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

Civil Rights & the ADA

NCIL Statement on the Treatment of Haitians at the US Southern Border

In July of 2019, in response to the racist and xenophobic remarks publicly articulated by our then-president, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) released a statement of solidarity. The statement was in support of people attempting to enter the US via the country’s southern border. In that statement, we acknowledged that the racism which fueled the comments extended beyond that individual and into our organization. We made several commitments in that statement to move beyond simply writing platitudes. We seized the opportunity to publicly announce our intention to face the systemic oppression that racially marginalized disabled people experience. Our commitment included people at the US’s southern border and beyond, including within our organization.

Since then, NCIL has embarked on a journey to becoming an intersectional organization. That process has led to the transformation of its body of Executive Officers. Our executive board is now a committee where racially marginalized members are the majority. The Board hired a subject matter expert on racial equity and Black woman as executive director. Our Diversity Chair is a Black woman. Both NCIL’s ED and Diversity Chair are members of the IDD community. Soon, we hope to announce the name of our new governing board president, a Black man. Thanks to our partnership with the Ford Foundation, we are further able to prioritize intersectionality in our programming. Our work to re-fashion NCIL as an anti-racist organization is far from over. We recognize that work is never ending. We are humbled by the road ahead of us. We are enthusiastically working toward an independent living network that is intersectional and, therefore, truly inclusive.

Two years after we expressed solidarity with immigrants at the US’s southern border the US finds itself, once again, in a position where its actions are causing harm to racially marginalized people fleeing their homes in the hopes of safety for themselves and their families. This is despite a change in the administration in the White House.  Two years ago, the migrants were largely Latinx. The human rights violations included keeping people in cages. The violations included separating children from their adult loved ones. Today, those detention facilities remain in operation. Today, asylum rights still are not being honored. Today, the abuses include Black migrants. Today, the human rights violations Black immigrants are experiencing include being whipped by US Border Patrol agents. 

As we noted in our statement two years ago, the treatment of immigrants at the US’s southern border was reprehensible. Although the population targeted by this treatment today has changed, our assertion remains the same. Unlike the previous administration, the current administration at the White House has  pledged to ensure that immigrants to the US would be treated humanely, no matter their country of origin. The current Administration has highlighted racial equity as one of its original priorities. Today, NCIL calls on the White House administration to join us in following through with its own promises to racially marginalized people. The White House should heed the recommendations of the United Nations (UN) and stop expelling Haitian immigrants without first assessing whether they qualify for refugee status.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Pennsylvania Representative Jessica Benham to Speak at Elevate 2021

The National Council on Independent Living is excited to announce our speakers and trainers for Elevate 2021! Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities will happen October 14th through November 4th, 2021. We will be joined by guest speakers including Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Pennsylvania State Representative Jessica Benham. We will also hear from many people with disabilities about their own experiences with running for office, working on a campaign, and organizing. We will hear from Vilissa Thompson of Ramp Your Voice, Dom Kelly of Fair Fight Action, Tory Cross of Be a Hero, Atima Omara of Omara Strategy Group, and many more!

Join us for seven 90-minute, nonpartisan webinars on campaign topics led by experienced campaign trainers and guest speakers. Each webinar will have CART captioning and American Sign Language interpreters.

Register for Elevate 2021

Elevate 2021 Course Schedule

[Read more…]

NCIL and the Ford Foundation: Partnering to Create an Intersectional Future for the Disability Community

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is pleased to announce our newest partnership with the Ford Foundation that will both support the development of the next generation of disability advocates and enhance our efforts to fully establish Independent Living (IL) as a part of the disability justice movement.

In recent history, there have been substantial changes to the status of disabled people in the United States as a result of the passage of disability rights legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Yet, as NCIL embarks on our fortieth anniversary, we recognize that, for us, the vital work of disability justice is just beginning. Our movement is at a pivotal point in time, where we have both the wisdom of key historic figures in IL and disability rights to remind us of how far we’ve come and the insight of emerging leaders to show us where we need to go next. The generous grant funding from the Ford Foundation will assist us in getting there in several key ways, including the relaunching of our programming geared towards young disabled people into a multigenerational and intersectional initiative that connects the next generation of decision makers with disabilities with those who have paved the way. 

“The work toward equity requires a diverse disability movement and leadership that centers disability in all forms of injustice,” Rebecca Cokley, Program Officer at the Ford Foundation, remarks. “The Ford Foundation is proud to support NCIL to help build the next generation of grassroots disabled leaders.” 

“I came to here to do exactly what the Ford Foundation is now supporting us to do. I couldn’t be more humbled at the opportunity to serve as leader for this organization during such a turning point for IL and I look forward to seeing what happens next for us,” notes Reyma McCoy McDeid, NCIL’s Executive Director.

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.

Since its inception, NCIL has carried out its mission by assisting member CILs and SILCs in building their capacity to promote social change, eliminate disability-based discrimination, and create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the legislative process to effect change.

Media Contact:

Jenny Sichel
Program Coordinator
jenny@ncil.org
www.ncil.org

Planet Fitness, Home of the Judgement Free Zone, and the Coalition for Inclusive Fitness Announce Accessible Exercise Equipment Commitment Benefitting People with Disabilities

Hampton, N.H. (September 21, 2021) — Planet Fitness, Inc. (NYSE: PLNT), one of the largest and fastest-growing global franchisors and operators of fitness centers with more members than any other fitness brand, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, National Council on Independent Living, and American Council of the Blind (collectively “Coalition for Inclusive Fitness” or the “Coalition”) today announced a commitment to expand access to accessible exercise equipment.

“As a leader in the industry and home of the Judgement Free Zone®, it is our mission to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment to anyone who comes through our doors,” said Chris Rondeau, Planet Fitness’ Chief Executive Officer. “People with disabilities face significant barriers when attempting to access health and wellness activities, and it’s clear that health inequity is often due to a lack of access and opportunity. Today’s commitment is another way we are working to eliminate barriers and enhance people’s lives by providing a high-quality fitness experience for everyone.”

The Coalition is focused on working with global organizations to build inclusive health communities that provide people with disabilities equal access to, and opportunities for, healthy living. Planet Fitness is committed to providing inclusive equipment in all new stores and adding it to existing stores across the country as franchise owners replace current offerings, as inclusive commercial grade equipment becomes available for purchase and is approved by Planet Fitness for inclusion in its clubs.

Planet Fitness will enhance the amount and variety of accessible equipment provided at its clubs by adding new inclusive equipment that conforms with ASTM standards as it becomes commercially available for purchase after clearing through a due diligence process, in accordance with set phased-in time parameters.

[Read more…]

NCIL Mourns the Loss of Marilyn Golden

The staff and governing board of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) are saddened by the death of our friend and colleague, Marilyn Golden. She was a key figure in the disability rights movement and her tireless work to protect people with disabilities from legislation that could end our lives prematurely has saved countless people from an early death. We join the Independent Living community in mourning this great loss and share the following tribute from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in remembrance of Marilyn.

In Memory of Marilyn Golden

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), died at home on September 21, 2021, surrounded by her family. A long-time disability rights advocate, she played a key role in the development, passage, and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Her advocacy molded and shaped accessibility in the United States and improved architectural access and standards worldwide. She spent more than three decades working to see that the ADA was implemented and enforced, and teaching others the value of disability civil rights via, and beyond the law.

“Working on the ADA was one of the most important experiences of my life,” said Marilyn when asked about the impact and evolution of the ADA in 1999, “and it is something I’ll never forget. Something I treasure and value–to both have such an incredible experience and also to make a contribution.”

And contribute, she did.

From her leadership on both the development and implementation of the ADA, to the unglamourous, nitty gritty details she steadfastly injected into statutory guidance and regulation, to the people she trained and gently mentored every step of the way, our friend and colleague Marilyn Golden changed for the better how we use public spaces, design buses, trains, planes, and boats, and create equitable transit services. She also thought that assisted suicide was dangerous public policy for disabled people and her opposition never faltered, even in the face of powerful forces working for legalization.

NCIL Executive Director Selected for Ibram X. Kendi’s Antibigotry Convening

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is pleased to announce that its Executive Director, Reyma McCoy McDeid, has been selected to serve as a Fellow for Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Antibigotry Convening.  Dr. Kendi, author of the best-selling book, How to be an Antiracist, is the founder of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, which is home to the Antibigotry Convening, a program that “aims to define bigotry in structural terms, examine the ways that structural bigotry harms diverse communities, generate an antibigotry policy report, and motivate an antibigotry movement. The project will involve a series of virtual workshops in the Fall of 2021, and will culminate in a virtual symposium in January of 2022.”


As the sole representative of a disability organization to participate in the Antibigotry Convening, Reyma further positions NCIL as a wayshower at the intersection of race and disability.  From Reyma: “This is an incredible opportunity- not only for NCIL, or the disability community, but for society at-large because we are finally starting to see that not meeting the needs of racially marginalized disabled people- either unintentionally or intentionally- is a form of ableism, as discussed by Dr. Kendi and Rebecca Cokley earlier this summer.  For many in IL, this is a way of looking at ableism that might feel unfamiliar.  But, if you’ve ever wondered why your CIL has struggled to engage with racially marginalized consumers, then not understanding how the disability experience for racially marginalized consumers- including how ableism manifests in their lives- may be a part of the issue.  I look forward to taking what I learn during my time as a Fellow with the Antibigotry Convening to further support NCIL’s member network in providing the Core Services to racially marginalized consumers in ways that are transformative- both for consumers, but for IL, as a movement.”


More information on the Antibigotry Convening can be found by visiting the website.

It’s National Disability Voter Registration Week!

The week of September 13-20, 2021 is National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW)! NDVRW was created by the REV UP Campaign to increase the political power of people with disabilities. The REV UP Campaign was created by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). NCIL is proud to be a partner organization for National Disability Voter Registration Week.

This week, Centers for Independent Living and disability rights organizations around the country will be celebrating NDVRW through events and activities to encourage people with disabilities to vote. There are many ways to get involved!

Check the National Disability Voter Registration Week calendar of events. Organizations around the country will be holding events to celebrate voting all week long. These events include local and state forums, training webinars, voter registration events, and more.

[Read more…]

From Voting Rights to Running for Office: Disability and the Political Process with NCIL’s Executive Director

Dear NCIL Members and Friends,

I was the first openly autistic individual to run for state legislature in US history. I was also the first state legislative candidate to bring up the issue of using campaign funds to pay for caregiver expenses. My Center for Independent Living was in Iowa, where the national political process starts. It starts when the Presidential primaries are held. Voters in Iowa have big meetings and decide on who they think each party should select as their Presidential candidate. These big meetings are called caucuses.  Disabled people in Iowa were not able to participate in these meetings. Our CIL organized meetings so people with all types of disabilities could be a part of the caucuses. 

All this is to say, I came to the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) with a deep commitment to ensuring that disabled people can participate in all political processes.  

The cornerstone of the political process is the polling place. I am proud that NCIL has, time and time again, shown its support for ensuring that all eligible voters have access and ability to vote on or by election day. 

NCIL operates a subcommittee that focuses specifically on voter rights.  NCIL has an employee who works on projects specific to voting rights. NCIL recently joined several other disability organizations in signing on to a letter authored by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. From the letter:

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; 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… 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.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Association of Councils for Developmental Disabilities (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 letter calls out the actions of state legislatures on voting issues. There was a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that made the actions of these states possible. That case was Shelby County v. Holder. It reversed the federal law that made sure states did not discourage people from voting. These protections were especially important for disabled voters, and Black and brown voters. The letter NCIL signed supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  

NCIL’s commitment to ensuring participation of disabled people in the political process extends beyond the polling place and onto the ballot itself thanks to Elevate, the landmark training program designed specifically for candidates with disabilities, designed and led by people with disabilities. Elevate has been a part of NCIL portfolio for over two years. Elevate’s commitment to operating at the intersection of race and disability has been a key part of the program since day one. Elevate kicks off its relaunch in October. Spread the word. If you are a disabled person who’s interested in running for office, register! It’s FREE for NCIL individual members so be on the lookout for further details from us.

In Solidarity,

Reyma McCoy McDeid

This statement is written in plain language.

A Right to Vote and A Right to Health for All: Co-liberation as the Only Path Forward

By Maddie Offstein, NCIL Summer Policy Intern

Although the U.S. has formally abolished the Jim Crow laws and poll taxes, many states are ramping up efforts to revisit their laws on voting policies and procedures after the 2020 Presidential election and creating significant barriers for many in participating in future elections. Since start of the new year alone, 18 states have enacted 30 new laws that restrict access to the ballot. Most noteworthy is the successfully passed legislation in Georgia, a state whose presidential election results were decided by a mere 11,779 votes. The law, S.B.202, includes 16 key provisions that either restrict the right to vote for some Georgia residents or transfer power from elections officials to state legislators. The major changes to state voting requirements are as follows: a shortened time period to request absentee ballots, stricter ID requirements for absentee ballots, a significant reduction in the number of ballot drop boxes (with an additional requirement that they are placed inside frequently inaccessible buildings), an almost complete elimination of mobile voting centers, and misdemeanor charges for those who offer food or water to those waiting in long polling lines. These changes will have the impact of curtailing voting access for disabled, low-income, and racially marginalized people – so egregiously that the Justice Department is suing the state on the grounds that Republican lawmakers pushed a bill through the State legislature with an intent to deny Black voters equal access to the ballot. In addition to many civil rights groups, disability rights-focused groups such as The Arc Georgia, Georgia ADAPT, and the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) have joined the case and added a complaint that S.B. 202 violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is the first-time disability rights organizations have joined, as plaintiffs, a major voting rights lawsuit.

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Last Chance to Sign on to REAADI & DRMA Support Letters: Due this Friday!

Earlier this month, Senator Casey (D-PA) and Congressman Langevin (D-RI) reintroduced the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act (S. 2658 / H.R. 4938), and Senator Casey and Congressman Panetta (D-CA) reintroduced the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) (S. 2646 / H.R. 4937). You can find more information about these two critical bills, including information about the bills, previous alerts, our archived Stakeholder Meetings, and our Disability Equity During Disasters toolkit at our REAADI for Disasters Act and DRMA web page.

NCIL is grateful to Senator Casey, Congressman Langevin, and Congressman Panetta for taking the lead on these important bills that will help address and dismantle the barriers disabled people face before, during, and after disasters. We will be sending letters expressing our strong support for these efforts, and the dire need for the REAADI for Disasters Act and DRMA to be passed and implemented quickly.

Please join these sign-on letters expressing your organization’s strong support for these bills and thanking Senator Casey, Congressman Langevin, and Congressman Panetta for their leadership!

Sign your organization on to our REAADI for Disasters Act & DRMA Support Letters!

If this form is not accessible to you, or if you have any questions, you can email reyma@ncil.org with:

  • your organization’s name exactly as you would like it listed
  • whether you are a national, state, or local organization
  • what state you are in (if state or local)
  • and your preferred email address (for internal purposes only)