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

Civil Rights & the ADA

NCIL Statement on the Passing of President George H.W. Bush

The National Council on Independent Living mourns the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. He died on Friday, November 30, 2018, at the age of 94.

On July 26, 1990, President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which solidified into law the civil rights of people with disabilities in the U.S. At the signing ceremony, the words he spoke became words often repeated in our community to symbolize the significance of the law’s passage: “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” Read full remarks.

NCIL Executive Director Kelly Buckland said, “President Bush didn’t simply sign a historic piece of legislation. The ADA passed with strong, bipartisan support under – and in part because of – his strong, ongoing leadership.” In 2015, President Bush listed the ADA among his proudest achievements as President, saying, “It’s something I’m very proud of – perhaps proudest of when I was President.”

NCIL mourns the loss of President Bush, whose contributions and commitment to the civil rights of Americans with disabilities will not be forgotten.

After lying in state for two days at the Capitol Building, a funeral service will be held for President Bush in Washington today (Wednesday) at 11:00 a.m. Eastern at the National Cathedral. Today will be a national day of mourning and the federal government will be closed. After today’s funeral, he will be flown back to Texas and interred on Thursday. Details about both the DC and Texas services and ceremonies can be found on the official schedule (PDF). Several news networks will be covering the services Wednesday and Thursday, including PBS stations nationwide and C-SPAN online. We encourage you to attend these events and tune in remotely to show your gratitude for his signing of and commitment to the ADA and people with disabilities.

NPR Seeks Public Input on the ADA!

Tomorrow (Tuesday, December 4), National Public Radio’s (NPR) 1A radio show is doing a segment on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are asking for input from the public – including information about what’s wrong with the law and what needs to be changed. We need to make sure they also hear from people with disabilities about the importance of the ADA and what’s right with the law! Share your stories about how the ADA has protected your rights or provided you greater access to your community. The law may not be perfect, but having seen repeated attempts in Congress to weaken the ADA, we need to keep fighting to protect it.

More information about the show, including times and information on how to tune in, can be found at Call in at: 855-236-1A1A (1212).


Submit Comments Today to Oppose the “Public Charge” Proposal

On October 10, 2018 the Trump Administration’s proposed “public charge” rule was published in the Federal Register. The proposal is extremely discriminatory against disabled immigrants, and we need to do all we can to stop it!

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe public charge rule is used to prevent immigrants from entering the US or becoming legal permanent residents if they are likely to rely on certain public benefits. This proposal would significantly expand the benefits that can be taken into account to include non-emergency Medicaid, housing assistance, SNAP (food stamps), certain healthcare subsidies, and potentially the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – things people with disabilities rely on often. It would also heavily weigh medical conditions, insurance, and anticipated medical costs in public charge determinations. This proposal is unquestionably discriminatory against immigrants with disabilities. It makes it clear that this administration only wants you if you’re healthy, nondisabled, and wealthy. You can learn more about the public charge rule in our previous alert.

If the rule is finalized as proposed, disabled immigrants will be far less likely to come to the US and less likely to be permitted to stay. Moreover, immigrants currently residing in the US will likely be even more afraid to use the benefits they need in fear of being denied a green card. The proposed policy would be devastating to immigrant families, and it would disproportionately impact people with disabilities.

Take Action!

The comment period closes on December 10, 2018 at 11:59 Eastern. We have drafted sample comments that you can personalize and submit. Please feel free to use them as – is or to change them as much as you’d like to reflect your own experiences and opinions.

NCIL’s draft comments are available online and in Word and plain text.

Comments may be submitted online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal (preferred) or by mail.

  • To submit comments online through the portal, visit (or go to and enter USCIS-2010-0012 in the search bar) and click on “Comment Now”. You can either type your comments into the comment box or upload a document.
  • To submit comments by mail, your comments must be postmarked by the comment submission deadline (December 10, 2018). Address your comments to: Samantha Deshommes, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20529-2140. Please reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 in your correspondence.

Ask Your Members of Congress to Reject White Nationalism

On Election Day, just weeks after hate crimes in Kentucky and Pittsburgh rocked the nation, the majority of American people voted to change the direction of this country, away from the hate and bigotry that have overtaken our nation as the threat of white nationalism has grown.

Today, NCIL is joining our friends at Bend the Arc: Jewish Action in launching a new campaign to ask every member of the new Congress to go on the record to reject white nationalism and recognize its threat to our communities and our democracy.

Can you help us launch in a big way? It’s going to take all of us to get this demand into the hands of as many members of Congress as possible before they are sworn in on January 3rd.

Go to right now to find your representatives and ask them to sign on.  [Read more…]

NCIL Queer Caucus Condemns Trump Administration’s Call to Erase Transgender Identity

The NCIL Queer caucus condemns the Presidential Administration’s call to erase transgender identity from being recognized by the United States government. Through a unilateral set of policies targeting gender recognition, the transgender community will be put at even greater risk. Obama-era protections will be no more.

The transgender community already faces high unemployment, poverty, intimate partner violence, violence from police, and housing discrimination. The government recognition of gender identity had become a small step toward normalcy for many trans citizens. The ability to change gender markers — gender as identified on government documents — is not only a means of personal gender affirmation, but a label legitimizing gender. Bringing an I.D. to the bartender, using a public toilet, or getting on an airplane is no longer Russian Roulette for outing one’s self. Reports show that outing is a very dangerous act in a world still wrestling with the concept of trans identity. 27 transgender individuals have been murdered this year– many of them women of color. Gender markers are added protection against violence.

The NCIL Queer Caucus condemns the silence of the medical community on the issues of gender identity. Scientists have been the biggest ally to confirming that chromosomes are not the only definition of sex in humans. Despite evidence confirming gender identity, the scientific community is being silent on the attacks on the transgender community. The valuable information they provide is key to forming comprehensive and realistic policy around the issue.

22% of the transgender community identifies as having a disability compared to the general population of around 6%. Access to medical care, equal treatment under the law, access to jobs, housing, and safety are all concerns connecting the disability and transgender community.

Become a member of the NCIL Queer Caucus to help us organize and support the LGBTQ community, because we will most likely continue to see attacks on our population for the next several years. Be the change you want to see in the world! Learn about NCIL’s committees and caucuses and join today.

Achieving Accessibility for Election Websites and Sample Ballots: A Toolkit for Disability Advocates

Is your local election office’s website accessible to voters with disabilities? Election office websites are hubs of information for voters, providing pertinent information throughout the election process, such as what’s on your ballot and where your polling place is located. For voters with disabilities, accessing this information is especially critical as they look for information on accessible voting options or how to advocate for removal of access barriers that they experience at a polling place. Unfortunately, even though these websites are mandated by law to be accessible to people with disabilities, they often have significant access barriers that impact people with a range of disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent Living“Achieving Accessibility for Election Websites and Sample Ballots: A Toolkit for Disability Advocates” is a toolkit to help local advocates not only understand the access barriers on election websites and sample ballots, but also help them form a strategy and approach local election officials to remove these barriers and make voter information accessible to voters with disabilities. The toolkit provides information and resources that help both advocates and election officials understand the user experience from the perspective of users with a range of disabilities, including vision, mobility, and cognitive disabilities, and strategies to help local advocates engage election officials in efficient and effective discussion. Advocates can use this guide to begin building a relationship with election officials not only to address website access barriers, but to address other access barriers in the voting process to make the fundamental right to vote accessible to all American citizens.

“Achieving Accessibility for Election Websites and Sample Ballots: A Toolkit for Disability Advocates” is available in PDF, Word, and plain text.

Your Election Day Voting Resources

It’s Election Day and all around the country, voters like you are making a difference.  Voting is a way for you to make your voice heard on issues that matter to you – issues like healthcare, education, and more.

Voting can be tricky when you have a disability.  That’s why we put together this list of resources so that you can exercise your right to vote today and cast your ballot privately and independently.

Getting to the polls:

  • Uber and Lyft are providing free or discounted rides to the polls, along with several bike companies, scooter companies, and public transportation systems.
  • Carpool Vote is a service that matches drivers with voters in need of a ride. You can request an adapted van with a lift through this service, mark that you will be traveling with a service animal, and/or request any other accommodations (such as help folding equipment).

At your polling place:

After voting:

An Update from the NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee

By Yvonne Z. Smith, Subcommittee Chair

Advocacy around mental health is becoming an even more important issue. Legislation proposed under H.R. 6180Mental Health Care for Children Inhumanely Separated from Parents by the Federal Government Act of 2018 will provide mental health services for children separated from their parents. The trauma that is created by separating children from their parents especially very young children is well documented. H.R. 6180 was introduced on June 21, 2018 in the House by Representative Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA). As of August 6, 2018 it has been referred to Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingAnother bill to watch is S. 2513School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act of 2018. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced S. 2513 in the Senate on March 7, 2018. S. 2513 amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow state and local educational agencies to use certain federal funds for activities related to school safety, including: (1) infrastructure improvements to prevent, mitigate, or respond to incidents of school violence; and (2) professional development for school personnel in mental-health awareness, crisis response, and other programs designed to reduce and prevent school violence.

The bill also amends the Public Health Service Act to expand the programs for which the Department of Health and Human Services may provide financial support to assist local communities in helping children deal with violence. Such programs may include those designed to provide mental health and substance-use disorder assessments, crisis-intervention training, counseling, treatment, and referral.

The community must resist any connection of persons labeled mentally ill with danger. Parents should not have to disclose the mental health conditions of their children.

Paolo del Vecchio, MSW, former Director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) has been transferred out of his position. A community voice has been lost. Mr. del Vecchio, a positive resource for mental health at SAMHSA for over 20 years, gave voice to persons who were labeled with mental illness.

Midterms 2018: Three Steps to Get Out The Vote

October is drawing to a close, which means that it is almost time for the 2018 Midterm Elections! By now, many of us have already voted early or absentee, but if you haven’t (and even if you have), the NCIL Voting Rights Subcommittee has some tips on how to get out the vote yourself and to encourage others to vote.  [Read more…]

Invitation to Participate in Legal Effort to Compel Steak ‘N Shake to Comply with the ADA

The law firm Carlson Lynch Sweet Kilpela and Carpenter requests your assistance in the legal effort to compel Steak ‘N Shake to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to their request, Steak ‘N Shake has systematically failed to comply with the ADA in its parking lots and a lawsuit was filed to obtain a court order that would require Steak ‘N Shake to remediate and maintain its parking facilities so that people with disabilities are able to access Steak N’ Shake restaurants without difficulty.

The lawsuit was filed as a class action so that Steak ‘N Shake would have to remediate and maintain all of its stores and couldn’t simply fix problems at a few restaurants, while ignoring all the others. Recently, though, an appellate court found that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that a sufficient number of people would be impacted by the lawsuit, despite there being 14.9 to 20.9 million people with mobility disabilities in the United States and more than 500 Steak ‘N Shake locations throughout the country.  [Read more…]