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

Civil Rights & the ADA

Election Assistance Commission Blog on Voters with Disabilities

On February 8, the Election Assistance Commission posted a blog based on feedback they received following the 2016 election from voters with disabilities. The blog details difficulties faced by a voter named Sharon, who explained the challenges she experienced as a person with a cognitive disability. Sharon explains, “when I called my election officials, I was told it could make the ballot void if signed in the wrong place. So I went into the polling place that day and was fortunate that I was having good healthy that day to go in and vote. I got the absentee ballot as often I’m homebound.” Read Sharon’s entire account in the blog post.

An Update from the NCIL Violence & Abuse Subcommittee

With so much activity happening in Congress under our new Administration, NCIL’s Violence and Abuse Subcommittee thought it might be helpful for the membership to see just how some of these changes may have a direct impact on violence and abuse towards individuals with disabilities and why it is so critical that we stay on top of the unintended consequences of some of these changes.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and associated block grants for Medicaid create a situation in which individuals with disabilities may lose their choice to live independently in the community. Institutional settings, such as nursing homes, are a breeding ground for neglect and abuse. The risk to health and safety of individuals with disabilities therefore is directly affected by the actions being taken by Congress and the White House.

The changes within the Department of Education, including the possible elimination or moving money from public to school choice programs may have a drastic effect on the safety of students with disabilities. IDEA mandates that schools investigate and respond to incidents of bullying, plus IEPs have been used as a tool in combating bullying. Seclusion and restraint policies are guided by federal mandates in response to the state’s inability to ensure the safety of students. These federal protections are essential and must not be reverted back to the state.  [Read more…]

Disability Day of Mourning 2017

Today, March 1st 2017, is the annual Disability Day of Mourning.

Vigil CandlesEach year, the disability community and our allies gather around the world to mourn people with disabilities murdered by their parents or caregivers. In the last year alone, 100 people with disabilities have been the victims of filicide – that we know of. Unfortunately, justice is almost never served for the victims of these hate crimes. When the victim has a disability, perpetrators of filicide are consistently given lighter sentences, or in some cases, no sentence at all.

We come together to mourn and to express our outrage. We decry these incidents as unacceptable. We demand justice. And we speak for those who are no longer alive to speak for themselves.

Find your local vigil site or participate in the virtual vigil if you can’t make it in person.

Action Alert: Call Your Senator to Oppose Sessions

Now that DeVos has been confirmed by the Senate, we must turn our attention to the Sessions nomination. Please take action to ensure that he is not confirmed!

The Senate has moved a step closer to confirming Senator Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney General, a role that would put him at the head of the Department of Justice. In a 53 to 42 vote, the Senate voted to start debate on Sessions’ confirmation.

NCIL has serious concerns about Sessions’ potential leadership of the Department of Justice, as outlined in a previous alert. We need YOU to contact your Senators and keep up the pressure to oppose Sessions as Attorney General! The best way to contact your Senator is by phone: call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asked to be connected to your Senator. If their line is busy, don’t give up! Keep calling back, and reach out to their office in other ways, including via email, their Facebook page, and Twitter. Use the hashtag #StopSessions.

We urge you to contact all of your Senators on this important vote, especially Republican Senators. However, the following Senators could potentially be convinced to change their votes, and so it is of critical importance that members in these states contact their Senators.

  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
  • Rand Paul (R-KY)
  • Dean Heller (R-NV)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Bob Corker (R-TN)
  • Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Nonprofit Vote to Hold Webinar on 2017 Voter Engagement 

Although the 2016 elections are over, 2017 is an important year for local municipal elections. Local elections are critical for determining policies in your community, but because they don’t receive as much attention as mid-terms and presidential elections, they often have disappointing voter turnouts. Would you like to improve the turnout and recognition of your local elections? Nonprofit Vote is holding their first webinar of 2017 on Creating a Voter Engagement Plan and Timeline for Your Nonprofit on Thursday, February 9th at 2:00 PM EST. In this webinar, you will learn about planning and voter engagement tactics, and all attendees will receive a 2017 timeline handout and a planning worksheet. To RSVP, visit

Call for Disability Ambassadors: WID’s Conference Accessibility Initiative

In 2016, WID was proud to be a leading force in the groundbreaking Conference Accessibility Initiative. In 2017, WID is excited to continue this initiative. For this effort, WID, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co., is actively striving to make community development and policy conferences more accessible to, and inclusive of, people with disabilities.

WID Logo - World Institute on DisabilityAcross America, convenings of civil rights and community development organizations help to set the economic opportunity agenda. Unless the conferences fully integrate disability access issues into their content–and people with disabilities are present–the needs and perspectives of the disability community will be largely left out of the discussion.

Through disability accommodations, scholarships, and training, WID and JPMorgan Chase & Co. plan to make 2017 the second year of conference accessibility and economic opportunity for the 54 million Americans with disabilities.  [Read more…]

Sign up to be a Day of Mourning Vigil Site Coordinator

In the past five years, over four hundred people with disabilities have been murdered by their parents, relatives or caregivers.

On Wednesday, March 1st, the disability community will gather across the nation to remember these disabled victims of filicide – people murdered by their family members or caregivers.

Vigil CandlesIn the year since our last vigil, our community has lost 100 more people to filicide. These are just the cases that we are aware of. Since we began monitoring this issue, we learn about more murders every week. We read the victims’ names, see their photographs, and gather what information we can about their lives. The criminal justice system has continued to give lighter sentences to parents and caregivers who murder disabled children. And we have seen both news and entertainment media continue to portray these murders in a sympathetic light.

We hold the Day of Mourning vigils to draw attention to these injustices, to commemorate the lives of victims, and demand justice and equal protection under the law for all people with disabilities. This would not be possible without the vital work of our volunteer site coordinators.

For the last six years, ASAN, ADAPT, Not Dead Yet, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and other disability rights organizations have come together to send a clear message that disability is not a justification for violence. We’ll be at our local vigils on Wednesday, March 1st – and we hope to see you there.

Washington Post: Solitary Confinement Can Shatter the Disabled — but They Languish There Anyway

Source: Washington Post

About half of all suicides in prisons across the country take place among the 5 or 6 percent of prisoners held in solitary confinement, a measure of the devastating toll exacted by isolating inmates, often for 22 hours a day, from social interactions — and often from basic health and other services. For prisoners who are deaf, blind or otherwise disabled, the damage inflicted by solitary confinement can be, and often is, shattering.

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union paints a stark picture of the ghastly harm done by isolating prisoners with physical disabilities, a practice that occurs across the country not only in serious disciplinary cases, but often when inmates disobey routine orders or keep a messy cell. In some cases, disabled prisoners are locked away in solitary, in cells no bigger than a parking space, simply because regular cells are unavailable, or to protect them from other inmates. Read full editorial at the Washington Post website.

Join NCIL’s Parents with Disabilities Rights Task Force!

The National Council on Disability report, “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children,” has outlined 20 findings and 50 recommendations on removing discriminatory barriers to raising families as people with disabilities from a range of federal agencies – everything from HUD to the entire family law system.

This in-depth report concludes that, “the legal system is not protecting the rights of parents with disabilities and their children,” and that, “fully two-thirds of dependency statutes allow the court to reach the determination that a parent is unfit…on the basis of the parent’s disability.” This is an outrageous violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act that leaves in its wake a policy of destroying families and a legacy of trauma on both parents with disabilities, and their children.

This is why NCIL is renewing our efforts to recruit members for the NCIL Parents with Disabilities Rights Task Force. We encourage people to join the committee call on Jan 30th to learn more and to become in involved in ending this kind of discrimination. The Parents with Disabilities Advocacy Group will focus on implementing the many recommendations in the National Council on Disability report, most specifically the section on ensuring training for family law professionals and exploring federal legislation that will protect our families.  [Read more…]

Justice Department Issues Guidance Related to Criminal Justice Entities and Individuals with Mental Health or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with mental health disabilities or I/DD from discrimination within the criminal justice system. Individuals who work for criminal justice entities, such as police officers and corrections officers, must sometimes make split-second decisions in very dangerous situations. While the ADA can require adjustments to policies, practices, and procedures to accommodate an individual’s disability, what is required in a given situation depends on a variety of factors, including the safety of the officers, the individual with the disability, and the public.

The Justice Department issued guidance this month to facilitate criminal justice entities’ compliance with the ADA during interactions with individuals with mental health disabilities or I/DD. The document sets forth the key regulatory provisions under the ADA and provides examples of how local law enforcement, corrections, and justice systems entities have facilitated compliance with these obligations. The document also provides recommendations for anticipating and preparing for disability-related needs of individuals with mental health disabilities or I/DD by training criminal justice personnel, conducting reviews of policies and procedures, and collaborating with mental health and disability service providers. Lastly, the document provides examples from the Department’s criminal justice enforcement actions and includes links to additional governmental resources.

For a copy of the guidance document or to find out more about the ADA, visit or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-0383 (TDD).