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

Youth Issues & Education

Youth Resources

“Combining the dreams of young people with the experience of seasoned advocates…”

The National Council on Independent Living is creating resources for Youth Transition Coordinators at Centers for Independent Living. These resources will discuss a wide array of topics such as: youth outreach, independent living activities, and fundraising. Combining the dreams of young people with the experience of seasoned advocates will only expand the capacity of the Independent Living Movement. NCIL is dedicated to an intergenerational Independent Living Movement. When we work together we will become successful.

These resources are designed to be helpful for Centers for Independent Living. If you are a Youth Transition Coordinator (YTC) or work with youth at a CIL, NCIL would love to hear from you. Please reach out to the Youth Transition Fellow, Keri Gray, to discuss these resources and also ways to connect with YTCs across the country.

For more information and resources, visit[Read more…]

NCIL Youth Caucus Statement in Solidarity with Students of Color

To the Black students and all students of color who are battling racism at Mizzou, across the country, and around the world: we, disabled activists of the National Council on Independent Living Youth Caucus, move with you in solidarity. We are in awe of your courage for confronting racism at your schools. Your vulnerability in speaking candidly about your experiences, your strength in organizing protests in huge numbers, and your effectiveness at holding the administrators at your schools accountable to not meeting your needs is powerful. You are powerful. We support you.

To the disability community: we must speak out about racism. We need to recognize that the liberation of disabled people is only possible if we are fighting for racial justice. This means as a community we must stand with Black people and all people of color.

Justice for disabled people is impossible without prioritizing the needs of disabled people of color. Disabled Black people and people of color specifically are being institutionalized—because of racial injustice as well as ableism. When the disability community works to free our people from institutions that needs to mean freeing all people from all institutions. Independence means keeping people out of nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals, and it also means keeping people out of prisons. Independence is freedom from police brutality. Independence is being safe and supported in college because independence means access to resources and access to spaces.

The fight for independent living is about all people living safely in their communities. Focusing only on disability does not support the people who make up our community because it prevents people from bringing their whole, multifaceted, selves into our movement. Ultimately, we exclude disabled people of color from disability communities if we do not prioritize their participation and leadership.

Thus, we affirm that the collective liberation of disabled people needs to center the liberation of disabled people of color.

The Youth Caucus is committed to working at the intersections of ableism and racism. We are making concrete changes in our work to address the ways we fail people of color.

We commit to:

  • Listening to people of color and supporting them in the ways that they ask for.
  • Deliberately creating spaces to address systemic, internalized, institutional and blatant racism.
  • Purposefully building relationships with and amplifying the voices of people of color.
  • Seeking out and addressing the concerns of disabled people of color when they speak of being marginalized inside of the Independent Living movement and specifically in our caucus.
  • Spreading information about racism and the activism of people of color to our network, and pushing for disability advocates to recognize that racism is a disability issue regardless of whether racial justice work is directly confronting ableism.
  • Holding ourselves, Centers for Independent Living, State Independent Living Councils, and all members of NCIL accountable to the ways that we perpetuate racism by actively educating ourselves and each other, and confronting our white peers about their racist actions.

We urge disability activists to fight for social justice by educating ourselves about racism, answering calls for solidarity, developing concrete action plans on how to do more anti-racist work, and seeking out the leadership of disabled people of color. We also urge NCIL membership, Centers for Independent Living, State Independent Living Councils, and the disability community as a whole to address our overwhelming whiteness and challenge racism and anti-Blackness inside of our communities.


The National Council on Independent Living Youth Caucus

Action Alert: ESEA Reauthorization Bill Moving Fast – Contact Your Representative!

Source: TASH

On Wednesday, February 18, 2015, the House Education & the Workforce Committee approved the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) to reauthorize and amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; formerly known as No Child Left Behind). The full House of Representatives is preparing to consider the bill on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

While NCIL is pleased that the bill includes several provisions important to the disability community – such as annual assessments in grades 3-8 and once in high school, disaggregation of data by student categories, the 95% student participation rate for all students as well as for student subgroups in annual assessments, and the use of universal design for learning principles in assessment design – the bill does not go far enough and we must voice our significant concern that H.R. 5 does not fully support students with disabilities. In fact, it creates incentives for schools and districts to remove students with disabilities from being taught the general curriculum and being eligible to earn a regular high school diploma.

NCIL urges the House to work on bipartisan legislation that continues to provide meaningful access to rigorous standards for all students and fully includes students with disabilities in every local school. Any bill to reauthorize ESEA must include the following:

  1. Limit the use of Alternate Assessments based on Alternate Achievement Standards to 1% of all students assessed;
  2. Ensure that parents are involved in the decision that
  3. Ensure that students with disabilities, including students who take an alternate assessment participate in and have the opportunity to progress in the general curriculum and are kept on track to earn a regular high school diploma;
  4. Prohibit the elimination of maintenance of effort provisions.

Take Action:

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for the office of your Representative, and urge them to make sure any bill to reauthorize the ESEA must adhere to the four principles outlined above.

View TASH’s blog post for additional talking points.

Bullying of Students with Disabilities Addressed in Guidance to America’s Schools

Source: U.S. Department of Education

As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance to schools (PDF) reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated—including against America’s 6.5 million students with disabilities.

The Department issued guidance in the form of a letter to educators detailing public schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the bullying of students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring.

“While there is broad consensus that bullying cannot be tolerated, the sad reality is that bullying persists in our schools today, especially for students with disabilities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. “Basic decency and respect demand that our schools ensure that all their students learn in a safe environment. I look forward to continuing our work with schools to address and reduce incidents of bullying so that no student is limited in his or her ability to participate in and benefit from all that our educational programs have to offer.”

Since 2009, OCR has received more than 2,000 complaints regarding the bullying of students with disabilities in the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools. Read more at the Department of Education’s website.

Action Alert: Ask Congress to Support Legislation to Prevent Dangerous Restraint & Seclusion This Week!

NCIL encourages advocates to participate in efforts to expand the number of cosponsors for the Keeping All Students Safe Act.

On June 12 and 13, 2014, please call your Representative and both your Senators and ask them to cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2036 and H.R. 1893).

First, find your Senators and Representatives. You can reach them through the Capitol Switchboard by dialing 202-224-3121 and asking for them by name. Once you are connected, ask for their education aide or disability aide. Leave a voicemail if you do not reach them. Calls are more effective, but you can also email them by using the links above. Please personalize your message, even with a single sentence.

You can also call next week, if necessary. The most important thing is for Congress to hear from many parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors.

Be sure to say you are a constituent and include your City and State. Personalize this if you can. For example, describe your connection to disability. If you have a story about restraint or seclusion or worry that it could happen to your child or friends, please say so. Explain how you, your family members, friends, and the people with disabilities for whom you advocate have the right to be protected.

Please spread this message far and wide, so that our message reaches those with the power to end restraint and seclusion! Ask your colleagues, supporters, friends, and family to do the same. The more we reach out to Congress directly, the more successful we will be! Every call or email sent to Congress is very valuable and very important.

The Message: Sample Talking Points

[Be sure to say you are a constituent and include your City and State]

Please cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, and protect all American students nationwide from restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. Over 110,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion from 2011 to 2012. These procedures have killed, injured, and traumatized students, according to Congressional reports. They include a child suffocated in restraint after he tried to get lunch; a 7 year old who died in restraint after blowing bubbles in her milk, and a young teen who hanged himself while his teacher sat outside the seclusion room. These dangerous procedures are often used when no one is at risk of harm. Parents often are not notified or find out much later; prompt notification is necessary to detect concussions and seek medical help. The Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, will forbid the use of restraint except in emergencies threatening physical safety. Both will prevent non-emergency seclusion. Both require schools to notify parents on the same day. The bills will promote a necessary shift towards positive behavioral interventions that evidence shows will keep students safe.  [Read more…]

Cultivating Disability Studies: A Divergent Approach to Disability Rights

Ashton Rosin

Equality Now America for All 2010 protest signThis week the New York Times directed the spotlight to the field of Disability Studies, the academic lens used to understand the complexities of disability, by publishing “Disability Studies: A New Normal”. The title alone suggests not only a shift in societal attitudes regarding the disability community, but the increasingly common field of study found in course catalogs at universities across the nation.

The article sheds light on the experiences of students who have delved into the academic field of disability studies, illustrating their interest in the field, the history of the academic movement, and the tangible implications of studying disability in the classroom. In doing so, the New York Times has successfully garnered attention for the growing field of study and has illuminated opportunities for the growth of the disability rights movement.

The drive towards disability studies is founded in many different avenues; the personal connection to disability, the infatuation with social issues, and ultimately the recognition of the inevitability of disability, as “disability is a porous state; anyone can enter or leave at any time. Live long enough and you will almost certainly enter it”. Embracing the notion that the body evolves, that the able body is truly a temporarily able body makes the study of disability relevant for all people regardless of class, race, ethnicity, or religion. This recognition, coupled with the aging of the baby boomers, has prompted greater awareness of disability and the consequential growth of the field of disability studies.  [Read more…]

Action Alert: Contact Congress to Help Stop Restraint & Seclusion

A young girl holds a protest sign that says "I am not a puzzle - I am a person"Every student deserves to learn and grow in a safe, supportive environment, yet each day students across the U.S. continue to be subjected to restraint and seclusion abuse. We can do more to protect students with disabilities, and we can start by advocating for federal policy that puts an end to restraint and seclusion abuse.

As a partner organization of the Stop Hurting Kids campaign, The National Council on Independent Living is asking you to contact your congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives with a simple message: stop hurting students. It takes just minutes to make a difference, and you can do it right from the Stop Hurting Kids campaign website at

We’re reaching out to members of the House because H.R. 1893, known as the Keeping All Students Safe Act, has already been introduced, and has a chance of being included as an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. All it takes is for Congress to vote “yes” to include this amendment, and the provisions outlined in the bill will be included in the House’s version of ESEA.  [Read more…]

Stop Hurting Kids: A National Campaign to End Restraint and Seclusion Abuse in Schools

Stop Hurting Kids Campaign LogoStop Hurting Kids, the national campaign to end restraint and seclusion abuse in schools, kicks off today, May 30, 2013 with a special film screening. You can participate in this event either in person or virtually over the Internet.

Stop Hurting Kids seeks to spark a public dialogue about the dangers of restraint and seclusion practices, and gain support for the adoption of practices and policies that maintain a learning environment free from the threat of these abuses. The campaign promotes resources for safe and effective alternatives, and calls upon parents, educators, policy makers and advocates to take action.

The film screening will feature Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories, the latest documentary from filmmaker Dan Habib (Including Samual, Who Cares About Kelsey?). It will also include special guests Michael Yudin of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Larke Huang or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

At, you can sign up to join the campaign and help spread the word. You can find the campaign on Twitter at, and on Facebook at

Action Alert: Ask Your Representatives to Co-Sponsor and Support Newly Introduced Restraint / Seclusion Legislation in the House of Representatives!

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied 2012 Protest SignCongressman George Miller (D-CA; ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee) and Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) recently introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, HR 1893, a bill to protect all students nationwide from restraint and seclusion.

NCIL strongly supports legislation to end restraint and seclusion and we know our members do, too. Please take this opportunity to contact your Representative and ask them to co-sponsor and support the Keeping All Students Safe Act, HR 1893.

When you call, ask for the staff person who handles education issues. Contacting your Representative by phone is the most effective way to communicate your message. If you are unable to use the telephone to contact your Representative, you can contact them by email.

Talking Points / Reasons to Support the Keeping Students Safe Act, HR 1893  [Read more…]

An Update from the NCIL Education Subcommittee: Sequestration, DOE’s Equitable Service Plan, Common Core Testing, Restraint & Seclusion, and Safe Schools

NCIL Members Solicited to Serve on the Education Subcommittee

The Education Subcommittee monitors and participates in the development and implementation of education-related federal legislation and policy. The Subcommittee encourages grassroots efforts to advocate for strong education policy and implementation at the federal, state and local level. If you are interested in joining the Subcommittee, please contact Maureen Hollowell at, 757-351-1584 (voice), or 757-461-7527 (TDD).

Budget Sequestration and Education

School districts have received federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding for the current school year. Sequestration, as it stands now, will result in a reduction of funds to schools in the coming school year. Funds for public education will be significantly reduced. School districts will need to make difficult decisions about services. It will be important that advocates remind students, parents and educators that Part B of IDEA must still be implemented. Part B includes the provision of IEP services, accommodations, and other related provisions. Student rights and school responsibility for Part B implementation is not tied to federal funding. Student rights and school responsibility for Part B implementation must be upheld regardless of sequestration. Read more about the impact of sequestration on education.
[Read more…]