the advocacy monitor

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

Civil Rights & the ADA

Marriage Equality Is Still Not a Reality: Disabled People and the Right to Marry

By Eryn Star, NCIL Summer Policy Intern

“We’re done fighting for marriage equality; we have it now, so we have to focus on other issues instead!” is something I’ve been hearing a lot in queer spaces for the past couple of years. I understand where many people are coming from; marriage is an institution that has been used as a tool of oppression against marginalized people, and the focus on marriage equality did lead to many LGBTQ+ rights issues getting pushed aside. However, that should not be used to deny that marriage equality remains an issue in the United States for disabled people. It is necessary for us to address this because it is both a healthcare and civil rights issue.

A major reason why many disabled people are unable to marry is because of SSI and Medicaid. SSI and Medicaid are needs-based and focus on current assets and income. If you are on SSI and/or Medicaid and you marry a partner not on those programs, your partner’s income and assets are taken into consideration, and so both of your incomes and assets will be used to determine your eligibility. Because the assets and income combined often becomes too high to qualify for these programs, many disabled people have lost their SSI and Medicaid benefits. As a result, some disabled people have been forced to divorce and live separately in order to keep SSI and/or Medicaid. If both partners are on SSI and/or Medicaid, they have an even higher risk of losing their benefits. Not only would their income and assets be combined, but they are also hit by a marriage penalty. Married couples are allowed to have less in assets than the partners would be allowed to have as individuals. They receive a maximum total benefit that’s significantly less than what they would receive on individual benefits, and is in fact only slightly more than one person’s individual benefits.

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NCIL Applauds Courts’ Preliminary Injunctions Against the Public Charge Rule!

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is thrilled that five district courts have issued preliminary injunctions to stop the Administration’s public charge rule from going into effect. Last Friday, October 11, 2019, injunctions were issued in New York, Washington, and California, and on Sunday, Illinois and Maryland followed with two more. NCIL, along with seventeen other national disability rights groups, filed an amicus brief (PDF) in several of these cases.

The final public charge rule would have gone into effect yesterday, October 15. The public charge rule would create significant additional barriers for immigrants – and especially disabled and poor immigrants – to enter the US or become lawful permanent residents. Under the new rule, receiving certain public benefits – like Medicaid, housing assistance, SNAP, or healthcare subsidies – or having a medical condition or disability can be used to deny entry or permanent residency. Disabled and low-income immigrants are clearly targeted by this rule, and the decisions from last week and yesterday are a huge victory.

The fight against the public charge rule is not over though, and NCIL will continue our work to oppose it. We will keep you updated as things move forward and as any need for advocacy arises. In the meantime, thank you for your work on this issue already.

Read more about the public charge rule.

Sign On To a Joint Statement on Gun Violence Prevention Policy and Mental Health

NCIL has been working with a group of national disability rights and mental health organizations to push back against the rhetoric that people with psychiatric diagnoses are the cause of gun violence, and to fight against gun violence prevention proposals that discriminate against disabled people. With this rhetoric coming from many directions, and with the threat of new proposals and legislation remaining constant, it is more important than ever that we work together and speak out.

Decades of research has shown us what we already know: people with psychiatric diagnoses are no more likely to be violent than people without. And, people with psychiatric diagnoses are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. It is unacceptable to deprive a group of people their rights based solely on diagnosis and unfounded fear, which is what many – including the President – are proposing to do.

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Amicus Brief Challenging Administration’s Rescission of DACA

NCIL joined a coalition of 45 civil rights and social justice organizations, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court urging that the Department of Homeland Security’s rescission of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program is unlawful. The brief was submitted Friday morning.

In late 2017, the Trump Administration abruptly terminated the DACA program. Legal challenges have kept the program in place, and it has now made its way to the Supreme Court, where a hearing is expected on November 12, 2019. 

You can read more information about the amicus brief in the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ press release.

Donate Now to Close the Gap of People with Disabilities in Elected Office

A new study released by Rutgers University reveals that only 10.3 percent of elected officials have disabilities, compared with a rate of 15.7 percent in the overall studied population. That leaves a gap of over 5 percent between where elected representation of people with disabilities is and where we need it to be.

We want to close that gap. When our governments – large or small – don’t reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, democracy fails. Our governments need to be truly by the people, for the people – and that includes people with disabilities.

But we can’t close the gap without you. NCIL’s Elevate program is the first and only non-partisan program that trains people with disabilities to run for elected office. Our pilot program this past summer was a great success. Now we need your help to keep it going. Your support will help us run more webinars, hire more expert consultants, and reach more people with disabilities interested in running for office. Together, we can give people with disabilities the tools they need to run for office, win the race, and close the disability representation gap in elected office.

We can’t make change if we don’t have a seat at the table. Donate today to close the gap in political leadership for people with disabilities.

For Immediate Release: One in Ten Elected Officials Has a Disability

October 3, 2019

Contact: Sarah Blahovec, 571-777-8531, sarah@ncil.org

New Report Finds Gap in Political Representation of People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C. – According to a new study by Professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse, co-directors of the Program for Disability Research in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, an estimated 10.3 percent of elected officials serving in federal, state, and local government have disabilities. That is more than five percentage points lower than the overall disability rate in the adult population studied in this data.

This report marks the first quantitative study of representation of people with disabilities in elected office. Schur and Kruse analyzed 2013-17 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which measures disability on four kinds of impairment (hearing, visual, mobility, cognitive) and difficulty with basic activities inside or outside the home. The researchers’ key findings include:

  • 15.7 percent of adults and 10.3 percent of elected officials have a disability. That is a gap of 5.4 percentage points, suggesting that people with disabilities are underrepresented in elected positions.
  • 12 percent of elected officials in local government have a disability, compared to 6.9 percent at the state level and 6.3 percent at the federal level.
  • The rate of disability is slightly lower among women elected officials at 8.3 percent, than among men elected officials at 11.4 percent.
  • The vast majority of elected officials with disabilities are white, non-Hispanic men.
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Invitation: Virtual Roundtable Series on Involuntary Institutionalizations Before, During & After Disasters

The National Council on Disability (NCD) and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) invite you to join an upcoming Virtual Roundtable Series on Involuntary Institutionalizations Before, During & After Disasters / Emergencies.

This virtual roundtable series seeks input from representatives from Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agencies on collaborative approaches that address involuntary institutionalizations throughout disasters. Inspired by the recently released NCD report, Preserving Our Freedom: Ending Institutionalization of People with Disabilities During and After Disasters, conversations will be focused on collective next steps for P&As and CILs.

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Candidates Respond to the NCIL / AAPD Questionnaire on Disability Politics

Tonight is the third Democratic presidential debate. Will you be tuning in? 

In August, NCIL and the American Association of People with Disabilities teamed up to release the 2020 Presidential Questionnaire on Disability Politics. The questionnaire covers a broad range of policies that are important to over 35 million eligible voters with disabilities.

Ahead of tonight’s debate, the following candidates have submitted responses:

AAPD will continue to post major party candidates’ responses, as well as track public statements on disability and when applicable, sponsorship of disability-related bills. You can find all of this information on their 2020 presidential election webpages. AAPD will post candidates’ responses on a rolling basis, and we will make sure to inform you when new information is available. 

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Disability Advocacy Groups File Amicus Brief Opposing the Administration’s Public Charge Rule as Illegal Disability Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Public Representation, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), and fifteen other national disability advocacy groups represented by the global law firm Latham & Watkins filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of litigation to stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing its new “public charge” rule. Twenty-one states, led by California, Washington, and New York, have filed cases against the Trump Administration to block the new rule. The advocacy groups – representing tens of thousands of people with disabilities and their families across the country – claim that the new public charge rule will prevent people with disabilities from entering this country or becoming legal residents in violation of federal disability law.

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Organizers Forum: Fighting Racism & White Supremacy

As we hit 400 years since the beginning of slavery in the U.S., hundreds of Latinx immigrants are forced into camps, and the President himself encourages racism and violence, let’s talk about how we in disability communities can take action. What work needs to be done within the disability rights movement, and how can we act in solidarity with immigrant rights groups and others? More conversations like this are happening in disability spaces. Let’s use this call as an opportunity to keep learning and growing.

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