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

Shield and Intersectional Rights Protection

An Update from the NCIL Mental Health Subcommittee

Successful comics can be particularly good at recognizing what hovers below the illusions that most of us accept as unchallenged reality. The late George Carlin exposes one of the myths that many of us accept. He riffs that it is comforting to believe that we have rights, but what we really have is privileges and privileges can be taken away. It is this challenge that too often confronts select groups of people who find themselves alone and easy targets for discrimination and misguided treatments.

The Shield program of MindFreedom International (MFI) was developed to support the right / privilege of informed choice as a bedrock of social justice for people who have been labelled. Shield is designed to counter the power inequities that confront those who oppose decisions and treatments where their complaints and input are ignored.

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Job Announcement: National Council on Independent Living Executive Director

The deadline to apply for this position has been extended to March 15, 2021.

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is currently seeking an Executive Director to succeed Kelly Buckland upon his retirement in May of 2021. NCIL encourages all qualified applicants to apply for this exciting opportunity to lead one of the nation’s premiere organizations for disability rights and independent living.

NCIL 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.

The Executive Director will lead a complex grassroots organization that is led by its membership and Governing Board. The ability to work with a mission-driven board, members, and grassroots stakeholders is key. The Executive Director will also direct a dedicated, passionate staff of ten and administer an annual budget of nearly $2M. NCIL’s revenue comes from a variety of sources, including membership dues, donations, and grants and contracts. Ensuring NCIL’s continued success with advocacy and policy, resource development, and operating high-quality, accessible programs and events will be critical.

NCIL approaches disability rights through the Independent Living perspective, that disability is a natural aspect of human life and that the barriers people with disabilities face are rooted in ableism and discrimination. NCIL is also committed to becoming an anti-racist organization, intent on confronting and undoing the harm of racism and injustice entrenched in disability rights, IL, and society-at-large. The next Executive Director must be committed to these same priorities to continue NCIL’s path towards justice and equity. We also believe that a diverse staff enables us to better understand and serve our members, audience, and community.

NCIL has a tremendous amount of momentum and excitement thanks to its current leadership and years of successful advocacy. This is an outstanding opportunity for the right leader as NCIL approaches a new strategic plan and its 40th anniversary in 2022. We hope you will consider applying and share this announcement with qualified candidates that you know.

The full job announcement is available at ncil.org and details the responsibilities and required qualifications for the position, as well as instructions to apply. Applications must be received by the close of the business day, March 15, 2021.

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.