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

Civil Rights & the ADA

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 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

Access to the Absentee Voting Process: The Need for Accessible Electronic Ballot Delivery Systems

By Kenia Flores, NCIL Summer Policy Intern

Photo of Kenia Flores
Photo of Kenia Flores

Voting is one of our fundamental rights as citizens of the United States, and it is an essential element to our democratic framework of government. However, many individuals, particularly those belonging to marginalized groups, are often denied the right to vote.

Most eighteen-year-olds anticipate their eighteenth birthday because they are eager to become a legal adult. However, I eagerly anticipated my eighteenth birthday because I knew I would be voting in my first presidential election. In the 2016 presidential election, twenty-five percent of ballots were cast by mail, and that percentage is expected to increase with many states converting to vote-by-mail entirely. Although vote-by-mail may have its advantages, the process often excludes people with disabilities.

My roommate Claudia and I decided to make the two-hour drive home from our university, located in a different state, to vote at our local polling place. I was able to vote privately and independently at my polling place as guaranteed to me by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. I left my polling place feeling empowered with a smile on my face and an “I voted” sticker in hand.

Two years later, my experience voting in the 2018 midterm election was drastically different. I am unable to drive, so I was not able to make the two-hour drive home. I could not have utilized public transportation options because it would have meant a 10-hour round-trip commute, forcing me to miss classroom instruction. Thus, my only option was to request an absentee ballot.

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Today! Learn about Campaign Operations with Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities

Do you want to learn how to run a successful campaign for elected office? Sign up today to join us for the second part of a five-week boot camp on core skills for running for office. Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities features five expert political consultants who will tell you everything you need to know about kick starting your campaign, crafting your message as a candidate, communicating with voters, selecting campaign staff, and fundraising. It is ideal for the first-time candidate, as well as anybody who wants to support candidates with disabilities as campaign staff, future campaign managers, or volunteers. This training is non-partisan and open to all!

At 3:00 Eastern today, we will be continuing the series with Stefan Walker, Political Consultant of The Politics Store, who will present on Campaign Operations 101. Stefan will discuss what you need to know about hiring a campaign manager and what staff is necessary for your campaign. In addition, you will learn about the role of a field coordinator and the importance of having a volunteer coordinator, and will learn about other campaign roles that may be filled by staff or volunteers. There will be lots of time for the Stefan to answer all your questions related to campaign operations!

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Action Alert: Join Online Press Conference Celebrating the Introduction of REAADI & DRMA!

Join us for an online press conference celebrating the introduction of the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability in Disasters Act (REAADI) and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) in both the Senate and the House of Representatives!

REAADI and DRMA are the first disaster laws to:

  • prioritize the rights of the disability community and older adults, and
  • were developed with direct input from the disability community!

(Find out more about REAADI & DRMA)

When: Monday, June 10; 2:00 p.m. EST

Join the Press Conference:

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