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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

New ADA Notification Bill Introduced in the 117th Congress

An Update from the NCIL ADA / Civil Rights Subcommittee

On January 14, 2021, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA), along with Representative Tom Rice (R-SC), introduced the ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services Act (H.R. 77), deceptively referred to as the ACCESS Act. This bill is essentially the same as previous Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) notification bills, like H.R. 4099 and H.R. 620. H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, passed the House in February 2018, and resembled many of the previous versions. H.R. 4099 was introduced in 2019 with an additional provision (Section 6) regarding Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards. This section is again included in H.R. 77.

Like the ADA notification bills before it, H.R. 77 would create additional barriers that would weaken our protected civil rights enforced under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, H.R. 77 would amend Section 308 of the ADA as it pertains to architectural barrier violations outlined in Sections 302 and 303, requiring that anyone who has been discriminated against (based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access an existing public accommodation) complete a cumbersome series of steps before commencing a civil action, detailed below.

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The Importance of Disability Cultural Centers in Higher Education

By Zane Landin, NCIL Policy Intern

19.4% of students attending higher education institutions identify as someone with a disability. Students with disabilities in higher education often experience ableism, discrimination, and invalidation, from microagressions to institutional barriers. Graduation rates for students with disabilities are as low as 13% compared to 30% among their non-disabled counterparts. The identity of disability is an aspect of diversity that is integral to our communities, society, and higher education, but is predominantly excluded from social justice initiatives and conversations. 

In higher education, to support different marginalized groups, many universities have developed and implemented cultural centers for different cultural groups of the campus community to feel empowered, celebrated, and interconnected. These cultural centers provide students with a physical / virtual space to feel celebrated while offering professional and personal development resources such as networking events, identity exploratory workshops, and educational conferences. These cultural centers challenge and mitigate some of the barriers these cultural groups experience in higher education. Through their efforts, they are also accelerating the success rates of these cultural groups. Student involvement in cultural activities enhance student success, retention rates, well-being, and the college experience by driving cultural community, relationships, familiarity, expression, and validation.

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Disability Rights Organizations Join the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day

May 8, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Today, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) will participate in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Day of Action in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Following the record-breaking turnout in the 2020 elections, state legislatures across America have released an offensive onslaught of undemocratic legislation designed to specifically suppress the vote of voters with disabilities, voters of color, and youth voters. 

These actions were made possible beginning in 2013 when the United States Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. Prior to 2013, jurisdictions were subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the VRA and jurisdictions with known discriminatory practices were required to seek approval before enacting voting changes. In the Shelby County ruling when the Supreme Court struck down the primary avenue to determine which states require preclearance, it immediately freed jurisdictions with known discriminatory practices to change how their elections are administered without the voter protections offered by federal preclearance. Voters across the country are negatively impacted by new barriers created after the Shelby County decision. Following the enactment of strict voter identification laws, voter purges, and polling place closures, not all voices are being heard on Election Day, and worse, they are being deliberately silenced.

For the past several years, Congress has introduced legislation that would restore the preclearance provision of the VRA, including the Voting Rights Advancement Act, recently renamed as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4). AAPD, NACDD, NCIL and NDRN strongly urge Congress to protect and restore voting rights in America through the enactment of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The VRA protections are needed as much now as they were almost 60 years ago. We urge Congress to take swift action to ensure that Americans will not experience another election without the crucial protections of the Voting Rights Act.

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The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. To learn more, visit the AAPD Web site: www.aapd.com.   

The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) is the national association for the 56 Councils on Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils) across the United States and its territories. The DD Councils receive federal funding to support programs that promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion for all people in the United States with developmental disabilities.  Please check out www.onevotenow.org for NACDD’s work on voting.

The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States. To learn more, visit www.ncil.org

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States To learn more, visit www.ndrn.org.    

FCC Announces Emergency Broadband Benefit Start Date

Yesterday the FCC announced that eligible households can begin applying for the Emergency Broadband Benefit on May 12, 2021. Read the announcement (PDF)

The Emergency Broadband Program will provide a monthly discount toward broadband service for eligible households and one-time discounts for the purchase of certain devices from participating providers. The COVID-19 package passed in December required the FCC to develop this program to help struggling households pay for internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Survey: Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution to People with Disabilities

Now that vaccine distribution is rapidly picking up pace, the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies wants to find where people with disabilities continue to face barriers in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Please take 10 minutes to complete the Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution to People with Disabilities survey to help us strategize for equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for and autonomy of people with disabilities.

If you need this survey in an alternative format, please contact Priya Penner at p.penner@disasterstrategies.org.

Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Logo

Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee: Public Housing Agencies and the Section 8 Homeownership Program

For many people with disabilities, it can be very challenging to find housing, even when one has a Section 8 Voucher. Many housing options are not accessible, or out of reach with a rent that is too high for the voucher. There is another option that one doesn’t hear about often, the Section 8 Homeownership Program that assists with the purchase of a home using the Housing Choice Voucher.

The Homeownership Voucher Program was authorized in 1937, although the final rule was not issued until 2000! There were 15 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) that participated in the pilot homeownership program that began in 1999.

The rule says a PHA may give assistance to an eligible household to buy their own homes, not just to rent. Homeownership can be a great choice for some people with disabilities, such as a person with environmental hypersensitivities or for other people who cannot be accommodated in available rental housing units due to their disabilities.

People who have had a voucher for at least a year can transfer their voucher to a different jurisdiction, and this can apply to the homeownership program, too. People could purchase a house in a different PHA’s jurisdiction, if it offers the Homeownership Voucher Program and is accepting new families.

Find out whether the Homeownership Program is offered in your area (Excel spreadsheet). If your PHA does not have a program, it may be possible to request that they offer homeownership assistance as a reasonable accommodation, if it can be demonstrated that housing available for rent is not accessible or usable by the family, and that an accommodation is necessary. For households where the head, spouse, or sole member is elderly or has a disability, the voucher is good for the entire term of the mortgage. For other households with a 30-year mortgage, the voucher would be available for a maximum of 15 years. It’s important to note that the PHA can only work with people who currently have vouchers or are on the waiting list. They can’t have a separate waiting list or preference for voucher applicants interested in homeownership.

If the PHAs in your area doesn’t have a homeownership program, consider advocating so they make that option available.

I&R Center: Call for Sessions Open for the 2021 HCBS Conference

Dear Aging and Disability I&R Professionals,

ADvancing States is pleased to share that the call for sessions for the 2021 Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Conference is open.

For the last 36 years, the HCBS Conference has convened state and federal agencies around improving systems that deliver long-term services and supports (LTSS) for all ages and abilities. The HCBS Conference attracts more than 1,500 attendees from over 50 states and territories and highlights best practices from across the country in home and community-based services.

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2021 NCIL Advocacy Awards

2021 Annual Conference on Independent Living Logo - LIBERTY, INDEPENDENCE, FREEDOM, EQUITY. Presented by NCIL. Graphic features a line art drawing of three pulmeria flowers.

Each year, NCIL recognizes individuals and / or organizations for outstanding advocacy efforts.

Eligibility: Nominees do not have to be a member of NCIL. In the event that the winner is not a member of NCIL, upon receiving the award, he or she will receive a free one-year individual NCIL membership.

You must be a NCIL member to nominate someone for an award. The deadline to nominate for a NCIL Advocacy Award is May 28, 2021.

Awards will be announced during NCIL’s 2021 Annual Conference on Independent Living.

Diana Viets Memorial Award

This year, NCIL will again be honoring individuals from the Independent Living field with various awards for their dedication to the Independent Living and disability rights movements. One of these awards is the Diana Viets Memorial Award.

Diana was an energetic young woman with a disability who dedicated her life to empowering young people with disabilities to take an active role in the Independent Living movement. Through her work at a Center for Independent Living and the NCIL Board, Diana touched the lives of many youth with disabilities. NCIL wants to acknowledge, honor, and encourage our young leaders who are promoting disability pride, spreading Independent Living philosophy, and fostering the active participation of youth with disabilities in the disability rights movement.

Eligibility: Individuals eligible for this award should be young adults whose work through Independent Living has had a positive impact on youth with disabilities.

Regional Advocacy Awards

NCIL encourages you to nominate someone in your region who you believe is deserving of an award for their advocacy efforts.

Purpose: To recognize individuals or groups / organizations within each region for outstanding systems advocacy efforts consistent with independent living goals and philosophy at a national, state, or local level.

Process: The Regional Representative will solicit written nominations from membership within their region. Regional Representatives are strongly encouraged to solicit input from the members in their region in selecting the award winner. To the greatest degree possible, the selection process should be free of actual or perceived conflicts of interest. One award winner will be selected from each region.

2021 Call for Resolutions

2021 Annual Conference on Independent Living Logo - LIBERTY, INDEPENDENCE, FREEDOM, EQUITY. Presented by NCIL. Graphic features a line art drawing of three pulmeria flowers.

NCIL Resolutions

The purpose of resolutions is for members to speak directly to what NCIL does and what NCIL stands for. A resolution, if adopted by the membership, is a formal opinion from NCIL or a commitment to taking action on a specific topic.

Resolutions must be received by May 28, 2021.

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Welcome LINK20 to the NCIL Family!

We are excited to announce that over the next year, the Ruderman Family Foundation initiative LINK20 will be transitioning to a program of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). LINK20 is a global social movement, led by a network of young activists, with and without disabilities, who advocate for the advancement of inclusion of people with disabilities in society. You can learn more about LINK20 at their website: link20us.org

LINK20 is a grassroots initiative that will be a fantastic fit for NCIL.

“The National Council on Independent Living is thrilled to be working with the Ruderman Family Foundation to transition LINK20 into our organization and ultimately into an independent movement” said NCIL Executive Director Kelly Buckland. “We will bring our background and knowledge to the project and work with the members to strengthen the overall network of LINK20. Welcome to NCIL!”

“Before LINK20 became reality, it was a vision that I had to see a strong network of young adults, with and without disabilities, working together towards inclusion and social justice” said Ruderman Family Foundation President Jay Ruderman. “In 2016, that vision came to realization and LINK20 was formed. Today, LINK20 is a thriving movement with advocates from around the world who fight for equal representation and change the way society views inclusion of people with disabilities. These past four years have been filled with hard work and many successes. I look forward to seeing what the movement is able to accomplish in the future. Thank you for everything.”

Join us in welcoming LINK20 to NCIL!

Any questions can be directed to our new LINK20 Coordinator, Jenny Sichel, at Jenny@ncil.org.

LINK20 members sitting in a room and applauding using American Sign Language
LINK20 Logo: LINK20 - Act Up for Inclusion. A Ruderman Family Foundation Initiative.