April 25, 2016
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update

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This weeks edition of the Update is fully packed.  We begin with an editorial from Maggie Sheets. Maggie has been a full time member of the DPC staff for the last year and a half.  A couple of weeks ago she traveled to Washington to expand her advocacy horizons.

We need your help with several actions at the state level. We hope you will take a moment and respond to these requests. 

We also have some good news from the Statehouse.  A proposal by the Governor to limit benefits for people on SSI has been blocked in the House budget.  This was one of the DPC budget priorities.  The Alternative Housing Voucher Program detailed below is another one of our priorities.

Lastly we have a survey for you to fill out on Accessible Pedestrian Signals.  Please help us as we try to determine the feasibility of statewide standards.   

As always,  good reading.

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
Editorial:  Thoughts from a Civil Disobedience Newbie

During the week of April tenth, I was in our nation's Capital where I participated in a civil disobedience action for the first time.  I was with a group called MassADAPT which is part of a national grass roots organization called ADAPT.  ADAPT advocates for the rights of people with disabilities.  It was an eye-opening experience for me. 
 
I was able to participate in what is called a "National Action".  As a group, we went to different sites around Washington, DC to advocate for the Disability Integration Act (Senate Bill 2427). This Act, which is pending in the Senate, was introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) in December, 2015.  It will require insurance companies and states to provide funding for services such as personal care attendants, medical equipment, and other social services. These services would allow people with disabilities to live in the community rather than nursing homes.  The law is beneficial on many levels as it costs less to have people live in the community versus living in care facilities.
 
While in DC, I and other members of ADAPT demonstrated in front of the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice.  We also held a Fun Run to raise awareness for the Disability Integration Act and met with different legislators on Capitol Hill to urge them to support this legislation and on the House side, to promote new legislation that supports the Disability Integration Act.  One of the things that touched me most about being part of this group was going through the streets of DC to different locations where we demonstrated.  As a group of approximately 200 people, we occupied one lane of traffic accompanied by a police escort.  I felt like we traveled down those streets like we owned them, chanting things like "Our homes not nursing homes!" as loudly as possible.  It felt good to know that we had all connected.  Moving together on behalf of people who are unable to move out of care facilities. 
 
I have friends who lived in nursing homes and have since moved to live in their communities.  I have seen how much better their lives are now and how much happier they are as a result of that transition.  Although being part of this Action was a good experience, it still frustrates me that change seems slow to happen at times.  However, I'm still glad I played a part in that change.  I feel even more passionate about supporting the rights of people with disabilities because I was part of this event and because of the many people I met through participating.
 
I'm happy to say that as of April 18th, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has signed on as co-sponsor for the Disability Integration Act and it is hoped that Sen. Markey will follow suit. If you would like to help the Disability Integration Act to become law, I would urge you to please call Senator Markey's office ( 202-224-2742) to ask him to support Senate bill 2427.

Maggie Sheets
Advocacy Needed:  Support Alternative Housing Voucher Program

Currently, in Massachusetts, there are 99 people with disabilities under 60 (some in their twenty's and thirty's) who have asked to leave nursing homes.  They have have applied for and received the Federal "Money Follows the Person" waiver that would let them keep their services when they leave.  And yet, they still cannot leave.

Why?  Because they can't find anywhere else to live. Because the state will pay $100,000 per person per year or more for nursing home care, but won't provide enough housing vouchers at $8,500 a year for people to be able to live in the community in their own apartments.

Want to change that?  Call your legislators on Monday and ask them to support a $2.5 million increase for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program.  For Representatives, specifically tell them to support Budget Amendment 60.

For more information contact Colin Killick at ckillick@dpcma.org.
Advocacy Needed:  Parental Rights Coming Up for Committee Vote

DPC Board Member,  Attorney Robyn Powell has been the force behind a Massachusetts bill (House 1370) that would protect the rights of parents with disabilities in custody cases during divorce proceedings. Rep. Paul Heroux  introduced the bill and has served as its champion.  According to his office, the Judiciary Committee will vote on it this week.  We encourage members to contact the Committee and urge them to pass it.  Here is a link to the members of the committee.
 
(Note: Maryland and South Carolina just passed similar bills.)

P.S. Special thanks to DeAnn Elliott for the heads up on this issue.
Advocacy Opportunity: Accessible Pedestrian Survey 

We want to share this survey about Accessible 
Pedestrian Signals with you.  The survey was developed by the Mass. Alliance of Commissions On Disability in cooperation with the DPC

This is an opportunity for you to provide input and help us to develop potential standards for audible signals. These signals enhance the independence of people who are blind or have low vision.  You can find the survey here.  If you have any questions you can contact Colin Killick at ckillick@dpcma.org.
Advocacy Update:  FDA Moves to Ban Electric Shocks on Children 
  
For years advocates have fought to stop the Judge Rotenberg Center in Randolph from using electric shocks as a "treatment" on children with disabilities. Finally, the Food and Drug Administration has moved to ban the use of shocks on children.  The proposal now undergoes a 30-day comment period.  You can read more here.
Calendar: REV UP! 
Register! Educate! Vote!

When:  Wednesday, April 27, 2016,  10:00 am - 3:30 pm

Where:  Suffolk University Law School,  Sergeant Hall Function Room, 1st floor, 120 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108

Join us for an Election Assistance Commission Public Meeting followed by a REV UP Strategy Meeting

2016 is a national election year. The goal of this meeting is the creation of a strategy on how to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated on the candidates and issues, and to the polls on Election Day, November 8, 2016.

Register by April 20, 2016

Register Online, or contact Amanda if you have any questions.

mail@dlc-ma.org or 617-723-8455 x 123
Calendar: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Constituent Day 

When:  Thursday, April 28, 2016, 10:00 A.M. - Noon

Where:  Massachusetts State House

Awards for Outstanding Advocate, Organization and Service Providers, legislators who have supported the D/HH community will be recognized. 

Hosted by the MCDHH Statewide Advisory Council of the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Calendar:  Deaf Grassroots Movement National Deaf Rally

When:  Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 9:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M.

Where: Massachusetts State House

The Deaf Grassroots Movement of Massachusetts (DGM-MA) will join a nationwide effort to raise awareness and increase political pressure to address the inequality and injustice that Deaf people continue to face. DGM-MA is hosting a "National Deaf Rally" on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 from 9AM - 4PM.

For the first time, community activists, advocates and allies from across the nation will gather together at the State House and adjoining Boston Commons. Last year Deaf activists and allies held a National Deaf Rally in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. on Labor Day weekend. This year's event in Boston will be similar and focus on educating the public about:

a) The need to provide American Sign Language (ASL) access and resources to Deaf, Deafblind, Hard of Hearing infants with multiple needs from birth to age five and their families to prevent language deprivation. This type of education encourages lifetime skills in both English literacy and ASL mastery.

b) The need for equal employment opportunities and the prevention of workplace discrimination against Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing people.

c) The need for qualified American Sign Language (ASL), certified Deaf interpreters (CDI) and Deafblind interpreters to provide equal communication access. The increasing use of video remote interpreting (VRI) and video relay services (VRS) with unqualified interpreters in situations when it is entirely inappropriate and even dangerous, such as in hospitals, is a civil rights issue.

d) The need for improved mental health and substance abuse services to support Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing individuals, statewide and nationally.

DGM-MA deeply appreciates the resources and services by the agencies currently serving the Deaf community in this state. However, these agencies are severely underfunded, and more advocacy work and education is needed to support them.

The rally will include cultural information and feature American Sign Language stories, poetry, and games to represent the overall Deaf community life and convey its strengths and struggles.

Contact Information:

Cheryl M. Quintal at CMQuintal@gmail.com
Patrick "Pax" McCarthy at infodgmma@gmail.com

Deaf Grassroots Movement Website: http://www.tdgm2015.org/
In This Issue
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