Saturday, August 30, 2014

Disability Rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Disability Rights Groups Submit Friend-of-the-Court Brief in New Mexico Assisted Suicide Appeal

Bob Kafka of ADAPT
Bob Kafka of ADAPT
The Disability Rights group Not Dead Yet submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the New Mexico Attorney General’s appeal seeking to overturn a district court ruling that the New Mexico constitution contains a right to assisted suicide (Morris v. King, Case 33,630, Court of Appeals of the State of New Mexico). Six other national disability rights organizations joined in the brief: ADAPT, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the National Council on Independent Living, and the United Spinal Association.
“Whether there is a constitutional right in New Mexico to physician-assisted suicide must be addressed and understood from the perspective of the only class of people who will be adversely affected and impacted were such a right to be found: people with disabilities,” states the AMICUS BRIEF OF DISABILITY RIGHTS AMICI.
“If the only alternative to death,” said Bob Kafka, an ADAPT organizer based in Austin, Texas, “that those in power offer people who require assistance is poverty and segregation in nursing facilities, then it makes no sense to talk about assisted suicide as a ‘choice’.”
The disability rights groups point out the direct discrimination that is often overlooked. Assisted suicide as a public policy is directed exclusively at people with disabilities; yet it is presented as a “choice” and a right that everyone would have. The public policy takes for granted that health and disability are legitimate reasons for suicide, yet that directly devalues the lives of people with disabilities who are still working for full inclusion in civic life.
In the environment of managed health care, the life-ending option becomes a money-maker for health insurance and a low-cost alternative that can benefit insurance companies at the expense of the lives of people with disabilities. The disability rights groups challenge the state of New Mexico to explain how the state can protect the rights of people with disabilities on one hand while depreciating disability on the other.
“As a person with a disability and a wheelchair-user, I’m proud that the disability community has overwhelmingly opposed the legalization of assisted suicide,” said Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, California. “It’s a deadly mix with our broken, profit-driven health care system, where financial pressures already play far too great a role.”
Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet
Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet
“Our basic position is that when some people get suicide prevention while other people get suicide assistance, and the difference is the person’s age, disability or health status, that’s a problem,” said Not Dead Yet’s president and CEO, Diane Coleman. “It’s a problem of devaluation of people who are being told that others not only agree with their suicide, which is bad enough, but will even help them carry it out. It’s a deadly form of discrimination and, as our brief says, it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The Disability Rights Amici are represented by Lara Katz of Montgomery and Andrews in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Steve Gold, a nationally known disability rights attorney based in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Support Disability Rights Worldwide!

The Memphis Center for Independent Living hopes you support the civil rights of people with disabilities not just in Memphis, but worldwide. The Convention on the Rights of People (CRPD) with Disabilities is a treaty signed by the US in 2009, but it has yet to be ratified by the US Senate.

the Memphis Center for Independent Living  staff holding the signed letter to Sen. Alexander
The treaty is modeled on the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and will promote American values and commitment to inclusion of all people worldwide. The CRPD is a symbol of US strength and leadership in the world and advances our shared ideal and national power.

American businesses support ratification of the CRPD, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Business Leadership Network, and the Information Technology Industry Council. Many U.S. companies including IBM, AT&T, Adobe, and JP Morgan Chase support ratification.
There are eight guiding principles that underlie the Convention:
  1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons
  2. Non-discrimination
  3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
  5. Equality of opportunity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Equality between men and women
  8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
The Center has prepared a letter to Sen. Alexander asking him for his support for the CRPD. You may come to MCIL (1633 Madison in midtown Memphis) and put your name on this letter. MCIL will deliver the letter to Sen. Alexander on September 8.
Show your support for disability rights worldwide
The text of the letter

September 8, 2014

Dear Senator Alexander: We are writing to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD is a non discrimination treaty seeking to achieve the same goals as the Americans with Disabilities Act and other existing disability laws in United States: to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self­ sufficiency, independent living, inclusion and integration into all aspects of society. The CRPD is important to all people with disabilities, including our veterans and servicemembers with disabilities, as it embodies equal treatment and non discrimination in access to rehabilitation, employment and educational opportunities. By ratifying the CRPD, the United States will continue to be a leader in setting the standards for ensuring the human rights of individuals with disabilities. The Convention reflects core American values such as the dignity of the individual, access to justice, the importance of family decision making and access to appropriate health care. We are committed to US leadership on behalf of the one billion people with disabilities worldwide. We believe swift US ratification of the CRPD in a bipartisan fashion is in this country’s best interest and ask you for your support and leadership on this issue.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The ADA Legacy Project

The Road To Freedom ADA Legacy Tour

By Tim Wheat

The ADA Legacy RV in front of the Minnesota Capitol
When MCIL celebrated the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, the Center also began to observe twenty-five years of the Civil Rights law for people with disabilities. Nationally there are events and celebrations to mark the 25th year of the ADA, and the ADA Legacy Project is working to help local communities celebrate, preserve and educate people about the ADA.

I spent last week on the “Road To Freedom” bus and drove a thousand miles with Tom Olin from Houston Texas to St. Paul Minnesota as part of the ADA Legacy Tour. The 35 foot Recreational Vehicle is wrapped in historic disability-rights photos of Tom Olin from the struggle of people with disabilities to pass the ADA.

The tour is based in the history of the disability-rights struggle. Justin Dart, the father of the ADA, toured every US state collecting stories of discrimination from people with disabilities. That grassroots participation is evident nearly twenty-five years after the ADA was signed by President George H. W. Bush. I witnesses how the disability community loved to see the bus and have their photo made with it and Tom Olin.

Tom Olin is a widely celebrated photographer who has spent much of his life producing a visual record of the long journey for disability rights, with photos of a majority of the meetings, demonstrations and disability newsmakers over more than three decades.  His work has appeared in publications around the globe. Tom is sharing some of his most iconic photos with The ADA Legacy Project.
Tom Olin
Tom Olin

The purpose of the ADA Legacy Project is to preserve, celebrate and educate. Preserve the past history of the disability rights movement by partnering with those who work to collect, promote, and exhibit materials from the disability rights movement. Celebrate, by partnering with those who work to honor the milestones and accomplishments of the disability rights movement, including the 25th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2015. And to educate our future by partnering with those who work to raise awareness of the history, contributions, and issues still facing people with disabilities, developing our next generation of advocates.

You may be a part of this project in Memphis as we decide how MCIL can help our community mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of our civil rights law.