A Crip Led America #disability

After much of the outright obnoxious behavior of Donald Trump towards a reporter with a disability, there has been, quite rightfully, anger from the disability community. I say anger because rage, disgust, fury, etc. will quickly move me to extreme language…and that’s not hyperbole. It would also seem the rest of the country isn’t particularly fond of “Presidential-hopeful Trump’s”  picking on a person with a disability. In response, some enterprising person crafted the meme below. And…I LOVE IT.


Crip Led America

Image: Photo of Donald Trump book cover with photographs of Trump and text that says, “Crippled America: how to make America great again.” Coupled with book cover style photograph of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s text saying, “Crip Led America how FDR’s new deal made America great in the first place.”

If anyone knows the original author of this meme, please let me know.

And although I tend to steer clear of the political or at least represent multiple perspectives, this is one of those times where I have a hard time doing so, and frankly there IS no other side to such bullying.


Donald Trump under fire for mocking disabled reporter: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34930042

Trump mocks reporter with disability:  http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/11/26/donald-trump-mocks-reporter-with-disability-berman-sot-ac.cnn

Donald Trump Says His Mocking of New York Times Reporter Was Misread:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/us/politics/donald-trump-says-his-mocking-of-new-york-times-reporter-was-misread.html?_r=0


Ban the Box: Good for People with Disabilities? And a few of my thoughts people with #disabilities in the #criminal #justice system

The blog quoted below is a repost from the Department of Labor’s blog that was posted on November 9, 2016. I wrote it to highlight some great work being done by the Integrated Recovery Network as a part of the Add Us In initiative. Over and over, it has been reiterated that many of the people going in and out of our prison system have some sort of mental health condition. Some estimates are as high as 50%. But I have to admit, I have not heard much from the disability community about these individuals. When the nation is talking about the school-to-prison pipeline, this is a population at risk. When we talk about living independently with appropriate supports etc. these are not usually the people mentioned. But they need to be.

Recidivism programs and advocates focus on work and housing but often do not address the mental health and/or substance abuse issues (or indeed any disability); disability programs do not address the very real problem of the interaction of these individuals with the criminal justice system. Unless both aspects are looked at, and until both communities can recognize the multiple facets and identities  – the intersectionality – of this population, we will continue to fail people with disabilities who are connected to the criminal justice system.


Over the past few years, a growing list of city, state and local governments; organizations; and private companies have come forward to support “Ban the Box.” It’s an initiative to persuade employers to remove the question “Have you been convicted?” from job applications and delay that inquiry until the final stages of the hiring process. The goal is for employers to make hiring decisions based on a candidate’s skills and qualifications, not their past transgressions. This month, President Obama took an historic step by directing the Office of Personnel Management to take action to ban the box in federal employment. As a result, OPM will modify its rules to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process.

Encouraging employers to make this shift is critical. An estimated 70 million Americans — one in four adults — have a criminal record. Employment is a stabilizing factor in anyone’s life, providing a sense of structure and responsibility, and it’s strongly correlated with reduced recidivism for those reintegrating into the community following incarceration. Because employers often hesitate to hire an ex-offender, not having to check that box can make a massive difference.

Marsha Temple, of Los Angeles’ Integrated Recovery Network, knows well the stories of many of the individuals for whom the box is a major barrier. For more than 15 years, she has worked to improve mental health services for people who are homeless and/or have mental health disorders — about 44 percent of whom have spent time in jail, prison or community corrections. In California alone, there are about 33,000 prisoners with mental health disorders, roughly 30 percent of the incarcerated population.

As a part of the Add Us In initiative funded by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, Temple has spent the last five years focusing on providing employment services to difficult-to-place candidates with disabilities, including those who have a history of addiction and other mental health disorders, which are so often intertwined with homelessness and incarceration.

One example is K.L., a 38-year-old Latina who at an early age became involved with drugs and gangs, eventually landing in prison. Upon release, she was determined to turn her life around. Recognizing that employment was key, she obtained certifications in both food handling and forklift operation. She was called for interviews, but no one would hire her. She felt the stigma of her record always followed her. But with increasing efforts to ban the box, she remained hopeful, and recently landed a great culinary job at a high-end market.

Temple and her organization address work barriers by providing community-based, wraparound and one-on-one supports to candidates like K.L. as they prepare for and sustain employment. Overall, 67.7 percent of Temple’s clients who received services had at least one work-related outcome, which could include permanent employment, work-based experience or an internship at a business, or involvement in an education or training program. By contrast, throughout California only 10 percent of individuals with mental health disorders receiving services became employed.

Given that many individuals with criminal records also have mental health disorders, banning the box has an important ancillary effect: it can also be a key strategy in helping to raise the employment rate — and thus economic self-sufficiency — of people with disabilities. In fact, through education about the over-representation of people with disabilities in the criminal justice system, Temple was able to solicit greater support for the effort from both government agencies and private companies. Many large employers, such as Target, have already signed on. What about you?

The New WIOA (a few points of interest)

In the United States, the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its ensuing regulations and agency changes have causes quite a kerfluffle (yes, I actually used the word kerfluffle). And there are lot of folks out there with detailed analyses of the legislation. And some of which isn’t in legalese. :)

I’ve included a few resources below, but I thought it would be interesting to just quickly pull out a few points relating to vocational rehabilitation, youth employment, and sheltered workshops. I think here is where there are some significant changes that could have a long-lasting impact for the disability community. Among the key points are:

  • Fifteen percent of each state’s public Vocational Rehabilitation funds must be used for transition services like job exploration, career counseling, career assessment, work-based learning experiences, post-secondary opportunities, workplace readiness training, and advocacy training.
  • No youth with disabilities can be placed in a sheltered workshop unless all other options for working in an integrated community setting for standard wages, including customized and/or supported employment have been tried. (Although, I do wonder and worry if this will just create something of a generic “checklist” and then the youth may be placed there anyway. Though other than a complete ban, I cannot think of a good alternative).
  • Increased coordination of VR offices with schools, the workforce development system, and Medicaid, to better support successful transition.
  • Prohibiting schools from contracting with sheltered workshops (which schools have done in the past, working with some of these sub-minimum wage providers calling it “transition services”)
  • And lastly, one of the things that I think gives many attorney’s in the disability community heartburn, is that there is language that says that placement in a sub-minimum wage position an option under the Rehabilitation Act. (Historically, it never was listed as an explicit option, which allows for the Judicial system and cases like Olmstead to say that sheltered workshops are not legitimate placements and inherently discriminatory. Now, these workshops actually have statutory “permission” to exist as “good” options for people with disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act.)


WIOA Changes to the Rehabilitation Act:

National Association of Workforce Boards’ WIOA Overview (Not disability-specific): http://www.nawb.org/documents/Publications/WIOA_Overview.pdf

Summary of Major Policies Included in Titles I and IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: http://www.leadcenter.org/system/files/resource/downloadable_version/WIOA_POLICY_BRIEF_10.22.14.pdf

American Network of Community Options and Resources: http://www.ancor.org/sites/default/files/news/ancor_summary_on_wioa_14august2014.pdf



(#DIW Podcast) ABLE Act Update and Crabs in a Barrel

Day in Washington #Disability #Policy Podcast. Update on the #ABLEAct and Crabs in a Barrel. Did we sacrifice #disability community solidarity and the good of the many for the good of the few?

Ka-Son Reeves Art - Crabs in a Barrel

Crabs in a Barrel by Ka-Son Reeves

Audio File: http://dayinwashington.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Able-Act-Update-and-Crabs-in-a-Barre.mp3


Hello and welcome to Day in Washington, your disability policy podcast. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed. Today, I want to give a bit of an update on the Able Act.

The ABLE Act was signed into law by President Obama on December 3rd, 2014. When Able accounts first came out, I’ll admit, from a policy standpoint, I was pretty excited. I even did a video Day in Washington about it. Let me give you the quick details:

ABLE Act savings accounts would basically allow people with disabilities (and their families), for perhaps the first time, to be able to save money for things they might need without risking their benefits, including health care. Things like, saving for school, or an accessible van (which let me tell, you I only learned recently how expensive those are), additional personal care services, or assistive technology…among other things. You see, public benefits like Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), and Medicaid for example require you prove that you’re poor. Basically, you can’t have more than $2,000 and that isn’t just cash, that is any asset or item of value. I still remember a young man I met during rehab. God, he couldn’t have been more than 19. He cried over the fact he had to give up his classic car. It was the one thing in his life that was his. He’d rebuilt it from scratch, piece by piece. And now, to get access to a surgery he needed and additional care for his diminishing eyesight, he had to sell it.

But, lets get back to the Able accounts. Now, people with disabilities and their families can have these savings accounts, which aren’t too different from the tax-exempt college savings accounts that you may be familiar with. Up to $14,000 can be deposited into the account per year up to a total of $100,000 before the individual loses some of their SSI. Another key advantage of the ABLE Act is that people with disabilities need never fear that they would lose their Medicaid. For many, that is the only way they can afford their health and personal care services.

So now, let me get to the compromises. Although the monetary limitations mentioned above are also compromises, the largest and the compromise that bothers me the most, is the fact that the ABLE act limits its eligibility to people with significant disabilities who got their disability before turning 26.

As of March, more than half of the states are now starting to put regulations in place to create these accounts. Which is good news. I have to admit some disappointment that the Able Act will not do everything that we all once hoped. In a world where X percentage of families with a member with a disability live in poverty, we already see growing economic disparities. As it stands, this bill would seem to benefit mostly those who can “afford” to use these accounts. Also, although the age limit may be helpful for individuals who are born with disabilities, there are many who acquire significant disabilities after 26 that can have devastating effects on their families and their children. And now, this option is no longer available to them.

I understand that this bill had and still has an expensive price tag and decisions had to be made. But this disturbs me in that I wonder if we are sacrificing one part of the community for another. When it came to ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and there was a push to remove Trans individuals from the protection of the legislation, I was proud to see many members of the LGBT community, and folks I worked with and lobbied with absolutely withdraw support. All of us, or none of us.

Obviously, there are significant pros and cons of this kind of attitude, but I can’t help but wonder if this highlights one of the larger issues within the disability community. In the rush for legislation, in the rush for bills that will pass, do we end up breaking down into groups based on disability? Based on class? Or color? Do we end up clambering over one another, pulling each other down, like crabs in a barrel? Or is this what disability compromise should be? After all, most disability organizations and lobbying are STILL operating mostly on a “by disability” basis aren’t they?

Perhaps I’m the idealist. I guess I wished to see an Able Act and a community that said “All of us, or none of us.” As always, I encourage you to read and come to your own opinion. Links are available in the comments. This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.


 Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright. Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty Twelve Records.


(#DIW Podcast) Girl Scouts Refuse to Provide Interpreter Services for #Deaf Member

Day in Washington #Disability #Policy Podcast. #GirlScouts Refuses to Provide #Interpreter Services for #Deaf Member. Have they forgotten their own history?! They were founded by a woman with a significant hearing impairment!

(Note from Day: The post is up a little late. It’s dated for December but still important!)


Because I enjoy the irony, here is an image of the Girl Scout Promise - in Sign Language

Because I enjoy the irony, here is an image of the Girl Scout Promise – in Sign Language


Hello and welcome to Day in Washington, your disability policy podcast. Together, we will explore and analyze issues of interest to the disability community.  I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed.  Today, I want to talk about a lawsuit currently in the 7th Circuit.  It involves a young girl, a deaf girl, who uses sign language and it involves the Girl Scouts of America.

First, let me start with Juliette Gordon Low.  Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. Because of chronic ear infections she became deaf in one ear in early adulthood, losing hearing in her other ear in 1886.  She was 26 years old.  In 1912, she created the Girl Scouts to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place” and to create programs for “girls of all age levels, races, ethnicities, beliefs, economies, geographies and physical abilities.”

I bring up Juliette Gordon Low, the deaf founder of the Girl Scouts of America because on December 10th, 2014 the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the oral argument in a case brought on behalf of Megan Runion, a 15 year-old deaf girl who was denied American Sign Language interpreters at Girl Scout meetings.

Let me read from the Complaint filed with the US District Court  Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division:

Megan Runnion is a 12-year-old girl who joined the Girl Scouts when she was in kindergarten. Megan is deaf and communicates using American Sign Language or ASL. For six years, Megan was provided with a sign language interpreter by Girl Scouts for troop meetings and outings, giving her an opportunity equal to her peers to participate in Girl Scout activities.

Megan loved being a Girl Scout. Near the start of 2011 to 2012 school year as Megan began sixth-grade, Girl Scouts stopped providing sign language interpreters. Despite requests by Megan’s mother to reinstate the interpreter services, Girl Scouts refused. Then, in January of 2012 without warning to Megan or her family, the troop leaders announced that Megan’s troop was disbanding.

Megan’s mother was informed that the troop was being disbanded because of her insistence that the Girl Scouts provide interpreter services for Girl Scout programs and activities. Megan has not been offered placement in a new troop with interpreter services despite her mother requesting such placement. Thus, for the very first time since kindergarten, Megan is not a Girl Scout.

You’ll notice this case is at the Appellate level. That’s because Megan lost at the local district court level. The court said that as a matter of law, Girl Scouts is not “principally engaged in the business of providing education, healthcare, housing, social services, or parks and recreation.” All items that they would receive federal financial assistance for and therefore which fall under the purview of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Thereby making it mandatory that they provide interpreter services.

Just for a bit of background the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It stablishes a federal program that basically is supposed to improve the lot of individuals with disabilities and among its purposes are, let me quote here:  “…to empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society.”  So the idea being that if there’s an entity who receives federal funding then that entity should do everything in their power to be inclusive and not discriminate against anyone with a disability.

So at the district court level, the court said (and I vehemently disagree with them): Girl Scouts doesn’t do that!

Rubbish, says I. When you look at the mission statement, at what Girl Scouts does, I find it hard to believe that education or recreation are not parts of their mission or a large enough part that which could be said that they are “principally engaged” in it  – that being the key phrasing.

And this is such a contentious issue that at the appellate level, the US Department of Justice has actually stepped in and supports Megan’s definition and how she’s looking at it, basically saying: Yes, the Girl Scouts should fall under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 AND because they received funding from both Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the US Department of Justice for those years then they should have provided sign language interpretation for Megan.

They give her equal access to the crucial educational, social, and leadership development programs that are offered to her peers and she should allowed full communication among her peers and her troop leaders. Pretty good to see the Department of Justice weighing in like that.

As for what’s going to happen in the future, that’s for the appellate court to decide. All I know is that Juliette Gordon Low, the deaf founder of Girl Scouts would probably be very disappointed in them.

As always, I encourage you to read and come to your own opinion.  Links are available in the comments. This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.


Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright.  Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty  Twelve Records.