Governor Christie signed a $34.5 billion State Budget that includes $79 million in
growth to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) living in New Jersey. Read more
With an increasing number of aging parents still caring for their adult children with developmental disabilities, some states are taking steps to ease their burden. Read More…
New federal rules are taking effect that will impose strict limits on people with disabilities being paid less than minimum wage. Read More…
Find out about the laws that promote rights for people with disabilities and protect them from discrimination – the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Special Educational Needs & Disability (NI) Order 2005. Read More…
Housing First has been expanded to 13 counties in NJ – Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Salem and Union. Read More…
Millions of dollars are up for grabs designed to help states improve services for people with disabilities seeking work. Read More…
For three nights, June 24-26, The CAU Community Players rose to the challenge and delivered rousing, crowd pleasing performances Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield. What makes the performance even more remarkable, Read More…
The Trustees estimate that Social Security’s combined retirement and disability trust funds will become exhausted in 2034, the same as reported last year. Read More…
Kids with cerebral palsy often undergo aggressive surgeries to improve their movement, but now researchers say they have a better idea who is most likely to benefit from such procedures. Read More…
Housing Counseling grants totaling $482,483 were approved seven NJ organizations by Housing and Urban Development. Read More…
People with Down syndrome are not only more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease, but they experience onset at younger ages. The hunt is on to understand why. Read More…
ABLE TN allows qualified individuals with disabilities to save up to $14,000 a year in an ABLE account without jeopardizing their eligibility for federally-funded means tested benefits. Read More…
Despite initial opposition, a new study suggests that many families of those with disabilities required to transition from institutions to community living are ultimately pleased. Read More…
This new document from USICH provides seven key strategies to guide states in developing an action plan to achieve both an end to chronic homelessness and compliance with the community integration mandate issued through the Supreme Court ruling Olmstead v. LC. Read more…
02/25/16 – National Respite Coalition- Appropriations Alert
Urge your House Representative to Sign Letter for FY 2017 Lifespan Respite Funding. Read more…
02/22/16 – 2016 Family Support Camp Funding Assistance
The New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) Family Support program may be able to provide limited funding assistance for individuals who plan to attend camp in 2016. As with all Division services, funding for camp is based on available resources. The deadline to apply for camp funding assistance is Monday, May 2, 2016. Read more…
RespectAbility is asking all presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to fill out a questionnaire on disability issues. Click here to read more…
Dunkin’ Brands CEO Nigel Travis is calling the decision to raise the hourly minimum wage for New York fast food workers from the current $8.75 to $15 statewide in 2021 “absolutely outrageous.” This “sudden increase,” Travis declared last month in a CNN interview, will hurt the small-business people who run Dunkin’ franchises. Travis has enjoyed a bit of a “sudden” pay hike himself. He made $10.2 million last year, over double his take-home the year before. That sudden move upped his personal pay rate, assuming he works 50 hours a week, to $4,000 an hour. Travis says the minimum wage hike will mean “less hiring” at Dunkin’ Donuts. Adds the CEO: “I don’t want to sound threatening.” Click here to read more…
A Work in Progress…..
From Gail Levinson, SHA Executive Director
I want to personally thank all of you who made great efforts over the past 6 months to encourage the NJ legislature to include new rental vouchers in the 2016 state budget for people with intellectual and developmental
disabilities, who have serious mental illness or who are chronically homeless. Your individual efforts of signing our online petition, making calls, visits and writing letters to the editor have launched this drive giving
us a strong advocacy base going forward.
Fortunately the legislature kept intact the 200 vouchers that Governor Christie included in his proposed budget for people with I/DD thanks to vigorous advocacy by the Arc of NJ and many families. Additionally and thankfully,
Commissioner Chuck Richman of the Department of Community Affairs recently issued proposals for project based vouchers to providers for 100 homeless veterans and for 300 low-income households including disabled households.
We were not however able to convince legislators, via our campaign, to add more new tenant based vouchers to the budget for this next fiscal year. However the Opening 1,000 Doors campaign was begun because of an
affordable housing crisis in which many of those we care about who live on very low incomes with disabilities, are unable to find a safe, decent place to live because rents are too high. This affordable housing crisis continues – and grows.
Consequently, with your assistance, our plea for more rental assistance will now continue – and grow. So far we have over 2,000 people who have signed on to the campaign. We will now bring our voices directly to Governor Christie and Lieutenant Governor Guadagno and their staff in the hope that they will
see fit to include more rental vouchers in the 2017 proposed budget, which will be under consideration, by the Administration, in the months ahead. Afterwards we will, once again, reach out to legislators as well.
In the interim please sign the Opening 1,000 Doors campaign if you have not already done so and share the link with your colleagues, friends and families so that our numbers can continue to increase in size and our voices can be heard more loudly in Trenton. Click here to read more…
The White House released a fact sheet on the Social Security Disability Insurance: A Lifeline for American Workers and Families to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the ADA. Last week the Social Security Trustees released their 2015 report on the current and projected financial status of our nation’s Social Security system. The Trustees continue to find that Social Security’s overall health is strong, but that if Congress fails to act before the end of 2016, nearly 11 million Americans who rely on Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) will face a 20 percent across the board cut in benefits. Click here to read more…
Thousands of families across California are grappling with the same questions as programs that serve those with developmental disabilities are increasingly strained. Their numbers are growing and they are living longer. But a decade-old funding freeze has closed group homes, halted work training programs and reduced staff at some agencies that serve the state’s most vulnerable individuals.And those who train them to work in the community and live independently say they are under more pressure than ever to uphold the quality of services. Click here to read more…
At a time when the traditional sheltered workshop model has fallen under rightful criticism, and a new paradigm for disability programming is not yet in place, the author’s of Upcycling Sheltered Workshops assesses prevailing practices in community-based facilities for people with developmental disabilities and argue that it is time for a fundamental change in the way these programs are run. Susan Dlouhy and Patty Mitchell offer a revolutionary alternative, the Creative Abundance Model, and outline both its principles and its application. The new model turns sheltered workshops into community integrated spaces designed for creative discovery. The Creative Abundance Model seeks to do away with the repetitive tasks that are often the only activities offered to people in workshop environments. It presents a structured but more open program, one that incorporates art, music, and other creative pursuits to free participants to explore their own interests and to develop their skills and talents. The book consists of two sections: advocacy for the model and a practical, how-to plan for implementation. Click here to read more.
Posted by Supportive Housing Association of NJ on Tuesday, 14 July 2015
In order to assist homeless service providers to understand the new regulations that the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is proposing for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (the Alliance) has created a condensed outline of HUD’s notice of the proposed regulations.
This resource is meant to serve as a guide, not as a substitute for the notice. HUD is seeking feedback to consider in the development of the ESG final rule from providers that have gained insight and experience implementing the program’s first interim rule, released in 2011.
The Alliance will be submitting comments on the proposed regulations and encourages readers to provide feedback on the ESG program generally and the HUD notice specifically.
Submit feedback to the Alliance program and policy analyst Jayme Day. Click here to read more.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities who attend post secondary programs are finding greater success in the job market than those who do not pursue further education, a new study suggests.
Graduates of post secondary programs reported higher rates of employment since completing high school, according to findings published online this month in the Journal of Intellectual Disabilities. The research offers support for a growing number of programs at colleges and universities specifically geared toward young adults with developmental disabilities. Click here to read more.
Wednesday, June 10, NDI Senior Public Policy Advisor Chris Rodriguez will provide an update regarding state and federal public policy affecting the financial well-being of individuals with disabilities. During this webinar, Mr. Rodriguez will highlight various federal policies affecting people with disabilities, including the ABLE Act, the Workforce Innovations and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver rules. In addition, NDI staff will give insight on future projects related to their
public policy goals and initiatives.
Real time captioning will be provided for this webinar. For other accommodation requests, questions about the webinar, or the registration process, please contact James Thayer at email@example.com.
The Internet search giant said this week that Google.org — the company’s charitable arm — is offering up $20 million to nonprofits “using emerging technologies to increase independence for people living with disabilities.”As part of the initiative dubbed “The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities,” the company is also asking people with disabilities to suggest problems that they would like to see addressed with the grant money. Click here to read more.
On May 26, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to revise managed care regulations under the Medicaid program. The last time managed
care regulations were updated was in 2002. The agency intends to increase the uniformity of requirements applicable to Medicaid managed care plans and
to other federally regulated managed care plans, including Medicare Advantage and health plans offered through state exchanges.
ANCOR is currently developing comments on the proposed regulations, which are due July 27, 2015. Members who are interested in providing input on the comments should contact Katherine Berland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read more.
CARE Act a vital step to reducing readmissions
Contrary to popular cynicism, public policy making is not all rank partisanship. The CARE Act was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in November and
becomes effective on May 12. The lead sponsors were Assembly Speaker
Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Sen.Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex).
The bill garnered almost unanimous bipartisan support. This was made possible due to months of negotiation between sponsors, supporters and many
stakeholders such as the New Jersey Hospital Association. The law enables a patient to identify a caregiver when he or she is admitted to a hospital.
The hospital must notify the caregiver when the patient is released, whether
he or she is released to home or to another facility, e.g. rehab. Most
important, the hospital is required to explain to the caregiver all the medical
procedures (such as administration of medications) the caregiver will be
responsible for once the patient goes home.
This commonsense law will improve care, support the vital work that
caregivers provide and help reduce hospital readmissions. AARP thanks Gov. Chris Christie and the state’s legislators. We strongly urge all hospitals in New
Jersey to implement it as soon and as thoroughly as possible to maximize the
benefits that all concerned will receive from it.
Interim state director,
AARP New Jersey
(includes Continental Breakfast & Lunch)
New Jersey Law Center
New Brunswick, NJ.
LEARN HOW TO:
a new perspective and understanding of the dynamics of intense children and how to shift them to a new default of success and greatness.
• Learn to apply an approach for children that create success and a method that is far more powerful than traditional approaches to behavior change.
• Use strategies to avoid accidentally rewarding negativity, while still developing a great level of accountability in children. Click here to read more.
5/15/15: The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Vocational Rehabilitation Practices for Youth and Young Adults conducts vocational rehabilitation research, translates and disseminates knowledge from its work, and provides evidence-based technical assistance and training to stakeholders and partners. The Center operates under a five-year grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, and has recently released the first edition of its periodic newsletter. Click here to read more.
5/15/15: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; Joint Rule for Unified and Combined State Plans, Performance Accountability, and the One-Stop System Joint Provisions; Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Click here to read more.
5/15/15: Did you know? The Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey (SHA NJ) has begun a campaign to create 1,000 new rental vouchers for individuals with developmental and other disabilities. Click here to read more.
2/19/15: The Federal Communications Commission is convening a disability advisory committee for the first time. The 40-member panel, which will hold its first meeting in March, will advise and provide recommendations to regulators on topics ranging from the accessibility of 911 services to closed captioning and telecommunications relay services. As stated, this is an opportunity for people with disability to have dependable means of communication through various media. The FCC requires that, where accessibility is not readily achievable, a product or service must be made compatible with peripheral devices or specialized equipment, if compatibility is readily achievable. Peripheral devices are devices that help make telecommunications products and services accessible to individuals with disabilities. Examples are teletypewriters (TTYs), visual signaling devices and amplifiers. The advisory Committee includes executives from major players like Yahoo, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast in addition to advocates from disability organizations, consumers and government officials. The new committee will provide sorely needed expertise and recommendations from consumer and industry stakeholders on communications and video programming issues. The FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “We look forward to using this expertise to improve our ability to meet the needs of consumers with disabilities.”
NAMPWD Position: This is an exciting time for people with disability. We believe that people with disability are getting more attention and moving in the right direction through time. We praise the FCC for taking the initiative to better serve people with disability. This should be an example to other companies that they should engage in a number of activities to identify barriers to accessibility and usability. Companies should also work cooperatively with disability- related organizations that will give a product or service that is deemed accessible if it provides accessible input, control and mechanical functions, as well as accessible output, display and control functions. For example, a pager that has both audio and visual controls for inputting information, as well as both audio and visual methods for retrieving messages, would be accessible to a person who is blind or deaf. In light of this good news, we hope the purchase of these product or accessibility will not be a barrier.
2/13/15: Two days after Sara Gordon, an intellectual disabled mother gave birth, the state officials took her newborn away. The Federal investigation concludes that, the Massachusetts Department of Children and family acted on Ms. Gordon’s disability as well as discriminatory assumptions and stereotypes about her disability, without consideration of implementing appropriate family-based support service. Gordon, who has mild intellectual disability, meaning that she has difficulty reading and following oral instructions still lives with her parents who have indicated that they intend to support their daughter in caring for her child, known as Dana, and wish to become the child’s legal guardians. Since the birth of Dana in November 2012, both experts who have evaluated Gordon and several community-based service providers to have stated that she is capable of parenting with appropriate supports. Nonetheless, the federal investigators found that the state has provided minimal supports to Gordon and limited visits with her child to once a week and also violated her right under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The findings call for the state to provide compensatory damages to Gordon, halt their efforts to terminate her parental rights and provide the young mother with appropriate supports and services so that she may pursue reunification on the basis of disability. The federal officials are calling for policy changes and training at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to prevent similar discrimination on the basis of disability.
NAMPWD Position: This is quite a sensitive issue. The functional purpose of the Department of Children and Family is to protect and ensure that they are able to grow and thrive in a safe and nurturing environment. Their duty involves ensuring a better today and even a greater tomorrow for every individual that been served. In this case, they never should have taken her child. How traumatic it is for her to give birth, and then have her child removed on the basis of her disability. We believe that this is an injustice. The DCF suppose to work on a seamless system of care or services put in place as she is unable to take care of her child. They should be flexible in their decision as they represent a body. In consideration of her situation, Ms. Gordon deserves courtesy and safe haven. More so, she has lived all her life with her parents and we believe the support system is available to assist in the process. Many people with disability are capable of many things and she should have been given the resources needed to foster the relationship with her child. We welcome the intervention of the Federal in investigating the case and pushing for reform in the Department.
2/6/15: On Monday, President Obama sent his fiscal year 2016 budget to congress for $290 million to stop the sequestration and increase funding for special Education and other programs for people with disabilities. The president is proposing for $4 trillion as part of his budget plan. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would have an additional $35 million under Obama’s proposal to provide assistance for 700 new households for persons with disabilities. Meanwhile, following the passage of legislation last year requiring most young people with disabilities to seek out competitive, integrated employment, the president wants $56.7 million added to vocational rehabilitation programs. The president is also using his budget plan to call for expanded access to home and community-based services. The president is proposing a pilot program in five states designed to bring an end to what’s known as Medicaid’s institutional bias. States participating in the program would be “authorized to provide long-term care services across the continuum of care under one authority, creating equal access to home and community-based care and nursing facility care,” the administration said. The president’s budget blueprint is widely expected to face opposition from Republicans, who lead both houses of Congress.
NAMPWD Position: We commend the administration on trying to forge ahead on meeting the needs of people with disabilities, especially in the area of vocational rehabilitation, in addition to Individual with Disability Education Act (IDEA) and special education services. From the various unending loopholes to access key early intervention programs that have proven to eradicate so many pitfalls of this debilitating services. The truth behind it is always in whether the states and the federals can work together to make sure increased funding truly ends up helping more individuals. We commend the administration also highlighting needs for increased funding in the face of certain opposition. Of course there will be opposition. But if we put the ego of politics away and face the reality, this is a necessity. We believe the President has done his job trying to make the life of people with disability more meaningful. Now, let’s see the Republican majority come through for the American people.
1/30/15. Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was denied a stay of execution today by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Although in any other state he would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability. Ladd doesn’t meet the Texas courts’ standards to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled, which were drawn in part on the character Lennie Small in “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Ladd will be executed by the state of Texas at 6:00 pm CT on Thursday, January 29, unless courts intervene. “Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd’s IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death,” said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project and Ladd’s attorney. The Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from ‘Of Mice and Men’ and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd’s fate shouldn’t depend on a novella.” Those decisions should exempt Mr. Ladd from the death penalty, as he was labeled “fairly obviously retarded” at age 13 by the Texas Youth Commission in 1970. After the Atkins decision, the psychiatrist who had examined Mr. Ladd reviewed his notes and reaffirmed his initial diagnosis in an affidavit, stating his IQ test and “three separate interviews confirmed my diagnosis of mental retardation.” His attorney will continue to ask the courts to uphold the protections of Atkins and Hall to spare him from execution.”
NAMPWD Position: This is highly a disturbing issue especially for people with disabilities. The ACLU Capital Punishment Project (CPP) is working to abolish the death penalty nationally through direct representation as well as through strategic litigation, advocacy, public education, and mentoring and training programs for capital defense teams. It is saddening, depressing, and we feel hopeless if we continue to see this as an improper judgment and ineffective dismissal on the issue of intellectual people with disability from our society. There should be an exception in a situation that involves people with disabilities. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstance. But in some cases that execution still prevails, there should be standards, including those prohibiting the use of capital punishment on certain vulnerable groups, which must be respected and implemented. We believe that as an individual with disability, Robert Ladd doesn’t belong on death row.
A civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice was filed, claiming the district has violated a right under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. John McDonald is a nonverbal student who has the tendency to run due to high levels of anxiety. John demonstrates no understanding of danger. His parents worry that he will slip away from his aide at school and run outside endangering his safety. His service dog is a black Labrador and is fastened to John with a belt harness, which physically keeps him from running. The presence of his dog also helps to calm him to the point where he doesn’t want to run and allows him to better focus in class. It was confusing to both John and his dog, Kai, when they had to be separated outside the doors to Middleton Elementary School. The district cited the Americans with Disabilities Act in its argument that a school districts “is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal” which includes the handling of the dog. Currently, John continues to attend school without Kai, which affects their relationship and the ability for Kai to effectively assist John even when outside the school. The longer they are apart, the harder it is to reestablish the working relationship. The parents continue to be concerned that John will run while at school. They state that it may not happen for days or weeks, but as staff becomes more comfortable with John, it will be much easier for him to escape their presence and run.
NAMPWD Position: In NAM opinion, the ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. They perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Most people are familiar with service animals being guide dogs for people with visual disabilities. However, service animals can assist people with various disabilities in their day-to-day activities. They can alert individuals with hearing impairments to sounds, assist in pulling wheelchairs and even carrying or picking up objects for people with mobility impairments. They can perform a myriad of tasks to help people with disabilities live independently in the community. In the matter of John vs Sherwood School District, the separation of John and his service dog will potentially decline necessary bonding. They have to remember that there is communication occurring between John and his service dog that others cannot see. This speaks of a sense of teamwork we may never understand. This should be a major concern for the School district and the Civil Right Office. This is a legitimate need.
12/15/14 : Congress Passes ABLE Act Today marks a new day in our country’s understanding and support of people with disabilities and their families. The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to send legislation to the president establishing a new way for people with disabilities to save money without risking their government benefits. Lawmakers voted 76 to 16 to approve the bill as part of a package of tax measures Tuesday evening. The legislation will now go to President Barack Obama to sign. The bill has been under consideration since 2006 and was recently renamed the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014. A longtime proponent of the bill, Beck died unexpectedly earlier this month. The ABLE Act would allow people with disabilities to establish special accounts where they could save money to pay for education, health care, transportation, housing and other expenses. Individuals could deposit up to $14,000 annually under current gift-tax limitations and accrue as much as $100,000 without risking eligibility for Social Security and other government programs. Meanwhile, the bill ensures that people with disabilities can retain Medicaid coverage no matter how much money is saved in their ABLE account. This puts a stake in the ground that people with disabilities, for the first time ever, can work and save money for the future and the accounts are modeled after 529 college savings plans and interest earned on savings would be tax-free. The bill does include some limitations, however. Each person may only have one ABLE account and to qualify a person must have a condition that occurred before the age of 26. This indeed is a victory for people with disabilities. Read more here
12/12/14: There is an agreement with a private company to build a software program to operate New Jersey’s multi-billion-dollar network of social service programs but lacks a basic element found in almost every other state contract: the language that would have given the state the power to penalize the vendor should something go wrong. A $118 million dollar contract that was made with Hewlett Packard to develop CASS (the Consolidated Assistance Support System) collapsed. The Treasury Department held a contract that only protected the state’s investment if HP delivered a product with a virus. The state spent $10 million to hire Maximus to be the project’s quality assurance manager. In 2007, the state originally gave the contract to Electronic Data Systems which was taken by HP the following year. Their work began in 2009 when Governor Chris Christie was first elected into office. The object of the system was to unify the Medicaid, food stamp, public assistance, child support, and other programs that were currently running separately to combine forces. In August Maximum told the Department of Human Services that delays and other problems jeopardized the federal funding to pay for it. “I think that the state should have handled this better. This is a situation where we’re talking about the welfare of people. There should have been a better plan in place and it should have been executed correctly,” says NAMPWD Steering Committee member, Ali Littman. Read more here
11/26/14 : U.S. can help protect people with disabilities worldwide About 137 nations/states including European Union have ratified the treaty which has been in force since 2008. The United States has not. The convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international disability treaty that requires the nations/states that ratify it to promote, protect and ensure certain rights for People with disabilities, including equality and nondiscrimination; equal recognition before the law for women and children; access to justice and personal mobility. The treaty reflects the principle of Americans with Disabilities Act, but our nation is not supporting it. One billion people around the world are living with disabilities today, including 58 million Americans, 5.5 millions of whom are U.S. Veterans. By not ratifying CRPD treaty, the U.S. creates a less effective role towards accessibility. With U.S. in the fore front in fighting discrimination against people with disabilities, will results in enormous difference in status. In some countries, men, women and children are kept in institutions without benefit of family life, social interactions or community resources. Some are not given the dignity of name. They live with stigma, of stereotyping with incorrect perceptions that their life is meaningless. Here, the CRPD can help ratify this by providing equality, independence, respect and reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. U.S. adoption of the treaty requires no new legislation nor would it impact the budget. It is a non-enforceable treaty that seeks participating nations to adopt legislative, creates the Committee on the Rights of Person with disabilities. It is encouraged that the ratifying of the CRPD treaty will erase stigma as a barrier to equality, respect and independence for everyone.
11/25/14 : Alzheimer’s Cases Expected to Double by 2050, Researchers Say According to Health Day News dated November 14, 2014. The number of people with Alzheimer disease in the United States will double by 2050. So also is the cost of caring for people with Alzheimer diseases. It is believe that the average cost will rise dramatically. They need proper care with daily activities provided by paid caregiver or family members who may be taking time off of work to care for them which also has double impact on economy. In late stages of the disease, they need help with personal care and lose the ability to control movement, which requires 24-hour care. Understanding that the majority of these costs are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. The estimated number of Americans aged 65 and older will increase from about 43 million to nearly 84 million by 2050. The new research also suggested that delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease could offer significant benefits. By 2050, being able to delay Alzheimer’s onset by five years would result in 41 percent fewer cases and lower the overall costs to society by 40 percent, according to the study from Forum for Health Economics and Policy. Researchers are working on how to understand the disease interferes with brain processes.
11/14/14 : Woodbridge Developmental Center moves not smooth With the scheduled January 1st closing date rapidly approaching, there are only 36 residents still living at Woodbridge Developmental Center. Of the 36 remaining residents, 16 will be moving to community residential programs and 20 will be moving to another developmental center, which in certain cases is more distant to their families. The residents will be moving to their new homes by mid-December, but some of the group homes will not be ready at this time, so these residents will be placed temporarily in other developmental centers. The families of the Woodbridge residents have said that some residents have declined in health since their move due to all of the changes that they are experiencing.
11/7/14 : The Patient Stuttered and One Doctor Felt His Pain Patients with disabilities may receive inadequate treatment or an incorrect diagnosis if a doctor cannot see past the patient’s disability. This particular article is the story of a patient who was mistaken for having chest pain because he began to stutter during a dinner with clients and began sweating and breathing quickly. When he arrived at the emergency room the doctor immediately wanted to run tests on him for a heart attack when he could not communicate that he was fine. One doctor recognized that he was not in distress and was breathing normally and that like her, he had a speech disorder. Many patients with disabilities undergo unnecessary tests, an approach called “veterinary medicine”, because doctors would prefer to order tests rather than talk to a patient who may be perceived as being “slow” or “difficult”. The doctor in this article acknowledged that she has witnessed the ignorance and prejudice that some health care providers harbor towards patients with disabilities. For example, some doctors may not test a patient with a disability who is experiencing pelvic pain for a sexually transmitted disease because they may not believe that they could be sexually active, which could result in misdiagnosis. Doctors should be trained in working with patients with disabilities and comforting them, such as speaking to the patient and looking them in the eye.
10/31/14 : For Many with Disabilities, Special Education Leads to Jail. Every year thousands of children become involved with the juvenile justice system, and one in three of children arrested have disabilities (ranging from emotional disabilities, such as bipolar disorder, to learning disabilities, such as dyslexia). Students that have emotional disabilities have a statistic of being three times more likely to be arrested before the end of high school versus students without disabilities. Students with emotional disabilities can exhibit behaviors like being impulsive, inattentive, or aggressive, leading them into trouble. Children who have learning disabilities that are not remediated in a school setting begin to dislike school, which can result in them acting up at school, or causing distractions from their failing performance. There is federal data that shows that kids who have disabilities are overrepresented in the detention facilities of the state.
10/3/14: Birth Control Options Stressed For Teens with Disabilities The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement update on Monday, September 30th, regarding contraception for adolescents. The statement updates the best practices in counseling and prescribing contraception for adolescents. The AAP said that discussions about sexuality and birth control options should be part of routine care for young people with disabilities.
9/26/14: Food Stamp Cuts to Only Affect New Jersey and 3 Other States Four states will be affected by the cuts to the nation’s food stamp program enacted this year that was estimated to save $8.6 billion in 10 years. The nation’s food stamp program now serves 1 in 7 Americans at a cost of around $80 billion a year. A farm bill signed by President Barack Obama in February attempted to save money by scaling back a loophole in the food stamp program that entitles low-income families to more food aid if they participate in a federal heating assistance program, which is also known as “heat and eat”. Some states would give people as little as $1 a year in heating assistance to make them eligible for more food assistance. New law requires that people must receive more than $20 a year in heating assistance in order to receive higher food benefits. Twelve of sixteen governors in states practicing “heat and eat” have said they will find the money to help these recipients, who are usually elderly or individuals with disabilities. The four remaining states who will be affected are New Jersey, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
9/19/14: Announcing New Legislation Allowing Deaf and Hard of Hearing to Enter Active Duty in the U.S. Air Force Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and Congressman Mark Takano (CA) introduced S. 1864 and H.R. 5296 program, to announce the introduction of legislation that would provide for a demonstration program for Americans with hearing impairments to enter active duty and training to be officers in the United States Air Force. The demonstration program will allow the Department of Defense to explore and discover potential benefits that may be attributed to having individuals with hearing impairments as active personnel serving within the ranks.Furthermore, the demonstration program will help inform the rehabilitation processes for current soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have had their hearing damaged during active duty, and thereby support improved retention, replacement, and attrition of today’s active and reserve component service members. Hearing loss is the number one disability in the military today and its incidence increases 13-18% every year- significantly contributing to demand for services to be provided by the Veterans Administration.
9/12:14: Police Identify Students Involved In Attack On Teen With Autism Police have identified those involved in the attack on a 15 year-old teenage boy with autism in Bay Village, Ohio. A group of teenage boys convinced the boy to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and dumped a bucket allegedly containing spit, cigarette butts, urine, and feces onto him. The video of the prank was then posted to the internet and has since gone viral. While the victim chose to remain silent after the incident because he was embarrassed, one of his friends showed his mother the video who then allowed the media outlets permission to make it available online to bring awareness to bullying. Five male suspects ranging from the age of fourteen to seventeen years old have since been identified. The evidence will be presented to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office early next week. Criminal charges could range from misdemeanor assault to disorderly conduct. It is unlikely to qualify as a hate crime because current law includes hate crimes based on race, religion, or national origin, not disability.
8/29/14: Sex Education: Still a Taboo Who: Adults with autism What: Studies show that adults with autism are at greater risk of sexual victimization and the reason may be due to a lack of education. When: Currently Where: Nationwide Why: Studies have consistently shown that individuals with disabilities are sexually victimized more often than individuals who do not have a disability. In a recent study which surveyed adults with and without autism, 78% of individuals with autism reported at least one instance of sexual victimization compared to less than half of individuals without. Individuals with autism also indicated in the survey that they were less likely to be educated about sex from their family, friends, and loved ones, and more likely to learn from the media. The study also found a high correlation between the amount of sex education one received and victimization. NAMPWD position: Sex has always been considered a taboo topic of discussion. While it is never a comfortable topic for a parent to discuss with their child, studies show that parents who have children with different abilities are less likely to have the “talk.” When we think back to how we learned about sex, how to have safe sex, contraception, appropriate sexual behaviors, sexuality, and most importantly personal boundaries and what constitutes as sexual violence, often times we take for granted the education and resources we were and are given. Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities may still be deprived from these resources, as the idea that we must “protect” individuals with disabilities from learning about sex remains. But could that account for the high rates of victimization among individuals with different abilities? Many myths concerning individuals with different abilities still float around today. Throughout history, individuals with disabilities have been deprived of their rights, and it is no surprise that as of 2014, they are still categorized and believed to be “non-sexual” human beings, “incapable” of having sex and maintaining intimate relationships, having desires and wants, and any interest whatsoever when it comes to sex. The New American Movement for People with Disabilities (NAMPWD) asserts that as advocates, family members, friends, love ones, support workers, and society as a whole, rather than promoting the idea that individuals with disabilities should be banned from receiving sex education and prevented from ever engaging in sexual behaviors, everyone deserves the right to have access to sex education. People with disabilities deserve acceptance of their sexuality, as well as validation within an integrated community. People with disabilities have the right to marry, have children, and make their own choices by having access to resources which will allow them to make good choices as well as educate them about sexual violence. The New American Movement for People with Disabilities will continue to advocate for people with disabilities, and most significantly spread awareness about the gap between education and the victimization of individuals who deserve the same rights and opportunities each one of us have.
8/15/14: Families Angry with Christie’s Veto Who: Governor Chris Christie What: Governor Chris Christie has rejected two bills which would have given family members of individuals with disabilities a greater say in determining where they live and the level of care needed. When: August 12th 2014 Where: New Jersey Why: The governor conditionally vetoed two bills, one which would have stopped the state Department of Human Services’ plan of transferring about 470 individuals with disabilities living in out-of-state centers into state facilities. Christie also vetoed bill S2158 which would have required the department to provide the same level of care and supervision in “privately-operated group homes to people coming from developmental centers. Throughout the past two years, the Christie administration has opened more than 1,000 new homes in the community, yet family members of these individuals have expressed their anger towards Christie’s actions stating that they are “very disappointed,” as the “least restrictive environments” for their loved ones are in fact in institutions. NAMPWD position: It is extremely problematic that when making decisions pertaining to the disability community, that the individuals themselves who are directly impacted by these decisions are seldom given the chance to share their own voice and thoughts with regards to the shutdown of institutions. And while there still are individuals and families members of these individuals who think that should they choose to remain in an institution and that it is their right to live there, we need to look back at our history and how individuals with disabilities were and still are treated. As a community we need to ensure the smooth transition of our neighbors, friends, family members, and loved ones into the community, and make sure that their health and safety remains a priority. The shutdown of developmental centers will only further open doors that have been shut for way too long. The New American Movement for People with Disabilities (NAMPWD) applauds the state’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in the community and give them more options with regards to community placement. People with different abilities are people too and deserve to be contributors to our society and this dispute over whether they should be institutionalized or not needs to come to end. Their lives should not be measured or determined solemnly based on their different abilities but rather as human beings, capable of living independent lives within our communities. Let us not forget that it was only a few decades ago that Willowbrook State School haunted the lives of so many of these individuals. Let us not continue to make the same mistakes.
8/8/14: Former Walgreens Exec Backs Disability Jobs Who: Randy Lewis, retired Walgreens executive What: Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities recently released a plan prioritizing employment and independent living. Instead of prioritizing expenditures on full-time residential care, the state will provide more limited and less costly services and offer vocational training, job coaching, and job support to new enrollees. Following the lead of Walgreens and its retired executive, Randy Lewis, more corporations in Tennessee are offering more jobs to individuals with disabilities. When: August 5, 2014 Where: Tennessee Why: The former Walgreens executive, Randy Lewis, who has a son with autism, wanted his company to open more jobs for people with disabilities. In 2007, he proposed that the Walgreens distribution warehouse that was scheduled to open hire one person with a disability for every two people without disabilities. This warehouse became the most productive in the company’s history and today forty percent of its employees have a disability. He is now encouraging other employers and corporations to offer more jobs to people with disabilities as they are a great contribution to the workforce. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People With Disabilities strongly supports the efforts of Randy Lewis to increase the number of people with disabilities who have competitive, integrated employment. Not only did he increase the number of people with disabilities working in his own corporation, but he is also a strong advocate for other corporations to create the same opportunities. The success he found from hiring more people with disabilities is a great indicator that people with disabilities are a great contribution to the workforce and should be provided more opportunities to share their abilities.
8/1/14: Obama Signs Law Limiting Sheltered Workshop Eligibility Who: President Barack Obama What: Last week President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. The legislation is intended to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services necessary to succeed in the workforce, as well as to provide employers with the skilled workers they need to remain competitive. This law provides several supports to individuals with disabilities to help them remain in competitive, integrated settings. The new law requires that individuals with disabilities ages twenty-four and younger receive pre-employment transition services at school and try vocational rehab services prior to working for less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which will significantly impact the number of placements at sheltered workshops. It also requires state vocational rehabilitation agencies allocate fifteen percent of their federal funding to provide transition services to students with disabilities in schools. When: July 22, 2014 Where: Nationwide Why: The public workforce has not undergone any legislative reform in over 15 years and WIOA will help to modernize existing programs and the workforce. NAMPWD position: The NAMPWD supports the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Individuals with disabilities have the highest rate of unemployment of any group, and more than two-thirds do not participate in the workforce at all. Providing these individuals with the opportunity to be supported in a competitive, integrated job setting will provide them with a choice they may have never had. Like the New American Movement, this law supports Americans with disabilities who want to work and live independently. We also recognize that this law is realistic in supporting those who are ineligible for vocational rehabilitation and allowing those who already earn less than minimum wage to continue in their job. We applaud that in these cases, the individuals will be provided career counseling and informed of other possible opportunities, while still letting them make a choice of their own.
7/25/14: Bill Would Shine Light on Neglected Needs of Minorities with Disabilities Who: Jane Dunhamn, mother of 44 year old daughter with significant support needs What: The Legislature is considering bill S-900, which requires Commissioner of Health to review impact of disabilities on persons in minority and underrepresented communities. Jane Dunhamn has been a strong advocate in supporting the bill and the role that racism continues to play in our very system. When: Currently Where: New Jersey Why: Communities of color have less access to the healthcare system and higher rates of certain disabilities. Individuals who identify has having a different ability and being a person of color continue to face the challenges that come along with being a minority within another minority. The system is need of improvements which continue to neglect minorities, specifically people of color, from receiving the same services. NAMPWD position: It only a little over 50 years ago, that Jim Crow Laws haunted our very streets and cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education gained spotlight. And there is no question about it that there is a continued need for racial as well as disability awareness. Although there is much correlation between communities of color and the disability community, both as marginalized groups, people of color continue to be underrepresented in the disability community, and society overall. So what can we do? The New American Movement for People with Disabilities (NAMPWD) urges state legislatures to consider bill S-900 and reach common ground on this matter. The NAMPWD also urges stakeholders to take part in discussions regarding the importance of this bill, and all underrepresented groups who deserve attention within the disability community. Let’s break the silence! We must reinvent a system in which we are all represented and all our voices are heard. Regardless of one’s race, sex, gender expression, disability, and identity, aren’t we all entitled to the same services?
7/18/14: Google Glass: A Look into the Future Who: Ashley Lasanta What: Ashley Lasanta from Westfield, New Jersey has been using Google Glass, a lightweight, voice-controlled device that can shoot pictures and video, make and receive calls and texts, and access the Web. This device allows her to snap photos by tilting her head and stating a few words for instruction. Ashley Lasanta received this breakthrough device from Community Access Unlimited (CAU) and Billy Busch, CAU director of membership development, has been assisting her with this exceptional technology. When: Currently Where: New Jersey Why: Researchers across the field have been looking for ways to use Google Glass to help individuals with disabilities that affect mobility, vision and hearing. Google Glass allows an individual to navigate the internet easily, with no typing necessary. Individuals can email, text, video chat, send pictures, and use other applications on the internet free of hand. This technology greatly benefits and helps individuals with different abilities and it has allowed individuals, like Ashley Lasanta, to become more independent. Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the American Association for People with Disabilities states that “Google Glass has a ton of potential to transform lives for people with disabilities…No longer can we live in a day and age where people with disabilities need to stay at home. They can participate in the workplace; they can participate in society in ways that weren’t available just a few decades ago.” NAMPWD position: Technology has become a way of life for so many of us. No matter where we turn, we are surrounded and impacted by the latest gadgets, people uploading pictures to their Facebook or Instagram, Tweeting away, downloading the latest applications, sending emails, and checking the news online. Many of the things we do and participate in involve some sort of technology, and for the first time in her life Ashley Lasanta, was able to snap a photograph, a form of self-expression so many of us take for granted. Since January of 2014, Ashley Lasanta has been able to use Google Glass, and the benefits have been endless. The New American Movement for People with Disabilities congratulates Ashley Lasanta in being a phenomenal self-advocate for the disability community and Community Access Unlimited who provided Ashley with this life-changing device. The NAMPWD hopes that more individuals with different abilities are given the opportunity to use this device, as it has great potential to transform so many lives. Everyone should be able to participate in the activities society takes part in. Everyone should be given the opportunity to live and enjoy life.
7/11/14: 2014: Still Denied the Right to Vote Who: Individuals with different abilities What: A complaint was filed yesterday by the Disability and Abuse Project against the Los Angeles Superior Court, as a result to thousands of individuals with different abilities being denied their basic right to vote illegally in the state of California. When: Thursday July 10th 2014 Where: Los Angeles, California Why: Individuals with different abilities, under limited guardianships, have been disqualified from voting in Los Angeles, California, and denied their constitutional rights. California judges are continuously denying these individuals their right to vote, and using literacy tests to determine whether or not individuals with disabilities should be allowed to vote, which completely violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Court attorneys who have been appointed to fully represent and protect these individuals have been ordered by the judges to not assist individuals under limited guardianship in completing their ballots and/or registering to vote. Over 90% of almost 10,000 individuals, 10,000 voices, in Los Angeles with limited guardianship will most likely be denied their right to vote. NAMPWD position: Individuals with different abilities have long been stripped from their rights, especially their right to vote, and we demand that the Los Angeles Superior Court take full responsibility for their actions. We urge that a complete investigation be made to the thousands of individuals whose voting rights were taken away. Rather than ensuring that these individuals be given the same rights as anyone else, the Los Angeles Superior Court has made every effort to deny these individuals their voice, and ultimately the same protections promised to them under the constitution. These tests used to determine whether or not these individuals can vote are completely outrageous and in violation of the federal law. They are not only illegal but degrading; the Los Angeles Courts must stop ignoring federal voting laws set in place and ensure that these individuals are given the assistance they are entitled to. These individuals should not have to wait for a drawn out court decision to give them back their deserved rights, and the NAMPWD will not tolerate the denied justice of its members. Individuals with disabilities have been victimized for far too long and the NAMPWD will not remain silent. The NAMPWD urges you to spread awareness on this matter, and educate your neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family about what is still going on in our nation today. The issue behind voting rights is not just unique to the state of California but it is a reality everywhere. Disability Rights are human rights, and it is time that we put an end to the injustices made against individuals with different abilities.
7/3/14: Will COAH’s New Ground Rules mean Less Affordable Housing? Who: New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing; Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (HCDNNJ), the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey (SHA), and other advocacy groups What: The New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) was met with protests and angry testimony yesterday at its public comment hearing regarding the newly proposed Third Round Rules, designed to implement New Jersey’s fair share housing regulations. Affordable and fair housing advocates accused COAH of eliminating 37,000 affordable units from the proposed rules, of inflating the number of units required to be built by NJ municipalities on paper while requiring only a fraction of them to actually be built, and of engaging in a secretive process to get the rules approved while attempting to avoid public scrutiny. When: July 2, 2014 Where: All of New Jersey Why: New Jersey has a housing crisis. We are number one in the nation in foreclosures, and number 4 in the nation with regard to cost of living. Our affordable housing is most often located far from jobs, and there are far fewer affordable units than there are people who need them. Furthermore, many of our downtowns are filled with vacant and abandoned properties which, with the right funding, could be rehabilitated to provide badly needed, high-quality affordable housing for many New Jersey residents. However, without the right action from government, including proper administration of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, these buildings will likely sit vacant for years. NAMPWD position: The NAMPWD fully supports it allies FSHC, HCDNNJ, and SHA in their efforts to bring about fair, equitable rules for the administration of affordable and supportive housing throughout the state. It is abhorrent that COAH would continue in its obfuscation of their responsibilities with regard to the implementation of the mandate the NJ Supreme Court ordered nearly a year ago. Full community integration for people with disabilities will require the construction of integrated housing throughout New Jersey’s 556 municipalities. Without the ongoing vigilance of state government, these municipalities can easily skirt their collective responsibility to the community of people with disabilities, as well as to people of low income and other vulnerable groups. We must continue the fight for equity and full inclusion throughout the state. COAH will continue to hear public comment on the proposed rules through August 1st. Please join us in writing to COAH, telling them to revise their Third Round Rules to set priority for people with disabilities, and to require ALL NJ municipalities to build their FAIR SHARE of affordable housing: Comments can be submitted via email to email@example.com, with “Rule Comments” in the subject box; or via mail to NJ Council on Affordable Housing, PO Box 813, Trenton, NJ 08625-0813, Attn: Sean Thompson, Acting Executive Director; or via fax to 609-633-6056.
6/27/14: U.S. Senate Votes 95-3 to Increase Job Opportunities for People With Disabilities Who: Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, United States Senate What: The United States Senate has voted positively on a bill (S. 1356) that would expand work opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act would move adults with disabilities away from sheltered workshops and towards gainful employment. The law would require working age adults 24 and younger to be paid no less than the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and would move those currently unable, but desiring to pursue competitive work into vocational rehabilitation rather than sheltered workshops. The bill now awaits a vote in the House. When: Currently Where: Labor Force Nationwide Why: A nationwide poll conducted by RespectAbility USA found that roughly 75% of working age adults (18-64) with disabilities would prefer to be gainfully employed and independent than to rely on government subsidies. However, the nationwide total unemployment rate for PWDs is 70%, compared to 28% for people without disabilities. This bill would streamline federal efforts to put people with disabilities into gainful employment and training, rather than have them stagnate in sheltered workshops or day programs. NAMPWD Position: The NAMPWD supports the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. For too long, people with disabilities have been viewed by our society as incapable or incompetent, forever dependent on the state or on the charity of others. People with disabilities have the same desires, aspirations, goals and SKILLS as people without disabilities, and it is high time that our government recognizes this fact. Furthermore, as more and more states move towards “Employment First” policies for PWDs, it is imperative that the Federal Government move towards supporting them in this effort. The move to Medicaid Managed Care in New Jersey provides a grave threat to efforts to employ PWDs, as under the pending waiver system, most if not all funding for career planning will be cut. It is profoundly unacceptable that our governments – whether federal, state, or local – would talk the talk of Employment First, but completely fail to walk the walk. Also check out: America at Risk: Job Crisis for People with Disabilities & GAO Study Highlights: Employment for People with Disabilities
6/20/14: Law Mandates Support for Student Athletes Who: Student athletes with different abilities What: Joined by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill which requires school districts to accommodate student athletes with disabilities in school sports. When: Thursday, June 19th 2014 Where: Trenton, NJ Why: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed this bill to ensure that student athletes with different abilities can try out for and participate in school sports. The bill mandates districts to “ensure that a student with a disability has an equal opportunity to participate in physical education programs, participate in existing classroom activities that involve physical activity, and try out for and, if selected, participate in athletic programs.” The signing came on the last full day of National Special Olympics competition in Mercer County. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was joined by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who sponsored the bill. Senate President Stephen Sweeney states that “Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they don’t have value.” Senate President Stephen Sweeney first ran for office after his daughter, Lauren, was born with Down syndrome. Lauren Sweeney, 21, played soccer in the Special Olympics. This law ensures that school districts include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternatives, thus giving all students the opportunity to fully enjoy their school sports. NAMPWD Position: Individuals with disabilities have long been excluded from all areas in our society. They have been banned from participating in school sports, excluded from the work force, placed in institutions against their will, and in every possible way excluded from our communities. While the New American Movement for People with Disabilities (NAMPWD) applauds Governor Chris Christie’s efforts in making school sports more inclusive for students with disabilities, we hope that more attention can be placed on more critical and urgent matters, such as the outstanding waiting lists, the shutdown of developmental centers and the recent moratorium on DHS transitions and transfers of residents into the community, Medicaid Managed Care, and the lack of continued funding for DDD services. While the NAMPWD appreciates Governor Christies efforts in breaking down walls for student athletes with disabilities, part of tearing down walls and allowing individuals with different abilities to live a rich and full life requires even greater steps. Steps such as ensuring adequate funding for DDD services and making sure that individuals move out from institutions into the community. The NAMPWD urges Governor Chris Christie to focus on these critical matters and in continuing to advocate for people with disabilities.
6/13/14: The Record-Save the Centers What: There are concerns that the closing process of the North Jersey developmental centers is moving too quickly to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents. When: June 5, 2014 Where: North Jersey Why: The state set a deadline for all eligible individuals to transition from developmental centers to community settings by mid-2017, but within the next few weeks, the remaining residents of the North Jersey Development Center in Totowa will already be moving out. The deaths of Richard Fornarotto and Steven Cortes, both former residents of North Jersey Development Center in Totowa, bring to question whether or not it is in the best interest of the residents to move. Both Fornarotto and Cortes died earlier this year from choking on bits of food after they had left institutional living. Family members of residents fear that the changes their loved ones are facing could result in consequences such as these two incidents. Upon the closing of Woodbridge, the state must guarantee that every resident is properly screened and assessed to see whether community living is appropriate or if they should move back into an institutional setting. NAMPWD position: While the New American Movement for People with Disabilities strongly supports the closing of these two developmental centers in New Jersey, we understand the concerns family members may have about the process moving quickly, and tragic incidents, such as the death of Fornarotto and Cortes. We encourage families to consider the potential of community living and hope that the 600 people eligible for community placement are able to transition smoothly and reach their greatest potential while living in community settings. We support the funding that will soon be available from the closing of these two centers to transition more people into community settings.
6/6/14: Teen Inspires Mom to Launch Online Job Board What: Shannon Nash, mother of 16-yr-old Jason, and jobBoardASP, a company that specializes in building job board websites, have worked together to create and launch Autism Job Board, a built in job board website for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition to searchable job postings, the website will also include information for employers on best practices for hiring and employing workers with ASDs, as well as tips and help for applicants. When: Currently Where: Online, AutismJobBoard Why: Many individuals with disabilities face obstacles transitioning out from high school into the community, for the mere fact that employment opportunities are usually scarce for them. According to the 2012 study from Washington University in St. Louis, only 55% of youths with ASD were employed following high school, as there is a 50% greater chance for these individuals to face unemployment than their peers with different disabilities. The combined unemployment and underemployment rate is around 90% for individuals with ASDs. Within the next decade, almost 500,000 teens with ASD will transition into adulthood and more than likely face the lack of employment opportunities available to them. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People with Disabilities (NAMPWD) applauds Shannon Nash and the Nash family in their efforts to advocate for their son, Jason, and the disability community. Shannon Nash serves as an excellent role model, advocate, and parent, who has made it her mission to make sure that her son has a life-long career and bright future that he deserves. Her optimism and dedication towards advocating for her son and individuals with different abilities is one that is appreciated and honored by the NAMPWD. Employment rates for people with disabilities has not changed much since the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is suppose to guarantee employment regardless of one’s disability. Nevertheless, it is without question that employment opportunities remain in short supply for these individuals who need the skills gained from a workplace environment in order to live their lives as adults. The lack of employment opportunities available to individuals with different abilities also places them at greater risk for poverty. The New American Movement calls for more inclusive workplaces; workplaces which promote diversity, expand jobs for everyone, and won’t discriminate against individuals with disabilities. We need to create more empowering and safe environments, and as a nation continue to advocate against employment discrimination. The NAMPWD promotes the greater awareness and continued education on this issue, for individuals with different abilities deserve the same rights, greater independence, fair employment, and same quality of life as every hardworking taxpayer does. The NAMPWD is hopeful that the story of Shannon Nash and her son Jason is just one of the many to be told.
5/30/14: Fair Wages. Fair Employment What: After a long-delayed reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, Lawmakers in the United States have finally reached a bipartisan deal, which would allow most individuals with disabilities to try competitive employment first before resorting to a sheltered workshop. Now that a deal has been reached, the bill is expected to go before the Senate and House again to be voted on. When: Currently Where: Nationwide Why: Currently, in the United States, many individuals in special education programs transition out from their high schools into sheltered workshops, where they are often paid below the minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Under the re-authorization, these individuals would be required to pursue competitive careers and most importantly integrated employment, and employers won’t be able to hire any individual who has not tried applying for competitive employment first. This plan would greatly benefit individuals with disabilities transitioning out of high school into the work force. The legislation currently mandates that state vocational rehabilitation agencies work with schools to provide job skills training to all students with disabilities, and devote at least 15% of their federal funding to help individuals with disabilities transition into the work force. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People with Disabilities (NAMPWD) applauds the United States Senate and House of Representatives, in their efforts to reauthorize section 511 of the “Workforce Investment Act”, as well as all those advocating and fighting for individuals with different abilities every day. It is about time that individuals with different abilities are given a fair chance let alone their deserved right to having a life fulfilling career much like any other citizen. Individuals with Disabilities have long been segregated and neglected from our communities and laws that serve to protect our rights. The NAMPWD demands full inclusion, representation, and integration for people with disabilities both in our work force, in our education system, and in our society. The reauthorization of the bill will allow for more inclusive job opportunities, fair-wage employment, and is a huge step towards victory in ending wage and job discrimination against people with different abilities. The New American Movement asserts that individuals with different abilities are people first and productive citizens in our society, and we urge everyone to continue advocating against job discrimination for once and for all.
5/28/14: Victory (for now) in Freddie Lee Hall v. State of Florida! In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of Freddie Lee Hall, 68, who had been sentenced to death by the State of Florida. Florida’s decision to execute Mr. Hall had been based on a hard cutoff of 70 or below on a state-sanctioned IQ test. As Mr. Hall had previously scored 71, the State Supreme Court had rejected his claim of intellectual disability and upheld the death sentence ruling. Using people first language for the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against “cruel and unusual punishments”. The Court furthermore stated that the State of Florida’s legal definition of intellectual disability, which utilizes a hard cutoff IQ score of 70 to determine whether a person in fact has an intellectual disability: “disregards established medical practice in two interrelated ways. It takes an IQ score as final and conclusive evidence of an individual’s intellectual capacity, when experts in the field would consider other evidence. It also relies on a purportedly scientific measurement of the defendant’s abilities, his IQ score, while refusing to recognize that the score is, on its own terms, imprecise.” (Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. ___ (2014), 10) Citing Atkins v Virginia (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court, furthermore noted that at least five other states that continue allow the execution of adults with intellectual disabilities and maintain a similarly strict definition to that of Florida’s have still permitted defendants to submit additional evidence attesting to their disability when their IQ test scores falls above 70, something which the Florida statute prohibits. The Court’s opinion acknowledges the arbitrary and capricious nature of the Florida law and has remanded the case to the lower courts for further adjudication. The New American Movement for People with Disabilities believes that no person with intellectual or developmental disability should ever face the death penalty, and no state determined “criteria” (even one based on a “range” of IQ scores) should be allowed to determine whether and individual has an intellectual or developmental disability. Court decisions should be based on a wide-ranging set of evidence, including the expert testimony of both medical professionals AND direct support professionals – who work with people with disabilities every day, and are in many cases the most well-equipped to attest to an individual’s abilities. We stand with the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision, and look forward to the day when laws such as Florida’s will ultimately be replaced by a far more holistic approach to the definition of intellectual disability in relation to local, state, and federal penal codes, especially those which invoke capital punishment.
5/23/14: 911 Available By Text What: Last Thursday, May 15th, was the implementation date for the four largest US wireless carriers, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile, to deploy text-to-911 capabilities for their networks. These providers will provide this service to any local government that is interested and has the capability to use it. Therefore, this service is currently only available at call centers prepared to receive texts; but it is anticipated that this will be available nationwide by the end of the year. With the addition of this service, those who are nonverbal or are hard of hearing will have a new option to seek emergency help. When: May 15, 2014 Where: A growing number of communities nationwide Why: With the current 911 system, callers who are hard of hearing or non-verbal must use a teletypewriter (TTY) text telephone device or a telecommunications device for individuals who are deaf (TDD), which allows two people to type messages to each other, but it takes a substantial amount of time. The United States’ emergency dispatch system’s voice-only technology and these devices date back to the 1960s. Since then, instant messaging, text messaging, and emailing have become more prevalent in the day-to-day communications for people who are hard of hearing or non-verbal, and replaced these devices. However, they must still use TDD and TTY devices to contact 911, or have their messages relayed back by another person. The Federal Communications Commission wants all text providers to offer this service by the end of the year and is encouraging almost 6,000 911-call centers in the country to adopt this technology. NAMPWD position: It is no secret that people with disabilities have often been left out on matters of accessibility. And it is no secret that we often take for granted the services offered to us to use, such as texting, calling someone on the phone, and even being able to speak through word of mouth. The FCC has taken it upon themselves to create a service to bridge the gap between individuals with different abilities and their basic needs. The New American Movement for People with Disabilities fully supports the Federal Communications Commission push for all text providers to offer this service. Providing this service allows individuals who are non-verbal or hard of hearing the ability to contact 911 in a timely manner, and get the help and assistants they deserve. It also gives these individuals more independence, while using a device that is typically used throughout their day-to-day communications. The NAMPWD applauds the FCC in their efforts to push text-to-911 services in order to help those with different abilities and save more lives. The FCC has been proactive in finding solutions to better the lives of all individuals, solutions which include individuals with different abilities. The text-to-911 service not only allows individuals with disabilities greater access to emergency assistance, but the service is also proactive in cases of domestic violence or in other situations where it is unsafe for a victim to speak or call for help. While text-to-911 is currently limited to texting, the FCC is hopeful that in the future, their services will provide the opportunity for photos, videos, and location information to be used in cases of emergency. The NAMPWD is hopefully that more services, much like the text-to-911 service, will be implemented to help all individuals and will continue to advocate for a better world, one which considers and fully includes individuals with different abilities.
5/16/14: The Road to Marriage Equality What: Brad Glass and his fiancé, engaged since December 2012, have been denied their right to marry. Brad Glass has a disability that impacts his ability to travel, and therefore is unable to comply with Missouri’s arbitrary statutory requirement that marriage license applicants appear in person before a Recorder of Deeds. Today, after being sued for depriving Glass his constitutional right to marry and also in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Howell County Recorder of Deeds has been ordered by a United States District Court judge to meet Glass at his home and issue him a marriage license When: Currently Where: Mountain View, Missouri Why: Brad Glass, an individual with a disability, and his partner have been eager to get married, but have been denied their right to marry, much like those in the LGBTQA community and other minority groups who have faced similar challenges and have been victims to various implemented discrimination laws. For much time, legislation has had an opportunity to get rid of these barriers preventing many minorities from their right to marry, but have consistently ignored the concerns of so many that have been deprived of their right to marry. The ACLU of Missouri, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, has dedicated their time towards defending and expanding the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians guaranteed by the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions, especially that of Brad Glass. Glass has suffered significant harm, which include the loss of benefits of marriage and other damages, as a result to Howell County recorder of Deeds complete neglect of his rights. With the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. District Court Judge Greg Kays sided with Glass, ordering the Howell County Recorder of Deeds to meet Glass at his home so that he may complete a marriage license application in compliance with the law. NAMPWD position: Marriage equality has been a topic of controversy for quite a while. It was only a generation ago that the United States finally struck down on remaining interracial laws. It was only two generations ago that people with different abilities were sterilized out of fear of them being able to reproduce and have families. After having been tortured and murdered in concentration camps, and decades later put in institutions, the NAMPWD asserts that we have in fact had enough. The continued discrimination of people with disabilities and other minorities needs to come to an end and “No decisions about us, will be made without us!” Regardless of one’s sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, income, age, and most importantly disability, no one should be deprived of their basic human and civil rights, especially the right to marry. The NAMPWD stands firmly behind Brad Glass and the ACLU in defending his right to marry, and will fight to make sure that the fundamental rights of those with disabilities are not denied and rather protected as stated under the United States Constitution. The NAMPWD will not tolerate those who deprive anyone of their rights, let alone those who violate the American with Disability Act (ADA) which stands to prevent the discrimination of those with disabilities. Just recently, a bill eliminating the in-presence requirement for prisoners was taken the time to be looked at and passed by legislatures. The NAMPWD urges everyone to advocate and notify their lawmakers, and ask them to take the same amount of time they took to ensure that marriage be more convenient for prisoners, and pass a similar bill, one which includes and protects individuals with disabilities. Individuals with different abilities are no different than any other individual, and they deserve the same rights as any other United States citizen. Let’s put an end to ableism. Let’s put an end to inequality now!
5/5/14: De Blasio Sets a 10-Year Plan for Housing, Putting the Focus on Affordability What: Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York City has put forth a 10-year, $8.2 billion housing plan designed to build 80,000 new affordable units and preserve 120,000 additional units. When: May 5, 2014 Where: New York City Why: The New York City metro area is the 5th most unaffordable in the country, according to the 10th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, which ranks 360 metropolitan regions in 9 countries using “Median Multiple” criteria to assess housing affordability. The median multiple method divides median housing price by median annual gross household income to determine how affordable a region’s housing is. New York City’s most recent ranking is down two spots since 2012, when NYC had the dubious distinction of being the 3rd most unaffordable metro region in the country. A major spike in California housing prices – driven in large part by the tech boom – has caused several California metro regions to surpass NYC. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People with Disabilities supports Mayor Bill De Blasio’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing for low- and middle-income New Yorkers, however we are disturbed by at least one aspect of the Mayor’s plan. The plan envisions a continuation of the building of “community facilities” for people with disabilities. It is well known that this is all-too-often a euphemism for the new institutions, where tens if not hundreds of people with disabilities are housed, often along with other disenfranchised populations, such as people who are formerly homeless or people with extremely low incomes. If we are to successfully promote the full integration of people with disabilities into the community, any project-based assistance must be coupled with a portable, tenant based subsidy. New developments, furthermore, should be income and ability-integrated according to the local market. People with disabilities are facing an extreme housing affordability crisis. According to the Technical Assistance Collaborative Priced Out 2012 report, a person living on a $785 a month SSI payment would need to pay 158% of their income to afford a 1 bedroom apartment in the New York City metro area. This is extreme poverty. Without successful community integration efforts, we fear that New York City (like many other large U.S. cities) will continue to “warehouse” people with disabilities, much as they “warehoused the poor” in Federally-funded housing projects for decades.
5/2/14: Shaquille O’Neal Accused of Cyber-Bullying What: Former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal is facing sharp criticism from fans after posting a photo to his Instagram account, making fun of Michigan-native Jahmel Binion, who has ectodermal dysplasia. When: April 29th 2014 Where: On Instagram Why: 23-year-old Jahmel Binion lives with ectodermal dysplasias, a rare condition that causes reduced ability to sweat, missing teeth and fine, sparse hair, according to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias. At least one in 5,000-10,000 babies are born with the condition. Disabilityscoop.com states that “Because of the condition’s physical effects, Binion said he ‘knows how it feels to be the brunt of a mean-spirited joke. People laugh at me, stare at me.’” Although the photo has since been removed from O’Neal’s Instagram account, which has almost 600,000 followers, there are still many angry fans pouring in on social media after the image was shared. Cyber-bullying, on behalf of Mr. O’Neal, has sparked the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias to write a public letter on Mr. O’Neal’s website. The foundation has urged Mr. O’Neal to learn more about Ectodermal Dysplasias, and has gone so far as to invite Mr. O’Neal to their National Family Conference. As a result to this incident, self-advocate Jahmel Binion has created the HUG DON’T Judge Facebook page to expose the truths behind cyber-bullying and shed light on people with disabilities. NAMPWD position: Time and time again we see celebrities, and those in higher-up positions, especially in the media, get away with vilifying people with disabilities. Whether it be using derogatory language or posting a picture mocking someone with a disability, bullying is bullying and should not be classified as anything less than an action of hate. One’s status in society does not and will not condone any behavior that enables the very existence of hate. Jahmel Binion’s reaction to this hateful incident says it all. “I was confused. I was thinking, he’s supposed to be this role model, someone everyone is supposed to look up to. If Shaq does something like this, then everyone who follows him will think we should do this.” Such slanderous and ignorant behavior will not go unnoticed or unpunished, and people with disabilities need more than just an apology in efforts to make everything alright. As a nation, we must end bullying, end discrimination, and make this world a comfortable and accepting place for everyone to live in, regardless of one’s differences. We must advocate and stand up for one another other especially for those who have been marginalized and targeted for so long in our society. People with disabilities have been a public scapegoat for far too long, and we must end this now. The New American Movement for People with Disabilities supports Jahmel Binion’s full representation and urges everyone to take action against bullying, especially amongst individuals with different abilities. Please write to Mr. O’Neal and share Jahmel Binion’s story to expose the truth behind what is still going on in our nation today. Individuals with different abilities are people too, and the NAMPWD will continue to advocate for people with disabilities and all those who have been victims of bullying.
4/15/14: Continued Punishment for People with Developmental Disabilities What: The Food and Drug Administration is finally considering banning devices used to administer electric shocks to children and adults with developmental disabilities in an effort to “modify” their behavior. The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Massachusetts — which serves children and adults with developmental disabilities as well as those with behavioral and emotional problems — is believed to be the only entity in the nation currently using the devices. When: Currently Where: Canton, Massachusetts Why: The FDA is finally concerned that there may be serious risks with using electric shock devices on people with developmental disabilities. They state that the risks behind using such devises “outweigh” the benefits for people with limited intellectual ability or developmental disabilities, and that they may pose an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury to patients,” FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Rodriguez said in an email to Disability Scoop. The FDA approved the electric shock devices used at the Rotenberg Center in the 1990s, to treat individuals who “exhibit self-injurious behavior of sufficient intensity and frequency to cause serious damage to themselves.” But the agency warned the school in 2012 that its devices — which had been modified to deliver a current nearly three times as high — no longer had proper clearance. FDA investigators were told of burns, scars, muscle spasms, seizures and other effects resulting from the skin shocks and onetime students said the experience left them feeling “fearful” and “anxious.” A former student recalls her experiences at the center after being shocked and it feeling like “a thousand bees stinging you in the same place for a few seconds.” The school has long been under fire from disability advocates who say that it is inhumane to address behavior problems with electric shocks. In recent years, the Rotenberg Center has faced an inquiry from the U.S. Department of Justice and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture determined that the rights of students at the center had been violated. NAMPWD position:It is no secret that people with developmental disabilities have been subject to cruel and inhumane treatment, punishment, and torture for decades, if not for hundreds of years. We have seen it in the United States, where people with developmental disabilities were sterilized against their will, we’ve seen it in the Holocaust, where hundreds of thousands of people were tortured, burned, and murdered for simply having different abilities, and we see it still today in Developmental Center’s such as that of The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts. The NAMPWD is outraged, disgusted, and appalled with the Judge Rotenberg’s Center approach to “helping” individuals with developmental disabilities when they are in fact abusing them nonetheless. People with different abilities are people first! Much like so many other misleading developmental centers, who’s mission statements fail to match what’s going on behind closed doors, the Judge Rotenberg’s Center applauds itself for having “a very effective education and treatment” for people with developmental disabilities. The NAMPWD will not be fooled behind the Judge Rotenberg’s Center falsely mission statement which includes “the safety of others, healthy growth and development, and commitment to providing the most effective education program possible.” The war against people with disabilities continues on this very day in this very country, and everyone must wake up and take action! The NAMPWD is not only appalled with The Judge Rotenberg’s Center, but also downright sickened with the FDA’s lack of concern and action through the years and will not remain silent until these individuals and victims of such abuse get full representation and complete justice. The NAMPWD asks everyone to join them and the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities in taking action now by calling the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of torturous electroshock devices on people with disabilities and not remaining silent about what is going on today in this country.
4/18/14: U.S. Halts Effort to Collect Old Social Security Debts What: The U.S. Social Security Administration has declared an immediate stop to the garnishment of federal and state tax refunds for the payment of decades-old Social Security debts. When: April 14, 2014 Where: Washington, D.C. and nationwide. Why: After calls from several U.S. Senators and a federal lawsuit filed by Mary Grice, a federal employee, the U.S. Social Security Administration has agreed to stop garnishing the federal and state tax refunds of citizens whose relatives had incurred overpayments from Social Security over 10 years ago. A revision made to the 2008 Farm Bill had previously lifted a longstanding statute of limitations on the collection of debts owed to the SSA, which prevented the agency from pursuing debts owed to it beyond 10 years and without due process. The recent revision has enabled the garnishment of $714 million in often decades-old overpayments, the majority of which were incurred by a parent or grandparent who is now deceased. Furthermore, while SSA had claimed that they had tried repeatedly to contact the individuals whose tax refunds were being garnished, most reported that no such notifications were ever received. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People with Disabilities is outraged that the SSA – the very agency entrusted with maintaining and upholding the social safety net – would engage in federally sanctioned theft from taxpayers who are working class, elderly, or who have disabilities. Such actions represent a blatant violation of due process, not to mention longstanding federal statute. The SSA’s actions can only be described as arbitrary and capricious. Unfortunately, they are not out of character with the current tenor of federal policies, which seek to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable of taxpayers, rather than the wealthy and their corporate proxies. We applaud the actions of Mary Grice, who filed the lawsuit challenging the unjust garnishment of her tax refund, and recognize the work of Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD.), and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) who spoke out against the SSA’s actions. We believe that it is only through the vigilant action of its citizens that our government can be held to account – and made to work for the people who put it there.
4/11/14: White House Bids Farewell to Claudia Gordon What: Self-Advocate Claudia Gordon has stepped down as the second-ever White House liaison on disability issues. Gordon began her position in July 2013, and will be returning to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. When: March 28th 2014 Where: The White House, Washington D.C. Why: At the young age of eight, Claudia Gordon lost her hearing, and faced much discrimination within her country of Jamaica. Forced to grow up and advocate for herself at a young age, Gordon fearlessly moved to the United States and attended the Lexington School for people who are deaf in New York where she learned her greatest gift yet, sign language. She is the first person who is deaf, African-American, and a female to become an attorney as well as the first student who is deaf to graduate from the American University Washington College of Law. Prior to attending the American University, Gordon attended Howard University. She knew at the age of eight that she wanted to go to school to help others fight against the same discrimination she faced, and soon enough she became a lawyer and full-time self-advocate. Gordon has served as a staff attorney for the American Association of People with Disabilities, where she advocated for people who are deaf and hard of hearing all across the country. Advocating for the passing of legislation which protects the rights of people with disabilities, Gordon’s continuous efforts and success to create and implement change have been endless. She states “I felt that a job with the Federal government would more effectively allow me to affect the actual enforcement of laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, thereby alleviating the blatant discrimination that people with disabilities continue to face.” Claudia Gordon’s accomplishments throughout her career and educational journey have truly shown and proved to the masses that people with disabilities have the same potential and abilities if not more to make great contributions to our society, our nation, and rest of the world. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People with Disabilities is honored to have gotten the chance to be in the presence of Claudia Gordon at this year’s Disability Policy Seminar in Washington D.C. The NAMPWD attended Gordon’s presentation, and was deeply moved and captivated by her story, will to fight and fight for others, and most importantly succeed. Gordon is a courageous person, one who stands as a leader for the disability community. She is a prime example to how fair employment, fair education, and overall implementation of equal and human rights can affect an individual and their quality of life for the better. As a self-advocate for people with disabilities, Gordon shows that people with disabilities can accomplish and are able to achieve just as much as any other citizen in our nation, and hold high positions such as that of Gordon’s in the White House. The NAMPWD honors Gordon’s contributions to the Developmental Disability community, in being a strong self-advocate and most exceptional leader with endless amounts of success. The NAMPWD respects and admires Claudia Gordon, and knows that although we have come far and still have a ways to go in creating permanent change, change and equality for all is in fact possible. The NAMPWD will continue to fight and fight hard to make sure people with disabilities get the upmost highest education, careers, and overall rights that they deserve and will advocate to make sure that Gordon’s success story is just one of the many to come.
4/4/14: Hundreds Protest Police Killings of People with Mental Illness in Albuquerque, New Mexico What: Hundreds protested the March 16th police shooting of James Boyd, 38, a man with a history of mental illness who was camping illegally on a hillside in Albuquerque, NM. The protests were a reaction to a police helmet cam video of the incident that went viral following its release to the public. The graphic video shows Mr. Boyd being hit with a flash grenade, stun gun, and live ammunition after turning away from police at what was already a sizeable distance from them. After Mr. Boyd hit the ground, the police continue to fire beanbags at him after he yells, “I can’t move!” They then stick a police dog on him before cuffing him and searching the area for anyone else hiding in his campout area. When: March 31, 2014 Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico Why: The FBI is currently investigating the shooting death of Mr. Boyd, the first investigation of its kind into the actions of the Albuquerque Police Department. His death was the latest in a string of deaths of persons with diagnosed mental illnesses at the hands of the Albuquerque Police Department since 2010. All-in-all, there have been 37 people shot by the APD since 2010, 23 fatally, at least 75% of whom have had a diagnosed mental illness, a rate 25 percentage points higher than the national average, where roughly 50% of those shot by police have a mental illness. NAMPWD Position: The New American Movement for People with Disabilities is disgusted, though not all that surprised, at the brutal actions of the APD. The actions of the APD display a military-like brutality that goes beyond the simple lack of sensitivity and ventures well into the realm of shear disdain for human life. This very incident is indicative of a larger trend in our society towards the treatment human beings like protocols rather than people. The NAMPWD will fight for the fair and full representation, treatment, and right of Mr. Boyd and will stand behind all persons with mental illness, different abilities, and all marginalized groups who have fallen victims of hate crimes. The NAMPWD is outraged with the continued treatment of marginalized individuals in this very country till this day, and will not let any hateful actions make their way in the hands of those who feel they are entitled to be placed above the law, and who have in fact been appointed to enforce the law on matters related to basic human rights.
3/21/14: DEATH ROW: The Troubling case of Freddie Hall What: Freddie Hall, who has an intellectual and developmental disability, has been placed on death row in the state of Florida as a result to being involved in the murders of two individuals. When: Currently Where: Florida Why: Florida’s standards for determining and identifying individuals with a developmental disability, has placed Freddie Hall on death row. As mandated by the Supreme Court in Atkins vs. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court prohibited the execution of people with developmental disabilities. Florida’s controversial approach towards identifying those with developmental disabilities goes against the Atkins vs. Virginia case, and fails to justly diagnose many individuals, specifically Freddie Hall. In the state of Florida, one must take an IQ test and establish a score of 70 or below in order to “prove” that he or she has an intellectual disability. Freddie Hall has obtained scores slightly above 70, and as a result, the state of Florida has refused to consider let alone acknowledge his disability in the determination of his eligibility to be placed on death row. Florida’s methods of identifying and assessing developmental disability specifically with death row cases, is also shared by four other states nationwide. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People with disabilities is outraged with the state of Florida and it’s unusual, unfair, and unjust treatment of individuals with developmental disabilities. The state of Florida remains inconsistent constitutionally, by placing Freddie Hall on death row and has failed to even consider the ample amount of evidence available on behalf of Mr. Hall and his lifelong disability. Florida’s stance on disabilities and in assessing as well as diagnosing those with disabilities is not only unscientific, but cruel and unjust. NAMPWD supports the full and fair representation of Mr. Hall as well as the implementation of the protections promised by the Atkins case. No persons with developmental disabilities shall be subjected to forms of malicious forms of punishment. No persons with developmental disabilities shall be wrongfully and unjustly accused of a crime without proper and fair representation. No persons disability shall be wrongfully overlooked and neglected when making decisions that involve life or death matters, and by no means will strict IQ tests be used to ultimately measure and determine an individual’s disability. Contrary to the rights granted by the Constitution of the United States, Florida has ultimately denied Mr. Hall his rights, rights that the NAMPWD will continue to make known and fight for. The state of Florida, as well as states who share the same criteria and ill-mannered beliefs when evaluating persons with disabilities on death row, are completely erroneous. The NAMPWD will not remain quiet on matters that involve and affect persons with disabilities, especially matters which deprive people of their own rights, voice, and future.
3/14/14: For Tech Companies, Hiring Workers With Disabilities ‘Cool’ What: The Arc, a nonprofit organization that helps and supports those with developmental disabilities, has successfully helped Eric Lin, and so many other individuals with developmental disabilities, find successful career paths, specifically within the city of San Francisco, California. The Arc has placed others with developmental disabilities at more than 80 companies in San Francisco. The tech sector is a growing client base, with hires from The Arc at 13 local firms. Eric Lin, who currently works for Zendesk, has doubled his hours and responsibilities throughout his time there, and has ultimately been given a fair chance and given his right to having a career. When: Currently Where: San Francisco, California Why: Adults with developmental disabilities are performing better in San Francisco’s labor force than throughout the nation, with an employment rate of 60%. Other states average out to only 44% when hiring those with different abilities. Individuals with developmental disabilities are still discriminated in the workforce especially in states outside of California, and have proven to be just as skillful and essential workers as any other individual. NAMPWD position: The New American Movement for People with Disabilities supports the full inclusion of those with developmental disabilities into the workforce. Individuals with different abilities are entitled to having not just fair waged jobs, but long lasting careers. Eric Lin is a prime example of a dedicated and hardworking individual. NAMPWD applauds the Arc for their efforts to connect those within our community, with the appropriate job skill trainings and overall greater mobility for different career paths. NAMPWD will continue to combat the idea and falsehood that hiring those with developmental disabilities are in fact seeking charity, as individuals much like Eric Lin, have proven themselves to hold significant positions and responsibilities within our society.
3/7/14: Survey Finds Just 1 In 3 With Intellectual Disabilities Employed What: Adults with intellectual disabilities are struggling to find their place in the workforce. According to a new survey conducted by the Special Olympics, two-thirds of adults with intellectual disabilities remain unemployed. When: Currently Where: Labor Force Nationwide Why: Results from this survey, showcase the truth behind those with developmental disabilities and their involvement as well as treatment within the work force. The survey found that among the one-third who are in fact employed, only 26% work full-time. Wages also differ significantly based on where the individuals work. Almost 85% of those staffed to work at sheltered workshops, earned less than the minimum wage. Those within the developmental disability community have been abandoned from the work force, and often times continue to face discrimination. NAMPWD position: The NAMPWD supports the movement to create new job opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities. As members of one society, no one should be denied the right to work and work a job that is meaningful. Individuals with developmental disabilities are entitled to the same rate of pay as any other individual, and will not fall victims to exploitation any more. Not much has been done to better the transition for those with developmental disabilities from high school and into the labor force. The high level of job security, among those within this community, does not match the quality of their jobs, which is very problematic. NAMPWD supports the fullest integration of individuals with developmental disabilities within the work force and will not turn their back on this issue of employment, as it is every individual’s right to not only work but a work a meaningful job.