidarity

Townhall Discussion on Institutional Diversion

CIL-NET Presents… A National Teleconference & Webinar:

December 15, 2016; 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Eastern

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

IL-NET Logo - CIL-NET + SILC-NET

Keeping people out of institutions is a new required service of CILs as part of the new core services from WIOA. But the fact of the matter is that CILs have been keeping people out of nursing homes and other institutions for years. We’ve organized this townhall discussion as an opportunity for a peer discussion on how best to divert people from nursing homes and other institutions, but also how to record and report the good work CILs are already doing in this arena. We’ll facilitate the discussion with some key questions, but we hope you’ll sign-up and come ready to engage in this critical conversation.

Registration Fee: This event is free-of-charge.

Target Audience:

  • CIL Executive Directors, Program Managers, IL Specialists, and any other staff interested in the discussion on institutional diversion as a core service.

Presented by CIL-NET: A program of the IL-NET national training and technical assistance project for Centers for Independent Living (CIL-NET) and Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILC-NET). The IL-NET is operated by ILRU, Independent Living Research Utilization, in partnership with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) and the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL).

Action Alert: Tell Your Members of Congress to Oppose the Mental Health Provisions in The 21st Century Cures Act!

Congress is planning to vote on H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act, as early as this Wednesday, November 30. The House and Senate just released the text of the bill (PDF), which includes mental health provisions based on H.R. 2646 (also known as the Murphy Bill). NCIL strongly opposes H.R. 2646, and because of that we oppose H.R. 34.

The inclusion of language from H.R. 2646 in the 21st Century Cares Act will be incredibly dangerous for our community. While some of our concerns with H.R. 2646 were addressed prior to its June passage, the Murphy Bill is still harmful to people with disabilities. The language related to mental health that is included in H.R. 34 still promotes institutionalization, still increases funding for involuntary outpatient commitment, and influences new HIPPA rules to lessen privacy for people with psychiatric disabilities. It is important to note that the bill pays for more institutionalization of children by requiring states to use Electronic Visit Verification systems, which can make people who use personal care or supportive home care prisoners in their own home. We cannot let this dangerous language become law!

We have been asking the Senate to pass their mental health bill, S. 2680, as passed by the Senate HELP Committee, with no amendments or changes. Read more about S. 2680 in our August Action Alert. After the support for S. 2680 in the Senate and the large amount of opposition the Murphy Bill has faced, the inclusion of H.R. 2646 language in H.R. 34 is shocking and disappointing.

We must urge our members of Congress oppose the Murphy Bill language in the 21st Century Cures Act. Please contact your members of Congress TODAY and ask them to vote NO on the 21st Century Cures Act as long as it contains provisions from the Murphy Bill.

It is imperative that the mental health legislation that passes through Congress does not carve away at the rights of people with disabilities. Congress needs to hear from us before they vote. Contact your Senators and Representatives now!

Join Us December 12 for Medicaid Advocacy 101 Part III: Long-Term Services & Supports Reforms and Landscape

December 12, 2016; 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Register online.

Cost: This webinar is free for NCIL members! Registration for non-members is $25.00.

Registration is limited to 95 spots. Sign up today!

As the primary funder for LTSS, Medicaid policy shapes the opportunities and supports available for people living independently. Each state varies in its approach and services for LTSS. Inconsistent benefits, delivery mechanisms and quality metrics make it challenging to make informed policy decisions. Join us for a conversation about trends within LTSS programs, the role of managed care and a discussion on quality measurement frameworks for managed LTSS programs.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand key policy decisions on LTSS programs
  • Highlight trends in states use of managed care for LTSS programs
  • Highlight importance of consistent quality measures to inform policy decision making

Presenters:

  • Ken Smith – CEO of Dual Eligible and LTSS Populations at UnitedHealth Group
  • Julie Weinberg – Director, Medicaid Policy for United Healthcare Community & State

Medicaid Advocacy 101 Series

LTSS Reforms and Landscape is the third in a four part webinar series designed for emerging leaders in Medicaid advocacy. We will look at the foundational elements of the Medicaid program and how states adjust and differ in their programmatic design. Presenters will include individuals with State, Federal, Health Plan and CIL experience. Participants will be enhance their ability to shape the Medicaid environment in their state by deepening their understanding of the Medicaid program, emerging policy, avenues for influence and opportunities for collaboration. This webinar series is offered through a joint project between National Council on Independent Living and United Healthcare.

Intended Audience: Emerging leaders in Medicaid policy, self-advocates, students and anyone interested in learning more about Medicaid policy.

We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project

We Can't Breathe - Hashtag compised of a word cloud featuring the names of victims of police brutality

On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 the National Council on Independent Living’s Diversity Committee will release a project titled “We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project.” This project includes a video and toolkit that can be utilized for educational training for disability organizations and agencies. The We Can’t Breathe Video discusses the narratives of 5 people with disabilities on the margins that have been victimized by police brutality and other forms of systemic violence. The We Can’t Breathe Toolkit was designed to equip disability organizations, agencies, and community members with the tools to process the video and build policies, programming, and advocacy that center intersectional organizing. The We Can’t Breathe Project addresses how state violence affects people with disabilities who are also women, people of color, and LGBTQ+. This training intentionally utilizes an intersectionality framework to combat the racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia that pervade disability organizations and agencies.

In conjunction with the release of the We Can’t Breathe Project, there will also be a Facebook and Twitter chat on November 30th from 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET. Anyone can participate in these conversations through the Facebook event page and the twitter hashtag #DisabilitySolidarity. For more information contact Keri Gray (gray.keri.12@gmail.com) or Dustin Gibson (dustinpgibson@gmail.com).

NCIL Joins the National #GivingTuesday Movement

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday. November 29, 2016#GivingTuesday is a national movement to celebrate and provide incentives to give. The #GivingTuesday effort harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners – non-profits, families, businesses and individuals – to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. This year’s #GivingTuesday falls on November 29, 2016, and NCIL has partnered with #GivingTuesday in order to draw attention to and raise funds for the important work of making independent living a reality in our communities.

The work NCIL does has always been important, but your donation this year is more critical than ever. In the upcoming year we are prepared to face further attacks on the ADA, renewed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, attempts to block-grant Medicaid, and other potentially dangerous attacks on the needs of our community.  NCIL will continue to fight for the human and civil rights of all people with all disabilities, but we need your continued support.

Your donation to NCIL in honor of #GivingTuesday will help us to protect our reputation as the strongest grassroots cross-disability organization in the nation’s capital. Our small staff works diligently to represent CILs, SILCs, and people with disabilities on a shoestring budget, and we are still operating with advocacy positions unfilled due to budget constraints. In order to ensure that our policy staff can be on the forefront of our community’s input is heard, we need your help!

“#GivingTuesday is a counter narrative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday because it reminds us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. “The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to help build a better world.”

About NCIL

The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.  [Read more…]