December 19 2016
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update


This is our last Weekly Update edition for 2016.  We will be back with you on Monday, January 9, 2017.

We have a new Issue Brief on Reproductive Health for Women with Disabilities.  It was written by Maggie Sheets a member of the DPC Healthcare Advocacy Team.

I provide my take on the 60 Minutes ADA story.  We also include a link to a blog piece authored by Robyn Powell.

The Election Assistance Commission would like to know how voting went for you. Share your stories, they are important.

We, at the DPC, wish you very a Happy Holiday Season and a Healthy 2017.

As always  happy reading.

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
DPC Issue Brief: Reproductive Health

This is our fourth Issue Brief for the year.  This time we focus on reproductive health for women with disabilities.  This is one of those issues that our community has a long journey to travel before we achieve any semblance of full equality.  We are thankful to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for funding our work on this document.  You can download your copy here.
Editorial: Anderson Cooper Forgot our Shared History 

Much has been made of the Anderson Cooper hit job on the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) on 60 Minutes. To me the most remarkable fact was that Mr. Cooper overlooked or perhaps does not know that the civil rights of people who are gay in America are forever linked to the disability rights movement.

To start, let's give Mr. Anderson the credit he is due. He is intelligent and darn good at this job. Like Ellen DeGeneris and Oprah Winfrey before him he has used his tremendous talent and the power of his medium, television, to empower millions. One cannot underestimate the power of being a steady, friendly presence in one's living room, can overwhelm even the most powerful of prejudices.

Next, here is a brief history lesson linking gay rights and disability rights. In 1981 doctors in New York and San Francisco began to notice a new disease. What we now know as HIV/AIDS exploded into the American consciousness. It is hard to understand how explosive an issue AIDS was. The disease first infected men who had sex with men and ravaged the gay community. The first victims had a life expectancy of mere months. If your social circles extended into the gay community then, you lost far too many friends very quickly. Educating people took tremendous effort and some social conservatives viewed the disease of divine proof that homosexuality was the evilest of sins.

President Ronald Reagan never spoke of AIDS until 1985 and the Surgeon General was not allowed to discuss it or issue a report until 1986. Imagine if the Zika virus killed people and the Executive Branch ignored it for five years. Now you have some idea how surreal reactions to AIDS was.

Because of the disease and the forces needed to mobilize a response gay rights as a civil rights issue did not garner a lot of support in the decade. Indeed all civil rights withered while Reagan was President.

In 1988, with the Regan presidency in the rear view mirror, Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act. This bill overturned a variety of horrible court decisions and brought civil rights back into the public sphere. The Act also contained a provision explicitly stating that people living with AIDS were people with disabilities and thus protected by Section 504.

In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An amendment was added as it passed the House, the Chapman Food-Handler Amendment. This proposal, from the National Restaurant Association, would have allowed restaurants and other companies that handled food to legally discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. The disability community said, "NO! All of us or none of us." Bob Williams, a noted disability rights activist remarked, "If it ain't civil, it ain't right." Eventually, the ADA passed without the odious provision.

What made the ADA a powerful tool for the community is that it covers a person if they have a disability, or if they are perceived to have a disability. With the hysteria around AIDS, this distinction was important. Some bigots committed discrimination against gay or bi-sexual men because they thought they might have HIV/AIDS. As a result, for some members of the gay community, the ADA was the first national civil rights law that provided some coverage.

Ironically, the legislators who will use this "journalism" to strip us of our right to immediate protection from discrimination under the ADA, are the same idiots who howl about gay marriage. They would strip Mr. Cooper of his civil rights just as quickly as they would us. 

Luckily for you, Anderson, those of us who fought for the ADA will always remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Injustice anywhere; is a threat to justice everywhere."

What matters most is that when a community was targeted, we stood up. We were counted. When Mr. Cooper could have stood up for people with disabilities, he laid down.

John Winske

Advocacy Opportunity:  Members Sought for One Care Implementation Council 

Deadline extended until Tuesday, January 10, 2017.  

Below is information regarding the procurement of the new Implementation Council starting in 2017.  The current Implementation Council will be replaced by this new Council.

This means all current implementation council members must apply to be part of the new implementation Council that will be formed in 2017.

Masshealth is looking to build on the work done by the first Implementation Council and increase the diversity of Council members in the new Implementation Council.

People seeking to apply for the Council and are wanting more information can, in addition to going to COMMBUYS, go to this  website and scroll down to the bottom of the Notice of Opportunity announcement and the Q/A will be the third bulleted attachment.

Advocacy Update: AAB Regulations

As you know, after several years of hard work the Architectural Access Board (AAB) has finalized proposed updates that will improve the AAB regulations. The AAB received and considered substantial input from the public prior to the issuance of EO562, but also held an additional listening session in November of 2015 to encourage additional input.  

The proposed changes to the AAB were approved by the AAB subcommittee and also by the full Board. Sometime in March of 2016, the Building Codes Coordinating Council approved the third reading of the proposed amendments to the AAB.  From what we understand, these regulations are now stalled awaiting approval in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.  

Years of work has been invested in updating and improving the regulations, yet until they are released for public comment, there is no chance they will go into effect. 

The DPC will be signing on to a letter to the Administration about the regulations.  We will keep you posted.  Especially if we need your great advocacy.

P.S.  Thank you to Kimberly Sullivan Giese of Lynch Associates and the MS Society for this update.
Advocacy Opportunity: How Was Your Voting Experience?

The Election Assistance Commission is seeking feedback on voting experience of people with disabilities from this past election. Check out the message from the the EAC below, along with the website and email address to share your story.

Folks can email their stories to:

Message from: EAC Staff on Dec 06, 2016

More than 35 million Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election. On November 8th, millions of these Americans exercised their right to vote and found that, because of the great strides we have made in recent years that they could do so with relative ease and dignity. However, despite vast improvement, many did not have this experience.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) wants to hear from voters with disabilities about their stories on Election Day. Please email us at: Send us the good or the bad: we would like your feedback.

Here is an email we received from Jeanette McAllister of Franklin City, Virginia about her positive experience using an EAC certified machine:

"I just had the most WONDERFUL experience. I am totally blind and I voted myself in the November general election! I tested/voted on the new accessible voting machines during the primary - but that feeling cannot even begin to compare with how I feel this morning. I was in tears by the time I left the polling station - for the first time in years I VOTED without assistance.

To the manufacturers and trainers of the accessible voting machines, THANK YOU! Because of you I have the capability of exercising my rights as a US Citizen. To the poll workers in Franklin, Virginia, THANK YOU! Because of you, I can vote right along my sighted peers without feeling "frowned" upon. I am now an equal.

Thank you Franklin, Virginia!"

While we are so very glad that Jeanette was able to vote privately and independently, fulfilling the promise of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), we are also aware of many voters with disabilities who encountered problems.

On Election Day, the EAC heard from voters with disabilities who faced negative experiences with the voting process, assistance at the polls, and physical access issues at their polling place. This is unacceptable in our great nation where the laws seek to provide access to all. We must do better.

HAVA contained landmark provisions requiring the secure, private, and independent casting of ballots for voters with disabilities. During the past twelve years, the EAC has worked closely with election officials to promote these access requirements and to foster a climate of understanding in providing assistance for voters with disabilities.

Leading up to the 2016 election, the EAC held a widely attended field hearing in Boston, MA with voters with disabilities, took testimony to improve the process from over 100 voters with access needs, and distributed more than 10,000 of our federal voting rights cards in Braille, large print, and plain language. Much work remains to be done to reach the promise of HAVA. As we take stock of the 2016 election and hear from voters and election officials, the EAC looks forward to leading further initiatives that will improve accessibility and empower voters with disabilities.
Anderson Cooper: One More Take

Disability Attorney and DPC Board Member, Robyn Powell, had a blog entry on about the 60 Minutes debacle entitled "Here's What 60 Minutes Got Wrong About the ADA: Everything."  It's great and you can read it here.
In This Issue
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