Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Food Stamps to begin a work requirement

MCIL’s Timothy Redd is a national panelist

By Timothy Redd
On Feb 21, 2018 the Food Stamp work requirements will be reinstated for most of Tennessee.  Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that Tennessee will re-establish federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits work requirements in 70 counties for able-bodied adults without dependents.  The work requirement was waived in 2008 during the recession and will continue to be waived for sixteen economically distressed counties.

Haslam states it's now difficult to justify the waiver amid record-low unemployment rates and substantial job growth. The governor's office also points out that other states have similarly restored work requirements. The change affects 58,000 of about 1 million Tennesseans on food stamps. The administration says Haslam also will propose legislative changes to reduce welfare fraud, waste and abuse.

"According to the most recent census data,” said US Rep. Steve Cohen, “the Memphis metro area has the highest poverty rate of metro areas with at least one million people. We need to be making nutrition assistance more available, not less.”

Yesterday my coworkers and I had a discussion about the work requirement with various viewpoints. I would agree with Cohen that we need to make food assistance more available but I also don’t think there is anything wrong with a work requirement. I did notice that people with disabilities are exempt from this requirement.

Historically people with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and that is where the issue is for me. According to the Department of Labor, in 2016, the unemployment rate for the general population was 4.6 percent, but for people with disabilities it was stuck around 10.5 percent. Finding employment for people with disabilities is extremely challenging and if our community could truly take advantage of skill training and employers were more accommodating I think people with disabilities could make our workforce stronger. What do you think?

This past Tuesday, September 12, I took part in The American Public Human Services Association Conference’s, Improving Access to SNAP for People with Disabilities panel discussion at the Hilton Hotel.  I shared the panel with Oregon’s Belit Burke, Self Sufficiency Design Administrator Oregon Department of Human Services and Massachusetts Brittany Manini, Acting SNAP Director Department of Transitional Assistance. 

My contribution to the discussion was about barriers. It’s hard to schedule transportation for SNAP benefits because waits are so long at the office, kiosk are not accessible, emergency responses for replacement benefits have not been very accommodating to folks with disabilities; these are some of the areas I addressed.

Belit Burke shared that for a long time Oregon system had not been the friendliest for people with disabilities. Advocates are a big reason why things have improved. Today Oregon offers same day benefits, program evaluations, feedback on websites, and even focus groups to improve service.

Much has changed in Massachusetts on the heels of a now settled lawsuit. Harper vs Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance was a class action lawsuit brought by disabled clients alleging that the Department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide clients with disabilities with equal access to Department benefits.

The plaintiffs alleged that the Department fails to provide clients with disabilities the special assistance needed to ensure that they can maintain their benefits. Today there are system enhancements, screen prompts and scripts for employees, built in tracking to maintain customer documentation, mobile alerts, and employees assist in filling out paperwork and reading notices through home visits for people with disabilities. The offices now have at least one director of Disability Access in each office whose goal is to keep disability access in the discussions as well as collaborate with community liaisons and other agencies.

Massachusetts currently partners with the aging commission and other agencies. There is also an Elder Unit being developed that will cater to seniors 60 and older and also provide a direct line for them to call with no automation.

At the end of the discussion I met Lisa Cowell, Tennessee SNAP Director. She informed that she submitted a ticket to have the kiosk lowered which will make them more accessible and she forwarded my information to Shelby County’s Field Management Director Yolanda Shegog-Wright.  Ms. Cowell also advised that Tennesseans can now send emails for a 48 hour response, apply for SNAP benefits online and also take advantage of live chat by accessing the website at  

Timothy Redd
After hearing some of what is happening in other places I am convinced that a better system for accessing SNAP benefits is possible if we as a community continue to speak and make demands when we see barriers.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The STAC Report

MATAplus news 

By Allison Donald
MATA has an organizational overhaul in the effort to improve on time performance and customer service.  MATA has hired Victor Riley, as the Safety and Security officer, for rail operations Anthony Amos the new Compliance officer, and Frank Hauser the new Trolley Director.
Prior to joining MATA, Wiley served as the Transit Safety Programs Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, advising local transit agencies on matters of safety and compliance with state and federal regulations. Trolley Director Frank Hauser joined last month, giving the MATA Trolley a leadership team with nearly 45 years combined experience in the transit industry. 
Allison Donald

The STAC plans to work with Mr. Hauser and Mr. Riley to ensure that the trolley system is accessible for individuals with disabilities.  As the STAC we are going to request a meeting with both individuals to address our concerns regarding accessibility and compliance with the trolley system.  Mr. Wiley will also be receiving a phone call from STAC requesting a meeting.  MATAplus and the trolleys has shown some improvement but, problems still persist with both systems.

As a committee we have requested the policies and procedures for MATAplus, but those requests have continued to be ignored.  At our August meeting which was attended by La Barbra Houston (MATA representative), Bobbie Fields the STAC secretary had still not received the renewal application. Even today, Bobbie does not know if she will get the renewal. Other customer service problems like hold times for dispatch are still too long and the professionalism and customer service of the reservationist leaves a little to be desired. 

We plan to continue to demand full transparency about MATAplus, because it affects the way many people with disabilities travel around the city.

The STAC committee and MATAplus will be celebrating the annual driver appreciation luncheon on October 19, 2017 from 11am-3pm.  We are looking into giving an award out to a driver who has gone above and beyond duty to provide exemplary customer service.  If you would like to contribute to the event please contact Bobbie Fields or Christina Clift at the Memphis Center for Independent Living at 901-726-6404.

If you have any complaints or comments you can attend the monthly STAC meeting on Friday October 2:00 pm at the Memphis Center for Independent Living.  If you would like to keep up with what going on with MATA and how it will affect MATAplus riders you can visit our website at to read September’s STAC report or any of the past news you may have missed in our past reports.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Disability and Voter Turnout

The disability community can make a difference

Jennifer McPhail
By Tim Wheat
In this past election, Rutgers University studied Disability and Voter Turnout and found a disturbing trend in our communities election habits. Before the ADA, people with disabilities did not have the equal access to polling sites and the election equipment. Now, with improved access, our community still lags behind in participation.

The Rutgers study found that the voter turnout rate of people with disabilities (55.9%) was 6 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities (62.2%). That translates into over twelve million people with disabilities who did not vote. For perspective, the popular vote in the 2008 election for US President was a difference of about 10 million votes. Of course people with disabilities do not vote in a bloc, but if a savvy politician were to unite the disability community and turn us out at election time, we would swing almost any election.

Even though people with disabilities are the largest minority, politicians do not turn to the disability community because we do not have a unifying thread. The Rutgers study found that an estimated total of 16 million people with disabilities voted, compared to 17.1 million African-American voters and 12.7 million Hispanic or Latino voters. 

People using wheelchairs and Tom Olin

The study also found that people with disabilities who were employed were just as likely as employed people without disabilities to vote. This suggests that employment helps bring people with disabilities into mainstream political life. It also points out that a large part of our community is not working and we don’t participate in civic activities as our neighbors and friends do.

The low voter turnout also exposed other gaps in our voting habits. The gap is larger among women than among men, that may reflect especially high voter participation of women without disabilities. The gap is largest in the Northeast and smallest in the West. Most significantly, voters with disabilities under age 34 had the highest gap of any group. While typical young voters have a poor turnout rate of less than fifty percent, young voters with disabilities turnout was less than a third (33.1%).

Eight US states had higher turnout rates for people with disabilities, but Tennessee’s rate was 55.1% or eight percent below the rate for people with no disability. The Rutgers study shows an improvement in Tennessee over 2012 when the disability gap was about 9.5% less than the rate for people without disabilities.

Overall, people with disabilities nationally are registered to vote at near the same rate as non-disabled voters with a 2.3% gap between the groups. However, the gap of those registered who voted was 82% of people with disabilities, while 88% of people with no disability were registered and voted.

MCIL wants to help you to register and vote. One item the Rutgers study finds is that people with disabilities are not as likely as non-disabled people to register at a department of motor vehicles. The DMV is where most non-disabled people register, but MCIL will help you to update your voter registration when you visit us.

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations Fact sheet: Disability and Voter Turnout in the 2016 Elections by Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sex and Disability workshop

Knowledge is empowering

Timothy Redd

By Timothy Redd
August 31st was quite an interesting day here at MCIL. I facilitated our Sex and Disability workshop with the assistance of Allison Donald and Christina Clift. We had a great panel of presenters which included: Dr. Deborah Carter, a psychologist; Chris and Suzanne Colsey, a married couple; Gwendolyn Owens, a romance enhancement specialist; and Donna Blackard, an HIV outreach coordinator.

Sex and Disability is still a taboo subject, but I think it’s time to say that a disability should not mean a life void of intimacy.  It’s totally possible to have sex with a disability. A person with a disability must embrace the ability to adapt, and that is key when it comes to sex and disability. 
According to the World Health Organization, "Sexuality is an integral part of the personality of everyone: man, woman and child; it is a basic need and aspect of being human that cannot be separated from other aspects life." Sex and disability tends to be unmentionable and as a result more people with disabilities do not have satisfying sexual expression and experience. 

Sex toys at the workshop

“Sex and disability tends to be a taboo area for many abled-bodied persons and is rarely discussed in the same sentence,” reports “As a result more than 50% of disabled people do not have any form of a regular sex life. People with physical or intellectual disabilities in today's society are often regarded as non-sexual adults. Sex is very much associated with youth and physical attractiveness, and when it is not, is often seen as "unseemly". If sex and disability are discussed, it is very much in terms of capacity, technique, and fertility - in particular, male capacity and technique and female fertility - with no reference to sexual feelings by ignoring aspects of sexuality, such as touching, affection, and emotions. In addition, opportunities for sexual exploration among disabled people, particularly the young, are very limited. There is often a lack of privacy and they are much more likely than other young people to receive a negative reaction from an adult if discovered. The general reduction in life choices also has an impact on self-esteem which in turn affects sexuality A person with a disability of some kind may tend to feel unattractive, or even less worthy of sexual partnership or relations, because they think that they can't live up to the idealized image today’s society has set. If the disability happened later on in their life, the person may recall how they used to look and feel very unattractive by comparison to who they once were.”

Presented in the workshop was a sex and disability overview, a discussion on consent, the perspective and experience of being a couple with a disability and overcoming certain barriers that has led to an enriching relationship. The workshop included a product demo of the most popular sex toys, a very candid discussion on safe sex, Memphis STD statistics, and Prep education.

What is Prep? PrEP means Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and it’s the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected. PrEP is approved by the FDA and has been shown to be safe and effective. A single pill taken once daily, it is highly effective against HIV when taken every day. The medication interferes with HIV’s ability to copy itself in your body after you’ve been exposed. This prevents it from establishing an infection and making you sick. Free Rapid HIV testing was offered and free condom packets were distributed as well.

There are many stereotypes that are pervasive when it comes to people with disabilities. Opening the door to these challenging topics I hope will one day help lead us to a more inclusive and accepting society. It is also my hope that events like this will truly impact and equip our community with useful information that will aid everyone in making the best decisions possible because for many of us nobody had a conversation about sex. Honestly, I was told you have to wait until you get married. I firmly believe knowledge is empowering.  For events happening here at the center check us out at  and for more information of the topics discussed in the workshop check out these links below.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Food stamps and people with disabilities

Information on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program often called food stamps)

Sample SNAP Card

By Timothy Redd

Do you receive SNAP benefits?
If you answered "yes" there are many people in this country that are just like you. In 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in households struggling with hunger, a stark number which includes 15.8 million children and 4.8 million seniors. Food insecurity is a daily reality for about one in seven households.

What is SNAP?
SNAP is a federal aid program administered by the US Department of Agriculture that provides food assistance to low- or no-income Americans. Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, it now uses a debit card system to distribute benefits, so recipients pay for their purchases with an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. The amount that households receive depends on several factors, including location, but often averages to about $4 per person per day.

Food and Research Action Center
, a hunger advocacy group, has been a prime promoter of the SNAP Challenge. Ellen Vollinger, FRAC’s legal director, said that because the congressional debate often centers around the program’s nearly $80 billion budget, the $4.50 figure is intended to “put in concrete terms” what the SNAP assistance means to ordinary Americans. While the Snap Program tackles food insecurity there are challenges for most recipients and for those with disabilities the challenges are often even greater. 

How many of you have gone to the local Department of Human Services to apply for benefits or re-certify? 
If you’ve had the experience you already know you are in for a long day. Often we as people with disabilities rely on public transit to get around and dealing with the massive crowd of people that frequent the local office. The crowd can be overwhelming and frustrating for many because there is no way in knowing how long the wait may be. People because of their disabilities may have less flexibility in their schedule. Medications, transportation, oxygen and other necessary programs can prevent some people with disabilities from fitting into the open scheduling that the department requires.

Here at MCIL we work with individuals who need assistance in applying for SNAP benefits. As mentioned earlier it’s not always easy and we have found that you must be a good self-advocate and know about the SNAP program to successfully navigate the bureaucracy.

Timothy ReddFor example, over the past three month a young single mother was in the process of re-certification. She made several trips to DHS to submit requested documentation. To her dismay, after checking on the status of her case she was informed that the information had not been received. Fortunately, each time she went in to submit her documents she had a submission receipt signed to serve as verification that she in fact did turn in the requested paperwork.  
A phone call to a supervisor did eventually re-certify her and she was retroactively paid. However, this is not a story of success, but of near total failure. The re-certification ordeal created an extreme financial hardship for this woman. It turns out, the woman was told, that multiple cases had been submitted by different case workers but none of them knew because the information is not shared.

There are many other challenges people with disabilities face when applying for SNAP benefits, such as: accessing the application in alternate formats and getting assistance needed for those with visual impairments, hearing, and speaking dis-fluency. Also, accessing the service windows are a challenge for many wheelchair users. If you are experiencing challenges with accessing benefits here are some tips that may be beneficial to you.
  • When you submit documentation always ask for a receipt and have copies for yourself.
  • Let someone know what type of assistance you need in order to apply or re-certify.
  • Follow up within a week after submitting documentation to verify it has been received.
  • If you miss an appointment or a phone interview be sure to call as soon as possible to reschedule.
  • If you don’t receive a call for a scheduled interview contact you case worker immediately.

Clift Notes: August 23, 2017

Updates from the NFB of Tennessee Board of Directors

By Christina Clift
The National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee board received an update on the Uber and Lyft monitoring project which began this spring.  So far Tennessee has met its target for reporting each month.  There is also a push to recruit other guide dog users from the western and eastern parts of the state to join in, since most of the reports have been from the middle Tennessee area.  The reports have been mostly favorable when it comes to Uber and Lyft drivers transporting people who use service animals and that demonstrates progress.  This project will continue for at least another two years.

The NFB of Tennessee will be testing Cardtronic ATM’s in both the Memphis and Nashville area for accessibility for individuals who are blind.  This project is a result of prior litigation between Cardtronics and the National Federation of the Blind.  There are at least 11 Cardtronic ATM’s in the Memphis and Nashville areas that are expected to be tested over the next few months and the results will be sent to Cardtronics to improve their machines.

Finally, the 2018 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee will be held at the Henry Horton State Park near Chapel Hill Tennessee, which is located 45 minutes outside of Nashville.  Room rates are expected to be around $83 per night.  The date is still pending but will be either the week before or after Easter. The primary reason this location was chosen was due to the rising cost of hotels in Nashville and surrounding areas and the desire to have as many people as possible attend convention Stayed tuned to this blog for updates!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

On the Road Again

Drive for Our Lives bus visits Memphis

By Allison Donald
Save My Care is a grassroots community of Americans from all fifty states who have come together as a movement to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and push for positive solutions for our health care challenges.  As a result of their work and the work of countless organizations like the Memphis Center for Independent Living and ADAPT the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act never made it out of the Senate.  The Drive for Our Lives bus tour is a continuation of the Save My Care movement which aims educate and engage in civic outreach to protect our healthcare.   

Allison Donald being interviewed

On Thursday the Drive for Our Lives bus returned to Memphis in front of City Hall with Diana Baker, a nurse, Faith Pollan, Planned Parenthood representative and myself, representing Mid-South ADAPT and MCIL. The program was telling real stories of Tennesseans who have been affected the Affordable Care Act.   

Diane Baker spoke about being a nurse at a rural hospital and the desperate need for them to remain open. Hospitals like the Copper Basin Medical Center in Polk County are at risk of closing due to lack of funding. Copper Basin Medical Center is the only critical access hospital in Polk County, Tenn. Many other rural hospitals across Tennessee will meet this fate and the people who rely on this hospital for medical treatment will suffer because there means of getting help has been forced to close its doors.

This healthcare debate ultimately is about people like Faith Pollan who chose to use the services provided by Planned Parenthood have an abortion and take charge of her own reproductive health.  Planned Parenthood guided her through one of the most difficult decisions a woman may have to make.  It is important for us as disability community to stand with organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Organizations such as this one allow women with disabilities access to care who may not have health insurance and cannot afford some aspects of prenatal care.

In Tennessee people receiving Long Term Supports and Services make up 3% of Medicaid enrollees, but account for 20% of the cost.  The services provided by Medicaid that help people with disabilities live in the community are at risk of being cut severely if law makers choose to constitute block grants.  If we did not have those provision in the Affordable Care Act then we will be forced into nursing and our liberty and freedom as Americans will be taken away.  Mid-South ADAPT and MCIL are working to gather support for the Disability Integration Act (HR 2472) and (S910).  This piece of civil rights legislation will make it a mandate that people with disabilities receive supports and services that allows us to live, work, and play in our respective communities.  We realize that we even though we may have won the battle the fight for our lives is not over.

Michael Heinrich of MCIL leads the rally

If you would like to join us in the fight to protect our healthcare you can visit for more details and to find out where the next stop on the Drive for Our Lives bus tour will be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Total Eclipse Audio Description

Audio Description to Allow the Blind To “See” the Total Eclipse

WASHINGTON, August 10, 2017 — The Audio Description Project, an initiative of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), along with the Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind, the Tennessee School for the Blind and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, announces an opportunity for blind people world-wide to experience the upcoming total eclipse of the sun.

On Monday afternoon, August 21, at exactly 1:27 p.m. (CDT), the Sun above Nashville, TN will disappear from view. The sky will go completely dark. But through the use of succinct, imaginative and vivid language – audio description –the event will be accessible to the millions of people who are blind or have low vision, or anyone who wishes to experience a verbal version of the visual.

Between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. (CDT) on August 21, Dr. Joel Snyder will host “A Total Eclipse — Audio Described!” on ACB Radio.  Snyder, the director of ACB’s Audio Description Project, will present an hour of songs (“Ain’t Got No Sunshine,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Blinded by the Light,” “When The Sun Goes Down,” etc.), interviews and special guests — with the main event being described live from the Tennessee School for the Blind between 1:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. (CDT). Trained audio describer, Nashville-based Julia Cawthon, will describe the eclipse as it happens and provide a vivid “translation” of the visual event into words for the benefit of anyone who tunes in.

“Audio description uses the spoken word to provide access to visual images that would otherwise not be accessible to people who are blind or have low vision,” stated Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind. “Audio describers help make so many aspects of our culture accessible.  We’re delighted to sponsor this program on August 21 and help people experience this important event.”

How to access the broadcast: Go to and select “Click Here to Play.” Then be sure to select the link that opens the player that you use to listen to music or stream internet radio stations. You can also listen on any telephone by dialing (605) 475-8130 and select option 4. If you are using an iOS device such as an iPad or iPhone, install “ACB Link”; open the app, select the radio tab and then tap on the menu button. Select “live streams” and “ACB Radio Interactive,” select the play button and the stream will launch.

Additional information about ACB’s Audio Description Project is available at:

About the American Council of the Blind

The American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization. Its members are blind, visually impaired, and fully sighted individuals who are concerned about the dignity and well-being of blind people throughout the nation.

Formed in 1961, the ACB is one of the largest organizations of blind people in the world, with more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates and a nationwide network of chapters and members spanning the globe.

For more information about the American Council of the Blind, contact: Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1703 N. Beauregard S., Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22311; phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666; or visit the web site,

Director, Audio Description Project
(202) 467-5083
Author of The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and
Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description -
get your copy at
President, Audio Description Associates, LLC 

"The Visual Made Verbal"
6502 Westmoreland Avenue, Takoma Park, MD  20912
Tel: 301 920-0218; Fax: 208 445-0079

For more information about audio description, please visit: 

Director, Audio Description Project
American Council of the Blind -- 202 467-5083
cblogoscan002™ ACB logo id:image004.jpg@01CBED4F.9FF9D220 ADP logo

Donna Wolke
MTSU Physics & Astronomy
Box 71, WPS 220
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Phone 615-898-2130
Fax 615-898-5303

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Friday Game Night

Food, fun and games with the Grey Panthers

By Bobbie Fields
The Grey Panthers Game Night kicked-off last Friday night full of fun, food, music, and games.  The Memphis Center for Independent Living Grey Panthers is a peer-to-peer support Group for the mature crowd. Big thanks to our members for going the extra mile to make the first game night a great event.  It would have never been a success without the help of each member who attended.

Game night at MCIL

The Grey Panthers would like to thank the Direct Service Professionals for volunteering to serve and clean. A special thanks to Ms. Alecia for facilitating the Bingo game.  It was a lot of fun and excitement!

Also the food and drinks were enjoyed by everyone!

Life after 55 does not have to be boring, lonely, or isolated.  You are invited to come out and be a part of our vibrant Grey Panthers. If you would like to know about upcoming events; please contact Ms. Bobbie Fields Co-Facilitator at 901-726-6404 ext. 112 or Mr. Jerry Gamble Co-Facilitator 901-726-6404 ext. 122.

Friday, August 11, 2017

MCIL and Disaster Recovery

MCIL to be part of the Memphis and Shelby County Recovery Initiative

By Tim Wheat
Dale Lane of the City Office for Emergency Management and Rick Keith of Shelby County OEM invited MCIL to be part of the Memphis and Shelby County Recovery Initiative. This idea sprang from the May 27th storms and is intended to collaborate with recovery services for the city and county.
Memphis O E M Communications Center
MCIL along with about 30 groups met in the OEM communications center that is designed to keep emergency responders informed in the event of a city-wide disaster. It was set up like the White House situation room with communications, multiple screens and emergency lap-tops. Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, Hospitality Hub, Deaf Connect and Disability Rights Tennessee were among the groups present along with MLGW, Tennessee state agencies and many city departments.

The focus of the symposium was to assist individuals and families affected by natural disaster, especially those most vulnerable, helping them return to safe, secure and sanitary housing. A natural disaster will consist of the emergency phase followed by response, recovery, mitigation and preparation. Following the crisis, the recovery phase may include many local, state and national resources and will benefit from prior planning and coordination.

The goal of the Recovery Initiative is to build a collaborative network and to communicate effectively following a disaster. The initial goal of the meeting on August 11 was to assist those who may still have needs associated with the May 27th thunderstorm. Continuing to serve as a coalition and prepare for future response and recovery is the long-term goal.

MCIL can certainly help with many parts of the initiative. Most notably is the Center’s ability to understand and advocate for the unique and diverse issues of people with disabilities. Accommodating disability, making physical accessibility possible as well as including sensory, psychiatric and intellectual accommodations is necessary for the Recovery Initiative to be successful.

The OEM reported that more than 800 homes experienced damage in the May storm. They estimate that there are still 500 with unmet needs. This estimate only looks at the structural damage and does not include the human and social harm of the thunderstorm. MCIL noted problems from people in the Memphis area. Topping the list was communication and transportation. People also reported difficulty getting their medications and having access to relief and recovery actions.

The Memphis and Shelby County Recovery Initiative is planning to include disaster case management, communications, construction management, volunteer management, mental health and spiritual care, donations management long-term recovery administration and financial controls. The concept is to create a 501(c)3 non-profit to coordinate the effort among the local participants including MCIL. 

Please check-out our emergency preparedness article for people with disabilities at: 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


In life we all have set-backs

Tim Redd
By Timothy Redd

“You are an Inspiration!”

How many times has someone told you that? For me, it has been my whole life. How do you feel about it?

First, let me say inspiration porn shakes my soul and I find it offensive. Inspiration porn is when you see a person with disability doing something normal with a quote along the lines of “the only disability is a bad attitude,” or something similar. Let me say as a person with a disability sometimes my attitude is bad, and it has nothing to do with a disability but everything to do with be a human being.  We all have a bad day and I’m no exception.

When people tell me I am brave or courageous I don’t know how to take that. In my mind it’s a matter of sink or swim.  I get up every day and go to work like most people and I do what is needed to take care of myself. That is not being brave or courageous. It’s being an adult.

I mentioned earlier that people are always telling me how I am an inspiration to them, these days when it happens I ask the person “Why?”

I still get the occasional you are brave and courageous, but the majority of the time it’s actually because of something I am doing. Yesterday a random Facebook friend messaged me with those famous four word, “You are an inspiration.” Of course I asked why? 

“I have struggled with my weight,” He said, “and reading your posts and seeing your dedication and conviction really moves me…not only that but your courage and passion to speak on things that you think are wrong.”

I was surprised and talked to him more about weight loss. To be honest I had no idea I was inspiring him to take charge of his weight. He let me know he was changing his eating habits and was asking how did I jumpstart my weight loss.

At the beginning of the year after a physical my doctor informed me that my diabetes were progressing and that I would probably have to take insulin injections four times a day. Seeing for myself how diabetes has robbed people of their vision, relegated people to grueling rounds of dialysis three times week, and caused way too many amputations and more. I knew I did not want any of those things to be my story or more importantly I had to change. I developed some poor eating habits and I felt really crappy for just not taking care of myself.

I started reading about better nutrition and went on a low-carb high-protein diet in January and in February I linked up with a trainer. The first training day I felt like the fat guy who did not belong after seeing folks whose bodies looked like they’d been chiseled from rocks. Pushing past my reservations. I made it through my first workout, by the time I got home I was literally hugging the toilet purging out my lunch.

In my mind I thought “I can’t do this,” but I visualized my goal and with the vision I went the next day and the day after that. Slowly the weight started coming off and my glucose levels started decreasing as well. When I first started on the weight machines 30 lbs. was tough. Today, I can bench press 100 lbs.  I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, brittle bones and in spite of it I have realized I am strong.

Today August 7, 2017 I have lost 30 pounds, I’m packing on muscle too, and the greatest accomplishment is that I no longer have to take insulin or metformin for my diabetes. While I am happy about my progress, I am not done so the work continues. This has been an amazing and hard journey. I would not trade it for nothing because it made me recognize my own strength.

I can tell you it starts with getting off the couch and pushing yourself and telling yourself that you can. I never set out on this venture to inspire anyone or even wanted to be an inspiration, my goal was to actualize the vision I have for my life and part of that is fitness. I just want to be great. I never want to be an inspiration on the merit of my disability because a disability does not define or stop my life, but if my journey inspires folks; I hope it inspires them to believe in themselves enough to smash their goals and love themselves enough to know that they matter and are absolutely worth it.

When it comes to speaking out about things I think that we all have a voice and when we see things that just are not right we have to speak out and resist. This past spring, I went on an action with ADAPT. For five days we protested and participated in civil disobedience with the demands to save our Medicaid. Being thrown in an activist group made me see the power of resistance and the importance of speaking up and speaking out.

One of my favorite shows is Luke Cage and the recurring mantra of the show is always forward. In life we all have set-backs, but you have to be pulled backwards in order to go forward and that is what inspires me to keep going. If I inspire people to start anew or decide to keep going, I’m perfectly glad to be a source of inspiration.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Special Needs Trusts

Information from the Arc of the Mid-South

Christina Clift

By Christina Clift
On Thursday, August 3, 2017 I attended a workshop on Special Need Trusts at the Arc of the Mid-South.  The presenter was Deborah K. Brooks, a local lawyer and friend to the disability community. 

First, it is worth noting that the word “special” in Special Need Trust (SNT) does not refer to the person or their disability, but instead the word describes the needs that the trust will be used for.  In some states these trusts are called Supplemental Needs Trusts. 

The next thing to know about Special Needs Trusts is that the funds cannot be used to purchase food or pay rent or a mortgage.  Finally, funds that are withdrawn from the SNT are never payed directly to the person or beneficiary, but they are sent directly to the vender. This blog is not meant to be the holy bible of Special Needs Trusts, for that you would need to hire a lawyer.  The purpose is to hit the highlights.

A Special Needs Trust is used to set aside funds for future care.  This can include transportation, training, assistive technology, clothing, personal care, funeral and burial expenses, legal fees, financial management, and more.  However there are two areas that these funds are not allowed to be used for: purchasing food and paying for housing. The primary reason most people decide to establish a Special Needs Trust is to set money aside so that it is not considered as a countable asset when looking at applying for benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or other means-based programs.  For example, if the person establishing a Special Need Trust receives SSI benefits of $750.00 a month, according to the federal government, the SSI benefits are to be used to pay for food and shelter.

“Parents with children 18 years of age or who are 3-months away from their 18th birthday, must gain either power of attorney or a conservatorship in order to keep making financial and health related decisions for their child,” said Deborah Brooks. “Otherwise, in today’s society, no one has to talk with you about your child.”  

The first type of Special Needs Trust (SNT) is called a first-party SNT.  This means that the money used to open the trust belongs to the individual it is being set up for.  This cannot be money that you have had lying around in a bank account for seven years, but must come from an immediate source of money such as an inheritance or settlement from a lawsuit.  In fact, you have only nine months from the date of receiving the funds to establish the SNT.  It is best when setting up a SNT, to use a corporate trustee rather than a family member due to the complicated nature of the laws governing SNT. 

“The laws controlling Special Needs Trusts are as tough as banking laws,” stated Ms. Brooks. 

Christina Clift

Some of the items that could be purchased using a SNT include clothing, assistive technology, a vehicle, TV, or laptop.  But it cannot be used for dinner at your local steakhouse or a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. 

A first-party SNT can be established either to stand alone or in a pool.  A pool SNT combines hundreds of SNT with smaller monetary value into one large group to gain more from investments.

The next type of SNT is basically the same as a first-party SNT.  The main difference is the source of money that is used to establish it.  In a first-party SNT it is the individual’s funds that are used to start it. However, in a third-party SNT it is someone else’s money that is used to start the trust.  This could be money that a parent, grandparents, or friend sets aside.  Just as in a first-party SNT, the funds cannot be used for food or to pay for housing.  The funds are also sent directly to the vender or to reimburse someone for buying an allowable item.

For example, if the individual’s brother purchases a pair of needed Nike shoes for $150.00, a train ticket for $300.00, and pays rent for December for $500.00, he can only be reimbursed $450.00.  The $500.00 for rent is not reimbursable because it is not an allowable expense. 

What happens to money in Special Needs Trusts if the beneficiary dies?  In order for the state of Tennessee to recoup some of the cost of providing care, they attempt to recover some of the cost by ceasing any remaining assets once that person dies.  This includes a house or remaining funds in a SNT.  For most people, all of the money in the SNT is spent before they die.

The final type of trust is an ABLE account.  ABLE accounts were passed into law by Congress in 2015 and are quite similar to Special Needs Trusts.  However, ABLE accounts can be used to cover housing expenses.  They also are only used for people who were diagnosed with their disability before the age of 26.  They are set up through the Department of Revenue and can only have up to $100,000.00 balance.  If the balance exceeds $100,000.00 the beneficiary’s SSI benefit will be suspended not terminated until the balance is under $100,000.00. Contributions can be made by anyone and cannot exceed $14,000.00 a year.  If you are interested in learning more about ABLE accounts visit

With a little bit of preplanning by families, Special Needs Trusts and ABLE accounts provide a mechanism to qualify for means-based services.  While they are not perfect, they enable people with disabilities to protect money that they otherwise would have to spend-down to qualify for services.  The most important thing to remember is to work with a lawyer when setting a SNT up.