the advocacy monitor

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

NCIL Executive Director Kelly Buckland to Retire in 2021

Dear NCIL Members, Staff & Friends,

First I hope that you are all well in these very trying and turbulent times. This is one of the hardest statements I’ve ever had to write. I am writing to share the news of my intention to retire as Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) on May 14, 2021. While I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life, I am going to miss my work as Executive Director very much! Especially, working with the hard working and dedicated NCIL employee family! Working as the Executive Director of NCIL has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I want to thank all of you humbly for allowing me this honor and for all of your support throughout the years!

This is a very important transition for NCIL and me. I have already shared my plans with NCIL’s Governing Board and staff and we have already begun implementing NCIL’s succession plan. I am confident that NCIL’s Governing Board and Executive Committee will ensure that the transition is smooth and that my replacement will be an exceptional leader and advocate for people with disabilities and independent living. We will be releasing the NCIL Executive Director position announcement and instructions on how to apply very soon. 

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NCIL Announces the Relaunch of the Veterans Subcommittee

The NCIL Veterans Subcommittee was established with the recognition that disabled veterans and/or their families need access to community based independent living services, whether they are returning to civilian life or continuing their military careers. After a recent hiatus, NCIL is excited to announce the relaunch of the NCIL Veterans Subcommittee. We are also excited to announce the appointment of Rev. Tony Lawson, the immediate past Chairman of the Maryland SILC who enlisted into the Marines in 1996.

The Veterans Subcommittee is ready to get started and is currently accepting new members. If you are interested in joining the Veterans Subcommittee, you can fill out the subcommittee interest form and select “Veterans Subcommittee”.

If you have any questions, you can contact Tony Lawson at revlawsonmsilc@gmail.com.

Information Alert: Disability EmpowHer Network Announces Mentoring & Leadership Training Opportunities for Girls & Young Women with Disabilities

Source: Disability EmpowHer Network

Disability EmpowHer Network is excited to announce two mentoring and leadership training opportunities for girls and young women with disabilities across the nation: EmpowHer Camp and A Letter from a Role Model.

EmpowHer Camp is a multi-stage skill-building, empowerment, and mentoring program that brings a diverse group of girls with disabilities (ages 13 -17) to camp with successful disabled women mentors in the Adirondacks for one week to learn about disaster preparedness and basic survival skills, while also developing independent living and leadership skills. The girls will be invited to Washington, D.C. the next summer for a reunion trip to explore how they have grown as leaders, meet with leaders in emergency management and the Disability Community, and meet with Congress to discuss inclusive disaster preparedness. During the year between the first trip and the reunion trip, the girls will create a yearlong local project involving inclusive disaster strategies.

A Letter from a Role Model is our introductory mentoring initiative that matches girls with disabilities (ages 8 -18) with a successful disabled woman to write them a letter of encouragement! Adults can nominate a disabled girl to receive a letter from a mentor or she can nominate herself by telling us about her background, interests, and struggles. Disability EmpowHer Network then matches her with a successful disabled woman who will write a letter sharing her own struggles and successes, and plenty of words of wisdom!

To learn more about our programs please visit disabilityempowhernetwork.org. To nominate a girl with a disability to receive a letter or to attend EmpowHer Camp, visit disabilityempowhernetwork.org/get-a-mentor.

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NCIL Presents a National Webinar & Teleconference… Challenging the Use of Artificial Intelligence in Public Benefits Determinations: A CDT Report

January 20, 2021; 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Register online (NCIL members only)

NCIL and the Center for Democracy and Technology are excited to announce a national webinar and teleconference to share the findings of CDT’s recent report “Challenging the Use of Algorithm-driven Decision-making in Benefits Determinations Affecting People with Disabilities”. This report analyzes the various litigation strategies for challenging AI used to cut public benefits. This is a critical issue as many state governments are increasing their reliance on algorithms to determine whether, and to what extent, people qualify for public benefits.

Join us for a presentation of the report’s key findings and how states’ increasing turn to algorithmic decision-making is affecting the rights of people with disabilities. Our presenters will discuss how advocates have challenged these harms inside the courtroom and through other advocacy strategies.

Registration Fee

This webinar is free for NCIL members. Non-members may join NCIL to attend.

Meet Your Presenters

  • Lydia X. Z. Brown, Policy Counsel on CDT’s Privacy & Data Project
  • Ridhi Shetty, Policy Counsel on CDT’s Privacy & Data Project

Accessibility & Accommodations

This webinar will be held via Zoom, but participants can join by webinar or telephone. CART captioning will be provided. Training materials and connection instructions will be sent 1-2 days prior to the live event. Other accommodations may be requested on the registration form.

Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Announces Creating Opportunities & Independence Funding Opportunity

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is pleased to announce its 2021 Creating Opportunity & Independence (CO&I) funding opportunity for qualifying nonprofit organizations that strive to improve the quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Neilsen Foundation’s Community Support Grants can be requested for one or two years. The funding objectives include: promoting community integration, participation and independence for individuals living with SCI; removing barriers and fostering access; promoting health and wellness in rehabilitation, through transitional stages, and in the community; addressing regional needs; and encouraging self-efficacy. The six topic areas are: Arts, Sports and Recreation; Assistive Technology; Education; Employment; Independent Living; and Rehabilitation.

The application process begins with submission of a Letter of Intent (LOI), which will open in ProposalCentral (proposalcentral.altum.com) on Monday, January 4, 2021. The deadline for LOI applications is February 1, 2021; the Application Guide is available now at chnfoundation.org/how-to-apply.

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Congress Passes COVID-19 Bill; Disability Community Needs Continue to be Unmet

Last night, Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-response package and a $1.4 trillion appropriations bill to fund the government through Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, which ends on September 30. The President is expected to sign it today. You can view the full package, called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 – CAA (PDF), and additional links can be found below.

Since the last COVID-19 relief package in April, people have been struggling to survive during this health and economic crisis. The assistance provided in this bill is one very small step in providing the much-needed relief people and families have been waiting for. However, it fails to provide the broad, meaningful support that’s needed, and fails to respond to the increasingly dire needs of the disability community.

The overall package includes a 3-year reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, through September 2023. After a long series of short-term extensions, this is great – if long overdue – news. The package also extends the Spousal Impoverishment protections through September 2023. The Independent Living Program is funded at $116.1 million, which is level funding, for Fiscal Year 2021. The COVID provisions include some important assistance, including: funding for a second round of smaller, $600 stimulus payments to individuals; funding for emergency rental assistance and an extension of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021; a renewal of supplemental unemployment benefits at $300/week this time (instead of the previous $600/week), and an extension of other unemployment benefits from the CARES Act; funding to the CDC and states for vaccine efforts and COVID-19 testing, tracing, and mitigation programs; and funding for schools, transportation, food assistance, small businesses, and more.

However, many crucial needs were excluded from this bill, including funding for home and community based services, additional Medicaid funding, and nearly all of the other priorities the disability community has been pushing for since the pandemic began 10 months ago.

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NCIL Mourns the Loss of Stanley Holbrook

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Stanley Holbrook. Stan passed away last week on Thursday, December 17.

Stan Holbrook speaks from the stage at NCIL’s 2009 Rally at the US Capitol. Capitol Rotunda is visible in the background.

Stan was tireless advocate for disability rights and racial justice, and a longtime leader in the Independent Living Movement. He served on the NCIL Board for 14 years, including serving as the Diversity Chair and being instrumental in the development of NCIL’s diversity initiatives.

Sarah Launderville, NCIL’s President and long-time friend of Stan, said: “Stan was a man of honor. He gave of himself to make our movement stronger and was a trailblazer. He will be missed deeply.”

Until his passing, Stan was the owner of S. A. Holbrook and Associates, a management consulting firm offering organizational development, diversity and inclusion training, strategic planning, and capacity building training. He previously served as President and CEO of Three Rivers CIL in Pittsburgh, Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council, and President of the Pennsylvania Council for Independent Living (PCIL). He also served on the board for the American Society of Aging, was a representative for the Network of Multicultural Agencies (NOMA), and served as a delegate on the White House Conference on Aging. Stan trained and presented widely on the intersections of race and disability, including numerous trainings with NCIL, the IL-NET, ILRU’s Disability, Diversity and Intersectionality program, and presenting at a disability-oriented “Civil Rights in America” event at the White House.

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Elevate Blog: Rajah Sandor on Being a Disabled Campaign Staffer

In October 2020, we sat down with Rajah Sandor to learn about his experiences as a disabled campaign professional, his successes, obstacles he has faced, and advice he has for other disabled people who want to work on campaigns.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you become a campaign professional, and what do you do now?

My name is D. Rajah Sandor, I go by Rajah. I’ve almost completed my 31st year, I’m Indian, and I was born without arms. I definitely came to campaigns later than the typical staffer does, I was 27 the first time I was a paid organizer. I got involved in a local mayoral election in 2015 but did not truly start with campaigns until the primary of 2016. By the end of the primary, I had essentially become a volunteer organizer which got me an interview to be an organizer with the PA coordinated campaign. And that was really it. Campaigns have a very addictive nature to them and so as long as the next gig appeared, I’d take it. Over the last 4 years, I have worked on every type of race except a U.S. Senate, and have served as an organizer, a department head, and as the campaign manager. I am currently the Western Regional Director of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Campaign Committee and have been since July.

Why do you think it is important for people with disabilities to volunteer or work on campaigns? 

  1. I think the more people with disabilities that interact with campaigns, the more we normalize it.
  2. By being involved in campaigns, you present the opportunity for the candidate to understand disability issues better.
  3. To force these spaces to become more accessible. Campaigns are all about doing things as cheaply as possible. If they think they can get away with using a space that isn’t ADA accessible, they will.
  4. Because this work is important. For a campaign to truly be successful, even outside of winning or losing the election, the campaign needs to be representative of the community, and the only way we can make sure the disability community is represented is by showing up.
  5. And finally, because we have things to fight for. There are still a number of different ways that our society is and is allowed to be ableist and society will continue to be ableist as long as we let them. Getting involved with campaigns, to elect leaders who care about our issues, or with issue campaigns surrounding our issues is a way we can fight to make our society more equitable, both for our community and other disenfranchised communities.

Did you experience any barriers while working on campaigns? 

Answering this question is hard for me, because I’m sure I have experienced barriers, but by in large I’m too stubborn to notice them as barriers until later. I will say gaining employment was tough, especially in the beginning. Before I was hired as an organizer with the PA coordinated I had easily applied for 15+ organizer jobs and I remember feeling frustrated enough that I disclosed my disability in that interview and said, I know I can do I just need someone to believe me. Even after being an organizer, I was unemployed until March of the following year, when I showed up at a gubernatorial primary campaign where a friend was working & that was understaffed and I made myself useful enough that they had to put me on staff. The only other barrier of note, is the fact that I essentially broke even during my first 2 years working on campaigns, because of shared rides costs. As I don’t drive, early in my career I would let whomever I disclosed my disability to know that I would take on my transportation costs for fear of being seen as too expensive or even a financial liability. 

What have been some of your successes as a campaign professional? 

I won the first race I managed, by 793 votes. I have developed & executed multiple successful Get Out the Vote & Election Day strategies. I have largely taught myself what I need to know to understand voting data & craft a successful DVC (direct voter contact) program.

What can campaigns do to make it easier for people with disabilities to work on them?

Make sure they are in accessible spaces. Hire folks with disabilities. Include our issues before we get there. Get rid of some of the classist expectations, that you should be able to pick up and move, or do this work without healthcare, or able to commit to 10-14 hour days at least 6 days a week. 

What advice would you give to people with disabilities who want to work on or volunteer for campaigns?

Do it. Understand that it is going to be tough, but do it. Don’t be deterred by the 25th person who underestimates what you bring to the table, just be a badass. You’re going to have to make space for yourself, but it’s important that you take up that space. If you’re thinking about actually working on a campaign, make sure you that this really is what you want for the next X number of months of your life because winning isn’t guaranteed and some days you feel the ableism so much more strongly. Find friends with disabilities that you can vent to, that can relate. You are clearing the way for whoever is coming next. Fight like hell to be treated equally so that whoever follows may be able to fight a little less.

IL-NET T&TA Center Presents… A National Webinar: Know Your Resources — Orientation to the IL-NET National Training & Technical Assistance Center for CILs and SILCs

January 13, 2021; 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Register online

The IL-NET National Training & Technical Assistance (T&TA) Center, operated by ILRU in collaboration with NCIL, APRIL, and the University of Montana Rural Institute and RTC: Rural, supports Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs) in building capacity to run strong, effective organizations. The IL-NET’s resources cover an expansive list of topics related to CILs and SILCs, with an emphasis on core services. The scope of the center’s offerings is broad. This webinar will highlight what’s new with the IL-NET and help you learn how to find the resources and training available through ILRU’s comprehensive website that best meet your needs. Our IL-NET team is here to assist you with finding the publications, recorded trainings, courses, and materials that will help you operate your CIL or SILC with excellence.

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Action Alert: Federal Funding and COVID-19 Update

The House of Representatives passed a one-week stopgap spending bill introduced by House Democrats earlier this week. The spending bill would extend funding for the federal government by one week, providing another week for Congress to negotiate details of a larger spending package and avert a government shutdown.

The continuing resolution (CR), H.R. 8900, changes the government funding deadline from December 11, 2020 to December 18, 2020. It also provides that one-week extension for several programs, including the Money Follows the Person program and Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Spousal Impoverishment protections.

The Senate will likely vote on Friday. Assuming the bill passes, this gives Congress a week to iron out the details of a larger spending package to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2021. It is unclear whether that week will be enough time to reach an agreement, but many members of Congress seem optimistic.

The extra week also gives Congress time to iron out the details of a much-needed COVID-19 relief package, which Congressional leaders say will likely be paired with the spending package. Just yesterday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers released an outline of their $908 billion proposal (PDF). However, disagreements between Congressional leaders continue over key provisions, including the dangerous liability shield, and state and local funding.

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