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

Civil Rights & the ADA

Donate Now to Close the Gap of People with Disabilities in Elected Office

A new study released by Rutgers University reveals that only 10.3 percent of elected officials have disabilities, compared with a rate of 15.7 percent in the overall studied population. That leaves a gap of over 5 percent between where elected representation of people with disabilities is and where we need it to be.

We want to close that gap. When our governments – large or small – don’t reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, democracy fails. Our governments need to be truly by the people, for the people – and that includes people with disabilities.

But we can’t close the gap without you. NCIL’s Elevate program is the first and only non-partisan program that trains people with disabilities to run for elected office. Our pilot program this past summer was a great success. Now we need your help to keep it going. Your support will help us run more webinars, hire more expert consultants, and reach more people with disabilities interested in running for office. Together, we can give people with disabilities the tools they need to run for office, win the race, and close the disability representation gap in elected office.

We can’t make change if we don’t have a seat at the table. Donate today to close the gap in political leadership for people with disabilities.

For Immediate Release: One in Ten Elected Officials Has a Disability

October 3, 2019

Contact: Sarah Blahovec, 571-777-8531, sarah@ncil.org

New Report Finds Gap in Political Representation of People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C. – According to a new study by Professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse, co-directors of the Program for Disability Research in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, an estimated 10.3 percent of elected officials serving in federal, state, and local government have disabilities. That is more than five percentage points lower than the overall disability rate in the adult population studied in this data.

This report marks the first quantitative study of representation of people with disabilities in elected office. Schur and Kruse analyzed 2013-17 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which measures disability on four kinds of impairment (hearing, visual, mobility, cognitive) and difficulty with basic activities inside or outside the home. The researchers’ key findings include:

  • 15.7 percent of adults and 10.3 percent of elected officials have a disability. That is a gap of 5.4 percentage points, suggesting that people with disabilities are underrepresented in elected positions.
  • 12 percent of elected officials in local government have a disability, compared to 6.9 percent at the state level and 6.3 percent at the federal level.
  • The rate of disability is slightly lower among women elected officials at 8.3 percent, than among men elected officials at 11.4 percent.
  • The vast majority of elected officials with disabilities are white, non-Hispanic men.
[Read more…]

Invitation: Virtual Roundtable Series on Involuntary Institutionalizations Before, During & After Disasters

The National Council on Disability (NCD) and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) invite you to join an upcoming Virtual Roundtable Series on Involuntary Institutionalizations Before, During & After Disasters / Emergencies.

This virtual roundtable series seeks input from representatives from Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agencies on collaborative approaches that address involuntary institutionalizations throughout disasters. Inspired by the recently released NCD report, Preserving Our Freedom: Ending Institutionalization of People with Disabilities During and After Disasters, conversations will be focused on collective next steps for P&As and CILs.

[Read more…]

Candidates Respond to the NCIL / AAPD Questionnaire on Disability Politics

Tonight is the third Democratic presidential debate. Will you be tuning in? 

In August, NCIL and the American Association of People with Disabilities teamed up to release the 2020 Presidential Questionnaire on Disability Politics. The questionnaire covers a broad range of policies that are important to over 35 million eligible voters with disabilities.

Ahead of tonight’s debate, the following candidates have submitted responses:

AAPD will continue to post major party candidates’ responses, as well as track public statements on disability and when applicable, sponsorship of disability-related bills. You can find all of this information on their 2020 presidential election webpages. AAPD will post candidates’ responses on a rolling basis, and we will make sure to inform you when new information is available. 

[Read more…]

Disability Advocacy Groups File Amicus Brief Opposing the Administration’s Public Charge Rule as Illegal Disability Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Public Representation, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), and fifteen other national disability advocacy groups represented by the global law firm Latham & Watkins filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of litigation to stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing its new “public charge” rule. Twenty-one states, led by California, Washington, and New York, have filed cases against the Trump Administration to block the new rule. The advocacy groups – representing tens of thousands of people with disabilities and their families across the country – claim that the new public charge rule will prevent people with disabilities from entering this country or becoming legal residents in violation of federal disability law.

[Read more…]

Organizers Forum: Fighting Racism & White Supremacy

As we hit 400 years since the beginning of slavery in the U.S., hundreds of Latinx immigrants are forced into camps, and the President himself encourages racism and violence, let’s talk about how we in disability communities can take action. What work needs to be done within the disability rights movement, and how can we act in solidarity with immigrant rights groups and others? More conversations like this are happening in disability spaces. Let’s use this call as an opportunity to keep learning and growing.

[Read more…]

NCIL Condemns “Public Charge” Rule Finalization

The Trump Administration’s final public charge rule was published in the federal register on Wednesday, and it is set to become effective on October 15, 2019. This policy is yet another cruel attack on immigrants, and it will have a particularly harmful effect on disabled and poor immigrants. NCIL condemns the finalization of this rule.

The new public charge rule will create additional barriers for immigrants, and especially disabled and poor immigrants, to enter the US or become lawful permanent residents (green card holders). Under the new rule, receiving benefits like Medicaid, housing assistance, SNAP, and certain healthcare subsidies can be used to deny entry or permanent residency.

Similarly, having medical conditions or disabilities that require “extensive medical treatment” or institutionalization, or that may interfere with providing care for oneself or attending school or work, can also be used to deny entry or permanent residency. Disabled and low-income immigrants are squarely in the crosshairs with this rule. Read NCIL’s previous alert with additional information about the public charge proposal. The IL network also took action when the rule change was proposed. 

This rule is blatantly discriminatory and once again makes clear who this administration is prioritizing. NCIL strongly opposes this harmful rule and stands in solidarity and support of our immigrant community members. Our strength as a country and a community comes from our diversity, and we call on the Independent Living community to fight to ensure disabled immigrants have a place in our community and a path to citizenship.

NCIL Condemns Trump’s Remarks on Mental Health and Violence

In less than 24 hours, two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio killed 31 people and wounded many more this weekend. NCIL mourns the loss of these 31 individuals, and our hearts are with the victims, their loved ones, and their communities right now.

In El Paso, we know the shooter was targeting immigrants; less is known about the Dayton massacre at this time. In response to the shootings, the President called those who committed the massacres “mentally ill monsters.” It is clear, however, that the massacre in El Paso, like many of the other recent tragedies we have seen across the country, was rooted in white supremacism that has been emboldened by our President. There is a direct connection between these tragedies and the racist, xenophobic, and otherwise discriminatory rhetoric and policies spewed by Trump and his Administration – particularly in this case the ongoing dehumanization of immigrants.

In his remarks, Trump proposed specific ways to reform our mental health laws, which included “involuntary confinement” of people with mental illness. His remarks and proposed ‘reforms’ are incredibly dangerous. It is unacceptable to deprive a group of disabled people their rights based solely on diagnosis and unfounded fear. Decades of research shows that people with psychiatric diagnoses are no more likely to be violent than people without, and in fact are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. Enacting the reforms proposed by the President would trample on the rights of disabled people and ultimately do nothing to reduce gun violence. 

Conflating hate, racism, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry with mental illness is inexcusable. It is dangerous, false, and undermines efforts to address the true root of this violence. Trump’s rhetoric only serves to scapegoat disabled people and shift focus away from his own role in enabling this violence.

[Read more…]

2020 Presidential Questionnaire on Disability Policies

Washington, D.C. –  The 2020 Presidential elections will have significant implications for 20 percent of the US population – people with disabilities. As we move towards Election Day, the American Association of People with Disabilities’ (AAPD) REV UP Campaign and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) have developed a Presidential Questionnaire on Disability Policies. Through their responses to this questionnaire, candidates will share their views and positions on key disability policy priorities.

“There will be over 35 million eligible voters with disabilities in 2020. We encourage all the Presidential candidates to engage the Disability vote,” said Maria Town, President & CEO of AAPD. “Our organizations are committed to empowering our community and speaking out about critical issues with the candidates.”

[Read more…]

A Dialogue with Leaders in the Disability Community on Voting Accessibility and Security

By Patrick Leahy, Senior Advisor, Election Assistance Commission (EAC)

This past weekend on Sunday, July 21, just days ahead of the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EAC’s four Commissioners met with members of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) for a pre-conference session on accessibility and security in the voting process. Commissioners also heard from attendees about a variety of other election access needs for voters with disabilities.

NCIL is a national cross-disability and grassroots organization representing thousands of individuals with disabilities and the independent living centers that serve them. The organization’s leaders and advocates came together during this segment to hear from EAC’s Chairwoman Christy McCormick, Vice Chair Benjamin Hovland, and Commissioners Thomas Hicks and Donald Palmer.

At the session, the Commissioners led a dialogue on the voting rights of people with disabilities and how to ensure security measures do not infringe on those rights. Commissioners met with more than 50 voters with disabilities and received invaluable feedback about their experiences and needs. As the Commission fulfills its responsibilities under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), such outreach is critical to updating EAC tools and resources. This is why the EAC has made it a priority to lead interactive discussions at national conferences for people with disabilities for each of the past five years. Read more at eac.gov.

EAC Commissioners address the audience at NCIL's 2019 Annual Conference on Independent Living
EAC Commissioners address the audience at NCIL’s 2019 Annual Conference on Independent Living