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

Sample Letter to Senator Harry Reid Regarding the Nomination of Robert Brown to the National Council on Disability

[Date]

Senator Harry Reid
Majority Leader
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Concern for your nomination of Mr. Robert Brown to the National Council on Disability

Dear Senator Reid,

This letter is written on behalf of [organization] to express our thoughts and concerns with your choice for Mr. Robert Brown as a member for the National Council on Disability (NCD).

We are part of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), which is the longest-running national, cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States. There are currently over 700 physical locations across America actively providing Independent Living services to people with disabilities.

NCIL has a long history working with the NCD and several of our members serve on the Council. NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. Through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), the NCD will be transitioning from 15 members appointed by the President, to nine members. The President shall appoint five members with the other four members appointed by Congress, two from the House and two from the Senate leaderships.

In the recently-passed WIOA, NCIL’s leadership and membership played a significant role working with Congress on language and providing data, information, and expertise in the area of employment for people with disabilities.

WIOA passed (with your support and leadership) in the Senate with a 95-3 vote, and Congress supported numerous provisions to reduce segregated and subminimum wage employment, and encourage competitive, integrated employment of people with disabilities. One such provision was section 511, which works to end the use of subminimum wage employment for people with disabilities. WIOA also provided a legislative definition for Competitive Integrated Employment and made Customized Employment a part of federal statute within the Rehabilitation Act.

The Mission of NCIL and its members is to advance independent living and the rights of people with disabilities. We believe that members chosen to serve on the Council need a keen understanding of current disability issues and concerns along with a belief in the guiding principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

On Thursday, October 2, 2014, you announced your intent to appoint Mr. Robert Brown of Nevada to serve on the National Council on Disability. It is difficult to understand from the demonstrated work and statements of Mr. Brown how his appointment will encourage the implementation of Olmstead, WIOA, and other important policies while serving on NCD.

Mr. Brown has publicly stated in an editorial in the Las Vegas Review Journal, “Some utopian academics would like to eliminate Section 14(c). They believe people with severe disabilities are being unfairly exploited and that all workers should be paid at least the minimum wage. On the surface, this position seems reasonable. Upon rational examination, it is nonsense.”

This sentiment is completely against the legislative outcomes of WIOA and the legal implementations of Olmstead. It is also completely opposite to the vision of NCIL and its members, who envision a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully. Sadly, our vision of equality has not yet been fully realized. Many people with disabilities remain imprisoned in nursing homes and our civil rights laws are undermined and devalued on an increasing basis. Since its inception, NCIL has carried out its mission by assisting member CILs and SILCs in building their capacity to promote social change, eliminate disability-based discrimination, and create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the legislative process to affect change.

The NCD has been instrumental in this progress and will continue to play a key role in this advancement. We believe the members chosen to serve on the Council must be highly qualified, informed and innovative people who will engage everyone in their work and have high expectations for people with disabilities.

We would appreciate the opportunity to come and discuss the appointment of Mr. Brown to the NCD with you.

Please contact Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of NCIL at kelly@ncil.org or 202-207-0334 to schedule a meeting.

Sincerely,

[Sign your organization’s leadership names]