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

Housing & Transportation

Demonstration Funding Announcement: The Transit Planning for All Project

The Transit Planning for All project announces the availability of funding for community-based demonstration programs. The purpose of this funding opportunity is to encourage development of an inclusive coordinated transportation system in which people with disabilities and older adults actively participate in both advisory and decision-making capacities. While the intention is first and foremost the development of inclusionary processes and plans, the secondary expectation is that inclusion will result in identifiable and measurable changes in the transportation system that respond to the needs and preferences of older adults and people with disabilities.

Logo - Transit Planning 4 AllTo take advantage of this funding opportunity, communities should download both the request for proposals and the grant application form. All requirements stated in the application form must be met in order for an application to be considered. Applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM eastern time on Friday, March 18. There will be a conference call to answer questions on the demonstration grants on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time Zone. Call toll-free: 866-906-9888; Passcode 2724141.  [Read more…]

New Article: Barriers for Parents with Disabilities Traveling with Children on ADA Complementary Paratransit

Through the Looking Glass (TLG) staff Jean Jacob, Megan Kirshbaum and Paul Preston’s article “Barriers for Parents with Disabilities Traveling with Children on ADA Complementary Paratransit” has just been published in the Journal of Public Transportation, 18 (3): 124-142.  The article summarizes findings from a TLG research project which surveyed 92 transit agencies from across the U.S.  Results indicate that certain policies make it difficult for parents to use paratransit. These policies include limiting the number of children who can accompany a parent, lack of access to chain rides (i.e., no scheduled waits), lack of driver assistance with car seats, not providing car seats, not allowing storage of car seats on vehicles, and fares for adults and children that make regular use of paratransit cost prohibitive, particularly for parents on a fixed income. These policies have serious consequences for parents to obtain and maintain employment, meet their children’s educational, childcare, and medical needs, and, in some cases, even retain custody of their children. Contained in the article are recommendations to make paratransit systems more accessible to parents with disabilities.

Rideshares, TNCs, and Accessibility

Madonna Long, Member of NCIL Transportation Subcommittee 

TNCs – Transportation Network Companies – are also known as Ridesharing. You may have heard of a few of them, such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. Are they considered a public transportation company? TNCs say ‘no’. They respond that they are simply providing technology (via smart phone or other device) that connects people with a ride for a fare. But, isn’t that providing public transportation or an accommodation?

In the disability community, many say they are providing transportation just like taxi companies do. Many believe that these companies are sidestepping the importance of providing an accessible option for transportation to all citizens.

So who is a TNC Driver? A TNC driver is someone who has a personal vehicle and contracts with a TNC. They sign up on the TNC’s app to drive to make money by providing transportation to the public. TNCs so far are only permitted to get customers via an app, and not by other methods (phone, email, transportation stops, hailing) as taxis do.

TNCs are regulated mainly through state public utility commissions. Only a few states have passed legislation governing TNCs. Most regulation and legislation has had little or no protection for people with disabilities. Some local governments have also developed TNC policies, although many do not address accessibility for people who use power wheelchairs and scooters.  [Read more…]

September 15 & 16: National Call-In Days Urging Congress to Raise Harmful Spending Caps

Those who attended NCIL’s 2015 Annual Conference may remember Housing Subcommittee Chair Brian Peters asking advocates to talk to legislators about Sequestration. He talked about how it has hurt many programs that people with disabilities rely on, including housing, and how the effect will be cumulative with more and more cuts until 2021.

A man hold up a Fair Housing Sign at the My Medicaid Matters RallyNCIL is sharing the Action Alert for National Call-in Days to raise the spending caps. Please see below for details.

On September 15 and16, between 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern, people from across the country will call their members of Congress and deliver a simple, unified message: raise the sequester caps and fully fund housing programs. Please join this effort to support critical housing programs by marking your calendar and following the instructions below on the designated days.


The Budget Control Act of 2011’s spending caps have led to devastating cuts to critical housing programs. Additional “sequester” caps for fiscal year 2016 would bring more deep cuts for HUD and Rural Housing Services programs. These call-in days are being coordinated by Caps Hurt Communities, an advocacy campaign to build a movement of individuals and organizations committed to bringing an end to federal sequester caps. To learn more about the impact of the sequester caps on housing programs, please visit:

Take Action

On September 15 and 16, between 9am-5pm (ET), please take a few moments to call your members of Congress. To do so, dial the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351 and ask to speak with your legislator. Ideally, you can make three calls – one to each of your Senators, and one to your Representative. Tell the receptionist in your legislator’s office how important affordable housing is to your community and leave this simple message:

“It’s time to pass a housing budget that works for our communities. Please raise the sequester caps and fully fund housing programs.”

Contact your elected officials

Thank You for Your Support!

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee: Representative Schakowsky Introduces the Inclusive Home Design Act!

On July 28, 2015, during the Rally at the Capitol during NCIL’s 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living, Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky announced that she would be introducing the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act that very day. The Inclusive Home Design Act is a bill that would have federally funded single-family homes incorporate Visitability.

equal housing opportunity symbolIf you are not familiar with the concept of Visitability, it is the idea, pioneered by Eleanor Smith of Concrete Change in Atlanta, that people with disabilities should be able to visit their neighbors, families, and friends. It has minimum requirements for single-family homes that, as colorfully described by someone, would allow a guest to “get in and pee”. The zero-step entrance and wide interior doors also provide the basics for a person with a disability to reside in, not just visit, a home.

The bill uses the new voluntary Visitability standard in the International Codes Commission/American National Standards Institute 117.1 1005 Type C unit. This would require at least one accessible entrance, an accessible interior circulation path, and a usable bathroom. It also would require a usable food prep area, and accessible lighting controls and outlets. This bill has been called the “federal Visitability bill.”

Representative Schakowsky followed through on her announcement, the bill was introduced in the House as H.R. 3260, and it currently has five co-sponsors: Representatives Clay (MO), Ellision (MN), Moore (WI), Holmes (DC), and Rangel (NY). It was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services, which is chaired by Rep. Hensarling (TX).

There is no Senate version at this time, although last year Senator Harkin introduced the Universal Home Design Act which would require Universal Design features in federally funded single family homes and townhomes.

New Mobility Magazine has a nice interview with Eleanor Smith about the Inclusive Home Design Act.

The NCIL Housing Subcommittee, along with other organizations such as ADAPT, will be advocating for H.R. 3260. We are asking you to reach out to your Representative to sign on to support this bill. Please provide feedback to Brian Peters at

NCIL Applauds Supreme Court Fair Housing Decision

NCIL applauds the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act regarding housing discrimination. The concept of disparate impact (that policies can be discriminatory even if they don’t seem to be on paper) was upheld for fair housing cases. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. decision recognized that claims of housing discrimination do not need a “smoking gun” show of intent.

The Supreme Court upheld the precedent that statistics and other evidence can be used to support a claim of a pattern of housing discrimination. Although this tool was not explicitly written into the Fair Housing Act as it was with, for example, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, multiple court decisions have long recognized that this is a valid approach to show discrimination and permissible for Fair Housing cases.

This case was very worrisome for many advocates because the Supreme Court previously attempted to hear two similar cases. This indicated that some on the court were eager to take on this issue despite it apparently being long-established in many courts. The two earlier cases were settled to avoid the risk of an unfavorable Supreme Court decision. This 5-4 decision indicates that it was a very close decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy surprised many by being the swing vote.

Although this case looked at racial discrimination, upholding the use means it could be used to show disability-related discrimination. It also means that efforts to desegregate racially (for example, more family housing in white suburbs) will benefit people with disabilities who will then have more options on where to live. The SCOTUS Blog has a good summary for people interested in the implications of the decision.

An Update from the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee

By Fred Hess, Subcommittee Member

Hi fellow transportation fixer uppers. My name is Fred Hess. I am an Advocacy Coordinator in Western Pennsylvania (PA) and work for Disability Options Network (DON), the CIL located in New Castle, PA. I am on 3 different transportation committees: NCIL’s Transportation Subcommittee, the PA Transportation Alliance and a regional transportation committee called Alliance for Transportation Working in Communities (ATWIC) in SW PA. I was proud to be a member of ATWIC’s steering committee and we came up a large report on the problems with transportation for people with disabilities.

I recently attended a presentation at the Lawrence County Commissioner’s board from the Southwestern PA Transportation Commission (SPC) where they were using disability information that I shared from the various groups I participate in as a guideline. So that just shows you that the work we do really does count. I stressed the need for 1000 pound lifts on transportation vehicles. I also made this point at the National Council on Disabilities (NCD) Forum in Pittsburgh on May 4 that several of our colleagues attended. That was a very interesting meeting, as we had some important people from the disability community all in one spot. If you’re going to get your issues out into the public, there was no better place to do it. We discussed transportation systems throughout the state and nation and how they affect people with disabilities. The largest problem from what I gathered is the train access. This isn’t limited to Amtrak. It seems that a lot of other inner city trains are badly in need of accessible stations and passenger cars.

We work to achieve our goal of no longer needing community advocacy anymore because the whole world will be accessible. It’s good to keep in mind that to get there we need to take little steps and you and I are taking them every day. Keep up the good work and one day one day the world will be our oyster.

For more information, contact Fred Hess at 724-652-5144 or

A Documentary About Resisting Isolation and Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

For the past 3+ years, filmmaker Drew Xanthopoulos has been making a feature documentary about resisting isolation and living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and invisible disabilities. He’s driven and flown tens of thousands of miles to meet families whose lives have been reshaped by MCS and also documented well-known activist Susan Molloy attending the 2014 NCIL conference in Washington DC. 

We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to help complete the film and need the help of communities who want to raise empathy and awareness for experiences that are usually dismissed.

You can watch the unforgettable teaser and pledge support at

The Sensitives - Kickstarter - Help us bring these stories to the world - (Image: A man sits at a small table in a room covered in metallic foil

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), also known as Environmental Illness (EI), is poorly understood. People develop severe migraines, rashes, fatigue, and loss of motor and speech skills when exposed to ordinary things like cleaning products, pesticides, and sometimes electronic and wireless technologies.

As with PTSD in the 1960s, viewed by the medical profession and much of society as a lapse of character in malingering Vietnam vets, sufferers of MCS find themselves isolated from family and friends, labeled, and treated with suspicion. The Sensitives explores an illness that tests families’ bonds like few others. Without an agreed-upon medical explanation the sick and their caretakers must figure out how to get better on their own.

The Sensitives intends to get past the masks and foil-lined rooms and meet the artists, social workers, and grandparents inside. In other words, the ordinary people driven to the fringes because of a very misunderstood condition.

People with Disabilities Priced Out of Nation’s Housing Market

Source: Technical Assistance Collaborative

According to a study released today by the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC), and the Consortium for Citizens (CCD) with Disabilities Housing Task Force, the national average rent for a modestly priced one-bedroom apartment is more than the entire Supplemental Security Income (SSI) of a person with a disability. Priced Out in 2014 reveals that people with disabilities receiving SSI needed to pay 104 percent of their monthly income to rent a modest one-bedroom unit at the published fair market rent.

“From Bethel, Alaska to Boston, Massachusetts, to Tallahassee, Florida, we have an affordable housing crisis in our nation’s local communities, and it is particularly acute for people with disabilities on SSI. The effect is incontrovertible – too many people with disabilities on SSI are homeless or live in segregated settings,” stated Kevin Martone, TAC Executive Director. He added, “The human toll is inexcusable and the economic argument to address affordable housing is compelling.”

Action Alert: Your Advocacy Needed to Protect Housing

The US House of Representatives has begun consideration of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriations bill, H.R. 2577. After the weekend (Friday-Monday), they will resume discussions with amendments expected to be offered.

equal housing opportunity symbolUnfortunately, language has already been included that will redirect the monies designated for the National Housing Trust Fund into the HOME Program, and the bill also forbids the funding of the Trust Fund by other means. An amendment to remove this language was deemed out of order.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition stated that they expect at least three amendments to be offered that should be opposed. NCIL’s reasons for opposing each amendment are offered below.

An amendment by Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) to prohibit any Fair Housing Initiative Program funds to be used for the Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI)

PEI grants support local, private fair housing groups’ testing, complaint intake, and investigation efforts. PEI grantees are critical to enforcement efforts for the Fair Housing Act.

  • Disability-related complaints is the largest category of Fair Housing complaints. To remove funding for the PEI program would damage Fair Housing enforcement in many communities. This harms people with disabilities when fair housing enforcement is not readily available in communities.

An amendment by Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to cut every program funded by H.R. 2577 by an additional 1%

  • The THUD bill already contains many damaging cuts to housing programs, and does not make up for the loss of funding that was enacted after the Budget Control Act of 2013.

An amendment by Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to prohibit HUD from using any funds to implement, enforce, or administer the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) final rule, or the AFFH Assessment Tool

  • After decades, HUD has finally begun to develop and finalize rules by which communities should ensure that their actions are not discriminatory against protected classes under the Fair Housing Act. All agencies funded through HUD have an obligation to proactively pursue integration, and the AFFH final rule and tool will clearly outline what the expectations are of communities to meet that integration mandate. This amendment is an attack on integration.

Please call your Representative immediately and urge opposition to these harmful amendments. To find contact information for your Representative, call the Congressional Switchboard at 877-210-5351 or visit

You should:

  • State your opposition to H.R. 2577
  • State that you oppose the amendments offered by Reps. Stivers, Blackburn, and Gosar.