ADVOCATE FOR INDEPENDENCE
Empowering People Through Advocacy

March 2021
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A monthly publication from our Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist,
Patrick Ober, J.D., Ph.D.
Hello again, CILO supporters and Disability Advocates! Below is our monthly highlight of advocacy and policy issues to know and learn about related to people with disabilities and independent living.

Help Us Welcome Project Assistant
Samuel Schell-Olsen!

CILO recently was awarded a $10,000 grant from The Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council (OSILC) to develop a training program that educates consumers across Ohio on their healthcare rights in traditional healthcare settings as well as when receiving home and community-based services. As part of this grant, CILO has brought on Sam Schell to serve as the Healthcare Training Program Project Assistant.

Sam is a Freelance Journalist and 2020 University of Cincinnati graduate, where he was the first openly autistic college editor in the state of Ohio, writing over 100 articles for multiple college news publications. In his role as Project Assistant, Sam will help research and develop the presentations and resources that will help educate and empower consumers to know and protect their rights when receiving healthcare services. We are privileged to have Sam working on this important project for Ohioans with disabilities!
Disability in the Media – Proof that Advocacy
Can Work!

People with disabilities are well-aware of their lack of accurate and authentic representation in television, film, and pretty much every form of media. In September 2020, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) reinforced this reality. They found that disability representation in movies over the past 5 years had not meaningfully changed. In 2019, just 2.3% of all speaking characters in 2019 had disabilities, up from 1.6% in 2018. The GLAAD Media Institute’s 2020 report found that while disability representation on television is slightly better than film (3.5% of the 773 regularly-appearing characters on scripted television series), it is still woefully short of people with disabilities in proportion to their numbers in the actual population.

Disability rights advocates over these years have become more vocal about these issues over representation, and recent news stories are beginning to show the success of these advocacy efforts:
  • Following the USC Report, Netflix stated “it will establish a fund that will invest $100 million over the next five years in organizations that help bring underrepresented communities into the television and film industries and in programs to train and hire new talent at the company.”        
  • CBS and NBC have both signed a pledge from the Ruderman Family Foundation that calls on Hollywood studios, networks and production companies to commit to auditioning actors with disabilities for each new production they bring to series.
  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced that for the first time, movies will have to meet inclusion standards in order to contend for best picture at the Oscars. “The standards cover a film’s casting, storyline and who’s working behind the camera as well as training opportunities and promotional staff at the company backing the movie. Including people with cognitive or physical disabilities as well as those who are deaf or hard of hearing are among the ways that a film can satisfy the standards.”
  • NBC also just announced that for the first time it will air live, primetime broadcasts of this Summer’s World Paralympic Games in Tokyo from August 24 – September 5, 2021, including over 1,200 hours of coverage across NBC networks and digital platforms.

These news stories are indicators that disability rights voices are finally starting to be heard, but much more work still needs to be done. Continue to share and encourage accurate and authentic representation of people with disabilities in television, film, and all other forms of media!

Recent Ohio Legislative and Policy Issues

Local, state, and national policymakers and legislators have had a busy to start the 2021 year! There are a few state and local legislative updates that can impact the lives of people with disabilities that disability advocates should follow and share with others:

  • Currently, the Ohio Government is debating Senate Bill 17, legislation that changes eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and Medicaid, work and education requirements for certain Medicaid recipients, requirements for SNAP electronic benefit transfer cards, and eligibility for and overpayments of unemployment compensation. State Senator Tim Shaffer, sponsor of the bill, believes it will place greater checks and accountability on fraud. However, many public welfare advocates oppose the bill, saying it creates more barriers for people in need of assistance from Medicaid and food programs, both of which are used by thousands of people with disabilities across Ohio. State policy analysts also estimate that the added paperwork and administrative requirements would cost Ohio about $20 million to implement.
 
  • Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 74, the state's more than $8 billion, two-year transportation budget. Fortunately for many with disabilities who use public transportation, the budget includes $193.7 million in state and federal dollars over two years for local public transit, a huge increase from Governor DeWine’s initial recommendations earlier this year. The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate for further debate.
 
  • Affordable housing continues to be a barrier to independent living for many adults with disabilities in southwest Ohio. Fed up with local inaction on the issue, many public housing advocates and human services organizations have collaborated to propose that the city of Cincinnati establish an amendment to the City Charter that requires the city to put $50 million the first year - and more each year after - into an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would fund affordable housing projects across the city. Last week, Cincinnati politicians and policy analysts argued against the amendment, stating that drastic cuts to many social services they believe would have to occur in order to shift the $50 million into the Trust Fund. This amendment and whether it passes has many important implications for people with disabilities in Cincinnati, as the need for affordable and accessible housing as well as ensuring that local social and welfare services remain funded are both priorities for many disability advocates.


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