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

Civil Rights & the ADA

Election Day is Less Than One Week Away! Are You Ready to Vote?

Election Day is less than one week away, and millions of Americans have already cast their ballots through early voting or voting by mail. This year, it is more important than ever to know your rights and have a plan. We have listed some resources and events to help you prepare for Election Day.

Plan Your Vote 2020 

NCIL, along with other members of the National Coalition on Accessible Voting, created “Plan Your Vote 2020,” a vote planning guide that walks you through every step of the voting process.

Brink Election Guide 

Brink Election Guide is a free app that helps you find out where to vote, who and what you’re voting for, and everything you need to make Election Day a breeze. This nonpartisan, accessible app is available on iOS and Android, and it was built by people with disabilities to provide all of the necessary information a voter needs to know. Brink provides completely non-partisan information designed to inform our users on the candidates running for office and other initiatives on the ballot. The app also provides a list of resources to help voters navigate any potential issues they face when voting.

SignVote Series: Election 2020 

SignVote is dedicated to informing and engaging deaf communities throughout the 2020 election by developing and sharing resources in ASL. They recently launched the second episode of the SignVote Series: Election 2020, where you can learn everything you need to know about making your voting plan. View SignVote’s “Your Plan to Vote”.

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Help Consumers Get #VoteReady this October

This week is National Voter Education Week, a civic holiday created to equip voters with the tools, information, and confidence they need to cast their ballots. With less than a month until the General Election, it is a great time to provide consumers with information and tools that they can use to prepare to vote.

NCIL has created resources to help Center for Independent Living (CIL) and Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) staff and consumers get ready to vote this year. The NCIL 2020 Voter Registration Toolkit provides you with information to conduct nonpartisan voter registration. Check to make sure that your state’s voter registration deadline hasn’t passed, or see if same-day voter registration is available in your state.

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CILs and SILCs: Sign-On to the Letter Urging the Senate to Oppose Amy Coney Barret’s Nomination – DUE THURSDAY!

Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that the Senate will hastily move forward with her confirmation hearings in two weeks, with a vote planned shortly after. Judge Barrett’s opinions on a number of issues are damaging to disability rights, and her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court would threaten the rights and lives of Americans with disabilities. NCIL strongly opposes her nomination. We have signed on to a letter urging the Senate to oppose her nomination and we hope you will join us in signing your organization on as well.

As outlined in the letter, Judge Barrett has a history of decisions that have harmed the disability community. From siding against disabled students who were being discriminated against, to her opinion that the public charge rule does not discriminate against disabled people, to being a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act, Judge Barrett’s appointment to the US Supreme Court would bring immeasurable harm to our community.

Further, in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 Americans, it is shameful that the Senate is prioritizing rushing through this highly politicized Supreme Court appointment, rather than focusing on much-needed additional COVID-19 relief. The situation for their constituents around the country is increasingly dire, and filling a vacant seat is absolutely not more important than our lives and livelihoods. 

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Organizers Forum: Getting Out The Vote (in a Pandemic!)

Let’s make sure disabled people vote in this fall’s election! How do we do voter outreach during the pandemic? How do we ensure that disabled people CAN vote? What can we learn from other marginalized communities? 

  • Tuesday, September 15, 2020
  • 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Eastern (12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Central / 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Mountain / 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Pacific)
  • RSVP
  • Video link: https://zoom.us/j/158367875
  • Call-in: 1-929-205-6099, Meeting ID 158 367 875# or find your local number.

Speakers:

  • Dom Kelly, Fair Fight
  • Rachita Singh, American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Mike Dark, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform

Please join us! If you have questions or suggestions, please email jessica@sdaction.org.

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New Resource Available: NCIL Voter Registration Toolkit

Did you know that Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can participate in non-partisan voter registration? The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) encourages every Center for Independent Living to provide an opportunity to register to vote to their consumers. 

There is still plenty of time to register voters before the 2020 General Election. We have compiled some resources below to help Centers for Independent Living provide their consumers with the opportunity to register to vote. It also includes information on registration deadlines, guardianship rules, and voter ID laws. 

The NCIL Voter Registration Toolkit is available in PDF, Word, and plain text formats.

If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Blahovec, Voting Rights and Civic Engagement Organizer, at sarah@ncil.org or 202-207-0334 extension 1103. 

Information Alert: Court Limits Geographic Scope of Injunction Stopping the Public Charge Rule to NY, CT, and VT

Note: this is an update to yesterday’s Information Alert, “Public Charge Rule Updates”.

Source: Center for Public Representation

Yesterday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals partially stayed the nationwide temporary injunction issued by a district court in New York last month against the Department of Homeland Security’s discriminatory public charge rule. That decision had halted the rule for the duration of the national public health emergency declared by the Trump Administration. This new decision means the rule is now back in effect nationwide, except in the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Read the full article from the Center for Public Representation.

Information Alert: Public Charge Rule Updates

On July 29, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in New York issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the public charge rule for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This means the public charge rule cannot go into effect during the pandemic. This decision affirmed the district court’s previous decision. Read more about the public charge rule.

The federal court found that the rule conflicts with federal law – including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act – and they cited an amicus brief from a group of disability advocacy groups including NCIL.

Also on July 29, the same court also issued a nationwide preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a companion regulation issued by the State Department. This is the first preliminary injunction on the State Department’s rule, and it extends beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Last week, the Department of Justice moved to stay the nationwide injunction of the public charge rule. However, this is still a huge win, and at this time, the public charge rule is blocked nationwide for the entire COVID-19 public health emergency. We will continue to keep you updated as things move forward.

For more information, see the Protecting Immigrant Families website. More information is also available at the Center for Public Representation’s Public Charge page.

NCIL Statement on Michael Hickson

On the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) mourns the deaths of those who have died as a result of the denial of medical services, braces itself for more casualties to come, and condemns the inhumane practice of rationing healthcare that, although it has always been a concern for the disability community, has become an all-too-grim reality during this era of COVID-19.

The recent demise in Austin, TX, of Michael Hickson, a Black father of five who lived as the result of a cardiac incident with both spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, has spearheaded a necessary conversation regarding the value placed upon life in the US. Hickson, who was taken to the hospital as a result of contracting COVID-19 in the nursing facility where he resided, was denied medical care, food, and water, ultimately starving to death, alone, on June 11th, 2020. The decision to deny Mr. Hickson treatment was made by his medical team and his court-appointed guardian and against the wishes of his family, who weren’t notified of Mr. Hickson’s death until a day after he passed away.

Michael Hickson’s life mattered – to his wife, to his children, and to his community. It should have mattered to the medical professionals charged to care for him. It didn’t – audio recordings of Mr. Hickson’s medical team clearly reflect that, because of his disabilities, they felt Mr. Hickson would be a waste of treatment. As states throughout the US move forward with initiatives intended to prioritize who during the pandemic will get care and rationalize about who will be denied, people with disabilities – who are disproportionately being impacted by COVID-19 at alarming rates – are left to grapple with the grim reality that healthcare settings, which are intended to provide care, are both a system of inequity and, as is the case with Mr. Hickson, an instrument of death.

The disability community deserves better, Michael Hickson and his family deserved better, and because of this, NCIL intends to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that will entail a request that they conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances – and the myriad ADA violations that occurred – leading up to Mr. Hickson’s death. NCIL also seeks out legislative and organizational partners in the interest of joining forces on behalf of the disability community to ensure that, not only is the unfortunate trend towards medical rationing curtailed during the pandemic, it is seen for what it is by the general public: an unethical and barbaric practice that has no place in the US, moving forward.

Submit Comments on Proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 by Monday!

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) published proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 (VVSG 2.0) for public comment. The VVSG are a set of specifications and requirements for voting systems that relate to things like basic functionality, accessibility, and security.

VVSG 2.0 proposes new national-level voting system standards, and upon review, it is clear that the changes in this version will harm disabled voters. Disabled voters are already facing an even greater risk of disenfranchisement as a result of the pandemic; we cannot allow standards to be put in place that would increase that risk. It is critical that we provide feedback!

Take Action: Submit Comments (Draft Provided)

NCIL has worked with a coalition of other disability rights organizations to draft comments. Many of our organizations, including NCIL, will also be submitting these comments individually. Please feel free to review these comments and use them as written or personalize them to create your own. You can also submit a simple comment saying you support NCIL’s comments.

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NCIL Statement on Activism

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is saddened and angry that, just over two weeks after releasing a statement on police violence, the country is once again mourning the murder of another victim, George Floyd.

NCIL recognizes that, in the midst of so much inequity and injustice that has only been further revealed by Mr. Floyd’s murder, more people than ever – including those of with disabilities – are looking for ways to make their voices heard in the interest of both breaking the cycle of police violence and effecting systemic change. NCIL acknowledges that, although virtual and other means of non-in person activism have often been dismissed as “less than” within the disability community, all modes of advocacy have merit and, in many instances, actions taken via social media have resulted in positive outcomes, not just for people with disabilities, but for all.

With that in mind, NCIL’s Taskforce on Anti-Racism and Equity would like to amplify the resources and guides already in existence that are intended to support individuals with disabilities with in engaging in activism from both home and in-person, including the following.

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