Friday, December 25, 2015

New tools for transportation

By Christina Clift, MCIL Independent Living Team

Christina Clift
As a person with a disability that prevents me from driving, legally that is, I think that it is very important to keep my transportation toolbox well stocked with a variety of tools.  Of course, it contains typical tools like friends and family, public transportation, my own two feet, and cabs.  However, over the last six months I’ve added two new tools to my transportation toolbox. 

At first I was somewhat skeptical on how they would work, but they’ve turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever added.  Uber and Lyft are my two new transportation tools.  While they are not accessible to every person with a disability, they help provide independence in getting places for me.  I can only hope that they will become accessible to all. 

Uber and Lyft provide transportation to individuals on demand.  You don’t have to give them a three day advanced notice.  You don’t have to even give them an hour notice.  You just open the app that you have downloaded to your smart phone and request a ride.  Unlike MATAplus, you get a real time feedback on your driver’s estimated time of arrival that is 95 percent accurate.  This is done through utilizing the GPS (global positioning service) in both the rider’s and driver’s phone. 

Many people might think that this type of transportation

Person on a sidewalk with a gide dog
service is not safe, but so far it has been for me. By doing background checks on the drivers, ensuring that the vehicles are in good repair, and providing the photo of the car, driver, and license plate, is a good start.  The rider also rates the driver anonymously once the trip is over.  Rating your driver three stars or less, you are not matched up with that driver again.  The same rule applies for the drivers rating riders. 

Finally, since no cash is exchanged for payment and instead is done through the app and whatever credit card you designate, ensures another layer of safety.  If you’d like help in getting started with Lyft or Uber, I can send you a link for a free ride.  Feel free to contact me at (901) 726-6404 or

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Peer Support at MCIL

MCIL puts peer support and information on the road.

By Janice Craven, MCIL Independent Living Team

Janice Craven
Since coming to MCIL full-time in February 2014, I have had the opportunity to be involved in 2 very exciting projects. Previously, I was the Assistant Director of a Pre-School for 16 years, so working at MCIL was a new and exciting challenge for me.

The Peer-To-Peer Mentoring Project is funded by TennCare as part of the federal Money Follows the Person program.  The purpose of Peer-To-Peer is to Transition CHOICES Members out of Nursing Facilities and into the Community. Peer mentors, who also have a disability, work with the members pre- and post-transition to assist them in learning or brushing up on “survival skills” they will need to live in their own home.

Members are required to complete the CHOICES training and may also choose to learn more about Budgeting Your Money, Housing 101, Organizing and Prioritizing Your Life, Managing Your Supports, How To Be Your Own Best Advocate and Stress Management. In keeping with Independent Living philosophy of “nothing about us without us,” peer mentors are trained to be a trustworthy friend to walk the path to Independence alongside the Member.

Members are expected to actively participate in making decisions about how they want to live and work with the Mentor to make their dream of living independently come true!

In September 2014, MCIL ON THE ROAD began what we thought was going to be rather daunting task of doing outreach into the under-served areas of Millington and Tipton County. There are many people in these areas who have a wide range of disabilities but minimal resources available to meet their needs. There is little or no knowledge of the few supports in place and often no transportation available to use the services.

The time I have spent “on the road” has flown by and no doubt there is much work yet to be done. In the coming months, MCIL will continue to work toward helping the residents in these close-knit, often forgotten areas to acquire and develop the skills needed to live where and how they wish. MCIL ON THE ROAD has been met with great enthusiasm and support from many organizations in Millington and Tipton County.  We look forward to establishing more relationships with those who share our dream of inclusion in all aspects of Community Life for people who have any type of disability.

I recently attended a meeting with others who work primarily with people who have a disability. At the conclusion, the facilitator stated that what we are doing if not a JOB but rather a CALLING. I can honestly say this is how I’ve felt from the first day I had the privilege of becoming a member of the MCIL team.

The Road to Freedom Bus

Monday, December 21, 2015

Beautiful Struggle

By Allison Donald, MCIL Independent Living Team

Allison Donald
May I borrow a few minutes of your time, I have a few questions that need to be answered?  How does it feel to go into the grocery store and have people stare at you?  How does it feel when you are in a restaurant and the waiter asks the person that you are with what you would like to order? Or, when a complete stranger walks up to you and asks what is wrong with you?  I’ll wait, for so many people with disabilities these occurrences and questions are a part of OUR daily reality.  How do we begin to answer these questions in a manner that makes those who are not disabled comfortable with who we and the way we choose to live our lives? 

I have NO CLUE. There is not a manual that teaches you how to navigate this beautiful struggle that is disability.

All we can do as a community is educate the parents and others letting them know that the dreams you had for that baby boy or girl can still become a reality regardless of their physical limitations. Everyone born after July 26, 1990 or generation ADA has no filter, texting is their first language, and they have access to information and resources that may not have been available to so many of us until we were well into journey with disability; they need know that advocating in their respective communities is essential and is their basic human right. 

I mean, do young people with disabilities really pay attention to curb cuts or automatic doors? Or do they know what it took to gain access?  People will often ignore the first thing you say to them. If you tell them that same thing four more times they may become annoyed with you. However, if you go back with that same message a ninth or tenth time you may grab their attention and they begin to realize how important it is to you.  People may only start listen intently when they understand how it will affect themselves. 

Is it difficult at times? Hell yes!

But if not us, who?  I am of the belief that education effects attitude and your attitude heightens your level of awareness.  Attitude and awareness are our weapons of choice for advocates, parents and people with disabilities as we battle isolation and dependency.  “I am a reflection of the community," said Tupac.  “I am not saying I am going to change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world."  

I’m trying to find that spark why don’t you join me?

Allison with ADAPT in Salt Lake City

Friday, December 18, 2015

University of Memphis Top Ten Percent Recognition

U of M Event lacks real understanding of access

By Bobbie Fields, MCIL Independent Living Team

Bobbie Fields
The University of Memphis and provost Karen West, held their first Top 10% Recognition Ceremony in which my niece, Kierra Fields, was one of many recipients for the scholars among the Shelby County High Schools graduating classes on December 5th, 2015. Being appreciated for all their hard work, it was a proud day for many parents and guardians of graduating seniors.

The Recognition Ceremony gave the young scholars an opportunity to speak with recruiters of their interest, each college dean, of many schools within University of Memphis, was in attendance at the event. The deans provided an on-site University of Memphis college application for those interested in attending this college.

However, there was one drawback for me personally, the accessible parking wasn't actually accessible. It was more like walk to the sidewalk, walk up the sidewalk, then proceed to your destination.

The parking lot sidewalks didn’t have curb cuts so I was forced to go out to the sidewalk, go down to the driveway and walk across the busy entryway. There was a small inlet in the sidewalk next to the driveway but it had a water grate in the middle with big holes. A wheelchair tires would get stuck in them.

The seating space for wheelchairs wasn’t adequate either. Some family members had to sit in the hallway and lobby. The organizer of this event clearly didn’t understand the meaning of accessibility for a person with a disability.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Former MCIL employee appointed to California Rehab Council

Sacramento, California - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the appointment of Michael Thomas, 55, of Sacramento, to the California State Rehabilitation Council. Thomas has been a client assistance program advocate at Disability Rights California since 2008, where he has been coordinator and senior advocate since 2003. He has been social security specialist and a disability rights advocate at Thomas Advocacy Consultants since 1999.

Thomas was a housing specialist for the Center for Independent Living from 2002 to 2003, where he was a benefits counselor from 1997 to 1998. He was a benefits specialist at the Houston Center for Independent Living from 2000 to 2002, a benefits and employment specialist for the Independent Living Resource Center from 1996 to 1997, an independent living specialist at the Memphis Center for Independent Living from 1994 to 1996 and an adjunct instructor at Shelby State Community College from 1995 to 1996.

Thomas was a graduate student teacher at California State University, Sacramento from 1992 to 1994 and a camera operator and production assistant at the Louisiana State University Medical Center from 1984 to 1986. He earned a Master of Arts degree in international and intercultural communications from California State University, Sacramento. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Michael Thomas is a Democrat.

Editor's Note: No photo is available now for Michael Thomas. MCIL will undertake a review and index of our collection of historical photographs and slides this spring.

collection of MCIL faces and the MCIL logo

Saturday, December 12, 2015

MBRU December Meeting.

MATA may close the North End Terminal

MBRU meeting at MCIL
The Memphis Bus Riders Union met Saturday December 12, at the Memphis Center for Independent Living to update the membership on MATA issues and vote on officers and amendments to the group’s by-laws. There were more than 20 members present and the meeting was followed by a Holiday Blowout party for MBRU and other grassroots groups in the Memphis area. 

Most critically, MATA has limited use of the William Hudson North End Terminal downtown and they plan to close it completely for four months while it is renovated. MBRU was essential in getting needed improvements for riders at the terminal and the membership was concerned that the closure was a ploy to close the terminal permanently. 

Currently the terminal has been closed to public parking and is used by the Memphis Police Department. MBRU noted much secrecy about the North End Terminal and nothing being discussed at the MATA board meeting. 

Newly elected secretary Justin Davis noted that there was a “few pretty big changes that the executive committee was recommending for MBRU.” The members of MBRU voted to include dues in the monthly membership. Each member will pay from $3 to $50 each month or provide equivalent volunteer hours of work. Before the change, a member only needed to fill out an application. Booklets will be provided to members in good-standing that will show that they have paid their dues. The new by-laws will also divide the MBRU meetings into a public meeting first, followed by a meeting only for MBRU members. 

Cindy Bailey and Sammie Hunter were re-elected as co-chairs of MBRU. Justin Davis was elected Secretary and Bennett Foster as Treasurer. Please make plans to attend the next meeting of the MBRU on January 9, 2016. The meeting will be at noon at the Memphis Center for Independent Living, 1633 Madison Avenue.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Attendants rule change

Action Alert: NCIL Needs Your Help Documenting the Impact of the DOL Rule Changes!

Stephanie Woodward
In August, when the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Department of Labor, the Home Care Association said that they were considering a Supreme Court appeal and asked if NCIL and ADAPT would be willing to write another amicus court brief in that case. 

Months went by and the Home Care Association filed a petition to appeal to the Supreme Court with a motion asking the court to delay the implementation of the DOL rule until the Supreme Court decided if it would hear the case. The Supreme Court declined to delay the rule, but is allowing the Home Care Association to petition to have the appeal heard by the Supreme Court. The Home Care Association is, in fact, moving forward with petitioning the court and asked if we would file an amicus court brief with a deadline of December 24, 2015.

This brief is simply asking the court to hear the case. We are crafting an amicus emphasizing that the US Supreme Court should hear the case because the DOL's actions in changing the regulations have been harmful to attendants and people with disabilities.

In order to draft an accurate brief for the Supreme Court about how the Companionship Exemption changes have impacted people with disabilities, we need your help!

Please answer the questions below with details by Monday, December 14th! Send answers to Stephanie Woodward.

Explain how any state policies around attendant services have changed within the last 18 months. An example of this would be any rules implemented by your state that prohibit overtime for attendants.
Explain how any practices changed within the last 18 months. An example of this would be fiscal intermediaries requiring attendants to stop working overtime or people being reevaluated and receiving reduced hours that limits the potential for overtime.
Share stories of anyone who has been affected personally. Has an attendant lost hours of work? 
Has a disabled person lost their attendants because of this? Is it impossible to find new attendants? 
Has anyone been institutionalized as a result? 
These examples will be very helpful to highlight the harm that is happening because of these rules.
Has your state done nothing to implement the rule?

Thank you for your help in addressing this critical issue!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Health Care Coverage Gap Townhall Meeting

Contact state legislator about the Insure Tennessee

A woman writes to her representative
By Tim Wheat

The Tennessee Health Care Campaign held a Townhall meeting on Insure Tennessee at the Benjamin Hooks Memphis Public Library Tuesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. About 30 people came out to hear the plan for improving health and keeping billions of dollars from leaving our state. People were asked to write House Speaker Beth Harwell and their state representatives to get Insure Tennessee back on the legislative agenda for 2016.

The town hall meeting began with a video produced by the Tennessee Justice Center that described the problem in Tennessee of the coverage gap. Residents of Tennessee with fixed and very low income are covered by the state Medicaid program called TennCare; most people can afford coverage and benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s subsidy; however, over 280,000 Tennesseans, including 24,000 Tennessee Veterans, fall into the gap between TennCare and subsidy.

Tony Garr
Tony Garr with the Tennessee Health Care Campaign gave a brief history of how our state got to this point. He noted that over 60,000 residents of Shelby County will fall in the coverage gap that Insure Tennessee is intended to protect. He was clear that Insure Tennessee is not Obamacare and has no cost to taxpayers.

Mr. Garr quoted a University of Tennessee study that showed Insure Tennessee would bring over $1.2 billion into the state. The reverberation of this advantage would not only be in public health, but could prevent hospitals from closing and would add more than 15,000 jobs to the Tennessee economy. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health estimated that they would save $40 million.

Mr. Garr showed that these figures are not hypothetical. Kentucky, although a smaller state than Tennessee, has expanded its Medicaid program and has saved $802 million and created 40,000 new jobs. In the first year of Medicaid expansion, Kentucky had $6 billion in state savings from uncompensated care alone.

“America gets little for the high health care costs we pay,” said Rick Donlon of Resurrection Health. “Not accepting Insure Tennessee has real-life repercussions for Memphis. This city is suffering already from a two-tier health care system. They say you should be careful driving down Wolf River Parkway with your window down, you may get a heart-stent.”

Dr. Tom Cooper of the University of Tennessee gave a view from his perspective working in the Emergency Room. He pointed out that the people in the coverage gap are working citizens that have jobs and want to keep them. Uncompensated care is often delayed and more expensive, and it is those with insurance that are absorbing the cost.

A Graduate Assistant at the University of Memphis told the audience that he is in the coverage gap. Steven Payne just checked on his health care cost and found that it would be 32% of his annual income. He said he has no coverage but supports Insure Tennessee so that working residents can get the health care they need. 

Contact state officials:

Governor Bill Haslam
1st Floor State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243

House Speaker Beth Harwall
301 6th Ave. North Suite 19 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243

Find my legislator: 

See photos from the event.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

MATAplus Information

The MATA STAC for 2016

By Christina Clift, Bobbie Fields and Allison Donald

Bobbie Fields
On December 3, 2015 members of the Specialized Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC) for MATA met at the Perkins restaurant located at 3455 Poplar Avenue.  The purpose of the committee is to provide substantive suggestions on how MATA can improve its services for seniors and persons with disabilities.  

One of the decisions made during the meeting included increasing the frequency of meetings from bimonthly to every month.  Some of the items discussed during the meeting included using videos to teach people how to make reservations, take a trip on the trolley or fixed route bus, and to advertise MATAplus service.  We also discussed updating the existing MATAplus application to make it more user friendly, updating the rider’s guide for MATAplus, suggesting needed changes to the automated greeting, and conducting a customer satisfaction survey to be mailed to all MATAplus riders.  

Christina CliftFinally, STAC plans to begin giving an award for MATA bus operators or staff person that has gone above and beyond their job to assist the public.  This award will be given out on a quarterly basis and we’d love nominations from the public.  Nominations can be sent to Bobbie Fields at:  

All of STAC’s meetings are open to the public and we are always looking to recruit more members. The next meeting will be at 3:00 PM on January 7, 2016 at a location to be announced.  For more information please call STAC Secretary Bobbie Fields at (901) 726-6404 Ext, 112.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Independent Living faces funding cut

Action Alert from the National Council on Independent Living: Independent Living At Risk for Budget Cuts

Sen. Harkin speaks with Bob Kafka
As 2016 nears its end, Congress is hard at work on the budget before the current short-term continuing resolution expires on December 11. Lawmakers are expected to write an omnibus combining the 12 annual funding bills into one. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, overall funding levels are higher now due to $33 billion in sequestration relief. But that still does not bring us up to pre-sequestration levels, which means that we are still at risk for budget cuts – cuts that the IL program simply cannot afford.

We must keep advocating for increased funding for Independent Living. Congress has until next week to work on appropriations. Please contact your members of Congress today to ensure that they know how important IL is to their constituents around the country. You can do so by visiting the NCIL Action Portal and sending a message to your Senators and Representatives. While it is important that we reach all members of Congress, this is especially important if you have Senators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (list below). Please take action now! 

Statue of Abraham Lincoln

Appropriations L-HHS-Ed Members


Tom Cole, Chairman (OK)
Steve Womack, Vice Chair (AR)
Charlie Dent (PA)
Chuck Fleischmann (TN)
Andy Harris (MD)
Scott Rigell (VA)
Martha Roby (AL)
Mike Simpson (ID)


Rosa DeLauro, Ranking Member
Chaka Fattah (PA)
Barbara Lee (CA)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA)

NCIL Action Portal

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

TennCare Pink Slips

Please let us know if you get a re-determination notice

Activsts using wheelchairs demand equality
From The Tennessee Justice Center: Phase 3 re-determinations begin with mass mailings tomorrow, December 1. This phase will result in the termination of coverage for those unable to meet deadlines for the completion of complex paperwork, or who are found to be ineligible. We are concerned about the risk that large numbers of eligible people will lose their coverage.

If you see or hear of any TennCare pink notices received please contact us right away. MCIL and the Tennessee Justice Center wish to see the notice and we will plan a 1-hour webinar for advocates within a week of seeing the phase 3 notice. The Tennessee Justice Center webinar will be designed to share information that will aid advocates in helping clients through this arduous process.

Thank you for your help with this and remember to put the December 8, Insure Tennessee town hall meeting, on your calendar for 6 to 7:30 pm at the Benjamin Hooks Public Library, 3030 Poplar. 

Contact MCIL: 901-726-6404

Memphis Public Library