Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October 6 Deadline for Voter Registration!!

October 6th is the voter registration deadline for the November 4th Presidential Election. Be sure to be included by registering prior to the deadline.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Direct from the NCRA List Service:

Rights for the Disabled
Congress approves landmark protections for disabled workers.
Monday, September 22, 2008; A14

IT WENT largely unnoticed in a week of economic upheaval, but Congress approved one of the more momentous pieces of civil rights legislation in recent years. The bill, passed overwhelmingly in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate, will significantly broaden protections for the disabled. It instructs the Supreme Court to act "in favor of broad coverage," a distinction that should make it easier for disabled workers to claim discrimination. By explicitly arguing for a less constrictive interpretation, lawmakers sought to restore the intent of the original Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990; the Supreme Court has imposed a consistently narrow interpretation of the ADA. President Bush has said that he will sign the bill into law despite previous concerns that the legislation would spur excess litigation.

The legislation is the result of two years of remarkable cooperation between business groups and disability rights organizations. The compromise strikes a balance as it guarantees rights for workers with "actual or perceived impairments." For example, airlines can no longer discriminate against prospective pilots if the applicants employ "mitigating measures," such as corrective eyewear. At the same time, the bill limits unwarranted claims by requiring that workers prove they have a disability that "would substantially limit a major life activity when active." The bill will also provide protection, for the first time, to workers with serious ailments such as diabetes, epilepsy and cancer.

Business and disability groups are pleased with the final version of the bill and said that collaborating on the legislation should reduce the number of lawsuits over its implementation. The direct language of the bill, and the laudable cooperation that forged it, should also improve employment levels for the disabled. Two out of three people with significant disabilities are unemployed, a disturbing statistic that disability organizations say is unchanged from when the original ADA became law. This time, Congress's intent is clear, and we hope the courts follow it.


Monday, September 15, 2008

U.S. & Australia Fight for Murderball Gold

BEIJING— The U.S. beat Great Britain and Australia upset Canada on Monday in the Beijing Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby semifinals. The U.S. will play Australia today for the gold medal. The U.S. team has won two previous gold medals in the sport, however won only a bronze medal in Athens in 2004. Australia’s secret weapon is "Magic Boy" Ryley Batt, an incredibly strong player who has helped Australia achieve excellent status in the game. Nonetheless, the U.S. is favored to win.

U.S., Australia to fight for wheelchair rugby gold at Beijing Paralympics
Ryley Batt Set to Dominate Wheelchair Rugby
U.S. Paralympic rugby team, including Austin-based players and coach, goes for gold today
Murderball’s Back, Baby!
Murderball: Movie

Congressional Hearing on SSA Disability Backlog

The Congressional House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security holds a hearing Tuesday, September 16th to address the 761,000 claim backlog of Social Security disability cases. Claim decision wait times are over 2 years in some regions of the country; overall, the wait for a decision has doubled since 2000. An increase in baby boomer applications and personnel shortages throughout the system are among factors contributing to the problem. The government is using several tactics to decrease the backlog, including hiring 189 additional administrative law judges and using videoconferencing to hear cases. Some methods are working; the Social Security Administration has completed 200,000 cases over 900 days old. Currently, 9 million people with disabilities collected a total of $96 billion in 2007. This year, 2.6 million people will file Social Security disability claims.

“Congress Holds Hearing Tuesday, Sept. 16 on Backlog of Social Security Disability Cases -- Judges Say More Staff and Not Just Judges are Required to Reduce Caseload”
“Applicants endure hardship while waiting for disability benefits to be OK'd”
“Social Security’s clogged pipeline”

The Social Security Administration
The Association of Administrative Law Judges

Friday, September 12, 2008

Harkin Hatch Press Release on ADA Amendments

United States Senate, WASHINGTON, DC


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Contact: Jennifer Mullin (Harkin) 202-224-3254

Mark Eddington (Hatch) 202-224-5251


Legislation responds to Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the definition of disability

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today announced that the Senate had approved by unanimous consent a bill that would clarify the law's intent and ensure that all Americans with disabilities are protected from discrimination. The bill will need to be acted upon by the House of Representatives before being sent to the President's desk.

The Senate bill is similar to bipartisan legislation introduced in the House by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner that passed by a 402-17 margin this summer.

Considered to be one of the landmark civil rights laws of the 20th century, the ADA was designed to protect any individual who is discriminated against on the basis of disability. The law was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

Since the ADA became law, a series of court decisions have narrowed the category of who qualifies as an "individual with a disability," contrary to Congressional intent. By raising the threshold for an impairment to qualify as a disability, these court decisions have deprived individuals of the discrimination protections Congress intended to provide.

The ADA Amendments Act would remedy this problem and restore workplace protections to every American with a disability. The bill leaves the ADA's familiar disability definition intact, but takes several specific steps to direct courts toward a more generous meaning and application of the definition. The legislation would make it easier for people with disabilities to be covered by the ADA because it effectively expands the definition of disability to include many more major life activities, as well as a new category of major bodily functions.

"With today’s vote, we have restored the promise of the ADA which was signed into law 18 years ago," said Harkin, the chief author of the original ADA. "The protections afforded under this historic law have been eroded and the result is that people with serious conditions like epilepsy or diabetes could be forced to choose between treating their conditions and forfeiting their protections under the law. That is not what Congress intended when we passed the law, and this bill is the right fix."

"This is a historic day," said Hatch. "This bill continues our ongoing effort to expand opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in the American Dream. Passage of the ADA Amendments Act ensures that the Americans with Disabilities Act will continue to help change lives. I'm proud to have worked with my good friend Tom Harkin in crafting this monumental bill that enjoys such strong bipartisan support."

The ADA Amendments Act enjoys strong support by advocacy groups, including most national disability organizations, 23 major veterans organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the Human Resources Policy Association.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disability and September 11th

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 affected many people in many ways, most of which have been chronicled thoroughly the media, art, and journalism in addition to myriad more personal remembrances. However, consideration of September 11th from a disability-related perspective has been more limited. Yet, the events of September 11th had immediate effects and continue to have long-term impact on people with disabilities.

Immediate Impact
The September 11th attacks put a large system of rescue and recovery into motion. In particular, enormous focus was placed on rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center (WTC) site, due to overwhelming scope of the disaster there. However, there was little to no commensurate rescue and recovery mobilization for people with disabilities in proximity to the devastation. In Manhattan, for example, the disaster immobilized the entire disability-related service delivery system; many individuals with disabilities could not access critical services. With most accessible transportation necessarily diverted to the rescue effort, people with disabilities had a great deal of difficulty leaving the area. When people with disabilities were able to evacuate the WTC area, they found most relocation hotels and shelters, as well as the homes of friends and family inaccessible.

For people with the most severe disabilities, many found their local independent living centers short on staff and unable to provide adequate services due the lack of accessible transportation and their own personal impact. The Deaf community faced significant communication difficulties without TTY and Video Relay Services— the WTC roof had housed many communication technologies.

As September 11th unfolded and in the days and weeks immediately following, the situation for people with disabilities did not always significantly improve. Some local trauma and grief counselors had difficulty understanding the experiences of people with disabilities whose routine services and supports were unavailable. Relief workers, most from out-of-state, were unfamiliar with local and area services and were not able to offer reliable assistance. Some did not understanding why the public transportation shutdown prevented some people with disabilities from accessing assistance.

September 11th had a disproportionate negative impact on people with psychiatric disabilities, many of whom experienced an increase in symptoms. In addition, many previously healthy individuals developed stress disorders, event fatigue, and PTSD-like symptoms.

Longer Term Effects
The events of September 11th resulted in many long-term changes in transportation and building security that have also unevenly affected people with disabilities. Air carrier and air travel accessibility have been longstanding problems for people with disabilities, now made more difficult in today’s security environment. The elimination of curbside check-in and drop-offs has created significant travel barriers. Restrictions on carry-on items, medical equipment, and medications are often difficult for people with disabilities to manage. Sometimes, security officers will not clear an unticketed personal attendant accompanying a traveler with a disability to a gate, creating frustration and delay.

September 11th generated an unprecedented outpouring of compassion and generosity by individuals and from the charitable community. The September 11 Fund began days after the attacks, and has provided over 273 grants. A number of grants went to disability service providers, such as Village Care in Manhattan, Quality Services for the Autism Community, The Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York, and Helen Keller Worldwide, an organization that sustained nearly $42 million in damages in the WTC collapse. Military and foreign affair related budgets also increased dramatically, and the government established the Department of Homeland Security. The new Department awarded Homeland Security grants in all 50 states to improve security and emergency preparations and to increase police and emergency personnel.

September 11th brought the widespread lack of disaster preparedness and safe, efficient evacuation processes for people disabilities into focus. Post-September 11th research found traditional and narrow definitions of disability are not appropriate in modern disasters. Organizations routinely overlook people with “invisible” disabilities, such as psychiatric disorders, asthma and other respiratory disorders, multiple chemical sensitivities, and some sensory and cognitive disabilities. Moreover, organizations leave almost all people with disabilities out of preparedness and planning activities. As a result, most emergency response plans involve walking, running, driving, seeing, hearing, and quickly responding to alerts and announcements—tasks that are quite difficult for people with disabilities. Despite the lessons of September 11th, emergency response first aid stations, mass feeding areas, portable phone banks and toilets, and shelters often remain inaccessible, as seen in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Palin Coverage Rife with Disabling Language

PRNewswire via COMTEX— Media coverage of Sarah Palin and her son, Trig, is full of disabling, non-person first language. Media reports on Trig variously describe him as a “Down syndrome baby” and “Down syndrome child” who is “afflicted”. The preferred means of speaking and writing about people with disabilities is Person-First, a style of communication that puts the person before any mention of his or her disability and avoids the use of value-negative terms, such as afflicted or suffers. Person first language demonstrates that disability is not the sole defining characteristic of a person, any more than an individual is solely defined by hair or skin color. Cynthia Kidder, CEO of Band of Angels (http://www.bandofangels.com), a national outreach group says, “Language sets a tone and standard of expectation… This discussion must include the power of language and the influence of the media in shaping national standards for language.”


Palin's VP Nomination Highlights Media's Disability Language Gaffes



American Speech and Hearing Association Guide to Person First Language:


Disability is Natural Guide to People First Langauge


Friday, September 5, 2008

QuickNews: Mobile ASL

SCIENCE DAILY, USA— Last week, Science Daily reported on newly developed software that transmits sign language over cell phones. A group of University of Washington Engineers received a National Science Foundation grant for the project, called MobileASL, which begins official next year. The system will provide two-way real-time video communication and the demonstration project on YouTube (http://youtube.com/watch?v=FaE1PvJwI8E) has been a smash hit with the Deaf community. The MobileASL project website is available at: http://mobileasl.cs.washington.edu/index.html

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Disaboom Poll: 91% Call for Increased Political Voice

MARKET WIRE via COMTEX— Healthcare, employment issues, and community support top the list of issues people with disabilities want our presidential candidates to address, according to a new poll by Disaboom (http:// www.disaboom.com). Fully 91% of people with disabilities participating in the poll say they do not have a political voice. Disaboom founder Dr. Glen House says people with disabilities are “eager to be included in the political dialogue in the 2008 election", noting that people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the U.S. In a related poll, Disaboom reports 57% of people with disabilities support Barack Obama, while 37% support John McCain.

“91% of People with Disabilities Believe They Don't Have a Political Voice, Urge Candidates to Address Top Disability Issues”


“Disaboom's Survey Shows Disabled People Urge Presidential Candidates To Address Disability Issues”


“91% of People With Disabilities Believe They Receive Less Attention From Presidential Candidates Than Other Groups”



“People With Disabilities Choose Obama, Disaboom Poll Shows”


Disaboom has 2008 Election coverage available: http://www.disaboom.com/Living/Election08/Default.aspx