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

Civil Rights & the ADA

You Beat Voter Suppression in Georgia!

Last week, national media focused in on Randolph County, Georgia, where it was discovered that the Board of Elections planned to close seven of nine polling places due to alleged ADA violations. Outrage spread throughout the country as this community, whose voters are primarily people of color, faced the prospect of being forced to travel up to 15 miles without public transportation to a new polling place.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingAlerted to this news, NCIL members and other Georgia disability advocacy groups jumped into action. You joined with other advocates to tell Randolph County in no uncertain terms that exploiting the ADA to close polling places and disenfranchise voters of color is unacceptable. If a polling place is inaccessible, the legal obligation under the ADA is to make the polling place accessible, not to shut it down.

That’s the magic of NCIL’s grassroots network. We can mobilize advocates like you from targeted areas to address rights violations like those in Randolph County.

You won. Now, NCIL needs your help to continue to protect the right to vote. Here’s how:

Call for Stories: Snapshots of Our Lives

The National Organizing Project, a collaboration between ADAPT and NCIL, is asking for your help in collecting stories that we can use on the Hill talking with legislators.

Stories about Community Living

We are looking for are stories depicting the importance of Community Living. We would like to be able to use these stories when talking about the Disability Integration Act, the Empower Care Act, the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Settings Rule, Money Follows the Person, and other related legislation and policies aimed at ending the institutional bias. We are looking for:

  • Stories from people stuck in facilities waiting to get out
  • Successful transitions out of nursing homes or other institutional facilities to the community (please include specific programs that were used, including HCBS Waiver programs, Money Follows the Person, etc.)
  • Successful diversions from facilities through use of HCBS Waivers and related services, and
  • Stories from people on waiting lists for services.

Stories about the ADA

We are also looking for stories about the Americans with Disabilities Act. We are looking for:

  • Stories about persistent access barriers that are preventing full participation, and
  • Stories about how the ADA has allowed folks to live fully included lives in the community.

While we recognize that there are many areas of access that need addressing, currently we are focusing on Title III (physical access to public spaces) because of the recent threats to Title III of the ADA with “notice and cure” type bills. If you are sending a story about physical access barriers, please send a picture with your story if possible.

Our goal is to get at least three stories for each topic per legislator. You can help us reach that goal!

Please send stories to sheryl@ncil.org. Please include your first name (or initials), your city and state, the names of your Senators and Representative, a photo (preferred but optional), and 2-3 paragraphs concisely telling your story.

Reproductive Violence, Judge Kavanaugh, and the Legacy of Eugenics in the United States

Maggie Leppert, NCIL Violence and Abuse Subcommittee

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe disability community has banded together to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. One reason for this opposition is Kavanaugh’s 2007 ruling in Doe ex rel. Tarlow v. D.l where he ruled against a group of disabled women who were forced to have elective surgery without their consent, including 2 women who were subjected to non-consensual abortions. Kavanaugh defended his decision by saying “accepting the wishes of patients who lack (and have always lacked) the mental capacity to make medical decisions does not make logical sense.”

Kavanaugh’s decision in this case is an example of state-sponsored reproductive violence, a form of gender-based violence that involves control of a victim’s reproductive systems and choices. Reproductive violence against people with disabilities is perpetuated today through sexual violence, forced sterilization / surgery, adoption restrictions, disparities in access to healthcare and reproductive education, and manipulative use of contraception.

Reproductive violence is a legal, social, and cultural phenomenon. This type of violence against disabled people can be traced back to the eugenics movement. In the early 1900s, in an attempt to eliminate “feeble-minded” populations and curtail “unfit” reproduction, tens of thousands of people with actual or perceived disabilities were forcibly sterilized. Many of these compulsory sterilization laws stayed in place until the 1980s. Today, sterilization for adults and children with disabilities is still common, while the legacy of eugenics lives on in the assumption that disabled lives are seen as inherently sad, easily controllable, and in need of prevention or, even worse, elimination.  [Read more…]

Georgia Disability Advocates Respond to Polling Place Closures in Randolph County

This week, several Georgia disability advocates responded to reports that seven of nine polling places would be closed in rural Randolph County, Georgia due to polling places allegedly not being in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Randolph County has a population of nearly 8,000 and the precincts being discussed serve populations of voters that are over 50 percent Black, and these sudden closures have triggered concerns by many groups that the ADA is being misused and that these closures will disenfranchise voters of color. Many voters would reportedly have to walk miles to get to their new polling place, and there is no public transportation system in Randolph County.  [Read more…]

CILs and SILCs: Sign-On to the Letter Urging the Senate to Oppose Kavanaugh Nomination

Based on a careful review of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s opinions, NCIL opposes his appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions on healthcare, self-determination, employment, and education for people with disabilities are damaging to disability rights and his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court would threaten the rights and lives of Americans with disabilities. Read more about why NCIL opposes this nomination.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingWe encourage Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that support disability rights to add their organization as a signatory to the letter urging the Senate to oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court.

The deadline to add your organization as a signatory is the close of business Thursday, August 16, 2018.

NCIL Opposes Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to U.S. Supreme Court

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of individuals and organizations 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.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingBased on a careful review of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s opinions, NCIL opposes his appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions on healthcare, self-determination, employment, and education for people with disabilities are damaging to disability rights and his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court would threaten the rights and lives of Americans with disabilities.

Several of Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions are particularly concerning. One example of this is his ruling in Doe ex rel. Tarlow v. D.C., in which a class of people with intellectual disabilities living in facilities in the District of Columbia were subjected to elective surgeries (including unwanted abortions) based on the consent of District officials, without attempting to determine the individuals’ own wishes. While the district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, on appeal Judge Kavanaugh ruled in favor of the district stating that “accepting the wishes of patients who lack (and have always lacked) the mental capacity to make medical decisions does not make logical sense and would cause erroneous medical decisions – with harmful or even deadly consequences to intellectually disabled persons.” This decision is deeply discriminatory and based on flawed assumptions about the capacity of individuals with intellectual disabilities. It is in stark contrast to the philosophy of independent living, which is grounded in the belief that people with all types of disabilities are the best experts on their own needs and should be in control of the decisions impacting their lives. In situations where people with intellectual disabilities may need assistance with making decisions, emerging practices like Supported Decision-Making will allow them to receive the supports they need to make a decision while also respecting their rights.

Additionally, access to healthcare is critical for people with disabilities, and NCIL finds the opinions expressed repeatedly by Judge Kavanaugh against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be very concerning. Judge Kavanaugh’s repeated attacks on the ACA are a threat to healthcare access, and if appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, he would jeopardize our ability to access the healthcare and other supports that allow us the ability to live, work, and participate fully in the communities where we reside. The ACA provides access to healthcare for many people with disabilities who had previously been denied due to pre-existing conditions, and many of the other protections under the ACA are critical for ensuring we can receive services in the community rather than in institutions. Rolling back the ACA would be an infringement on our civil rights that would ultimately result in a loss of independence and increased institutionalization.  [Read more…]

Get Ready to Get Out the Vote! Upcoming Webinars on Voter Engagement

As we get closer to the midterms, several organizations are holding webinars to help organizations and individual advocates become more engaged in the democratic process and participate in Get Out The Vote activities.  [Read more…]

Rooted in Rights Storyteller Carrie Wade Talks Running for Office with a Disability

This week, Rooted in Rights released a video by Storyteller Carrie Wade entitled “Running Out,” which looks at representation in public office and considers the challenges and opportunities of running for office as an LGBTQ woman with a disability. Carrie talked with both Sarah Blahovec, NCIL’s Disability Vote Organizer, former candidate Amy Biviano, and Reggie Greer, who is the Director of Constituent Engagement at the Victory Fund, which trains and supports openly LGBTQ individuals to seek elected office.   [Read more…]

NCIL Conference Attendees Invited to Kennedy Center ADA Anniversary Performance featuring Mandy Harvey

On July 26, 2018 there will be a free 6:00 p.m. performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage featuring Mandy Harvey, a deaf singer / songwriter, to celebrate the ADA’s 28th Anniversary.

Mandy HarveyThe Kennedy Center expects this to be a popular show. Seating will be on a first-come, first-seated basis, but everything is wheelchair accessible and the show will be captioned, signed, and audio described. No tickets or reservations are necessary.

A vocal music education major at Colorado State University, Harvey lost her residual hearing in 2006–2007 at age 18 due to a connective tissue disorder, and left the program. She pursued several career options, including education, but returned to music in 2008. Mandy’s music attracts the attention of those around the world.  [Read more…]

NCIL Condemns Judge’s Decision to Allow Electric Shocks to Continue

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is appalled and outraged by the recent decision of a Massachusetts judge to allow the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) to continue administering electric shocks to disabled individuals as behavior ‘treatment’. We stand with countless other disability rights organizations and advocates in opposing this cruel ruling.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingDespite opposition from disability rights organizations, previous residents, parents and advocates, JRC continues to use electric shock devices as behavioral treatment on disabled individuals. Even in the face of decades of evidence showing these devices to be both dangerous and cruel, and even after the United Nations (UN) condemned the use of these devices as torture, JRC continues to be the one and only institution in the country to continue this practice.

In Judge Field’s decision, she wrote that Massachusetts officials did not prove that the practice fails to conform to “the accepted standard of care for treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of NCIL, said of the ruling: “The judge’s decision is appalling. There is no question that the use of these devices causes lasting harm to disabled people. For Judge Field to so blatantly disregard the safety and well-being of JRC residents is completely despicable.”  [Read more…]