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

Civil Rights & the ADA

Election Assistance Commission to Discuss Next Generation of Voting Machine Accessibility Guidelines

The Federal Government is setting standards for the next generation of voting machines. All manufacturers and most states buy equipment built to these standards, called VVSG (Voluntary Voting System Guidelines). On September 11th and 12th, the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) will convene to discuss the development of the VVSG, 2.0. The development of the VVSG are critical to improving the accessibility of America’s voting systems and software, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as they “provide a set of specifications and requirements against [which] systems can be tested to determine if they provide all of the basic functionality, accessibility, and security capabilities required of voting systems.” It is vital that disability organizations and advocates pay attention to the development of the VVSG 2.0, the fifth iteration of these standards, so that they can provide comments to ensure that the perspective and interests of people with disabilities in casting a private and independent ballot are taken seriously.  [Read more…]

Sign Up for Training through The NCIL Access Academy!

The NCIL Access Academy was created in 2014 to help Centers for Independent Living (CILs) return to being the primary resources in their communities for accessibility advice and survey services. The Access Academy aims to achieve this by forming a nationwide network of certified access survey specialists based at CILs throughout the US.

By participating in a NCIL Accessibility Survey Academy Project (ASAP) Training, CIL staff will be trained on measuring/surveying for accessibility, reporting formats to provide survey results and recommendations, and increasing referrals to for-profit or fee-for-service projects. After receiving training through the NCIL Access Academy, CILs can then take the formulas, methods, tips, and data from the training program and develop for-profit or fee-for-service opportunities providing survey, plan review, or training services in their communities. Trainees will also learn about continuing education opportunities and receive regular communications regarding current issues relevant to accessibility.  [Read more…]

NCIL Statement on the White Supremacist Violence in Charlottesville

NCIL strongly condemns the racist and anti-Semitic violence that occurred over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA. We are horrified by the loss of life and brutality that took place at the hands of violent white supremacists. We especially honor and acknowledge Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white supremacist deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of counter protestors, injuring 19 people who were putting their bodies on the line in the fight for justice. We decry the lack of police response to the escalating white violence in Charlottesville. We stand in solidarity with all of those who have not allowed racist and Anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence to go unchecked in their communities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingNCIL is committed to fighting bigotry in all its forms, including white supremacy, within our own disabled communities. Disabled people are represented in all races, ethnicities, religions, genders, and sexual orientations. We recognize that ableism impacts and is impacted in turn by other forms of oppression, including racism and anti-Semitism. To focus on ableism as a singular phenomenon, separate from other forms of oppression and violence, is to doom our movement to fail. We specifically lend our support to Black and/or Jewish people who were directly targeted by the hate speech espoused by the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. We also condemn and denounce the transphobic and homophobic hate speech on display in Charlottesville.

NCIL continues fighting against oppression every day. We are committed to dismantling the white privilege and racism in disability communities and prioritizing intersectionality as a key component of our work. We have a long way to go, but together, we can be a powerful force for justice.

Piss on Pity: The Story of ADAPT

Piss on Pity explores the disability-rights movement’s radical wing, a group called ADAPT, which has helped shape this country’s disability-rights agenda since 1983. With unprecedented four years of access, Piss on Pity: The story of ADAPT will bring you an inside look at the group that stormed Congress to pass the ADA, and again this year to defeat Medicaid-killing legislation. ADAPT has fought for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities for 34 years. The struggle continues. Watch the trailer and help fund the completion of this project by donating online.

Organizers Forum: REV UP! Registering Voters with Disabilities

  • Tuesday, July 18, 2017
  • 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern
  • RSVP online


  • Zach Baldwin, Director of Outreach, American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Molly Broadway, Training and Technical Specialist for Voting Rights, Disability Rights Texas
  • Sha Stephens, Executive Director, Arkansas State Independent Living Council (ARSILC)
  • Maggie Knowles, PAVA and Development Coordinator, South Carolina P&A

National Disability Voter Registration Week is July 10-14! Time to REV UP — Register, Educate, Vote, Use your Power! Please join this call to hear what exciting things are happening around the country to get more people with disabilities registered to vote, and learn what you can do in your local community.  [Read more…]

Action Alert: Pledge to Promote the Disability Vote This Summer

2017 may be an off year for national elections, but across the country, registering to vote and participating in local elections are as important as ever. This summer, there are many ways to get involved with promoting voter registration and exercising the right to vote, from participating in National Disability Voter Registration Week to supporting National Voter Registration Day.

National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) 

35th Anniversary Logo: NCIL – National Council on Independent Living. Celebrating 35 Years of Advocacy. Graphic features party candles.This year, the American Association of People with Disabilities’ National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) falls on July 17th to 21st, 2017. There are several ways to get involved:

  • Sign your organization on as a supporter of the Rev UP campaign and NDVRW.
  • Organize a voter registration event in your community or at your CIL.
  • Ask your local elected officials, such as your mayor, governor, or city council, to issue a Proclamation declaring the 17th to the 21st National Disability Voter Registration Week in your area.
  • Send out press releases or social media posts in support of the week on your CIL’s platforms.
  • Get more ideas on ways to celebrate and support NDVRW, including sample social media posts, toolkits for setting up voter registration events, and more, on the AAPD’s NDVRW page.

National Voter Registration Day 

Established in 2012, National Voter Registration Day (NVRW) was established as a national holiday to promote the importance of voting and to celebrate the right to vote. This year, NVRW falls on Tuesday, September 26, 2017. CILs and SILCs are encouraged to sign on as partners of NVRW to promote it within the disability community and to show that disability organizations value voter registration and voting! Sign on to become a partner of NVRW today.

If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Blahovec, Disability Vote Organizer, at or 202-207-0334 ext. 1103.

NCIL Letter to Vice President Pence on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

On May 16th, NCIL penned this letter to Vice President Pence on its concerns on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and asked that the Commission examines issues of inaccessibility and vote suppression in the election system.

Dear Vice President Pence,

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingOn May 11, President Trump issued an executive order establishing the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. We stand in solidarity with the rest of the civil rights community in expressing concern that the commission’s expressed goals of examining dubious claims of voter fraud could further disenfranchise people of color and people with disabilities. NCIL hopes that the commission will instead explore the well-documented issues of voting inaccessibility and vote suppression that have made exercising the right to vote more difficult for marginalized communities.

NCIL urges the commission to focus on these issues:

  • Accessibility of polling places and voting equipment on Election Day is still not equitable for people with disabilities. According to a study by Rutgers University of the 2012 election, “30.1% of voters with disabilities reported difficulty in voting at a polling place…compared to 8.4% of voters without disabilities.”
  • With the increasing use of the internet, the way that people learn about and participate in elections is changing rapidly. Unfortunately, many election information and voter registration websites are not accessible to people with disabilities, especially people who are blind or low vision, have cognitive disabilities, or have mobility disabilities.
  • Voter ID laws, which have been created for the alleged purpose of upholding voting integrity, actually suppress the vote for marginalized populations. For example,
    • Over 7% of people with disabilities do not have a government-issued current photo ID. Obtaining an ID is particularly difficult for some older Americans and people with disabilities that prevent them from driving, as they are unable to travel to obtain the ID.
    • According to the American Civil Liberties Union, people of color disproportionately lack government-issued photo ID, with up to 25% of African Americans lacking an ID, as opposed to 8% of Whites. There is a higher rate of disability in communities of color, so disabled people of color risk being barred from the voting process in a number of ways.

In an April 2017, the Republican-nominated chair of the Election Assistance Commission, Matthew Masterson stated that voter fraud is “not widespread. It’s not an epidemic.” The current goals of the bipartisan commission, which will be chaired by you, the Vice President, and vice chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, are concerning to NCIL because they focus on examining theories on voting fraud, many of which have already been disproven.

Voting is essential to our democracy, and there are still many barriers standing in the way of equal voting access for all Americans. Laws born from concern about voter fraud have further complicated the right to vote for marginalized communities while showing little evidence of necessity for those laws in the first place.

We urge the commission to focus on the issues of voting accessibility. Inaccessibility of voting for people with disabilities has been well studied by the Election Assistance Commission, the Government Accountability Office, and many other groups, and we are in desperate need of the government to take next steps based on these reports to improve accessibility of the voting process, from registration, to voter information, all the way through Election Day. An accessible fair voting process is essential our democracy and to securing the right to vote for all American citizens.

Organizer’s Forum: Threats to the ADA (H.R. 620)

  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017; 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern
  • Call-in: 1-515-739-1285
  • Passcode: 521847#
  • RSVP online

Learn about federal legislation that threatens the civil rights of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and find out what you can do about it. The so-called ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) would make it difficult for people with disabilities to enforce their rights to access public accommodations under the ADA, by requiring the person to identify ADA violations, notify the business, and allow the business a lengthy period to provide access — even though businesses have now had 27 years to comply with the law! On the call we’ll talk about visits to members of Congress, and other ways you can stop this bill.  [Read more…]

NCIL Applauds Two Class Action Lawsuits Filed Against NYC Subway System

NCIL applauds the efforts of our member CILs, Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS), Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID), Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY), and Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC), in filing two class action lawsuits today against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) regarding the NYC subway system.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe NYC subway system spans the five boroughs of New York City. However, less than one quarter of the nearly 500 subway stations in the system are accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Of the 10 major transportation systems in the country, NYC is the least accessible. In contrast, Washington D.C. and San Francisco’s transportation systems are both 100% accessible for wheelchair users and others who have difficulty climbing steps. Alternative transportation options in NYC, such as the Access-A-Ride paratransit program, are unreliable and segregate people with disabilities from their fellow NYC residents.

The lawsuit alleges that though the MTA has had the resources to make their stations accessible over the past several decades, they have chosen not to consider accessibility as a priority. The plaintiffs claim that the inaccessibility of the NYC subway system violates the New York City Human Rights Law as well as the city administrative code.

We support our member CILs in this effort and salute their commitment to equal access for all!

For more information, see below:

Urgent Action Needed to Protect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The efforts to roll back the rights of people with disabilities through ADA Notification bills like H.R. 620 are gaining momentum in Congress. While similar bills have been unable to garner enough support to pass into law, we do not expect that to be the case in the 115th. This bill continues to gain support from both sides of the aisle in Congress, and it’s on us to fight it!

H.R. 620 would create additional barriers to seeing our rights enforced under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to requiring that businesses in violation of the ADA be provided with a very specific written notice by the person who encountered the access barrier, those businesses would then be allowed a lengthy timeframe to “make substantial progress in removing the barrier.” Not only would this remove any incentive for businesses to come into compliance with the ADA before receiving a notification, but it would also shift the onus of monitoring compliance to the very people being discriminated against! Twenty-seven years after the ADA was signed into law, this is unacceptable. H.R. 620 would be a major setback for people with disabilities.

We need you to take action! We hope you have already been in touch with your Representatives about the dangers of this bill. Please keep it up! Please tell your Representatives to OPPOSE H.R. 620 and any other bill that would weaken the ADA, thereby weakening the protections for people with disabilities all over the country.

Please call your Representatives today. Have everyone from your organization call. And then call them again tomorrow! You can get in touch with your Representatives by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can find additional contact information for them by visiting

Note: If your Representative is on the Judiciary Committee, it is especially important for you to contact them now! The list of Committee members is below.  [Read more…]