Monday, September 25, 2017

The Graham-Cassidy bill is dead!

ADAPT Activists are arrested protesting at the Senate Hearing

By Allison Donald
Monday September 25, 2017- After fifteen hours, endless chanting, one hundred and nineteen national ADAPT members arrested and defections from Republicans Cruz (Texas) McCain (Arizona), Collins (Maine), Paul (Kentucky), and Murkowski (Alaska) the Graham-Cassidy bill did not have enough votes to be brought to the floor for a vote.

The bill crafted by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV.), and Ron Johnson (R-WI.), essentially turns control of the healthcare markets over to the states.  Rather than funding Medicaid and subsidies directly, that money would be put into a block grant that a state could use to develop any healthcare system it wants.  

The bill would also allow states to opt out of many ACA regulations.

This bill is a direct attack on the life and liberties of people with disabilities on many fronts.  Graham-Cassidy does not fully cover all pre-existing conditions. The bill would also effectively put a cap on long term supports and services allowing states the choice to pick and choose which community based services they are going to provide.

Tennessee would be even more vulnerable to subpar healthcare, because the state did not choose to participate in Medicaid expansion.  If block grants became a reality the already stressed long term support system in Tennessee will be stressed and people will end up on waiting list and receive inadequate care both in the home or community.

At 6:00 am members of National ADAPT were lined up at the front and back entrances of the Hart Senate building waiting for the doors to open, because we were going to attend the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill at 2:00pm.  National ADAPT two-hundred strong settled into the building, but the overflow of people caused the line to extend all the way into the Dirksen building.  

As other groups like Planned Parenthood and The Arc began filing into the hallway of the second floor the police officers’ on the scene began to place chairs in the committee room limiting access to only seven wheelchairs in the meeting space.  

“This is unconscionable," said Bruce Darling of Rochester ADAPT. "These people want to get in there to hear what they are going to do to Medicaid and how they are going to take away the things that underpin our life and liberty.”

ADAPT members had taken over the second floor inside the Hart Senate building chanting in support of their nineteen sisters and brothers who had gotten into the hearing for the Graham-Cassidy bill. The chanting lasted for hours and even when the gavel dropped to begin the hearing and continued until they were escorted out by the police.

As people were passing us through the halls they were high fiving us and calling us heroes.  

We are not heroes.  This victory today was about the people putting themselves on the line in the pursuit of life, liberty, and healthcare justice for all Americans not just people with disabilities.

Free Our People Y’all!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Washington DC Action Report Day 1

ADAPT visits Attorney General Sessions home

By Allison Donald
Two hundred ADAPT activists marched and chanted through the heat and the streets of Washington DC to confront Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. ADAPT members crowded onto the sidewalk in front of the steps leading up to his front door.  

ADAPT came there to hold Jeff Sessions accountable for his failure to uphold the ADA and protect the life and liberty of Americans with disabilities.  Sessions has also failed to recognize and support the Disability Integration Act (HR2472) Senate bill (S 910).  

We were met by an elderly gentleman and a woman, two neighbors of Mr. Sessions’ both of whom had very different and strong reactions to our chant of “Our homes not nursing homes.” 

The elderly gentleman was visibly upset and said “you will get nothing done by harassing this man (Sessions) at his home.”  Soon after his objections were drowned out when ADAPTERS started chanting, “Free our siblings free our children now.”  As I looked over to my left the woman was standing at the top of the steps clapping and nodding her head in agreement with ADAPT.  

During his confirmation hearings Jeff Sessions said “the Justice Department must remain faithful to the Constitution’s promise that our government is one of laws, not of men.”  It will be my unyielding commitment, if I am confirmed to see that the laws are enforced faithfully, effectively, and impartially.”

“We (ADAPT) are going to save Medicaid not only for ourselves," said Dawn Russell of Denver ADAPT, "but for our brothers and sisters locked away in nursing homes or buried on endless waiting lists.”  

Disabled people deserve to live in the community with the proper long term supports and services which is our right as Americans.

ADAPT demands that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recognize the following:

  • Acknowledge the unwanted institutionalization denies disabled Americans their constitutional right to liberty.
  •  Work with ADAPT and the disability rights community to pursue high profile Olmstead and ADA enforcement actions in every state to address the institutionalization of thousands of people with disabilities-of all ages-in nursing facilities.
  • Work with ADAPT and the autistic advocates to stop the torture of disabled Americans in the Judge Rotenberg Center who are subjected to electric shock and other painful aversive treatment.
  • Work with ADAPT and the National Council on Independent Living to devise enforcement and technical assistance strategies to assure that the civil rights and civil liberties of disabled Americans are protected across the disaster cycle of preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.

This show of force by was to put Jeff Sessions on notice that we are not going to stand by or sit down while disability rights continue to be disregarded. If we have to ADAPT will come back.  As people with disabilities we are not going to apologize for who we are, because disability rights are civil rights.

If you would like more information about ADAPT and our demands to Attorney General Jeff Sessions visit   If you want more information about the Disability Integration Act (HR 2472) or Senate bill (S910) visit  You can also follow Mid-South ADAPT on twitter @southadapt and on Facebook at  to keep with our journey this week just use the hashtag #ADAPTandResist to keep up with our journey this week on all social media platforms.

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.