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

Civil Rights & the ADA

An Update from the NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee

The NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee appreciates the work of NCIL members over the last few years. We worked hard to fight repressive legislation on mental health. A more palatable version of the legislation finally passed in December as part of the bipartisan CURES bill, Public Law 114-255.

The Subcommittee is now working to ensure that the CURES Act is implemented as supportively as possible for the rights of people with disabilities. Most of the provisions that were included to get support of liberals and moderates will require appropriations. The Subcommittee is also monitoring new legislation to support increased institutionalization of people with psychiatric disability. We will be supporting greater access to services and opposing greater use of institutions.

The forces that led to passage of the CURES bill are largely still present. These include a desire to limit mass killings like those that have happened in Newtown, CT and elsewhere in recent years. When this desire comes up against the powerful gun lobby, scapegoating those labeled with “mental illness” has seemed like the only politically viable solution. The increased tendency towards “law and order” in recent decades has also filled prisons with people who would have been institutionalized in state hospitals in earlier times and has, increasingly, resulted in police shooting people in emotional crisis. Many “advocates” see the solution to these problems as more “hospitals” for long-term institutionalization and more involuntary outpatient commitment.

At the same time, many states have successfully been innovating. Two of the most promising innovations are based on peer support.

Many states provide peer support as a Medicaid service. Often called “peer specialists,” these peer supporters can use their experience to help others through emotional difficulty and crisis. Centers for Independent Living often use our experience to offer and promote these services.

Another promising innovation is peer respites. Peer respite centers are run by people with lived experience of emotional crisis who offer others in crisis an opportunity to voluntarily leave their living situation for a short-term, “respite” stay. These entities offer peer support to their guests during a respite stay.

Perhaps there is way out of the current mess in mental health policy. As we promote access to treatment and other supports and services voluntarily, we can give hope to people in crisis. Recognizing our right to self-determination is necessary. Sharing our experience as people with disabilities must also be part of the solution.

If you want to help, the NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee welcomes new members. We also have a Facebook group, “Mentally Healthy Independent Living” through which we share information.

Election Administration and Disability / Elder Relations Are Coming Together

Public or press questions or concerns should be directed to Douglas Towne at or 844-788-6885.

VOTEC Corporation, one of the most experienced election administration firms, and Disability Relations Group (DRG), a leader in disability elder public policy, have joined forces. The fruits of this union will be the next evolution in accessible and user-friendly voting and election administration systems.

“Last time accessible voting was being discussed, the election equipment companies gave voters with disabilities what they thought we needed. This time VOTEC is asking us to help design both voting and election administration systems. The result will be a level of access and user friendliness that will be leaps and bounds ahead of current systems.” said Douglas Towne, Chairman of DRG. He went on, “The combined intent of VOTEC and DRG is not only to make voting more accessible and user-friendly to more voters with a wider range of needs but to make election administration systems equally as accessible and user-friendly. This will open up not only volunteer but employment positions as well within the election administration field for people with disabilities.”  [Read more…]

We Need You In Emergency Management! An Update from the NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee

NCIL’s Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee has been busy! The fact of the matter is: as long as there are disasters happening, we have work to do and we need your help!

Advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities affected by disaster is a relatively new path for many. Fortunately, disability inclusion in emergency management is an issue that has caught the attention of a small but powerful group of advocates, most of whom, we are proud to say, serve on this Subcommittee. The need for more involvement is growing as threats and disasters increase in this country and worldwide.

In recent months, the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee, with the NCIL Board’s approval, has written several letters to various entities addressing injustice in emergency management and suggesting more appropriate means of disability inclusion. The New York City Emergency Management Office produced a training video for shelter staff and volunteers regarding interaction with and services to individuals with disabilities residing in a shelter. The video does not address several key issues faced by individuals with disabilities when they have evacuated their home for safety in a shelter. The video was a required result of the Notice of Settlement of Class Action Lawsuit: Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. City of New York. And yet, New York refused to take any of the plaintiff’s suggestions and recommendations before completing production. The EP Subcommittee drafted a letter to Commissioner Esposito that the NCIL Board has approved and sent.

A second letter drafted by the EP Subcommittee was addressed to the Independent Living Administration (ILA) and pointed out the ways in which many CILs and SILCs assist our community before, during, and after disasters. This letter was written to request support for the CILs and SILCs that choose to provide much-needed services to individuals with disabilities affected by disaster, and included recommendations on ways ILA can support these activities. These recommendations are to fully support and encourage Centers and SILCs in their efforts to provide the core IL services (not hinder those efforts), and to consider establishing an emergency fund specifically to augment, complement, and supplement IL organizations that provide disaster-related services to people with disabilities in their area.  [Read more…]

Add Your Organization As a Signatory to CCD’s Letter of Opposition to the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017!

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and Coalition Partners has developed a Letter of Opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620). CCD is seeking national, state, and local organizations to sign on to the letter.

To add your organization to the letter, please email Dara Baldwin at by the close of business Monday, March 6, 2017.

For more information about ADA Notification bills, visit[Read more…]

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…]