the advocacy monitor

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

Civil Rights & the ADA

Accessible Parking Coalition Formed to Address Fraudulent Use of Disabled Placards and Other Challenges Related to Accessible Parking for People with Disabilities

Parking experts, advocacy groups for people with disabilities, state and federal agencies, and academics have formed a coalition to address a wide range of issues

Sixteen people gather for a group photo at the Stakeholders’ Forum on Accessible Parking and Disabled Placard Abuse, December 6, 2017 at U.S. Access Board officesALEXANDRIA, VA – According to a preview of a national survey to be released in early 2018, 96 percent of responding people with disabilities feel the ability to find parking is an important factor in leading an independent life, yet more than one-third have problems finding accessible parking on any given day.

The most significant problems are created by drivers without disabilities who park illegally in accessible parking spots or obstruct access by parking too close to a vehicle, making it impossible for drivers with disabilities to exit or enter their vehicle. Many other challenges are reported.

About 80 percent of respondents believe accessible parking fraud and disabled placard abuse is widespread, and even more believe law enforcement of disabled-parking regulations is inadequate or non-existent.

“The more we learn, the more it is clear there is rampant disabled placard abuse that contributes to inadequate parking availability for the people who need it most,” says Shawn Conrad, CAE, CEO of the International Parking Institute. “The Accessible Parking Coalition will be dedicated to changing that, as well as addressing other challenges related to accessible parking for people with disabilities.”  [Read more…]

Assistance Animal Survey

The NIDILRR-funded Southwest ADA Regional Center is conducting a survey to learn more about the use of service animals and other assistance animals by people with disabilities in public settings.

The survey is open to US residents 18 and over who use a service animal and parents of a child with a disability who uses a service animal. The information gathered will be used by researchers to understand what access issues people may experience with their animals, as well as to develop and improve the information, support, and guidance needed for the community to improve access for assistance animal teams. These findings will also be used to improve the training and technical assistance that the Southwest ADA Regional Center provides to the public on this topic. All personal data collected in the survey will be kept anonymous and confidential.

For questions or additional information, contact Marisa Demaya at

Accessibility Remains a Challenge for Voters with Disabilities

Over the past two years, the media and the country have taken note of the disability community’s massive political interest and power. In 2016, the #CripTheVote and #RevUp campaigns created spaces for the disability community to rally as a voting bloc. More recently, ADAPT made headlines nationwide for their summer protests of repeal bills for the Affordable Care Act. Now that 2017 and its local and state elections are over, all eyes are looking toward 2018 midterms and how the disability community will impact those elections. However, the bigger question is: what still needs to be fixed before 2018 to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to the vote as non-disabled voters?

VOTE Emblem features the universal sybol of accessibility holding a paper with Choice check marked and Option uncheckedUnfortunately, voting access hasn’t grown as the same rate as recognition of voters with disabilities. Recently, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released their survey of polling places during the 2016 election. This survey found that of the polling places they studied, 60 percent of polling places had barriers outside the polling place that could impede a disabled voter’s access to the vote. Inside, 65 percent of the polling places they surveyed had at least one impediment to casting a ballot for people with disabilities. Despite laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that mandate accessibility for polling places, compliance with these laws and voting access in general still has a long way to go to achieve true accessibility. Sadly, this statistic isn’t surprising, as a study performed at Rutgers University in 2012 found that during the presidential election, over 30 percent of voters with disabilities surveyed encountered at least one difficulty in casting their ballot, while only 8.4 percent of voters without disabilities encountered difficulty. There is still a massive disparity in voting access for people with disabilities.  [Read more…]

NDLA Urges Congress to Pass a Clean DREAM Act

Coalition Calls for Disability Support of Pro-Immigrant Policy and Programs

NDLA Logo - National Disability Leadership Alliance - Nothing About Us Without UsThe National Disability Leadership Alliance, of which NCIL is a proud member organization, calls on the United States Congress to develop and pass into law the DREAM Act, legislation that would restore protections and services under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA Program gives around 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children the opportunity to work and study in this country without the threat of deportation. Recipients of DACA have registered with the United States, submitted to deep background checks, and are engaging with their communities.

DACA is critical for immigrants with disabilities. Some immigrants with disabilities are in the United States in order to receive disability related supports and care that are not available in their country of origin. Without the program, DACA recipients who are disabled immigrants face the threat of medical deportation. Also, some DACA recipients are home care workers or personal assistants, providing critical support for people with disabilities. Without that support, people with disabilities would lose their link to live in their own homes instead of institutions. Read more at

Organizers Forum: Parenting and Disability

  • Tuesday, November 21, 2017
  • 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern
  • RSVP

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingHear from members of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Parenting Task Force! We’ll talk about issues facing parents with disabilities and what disability rights advocates can do.


  • Kelly Buckland, Executive Director, National Council on Independent Living
  • Sarah Launderville, Chair, NCIL Parenting Task Force, and Executive Director, Vermont Center for Independent Living
  • Kimberly Tissot, Executive Director, ABLE South Carolina

[Read more…]

Information Alert: GAO Releases Report on Polling Place Accessibility in 2016 Election

Last week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report detailing the accessibility and barriers to access at polling places in the 2016 elections. This report, which the GAO has produced after other presidential elections, found that:

  • Of all 178 polling places, 60 percent had one or more potential impediments outside the polling place, with the most common being steep ramps, lack of signage to indicate accessible paths, and poor parking or path surfaces.
  • Of the 137 polling places where the GAO was able to examine the interior polling stations, 65 percent had a polling station with an accessible voting system that could impede the casting of a private and independent ballot.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThis report shows that although many laws, such as the Help America Vote Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, continue to require accessibility of polling places, compliance with those laws is still often lacking, and there are still many potential barriers to casting a fully private and independent ballot for people with disabilities. These findings indicate that advocacy is still needed on all levels of government to educate election officials about making polling places accessible for people with disabilities.

Access the full GAO report, VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES Observations on Polling Place Accessibility and Related Federal Guidance (PDF), at

An Update from the NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee

Lots of things have been happening around mental health. We fought back attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with partners in ADAPT and others, but the danger still exists. The House and Senate have passed a budget that threatens to devastate mental health services through major cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and other vital programs and services. We still need to make our elected representatives aware of the impact of these cuts and how they will affect people.


  • Approximately 38 states have actually combined the Departments of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which insures about 40% of American children, has not been reauthorized. This ongoing failure will affect mental health and overall health for the nation’s vulnerable children.
  • The President has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. This is different than a national emergency, which would include additional funds. This is a complex issue, and we are continuing to follow the national discussion. We encourage you to read last year’s NCIL Statement on Opioids, Chronic Pain, and the Pharmaceutical Industry. In response to the opioid epidemic, there have been calls to change the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion, which prohibits federal payments for mental health or substance use treatment for facilities with 16 or more beds treating primarily people with psychiatric diagnoses. IMDs are mostly hospitals and nursing facilities, and NCIL has previously opposed changing the IMD exclusion, which would increase institutionalization.

The Mental Health Subcommittee supports as a starting point continuing bipartisan efforts on the Affordable Care Act and we will continue to monitor the proposed Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization bill in the Senate. Most importantly, we strongly support the Disability Integration Act, H.R. 2472 and S. 910 – sponsored by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).  [Read more…]

Deadline Extended: NCIL Invites You to Participate in a National Survey about Accessible Parking and Placard Abuse

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) invites you to participate in an online survey for people who require accessible parking, or have disabled placard or license plates. The survey takes about 15 minutes and will have a major effect on policies related to parking for people with disabilities. The deadline to complete this important survey has been extended to November 8.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingHave you faced challenges when it comes to finding available parking? Have you been frustrated by parking spaces that are designated for people with disabilities but are used by those who don’t need them? What other parking problems do you encounter?

Here is your chance to share your experiences, insights, and challenges. NCIL is part of a newly-formed Accessible Parking Council to address these issues on a national scale.

If you require accessible parking and have a disabled placard or license plate, please take this 15-minute online survey on Accessible Parking and Placard Abuse to ensure your voice is heard.  [Read more…]

2017 Dole Leadership Prize Awarded to Senator Tom Harkin

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas has announced that it will honor retired U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin as the recipient of the 2017 Dole Leadership Prize.

Harkin received the award at a public program on Oct. 29 at the Dole Institute. The program can now be viewed online. The Senator spoke at length about the ADA and the role of people with disabilities and their ongoing advocacy.

“Senator Harkin shares Senator Dole’s belief in bipartisanship, civil discourse and respect for the other side,” Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy said. “We look forward to honoring his long service to our country.”

“I am honored and humbled to join the list of renowned public servants to receive this recognition,” Harkin said. “Senator Dole and I share a commitment to promoting civic engagement, civil discourse and cooperation. This was prevalent during our shared time in the U.S. Senate, particularly in our work on behalf of people with disabilities, and continues to guide our work even today.”  [Read more…]

One More Opportunity to Sign on to NCIL’s Letter Opposing the ADA Education and Reform Act

Thank you to those of you who have already signed on to NCIL’s Letter Opposing the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620). For those of you who did not sign-on the first time around, we are opening the letter back up to allow for additional signatories. We are hoping for AT LEAST 150 additional organizations to sign on, so please spread this request far and wide!

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingAs a reminder, H.R. 620 was introduced by Representative Ted Poe of Texas. It would create significant obstacles for people with disabilities to enforce their rights under Title III of the ADA to access public accommodations and would impede their ability to engage in daily activities and participate in mainstream society.

On July 26, 2017, millions of people with disabilities throughout this country celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Unfortunately, many in the business community decided to celebrate the anniversary by diminishing this historic civil rights legislation through a letter of support for the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620). Their letter supporting this extremely dangerous legislation, which was sent to Congress, was titled It’s Time to Restore the Integrity of the ADA (PDF). NCIL’s response to their letter was sent to Representatives Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House) and Nancy Pelosi (Minority Leader).

We are looking to add additional signatories to this letter, so we are opening it back up. We strongly encourage you to add your organization as a signatory! The deadline to sign on is Wednesday, November 1, 2017.

Please join us as we fight this dangerous bill.