the advocacy monitor

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

Employment & Social Security

Owning Our Stories Event Connects Storytelling, Empowerment, and Employment

By Jaggar DeMarco, NCIL Summer Intern

Owning Our Stories Logo - Supported by a grant from the HSC FoundationOn June 8th, over 40 people gathered together in the back room of Potter’s House, a community space and café in Washington, DC for the sole purpose of empowering people with disabilities through storytelling. Hosted by NCIL and supported through a grant from The HSC Foundation, the Owning Our Stories open mic night was the first event of its kind to connect storytelling to individual empowerment and finding employment.

While the setting of the room was simple, four off-white walls with a single tapestry in one corner and a handful of disability rights posters illuminated by a string of draped lights at the back of the room, what happened there was quite profound. A group of individuals with disabilities proudly shared their stories, both original works and meaningful written pieces, to the audience. There is rarely a space designed specifically for embracing one’s identity as person with a disability, but this evening did just that.

The presenters represented a cross generational intersection of advocates in different parts of their careers. The group of diverse speakers allowed the audience to hear a wide array of stories.

The night was hosted by Allie Cannington, Youth Transitions Fellow at NCIL and the individual behind the Owning Our Stories concept, and MCed by Lawrence Carter-Long, a local disability rights advocate and Public Affairs Specialist with the National Council on Disability. Carter-Long kicked off the night’s storytelling with a preview of his upcoming radio piece on the takeover of the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia by a group of disability advocates. Cannington shared Laura Hershey’s powerful poem and disability anthem, “You Get Proud by Practicing” to honor the love and legacies of Ki’tay D. Davidson and Stella Young. NCIL’s Executive Director, Kelly Buckland, spoke about his experience as a person with a disability in college before the ADA and how a single person got him interested in disability rights work and changed the trajectory of his whole life. Interestingly enough, the ADA was signed into law on the 20th anniversary of the day of his accident.

Other speakers included Maria Town, Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, and Rebecca Cokley, Executive Director of the National Council on Disability. Their titles didn’t matter that evening, as they each shared personal stories of people that had been instrumental in their growth as leaders in the Disability Rights Movement. Sara Vogler read a powerful original poem. Jeremiah Perez shared his personal story to highlight importance of education and activism in finding employment and personal growth.

As both a member of the audience and a speaker at the event, I was in awe of the supportive nature of the room. Too often people with disabilities feel as if they cannot speak up for themselves. But the Owning Our Stories open mic night allowed every participant to be their truest authentic self.

Join Our Partner, The LEAD Center, for WIOA From a Disability Perspective Part 3: Understanding Changes Regarding Youth Services

The LEAD Center, funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Policy, is hosting a four-part webinar series titled “WIOA From a Disability Perspective.”

LEAD Center LogoThe Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) places expanded emphasis on funding activities for youth, including out-of-school youth and youth with disabilities. WIOA also amends the Rehabilitation Act requiring VR agencies to collaborate with local education agencies to improve coordination of pre-employment transition services to students with disabilities.

Join this webinar to learn more about cross-system collaboration and WIOA opportunities to support career counseling, skills training, job exploration, leadership development, and financial literacy education for youth with and without disabilities.

This is the third of a four-part webinar series. After registering for this webinar, be sure to view the previous webinar’s archive and register for the remaining webinars in the series – space is limited:

Please note: This webinar will be captioned and a link to download the presentation will be sent to registrants prior to the webinar. To request any other reasonable accommodations, please contact Brittany Taylor at within 48 hours of the webinar.

Redefining Social Security’s Definition of Disability: Why People of All Ages Should Get Engaged

By Emily Ladau, CareerACCESS Intern

Social Security policy reform is critical as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

CareerACCESS logo - Career ACESSYoung adults with disabilities who receive Social Security benefits face serious dilemmas navigating their world: they can either pursue a successful career and lose all support from SSI/SSDI, or remain on SSI/SSDI and lose opportunities to find lucrative work.

If you’re tired of unfair policy barriers directed at people with disabilities, this is your time to be part of the advocacy to make change!

CareerACCESS Now!

CareerACCESS, a grassroots initiative supported by NCIL, will be holding a forum:

Reforming Social Security’s Definition of Disability

July 27, 2015; 1:00 p.m.
Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., Main Ballroom
NCIL’s Annual Conference on Independent Living

We need the ADA generation, this country’s workforce, to be there to speak out!

We must modernize current Social Security policies for people like Kathleen, a young woman about to graduate college who is concerned about finding employment while maintaining financial support to keep the personal care attendants she needs to go about daily life. We must continue our activism for people like Derek, who has experienced several roadblocks on his path to a career due to SSI/SSDI.

It is up to people of all ages to support the ADA generation of the disability community so we can all thrive. This is why we need you at our forum!

Showing your support for Social Security SSDI Reform and CareerACCESS will be a huge step in the right direction for positive Social Security reforms.

CareerACCESS is a proposed program of reforms to the Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income Program to provide services and supports to propel youth into careers, enable them to build assets, and allow them to keep their disability benefits when they develop careers. The young adult drives their own individual career plan with access to coaching, counseling, and employment support services.

What do we want? CareerACCESS! When do we want it? Now!

Join the ADA Generation hosting this forum. For more information, see the Facebook event page and visit the CareerACCESS website at

The United States owes it to all generations to make it possible for people with disabilities to have equal opportunities to thrive!

Act Today and Tomorrow: Cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) on the Table

Today, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) filed Amendment 667 to the Senate Budget Resolution, in order to create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to “ensure that individuals do not simultaneously receive unemployment compensation and disability insurance benefits”.

Read CCD’s Fact Sheet about Amendment 667 (PDF or plain text).

As the U.S. Senate considers its 2016 budget resolution, cuts to benefits for people who receive both SSDI and Unemployment Insurance (UI) are on the table are.

Senators Flake and Manchin’s amendment would cut these extremely modest but vital benefits. More amendments are possible. Action on amendments and the budget resolution is expected today and tomorrow.

SSDI and UI are earned benefits, paid for by workers and their employers. Workers who qualify for both should be able to receive the insurance benefits they have earned. SSDI beneficiaries who try to work should not be treated differently from other American workers. UI should be there for them when they need it.

75 national organizations (PDF) have opposed harmful cuts to concurrent SSDI and UI benefits. Get the facts and take action!

Today and tomorrow, call your Senators. Tell them:

  • Please oppose Flake Amendment 667 to the Senate Budget and any similar amendments to cut Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance.
  • Any cuts to Social Security or SSDI would harm the financial security of people with significant disabilities and their families.
  • SSDI beneficiaries who try to work should not be treated differently from other American workers. Unemployment Insurance should be there for them when they need it. It’s fair and it’s right.
  • For decades, Congress has passed bipartisan laws to open up employment opportunities for SSDI beneficiaries. Cutting SSDI for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance would instead penalize SSDI beneficiaries who have tried to work — creating new, harmful work disincentives.

Announcement of DOL Grant Funding for Training of People with Disabilities

On March 9, the President announced our TechHire initiative in a speech to the National League of Cities. To kick off TechHire, 20 regions, with over 150,000 open technology jobs in 2014 and more than 300 employer partners, announced plans to work together to create more fast track tech training opportunities. The President is challenging communities across the country to follow their lead.

As a part of this announcement, the Administration announced a commitment to make $100 million available through the Department of Labor to support innovative approaches to moving lower skilled workers with barriers to training and employment on the fastest paths to mid- to high-skill information technology jobs in high growth jobs in industries like healthcare, advanced manufacturing, financial services, and other in-demand sectors. Each grantee will agree to develop strategies that serve one or more groups of individuals with barriers to employment, including those with child care needs, people with disabilities, people with limited English proficiency, and disconnected youth, among others.

Read the fact sheet on this opportunity (PDF). The Administration plans to have a full application ready by the end of 2015.

SSA: Free Monthly Webinars on Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) Teach Beneficiaries about Ticket to Work and Work Incentives

Source: Social Security Administration

A person using the Ticket to Work WISE webinar website - Ticket to Work LogoSocial Security’s Ticket to Work program provides free employment support services to Social Security disability beneficiaries age 18 through 64 who want to work so that they can successfully transition from receiving cash benefits to full-time employment. Ticket to Work connects beneficiaries to services, such as interview coaching, résumé development, benefits counseling, vocational counseling and job placement. It also helps many beneficiaries take advantage of Social Security Work Incentives to safely transition from cash benefits while keeping their health care coverage. These services and incentives can help beneficiaries on their journey to employment and financial independence.

SSa hosts free monthly Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) webinars to teach beneficiaries and their supporters (both individuals and disability organizations) about the Ticket to Work program and Work Incentives.  [Read more…]

Free Webinar: Disability and Employment: Research, Policy, & Practice

Source: Institute on Disability / UCED

You are invited to participate in the Disability and Employment: Research, Policy, & Practice Webinar on Tuesday, April, 28, 2015 from 2:00 – 3:00 pm ET.

The persistently low employment rates among people with disabilities in the United States are accompanied by consistently high rates of participation in safety net programs. As funding for employment related services is limited, people with disabilities who wish to access employment services may face either delays in access or scarcity of available options. The lack of coordination between available employment services and safety net programs is an additional cause for concern.

In efforts to address issues surrounding persistently low employment rates among people with disabilities, the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Policy and Measurement (EPM-RRTC) at the Institute on Disability (IOD) is gathering compelling evidence-based information on the effectiveness of past employment promotion initiatives and efficient ways of measuring and monitoring employment outcomes as innovative policy options are tested and implemented.  [Read more…]

Bender Virtual Career Fair: Employment for People with Disabilities

Bender Consulting LogoAre you a person with a disability looking for a career opportunity or internship? This Virtual Career Fair is free for students and alumni with disabilities to attend. This is a unique opportunity for college students & college grads with disabilities to meet online with employers across the nation including ANSYS, Epic, Medtronic, National Security Agency, Nestle Purina, Verizon, & More!

Students and alumni are invited to interact with employers via chat sessions.  [Read more…]

“Only Employed, Responsible People Wanted”- Working Around SSI toward A Career

CareerACCESS, a community-driven proposed program of reforms to SSI that will provide an alternative benefits program for youth with disabilities, has a new blog that features stories of youth with disabilities across the US and their experience with SSI.

One recent installment is called “‘Only Employed, Responsible People Wanted’ – Working Around SSI toward A Career” by Justin Harford. Check out Justin’s story below, and read more stories and take action at:

“Only Employed, Responsible People Wanted”- Working Around SSI toward A Career

By Justin Harford

Justin Harford - scenic landscapeA lot could be said about the hours of sleep that I lost growing up as a youth with blindness whose greatest fear was failure, and relegation to dependence and poverty on SSI.

My name is Justin Harford, and I am the Disability Community Advocate at FREED Center for Independent Living in Grass Valley, California. Much of my work involves policy and community organizing for positive systemic change at the local grassroots level for people with disabilities like myself. I am proud to be gainfully employed for the first time in my life, and grateful to be in a job that I believe in and enjoy. I hope to work my way up, and to strive for a career which constantly challenges me and expands my outlook on the world.

I spent five years as a student at the University of California Berkeley between 2007 and 2012, graduating with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American History, with a minor in Spanish Literature. I directed a class on LaTeX for three years, a computer markup system for mathematicians and scientists to publish documents with arithmetical notation. I intensively studied Spanish, as well as Portuguese. I put together a 50 page senior thesis, using over 500 pages of primary source Spanish language materials, on the history of the blind in Chilean society 1920-1950. During these years, SSI was both a source of support, and anxiety.  [Read more…]

Join Our Partner, the LEAD Center, for a Webinar on WIOA from a Disability Perspective: An Overview – Part 1 of 4

The LEAD Center, funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Policy, is hosting a four-part webinar series titled “WIOA from a Disability Perspective.”

LEAD Center Logo - www.leadcenter.orgSigned into law by President Obama last July, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) maintains a primary focus on assisting job seekers and workers with and without disabilities to succeed in the labor market and matching employers with skilled workers who may benefit from education, skills training, and career services. At a state and local level, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) must engage in a unified state planning process that will enhance their focus on cross system collaboration (Title I Adult and Youth programs and services with Wagner-Peyser Employment Services and Title I of the Rehabilitation Act programs).

WIOA represents new opportunities for support for job seekers with disabilities that increases responsibility of WIBs and American Job Centers to be fully accessible and offer necessary accommodations to provide job seekers with disabilities effective and meaningful participation in the use of skills training and career pathways for 21st century jobs.

As the regulations for implementing WIOA are now not expected until the Spring, join the LEAD Center for this webinar series to help you understand the possibilities of WIOA from a disability perspective.  [Read more…]