Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Communication Tips

For talking to people with disabilities

  1. Speak directly to a person with a disability, not through his or her companion. This applies whether the person has a physical disability, mental disability or is blind or deaf and uses an interpreter.

  1. Always offer to shake hands. Extend common courtesies to people with disabilities, as you would to anyone else. Shake hands and/or give them your business card. If the person cannot shake your hand or grasp your card, they will tell you. However, do make the attempt, it shows respect.

  1. Always identify yourself and others with you when speaking to someone who is blind. Make sure to say good bye or let them know you are leaving when speaking to someone who is blind.

  1. If you offer assistance to a person with a disability, wait until your offer is accepted before you help and let them instruct you on how to help them.

  1. Treat adults as adults. Do not patronize or treat people with disabilities as children. Presume Competence!

  1. Do not lean against or hang on a person's wheelchair. My wheelchair is not a wall or coffee table to be used as a footrest or perch!

  1. Listen attentively and let the person with the disability finish before you speak. If the person has a speech impairment and you are having trouble understanding what he or she is saying, ask the person to repeat rather than pretend you understand.

  1. Place yourself at eye level when speaking with someone using a, wheelchair. Grab a chair or kneel, it really makes communication easier!

  1. Tap a person who is deaf on the shoulder or wave your hand to get their attention, do not put your hand in front of your mouth when speaking.

  1. Relax; don't be embarrassed if you use common language that could relate to disability. I don't roll to work, I walk and my friend who is blind doesn't feel a document but will read it!

Respect NOT Political Correctness; the Platinum Rule says Treat others the way They want to be treated.

From The Ten Commandments Video. Produced by Irene M. Ward & Associates

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Disability the new welfare?

Update on the NPR article of disability benefits

By Tim Wheat
Over a year ago Planet Money and NPR ran a story about Disability Benefits in the United States.  I know that a lot of people in the disability community had been following the article because it is a unique perspective on disability and thought it would have an impact on our community. The author, Chana Joffe-Walt, is on the Planet Money team at NPR and wrote about the program from its economic impact rather than exclusively as a social-service program. 

The article does not seem to have sent large vibrations through the disability community and advocates for people with disabilities seem unaware or unconvinced about her conclusion that disability is replacing welfare. That generally welfare to work has seen a decrease in the number of American families on welfare, but in that same time, individuals of working age have replaced welfare programs with Social Security Disability.  
Chart of the percentage of population on worker's disability

“Somewhere around 30 years ago, the economy started changing in some fundamental ways,” reported Chana Joffe-Walt in the piece. “There are now millions of Americans who do not have the skills or education to make it in this country.”

The title on the web is “Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America.” That name seems to leave out all the people with disabilities that are working now and the many programs that help to move people with disabilities out of institutions and backrooms into the community and the workforce. Much of the narrative was about people that used disability as a method of not working, and it gave me the impression that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is loaded with fraud. Of course, I have not examined SSDI from the author’s perspective and it brought out some very clear problems that CPWD and our consumers should pay close attention to.

First, Chana Joffe-Walt calls the application and appeal system of the Social Security system the Disability-Industrial complex. The “industrial” part of her analogy are “disability lawyers;” like Bender and Bender, who are paid out of the “lump-sum” settlement payment. A Center for Independent Living providing the same service gets nothing. It should be clear to our community that IL Centers work with people with disabilities to accomplish inclusive community goals and employment; and it should be clear to CPWD that assisting with the SSDI application is not our job.

For a Center for Independent Living, the job seems to be clear. Since the American’s with Disability Act in 1990 the employment rate for people with disabilities has remained basically unchanged. Despite people with disabilities wanting to work and the ADA providing reasonable accommodations, the overall numbers have not changed in the past 23 years. The article made me think that too often people see disability as a way out of the workforce; Center’s for Independent Living need to change that impression.

The author’s point about federal disability replacing welfare was interesting. Clearly Welfare and Disability are not the same, but she makes a very good case that the many people leaving Welfare are turning to SSDI. This again seems to a type of fraud in the system that is not as clear on a personal basis. Each individual has to make a case that they cannot work because of a disability which is not the same as Welfare.
Charts showing the decline of people on welfare and rise of people on disability

To make the fraud more evident, Chana Joffe-Walt shows the motive states have to move people off of Welfare, which is paid for mostly by individual US states, onto SSDI paid for by the federal Social Security Administration. States save money by hiring people to move citizens from Welfare to Disability and the overall numbers that the author gives seems to show that trend. In 1993 there were about 5 million Americans on Welfare and under 4.5 million on Disability. In 2011 Welfare had fallen to under 2 million, while people receiving disability payments expanded to over 6.5 million. It is not clear how many people went from Welfare to work and how many went from Welfare to Disability.

I highly recommend this article to everyone because I found it to be such a new perspective and valuable insight into the federal programs. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The End of the R-Word

The Federal Register will replace the r-word with "intellectual disability."

By Tim Wheat
Beginning in 2010, especially among young people, the momentum to get rid of the label “retarded” strengthened with boycotts, video and ads. August 1, 2013 saw a new milestone in the effort to update our language as the Federal Register announced that it would replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability.”

The announcement on the Federal Register website explains about the change and will cause a reverberation in the language people use about people with disabilities. The Federal Register calls itself the daily journal of the United States Government. Many people felt uneasy about the terminology used to describe individuals with intellectual disabilities because the labels sounded insulting and outdated. The Federal Register also explained the reason for the change:

The term “intellectual disability” is gradually replacing the term “mental retardation” nationwide. Advocates for individuals with intellectual disability have rightfully asserted that the term “mental retardation” has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it.

The Federal Register also notes that this change in terminology has been made already by other major parts of government and in legislation.

In October 2010, Congress passed Rosa's Law, which changed references to “mental retardation” in specified Federal laws to “intellectual disability,” and references to “a mentally retarded individual” to “an individual with an intellectual disability.” [2] Rosa's Law also required the Federal agencies that administer the affected laws to make conforming amendments to their regulations. Rosa's Law did not specifically include titles II and XVI of the Act within its scope, and therefore, did not require any changes in our existing regulations. However, consistent with the concerns expressed by Congress when it enacted Rosa's Law, and in response to numerous inquiries from advocate organizations, we are revising our rules to use the term “intellectual disability” in the name of our current listings and in our other regulations. In so doing, we join other agencies that responded to the spirit of the law, even though Rosa's Law did not require them to change their terminology.

This is not the end of the r-word in common use, but it is a helpful step to people that work to be inclusive and welcoming in our country. It is helpful to know how to correctly and appropriately address others in your community. Please update your lexicon.

Read more about the change on the Federal Register website:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

People with disabilities face more violent crime

USDOJ Report shows people with disabilities nearly three times more likely to encounter violent crime.

By Tim Wheat
Woman in handcuffs
This year the US Department of Justice has released overall crime statistics for the nation that show Individuals with disabilities encountered violent crime at greater rate than those in the general population. For persons ages 12 to 15, the rate of violent victimization was nearly three times higher for persons with disabilities (123 per 1,000) than for persons without disabilities (43 per 1,000) and for persons with disabilities ages 25 to 34 the rate for violent victimization increased from 54 per 1,000 in 2011 to 83 per 1,000 in 2012.

By type of disability, cognitive and vision rank as the highest incident of violent victimization. 

Findings from the USDOJ Report:
Persons with cognitive disabilities had the highest unadjusted rate of violent victimization from 2009 to 2012 (63.3 per 1000).
The unadjusted rate of simple assault against persons with cognitive disabilities increased from 27 per 1,000 in 2011 to 40 per 1,000 in 2012.
Among persons with cognitive disabilities, the rate of serious violent crime doubled across the study period from 12 per 1,000 in 2009 to 24 per 1,000 in 2012.
No statistically significant difference was found in the 2009 and 2012 rates of violent victimization against persons with hearing or vision disabilities.
No statistically significant difference was found in the 2012 rates of violent victimization against persons with hearing (20 per 1,000) and vision (25 per 1,000) disabilities.
The rate of serious violent victimization against persons with self-care disabilities nearly tripled from 2009 (4 per 1,000) to 2012 (11 per 1,000).
State troopers
It is interesting to note that these numbers include only “noninstitutionalized” persons. I looked briefly for information on people in institutions but I have not been successful in locating statistics on that population yet. Expect that topic in a future blog report.

Please examine the report for yourself at:  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sen. Harkin to retire

Iowa Legislator says the system is backward, rather than Medicaid Waivers for Home and Community Services; people should get services at home and in the community first.

By Tim Wheat
Sen. Tom Harkin
This past May, Sen. Harkin received a sincere farewell from ADAPT activists in Washington DC, because he retires from the US Senate at the end of this term; but the Senator stated directly that he was not retiring from the fight for disability rights. 

At the Spring ADAPT Action Bob Kafka introduced Tom Harkin with a brief history of the many issues that had brought ADAPT and Sen. Harkin together. Kafka said that Sen. Harkin was responsible for hundreds of ADAPT members being arrested and in return the Senator had worked to pass critical legislation that has been central to disability equality in the US.

"You have been thanking me, but that is not right. I am proud and feel privileged to be part of your group," said Sen. Harkin; "proud and privileged to have had a part to play. You are the ones that need to be thanked. You are always vigilant, resolute. No matter if it is a Democrat or Republican. If there are policies or laws or regulations that are somehow, someplace are making any one person with a disability take a backseat; you are out there. You are out there and you know what? You make us feel our consciences."

As Sen. Harkin finishes his time in Washington, he will be working to get the Convention on the rights of People with Disabilities to be ratified by the US Senate. The Convention know also as the “disability treaty” is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act but has always come up short of Senate ratification since President Obama signed it in 2009. 

Harkin has been a great supporter of the disability community and is most known for introducing the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Senate and using American Sign Language in a Senate speech in support of the ADA. He is also responsible for Money Follows the Person and much of the Community Choice Act making its way into US policy. 
Sen Harkin speaks at the ADAPT rally in Washington DC

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Labor oversteps people with disabilities

Disability Rights Advocates Criticize DOL Announcement of Non-enforcement Policy for FLSA Changes

ADAPT meets Sec. of Labor, Tom Perez in the street
ADAPT meets Sec. of Labor, Tom Perez in the street
Today, the US Department of Labor (DOL) responded to concerns being raised by the Disability Community that changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) companionship exemption will have serious unintended consequences on people with disabilities and attendants.  Rather than implement a solution that prevents the detrimental impact of these changes, DOL has chosen an incomplete and inadequate solution.

The basic problem with the FLSA changes is that without funding in place to pay for them, states and provider agencies will simply cap the hours attendants can work to avoid any overtime costs and liability.  This will undercut the ability of people with disabilities and seniors to live in the community, undermine the ability of seniors and people with disabilities to decide who comes into our homes, and hurt attendants by reducing their income.

To avoid these unintended consequences, disability rights advocates asked DOL to delay the implementation of these rule changes by 18 months to give time to secure state funding to pay for the new requirements.  Rather than delay implementation, DOL published a non-enforcement policy.  Specifically DOL announced that it will not enforce the companionship changes until June 30, 2015.  In the six months following June 30th, DOL will have  prosecutorial discretion  to delay enforcement against states and other providers on a case by case basis. During this period DOL will be providing  extensive  outreach and technical assistance on the companionship changes.

Stephanie Woodward of ADAPT in Little Rock
Stephanie Woodward of ADAPT in Little Rock
“This is an inadequate and incomplete solution. Agreeing not to enforce a law is not the same as delaying the implementation of a law,” said Stephanie Woodward who is a disability rights attorney and ADAPT activist in Rochester, NY.  “The law is still in effect; although the Department of Labor has said that it won't enforce the law, nothing prevents individuals from suing to enforce it.”

Disability rights advocates are concerned that providers worried about liability will cap hours that attendants can work.  Although DOL has told disability rights advocates the risk of litigation is minimal, providers won't risk legal action or being put out of business.  This means people with significant disabilities will lose long-time attendants and may be forced into nursing facilities or other institutions.

“During the second non-enforcement phase, DOL will handle situations on a case by case basis.   Basically, this gives DOL complete discretion in its enforcement and they can arbitrarily prosecute providers and states while letting others slide by,” said Woodward. “No responsible provider would take that risk.”

In conversations with advocates, DOL acknowledged the solution was imperfect. Disability rights advocates are angry because DOL rejected a straight-forward solution that would prevent unwanted institutionalization and hardship on attendants the very people these changes were intended to help.

Shelly Perrin with ADAPT
Shelly Perrin with ADAPT
“By taking this action, DOL has acknowledged my worst fears, but done virtually nothing to prevent them from happening,”  said Shelly Perrin an ADAPT activist who has been fighting these changes.  “My attendant will still lose nearly one-third of her income and my freedom hangs in the balance.  It’s clear the Department of Labor doesn’t care about how their policies affect real people.”

ADAPT is a national grassroots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Center for Disability Rights Statement of Concern

Reid's National Council on Disability Appointee Supports Subminimum Wage and Segregated Housing

Sec. Tom Perez meets with ADAPT in the street
Sec. Tom Perez meets with ADAPT in the street
The Center for Disability Rights is deeply concerned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has appointed Bob Brown, a proponent of subminimum wage and segregated housing, to serve on the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.
While NCD appointees have previously been appointed by the President, a new provision in the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act allows four Council Members whose terms are about to expire to be replaced by appointments made by the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader. NCD’s membership will also be reduced from fifteen to nine as the next six Council members will not be replaced when their terms expire.
As the voice of people with disabilities in the federal government, it is imperative that NCD have a careful balance of Council members with different disabilities in order to accurately and appropriately represent all people with disabilities. With a Council that will be 40% smaller, it is critical that all nine members of the Council be members of the Disability Community who are committed to the integration, independence, and civil rights of people with disabilities. However, now that Senate and House Leaders have the authority to appoint members to the Council, there is a serious concern that the Council will no longer be comprised of members who are fully committed to the best interests of people with disabilities.
Brown, who is not a person with a disability, is a senior team member at Opportunity Village, an organization that holds a 14(c) certificate and pays its employees with disabilities subminimum wages. Opportunity Village is the largest “employer” of people with disabilities in Nevada and is also developing congregate, segregated housing for individuals with disabilities.
ADAPT visits Goodwill in Little Rock to demand an end to the 14(c) waivers
ADAPT visits Goodwill in Little Rock
to demand an end to the 14(c) waivers
Many disability rights organizations and groups, including NCD, have taken formal stances against 14(c) and segregated communities. Subminimum wages blatantly discriminate against people with disabilities and reinforce the idea that disabled workers are less productive and less worthy of equal pay than nondisabled workers. Segregated communities reinforce the “not in my neighborhood” mentality that people with disabilities cannot and should not be independent and equal members of our society. Mr. Brown’s actions have directly contributed to this stigma. Furthermore, he has materially contributed to the efforts to keep the 14(c) exemption while the Disability Community has been actively fighting to repeal this ancient exemption.
In a 2013 article written by Brown advocating for subminimum wages, he stated, “Some utopian academics would like to eliminate Section 14(c). They believe people with severe disabilities are being unfairly exploited and that all workers should be paid at least the minimum wage. On the surface, this position seems reasonable. Upon rational examination, it is nonsense.”
When Reid announced that he was appointing Brown, who will replace the only member of the Council who has personal experience with a psychiatric disability, Brown stated that he was “honored to be an advocate for parents and families of people with disabilities and the service providers that care for them.” However, the role of NCD is to represent people with disabilities, not their families and service providers. Brown made no mention of representing people with disabilities.
NCD has played a vital role in advancing the independence, integration, and equal opportunity for people with disabilities, particularly in their efforts to promote community integration end sheltered workshops.  We are very troubled that Mr. Brown’s appointment sends a message to the Disability Community, and society in general, that NCD may no longer be able to effectively represent the interests and civil rights of people with disabilities.
Senator Reid may be unfamiliar with the role of NCD and issues affecting the Disability Community.  We urge the Disability Community, particularly in Nevada, to reach out to Senator Reid to educate him about the implications of appointing Bob Brown to NCD. Furthermore, we urge everyone to reach out to Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker of the House Boehner, and House Minority Leader Pelosi to stress the importance of appointing Council Members who are part of the Disability Community and will actively work to expand and protect our civil rights.
For more information on what you can do to help, contact Stephanie Woodward at 585-546-7510 or
Stephanie Woodward speaks with Yoshiko Dart
Stephanie Woodward speaks with Yoshiko Dart