(#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

TRANSCRIPT:

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.

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 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.

RESOURCES:

(#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

TRANSCRIPT:

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.

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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.

 

RESOURCES:

 

State of the Union Word Cloud #SOTU #SOTU4PWD

Every year Day in Washington has been proud to provide a word cloud of the State of the Union speech.  Repetition is often a major rhetorical strategy used for emphasis. Word it Out generates word clouds based on the text input to the system. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. It is a an easy visual way to illustrate that emphasis. Of course, emphasis can also be obtained by word choice, order, or other rhetorical tools so this is by no means the ONLY way to view the SOTU speech. But it is fun. :)

SOTU2015

For a more accessible format, WordCounter offers similar information in a more specific structure:

Word Frequency
american 53
job 41
year 37
america 32
tax 31
right 27
new 27
work 26
one 26
get 25

 

(#DIW Podcast) #Youth with #Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System and Access to #Education

Day in Washington #Disability #Policy Podcast. #Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice (#JJ) System and Access to #Education

jail-cells-429638_640

TRANSCRIPT:

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 young people with disabilities in the Juvenile Justice system and what the Department of Education is doing to ensure they get their Educational needs met.

On December 5th The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services sent out a letter focusing on the educational needs of students with disabilities who are in correctional facilities and highlighting that the requirements of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) do apply to these students and it is the responsibility of States, State educational agencies and public agencies (including local educational agencies (LEAs), and responsible noneducational public agencies to make sure students are getting appropriate accommodations.

“The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice recently stated, the fact that a student has been charged with or convicted of a crime does not diminish his or her substantive rights or the procedural safeguards and remedies provided under the IDEA to students with disabilities and their parents.”

Absolutely!

The letter also provides information regarding technical assistance and other relevant resources to help with these students’ reintegration into the school setting or participation in programs.

Now let me pause and say that students with disabilities represent a large portion of students in correctional facilities. National reports put it at about 1/3 of the population of students in juvenile facilities with some having as few as 9% and others as high as 78%.

Let me give you my top 7 key points made in this letter regarding IDEA, Part B requirements, as they pertain to students with disabilities:

  1. Absent a specific exception, all IDEA protections apply to students with disabilities in correctional facilities and their parents
  2. Every agency at any level of government that is involved in the provision of special education and related services to students in correctional facilities must ensure the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education, even if other agencies share that responsibility.
  3. States must have interagency agreements or other methods for ensuring coordination so that it is clear which agency or agencies are responsible for providing or paying for services necessary for these students with disabilities in correctional facilities.
  4. State Education Agencies must exercise general supervision over all educational programs for students with disabilities in correctional facilities (unless covered by an exception) to ensure that their educational programs meet State education standards and IDEA, Part B requirements (and that also means ensuring that those same students are included in general State and district assessments.
  5. States and their public agencies must have procedures in place to identify, locate, and evaluate students who are in correctional facilities who may have a disability under the IDEA and are in need of special education and related services. Remember that wide variance in percentages of students with disabilities in correctional facilities I mentioned earlier 9% to 78%. Part of the reason for that maybe be related to the question of how much has been invested in identifying and assessing students for disabilities versus assumptions that it is behavioral or that they’re problem kids…just a bit of opinion there.
  6. Unless there is a specific exception, all IEP content requirements apply to students with disabilities in correctional facilities, including the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services.
  7. And of course, and I really like that this is spelled out: They cannot routinely place all students with disabilities in correctional facilities in classes that include only students with disabilities, and that any exclusion from the classroom is particularly harmful for students with disabilities in correctional facilities.

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. Thank you for listening.

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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.

RESOURCES:

Joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice – http://www2.ed.gov/…/guid/correctional-educ…/idea-letter.pdf

 

(#DIW Podcast) National Disability #Employment Awareness Month (#NDEAM) 2015 – A Reminder from Jim Langevin about the Value of People with #Disabilities

Day in Washington Disability #Policy Podcast. National #Disability #Employment Awareness Month (#NDEAM)

Audio file: http://dayinwashington.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/NDEAM-Final.mp3

NDEAM Poster 2014 - Expect, Employ, Empower

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello and welcome to Day in Washington. DIW is your disability policy podcast exploring and discussing issues and articles of interest to the community. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month or NDEAM.

Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

NDEAM’s roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”

Whereas Public Resolution No. 176, 79th Congress, approved August 11, 1945, provides in part:

“That hereafter the first week in October of each year shall be designated as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. During said week, appropriate ceremonies are to be held throughout the Nation, the purpose of which will be to enlist public support for and interest in the employment of otherwise qualified but physically handicapped workers”:

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon the people of the United States to observe the week of October 7-13, 1945 as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. I ask the governors of States, mayors of cities, heads of the various agencies of the Government, and other public officials, as well as leaders in industry, education, religion, and every other aspect of our common life, during this week and at all other suitable times, to exercise every appropriate effort to enlist public support of a sustained program for the employment and development of the abilities and capacities of those who are physically handicapped.”

In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”

I struggled a bit with what more to say for this podcast and thought that it might make more sense to have someone else speak. So, Congressman Jim Langevin, perhaps one of the most visible Congress members with a disability spoke at the Library of Congress for NDEAM a few years ago.

I want to begin by sharing a bit of my personal story – what led me to Congress and why the issues of empowerment and accessibility are so important to me.

Growing up in Rhode Island, I dreamed of a career in law enforcement. That hasn’t worked out exactly as I had planned, but life seldom does. When I was sixteen, I was accidentally shot while working as a police cadet Explorer Scout. An officer, thinking the gun he was handling wasn’t loaded, pulled the trigger to test it. It turned out there was a bullet in the chamber, and that bullet severed my spinal cord. I’ve been paralyzed ever since.

At first, I was convinced that that gun, and this chair, had ruined my dreams.

But I learned that a badge and a gun aren’t the only ways to make a difference. You can also change the world with a ballot… a pen… a creative mind. .

My work in government has flowed from the fundamental idea of personal empowerment. It’s about giving people the tools they need to pave their own way. To me, that’s the role of government: not to give people a hand out, but a hand up… giving people the tools to pave their own way to success.

What we see here today, as the Library pays tribute to the historic leaders of the disability movement and the everyday heroes in our own schools, workplaces and communities, is an illustration of just how far people can rise above difficult circumstances to achieve great things.

In the 27 years since my own injury, I have seen the disability community make great strides in the areas of employment and community inclusion. The Americans with Disabilities Act helped businesses to see employment of people with disabilities not as charity, but as a civil right.

And across the country, businesses are finally becoming aware that people with disabilities are a real resource for their companies!

Just last month, I participated in a groundbreaking discussion in my home state of Rhode Island. Business leaders from one of the largest employers in the state, Raytheon, and the local disability community gathered at a day-long retreat to discuss strategies for getting people with disabilities back into their communities and into meaningful employment.

These issues can only truly be addressed in a cooperative dialogue between business, government and individuals, and I am proud to represent a state like Rhode Island, which has been very forward thinking.

In recent years, Rhode Island designed a Medicaid Buy-In program, which allows a number of people with disabilities to maintain their state health benefits when they return to work.

In addition to implementing such programs, the local disability community is constantly monitoring the results and reaching out to business leaders and elected officials to find new ways to collaborate.

There is a great deal we can do here in Washington, at the federal level, to support this vision for the future of employment. In addition to supporting flexibility with Medicaid funds for people with disabilities, I am committed to evaluating and improving the Ticket to Work program, which has met with mixed reviews.

I am cosponsoring a bill known as the Community Choice Act, which would encourage states to provide equal access to community attendant services, such as personal care assistants, and other supports for individuals in need of long term services who want to participate in their communities and live at home rather than in a nursing home. Local and national disability advocates have long supported this kind of change in policy, and I will keep pushing in Congress for movement on this initiative.

As a final note, I want to thank you profusely for your efforts in this arena.

I am fortunate to have access to an array supports and services, and I certainly could not do my job without them. But sadly, not everyone has access to the same resources. I know there are millions of people with disabilities across the nation who are stuck in their homes when they could be sitting in a classroom, a boardroom, or with me in Congress. That’s why it is so important that we all take the time to recognize the needs of individuals with disabilities, and the simple ways employers can meet those needs and allow these talented people to achieve the dream of living independently and succeeding in the workplace.

There’s a lot of what Congressman Langevin says that is still an issue now, several years after his speech. The fight for equality continues.

This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.

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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.

References
Harry S. Truman: “Proclamation 2664 – National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, 1945,” September 21, 1945. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=87042.

Jim Langevin Keynote (text): http://www.loc.gov/disabilityawareness/profiles/langevin_speech.html

Jim Langevin Keynote (video): http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4157