Category Archives: Uncategorized

WGBH Interview with Marlene Sallo

We All Have A Right To Be Engaged

Marlene Sallo, ED of Disability Law Center, was interviewed by WGBH on election day.

Watch the video and read the story at https://www.wgbh.org/specials/2020/11/03/we-all-have-a-right-to-be-engaged-civil-rights-attorney-on-making-voting-accessible-to-all .

“Her team’s efforts to ensure that this year’s elections were accessible to all voters began nearly a year ago, when the Disability Law Center started working with state and local officials to ensure that the language used for mail-in voting met the same accessibility standards as those for voting in person. Given health and safety considerations due to the coronavorus pandemic, it became even more important to ensure that all voters could safely cast their ballots, whether at the polls or from home.

“Don’t we all have the right to vote independently and privately?” she said. “Someone with a disability should not have less of a right than someone without a disability.”

WGBH’s NCAM Supports Voters With Disabilities By Ensuring Access To Digital Information

Let’s hope this is in place in Massachusetts for 2022!

NCAM, an accessibility consulting unit of GBH, which made its mark early on by inventing captioning for broadcast television, is working with states and app developers to improve the accessibility of voting information, election-related websites and tools and the voting experience itself for the more than 35 million U.S. voters who have a disability. Most recently, NCAM has worked with Voatz, a Brookline-based developer, to ensure that its voting app, long used by overseas military personnel, is accessible domestically for people with disabilities.

Read the article NCAM Supports Voters With Disabilities By Ensuring Access To Digital Information.

REVUP MA Conference

Let’s Get Out the Disability Vote in 2020!

This year has challenged all of us. Now, more than ever, we have to make sure that each and every one of our voices is heard through the Power of the Disability Vote!

Join REV UP MA’s video conference conversation on Friday, September 11 at 10:30 am to discuss the importance of disability advocacy during this year’s Presidential Race and how we can all work to Get Out The Vote!

We want to hear from you – What are your concerns? What issues should the candidates be addressing? How can we make sure that every vote is counted!

Register

Register online at DLC-MA.org.

Agenda

10:30 AM – Welcoming Remarks

10:40 am – 11:45 am – COVID, the 2020 Election and Accommodations – Current Protections and What we need to do moving forward – Discussion followed by a Q&A

  • Michelle Tassinari, Director and Legal Counsel – Secretary of State Elections Division
  • Commissioner Thomas Hicks, Election Assistance Commission

11:45 – 12:15 pm – DLC Wants to Hear From You: What Are Your Concerns About the Upcoming Election

  • Tatum Pritchard, Director of Litigation, Disability Law Center
  • Marlene Sallo, Executive Director, Disability Law Center

12:15 – 12:30 pm – BREAK

12:30 – 2:00 pm – The 2020 Election & Why We Need to Get Out the Vote – Discussion followed by Q&A

  • Michelle Bishop, Voter Access & Engagement Manager – National Disability Rights Network
  • Rebecca Cokley, Disability Rights Activist/Director – Disability Justice Initiative, Center for American Progress
  • Erin Prangley, Director of Policy, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
  • Sandy Ho, Research Associate, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy

2:00 – 2:30 pm – Closing Remarks

More info

Join the Video Conference Conversation

** Registrants may participate by telephone **

ASL Interpreters and CART have been confirmed.

Please submit any accommodation requests to Amanda at 617-315-4440 or agasparonis@dlc-ma.org by no later than September 4, 2020.

ADA 30 – The Next 30 Years

Reprinted from the Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Newsletter on July 27, 2020 by Colin Killick, Executive Director. The changes he describes will need new legislation and greater enforcement of laws. These needed changes are exactly why you need to vote!

It’s incredible to think that it’s been 30 years since the passage of the ADA. So many eloquent words have been said over the past weeks and months about the titanic impact this law has had in making our world more accessible and quite literally opening doors for our community. We’ve also seen major milestones lately for the public awareness of what it took to make the ADA, and Section 504 before it, happen, most recently in the huge success of Crip Camp. As the world is learning, people with disabilities were not handed our rights, we fought for them, and defeated some of the most powerful commercial interests in this country to make them a reality. We’ve seen that power again and again in the years since, from the fight to save Medicaid in 2017, to defending PCA access and doubling the size of the AHVP program here in Massachusetts. As Bob Kafka put it, “if we believed that ADA is the power and we are the recipients of its strength, rather than we are the power and ADA is a tool for us to use, I fear we may still have a long way to go.”  For all the massive changes the ADA wrought, there are still huge hurdles we have to clear to achieve full equity for our community. Therefore, I want to lay out just two of many areas that I hope we will be looking back on as huge victories 30 years from now.

Genuinely Integrated Accessible Living

Some of the worst discrimination our community still faces is housing segregation. People with disabilities in this country have far less choice in where to live than those who do not have disabilities, for a variety of reasons. Deliberate discrimination on the part of landlords is still a major problem, as testing by HUD and other agencies has shown. This discrimination has also been institutionalized in some public housing systems, including here in Massachusetts, in the form of quotas that limit the percentage of under- age 65 people with disabilities who can live in Elderly-Disabled Housing buildings. These quotas are often the direct result of fearmongering against people with mental health diagnoses, falsely claiming that they pose a danger to their elderly neighbors despite there being no statistical evidence to back this up; I was once in a meeting with a now-former elected official who told us point-blank that if we would just agree that people with mental health diagnoses did not count as disabled for housing purposes, they could give us “all the units for people in wheelchairs you want.” (Obviously, we said no!)

Another major issue in this area is the severe shortage of housing that is both affordable and accessible; the ADA accessibility requirements for apartment buildings largely only applied to those constructed after the bill’s passage. As a result, the older housing stock (including almost all single-family units, which are very rarely required to be accessible) is sometimes affordable but rarely accessible, while the newer housing stock is frequently accessible but very rarely affordable, particularly in major cities where luxury developments constitute a huge share of new construction. Finally, one of the biggest issues is the continuing segregation of millions of people with disabilities into Nursing Homes and other congregate settings–very often not because they need to be there, but because bias in the payment structure of state Medicaid programs means nursing homes are the default for people who need Long-Term Services and Supports, while getting PCAs and other in-home options requires jumping through hoops. That system has robbed people with disabilities of their independence, their dignity, and during this pandemic their very lives.

To address these issues, we’ll need multiple major reforms. State and federal authorities should conduct frequent investigations of landlords for discrimination against disabled renters (using proven effective methods such as paired testers) and punish landlords for discriminatory behavior. We need to end discriminatory quotas in public housing, and create affordable accessible housing via new regulations on housing developers to bolster access (like the AAB Bill we continue to fight for in the legislature) and increase affordability (via tools like AHVP and expanded affordability rules. Finally, we need to put an end to the nursing home as we know it, replacing it with vastly expanded access to in-home supports, and where absolutely necessary, small specialized facilities that have real infection controls, real protections for residents’ rights, and which are geared always to get people back into the community safely as soon as possible.

Breaking the Link Between Disability and Poverty

Arguably the biggest way that people with disabilities are repressed in this country is that we are far more likely than our non-disabled peers to live in poverty. As with the issue of housing, this has multiple causes. Employment discrimination is rampant against our community; according to a landmark 2015 Rutgers study, people who disclose a disability in their cover letter are 26% less likely to get a job interview, even when their disability is totally irrelevant to the position they are applying for. Flaws in our Special Education system also lead to many students with disabilities being segregated from their non-disabled peers and steered away from taking the kinds of risks that could lead to economic independence. Perhaps the biggest barrier to the economic empowerment of people with disabilities, however, are the poverty traps built into our disability benefits programs. As Stapleton et al. lay out here, our federal disability benefits programs are stuck in an outdated and discredited medical model that defines disability as an inability to work, and ties benefits to income in a punitive manner that punishes people for succeeding by yanking away the supports they need to survive.

To fix this problem, we need a variety of policy changes. As in housing, we need aggressive investigation of employment discrimination and punishment of firms that engage in it. We need to shake up the way we educate young people with disabilities to promote inclusion and achievement. Most of all, we need to rethink the way our government thinks about disability. Instead of having a fractured landscape of disability programs with varied and contradictory definitions, we need a single federal disability benefit based on a commonsense definition of disability that does not reply on income. Once someone was enrolled, they would stay involve, and what benefits you received would shift smoothly as your income and the level of support you needed changed, rather than dropping off abruptly to nothing once you crossed a particular threshold. If we succeed in this approach, then thirty years from today we may well be able to look back at a world where the promise of the ADA has been fully achieved, one in which having a disability has no bearing on the likelihood that you will be poor, or homeless, or victimized by violence, but it rather simply one more aspect of your identity as a human being.

Vote By Mail Bill Progresses

Tuesday, July 1, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted in favor of the conference committee report that was agreed to by the House and the Senate on voting options for our fall elections.

STATE PRIMARY – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

  • EARLY VOTING BY MAIL: All registered voters will be mailed an absentee ballot request form by July 15. Form will be preprinted with local election official address and no additional postage required;
  • EARLY VOTING IN PERSON: Saturday, August 22 thru Friday, August 28;
  • ELECTION DAY VOTING – Regular polling hours with social distancing/cleaning protocols and streamlined check out procedures.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3

  • EARLY VOTING BY MAIL: All registered voters will be mailed an absentee ballot request form by September 14. Form will be preprinted with local election official address and no additional postage required;
  • EARLY VOTING IN PERSON: Saturday, October 17 thru Friday, October 30;
  • ELECTION DAY VOTING – Regular polling hours with social distancing/cleaning protocols and streamlined check out procedures.

The Secretary of State will also set up an online portal no later than October 1, to allow registered voters to request their absentee ballot in lieu of mailing paper form.
A voter who casts their ballot via mail or early voting will be marked as “EV” on voting list.
There are additional provisions allowing town clerks to process (though not tally) early votes as they come in. It also includes a provision to ensure that any necessary changes to polling locations are made at least 20 days prior to election so there is no additional confusion about where to vote, as has happened in other states.

A mailed ballot properly postmarked by Election Day will be counted if received by November 6, 2020

2020 Elections Disability, Accessibility and Security Forum

February 20, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

As the 2020 elections rapidly approach, the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has designed a forum to address growing concerns regarding accessibility and security. This all-day forum will bring together state and local election officials, people with disabilities, disability advocates, and election security experts to discuss issues and advance solutions. The collaborative workshops and EAC’s efforts will assist election officials serving voters with disabilities in the 2020 elections and beyond. EAC commissioners will be in attendance and will play a leading role in promoting collaboration amongst participants.

https://www.eac.gov/events/2020/02/20/2020-elections-disability-accessibility-and-security-forum

2019 Municipal Elections

Tuesday, November 5th: 2019 Municipal Elections!
November 5th, 2019 is election day for many municipalities across the Commonwealth! Be sure to make it to the polls if your city/town has an election, and spread the word to your family and friends! And keep in mind that polling locations run on different schedules depending on municipality. Check here to see all cities/towns holding elections and the hours that polls are open for each: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elemuniele/munieleidx.htm If you have questions about voting, contact the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections and Voting Division at this toll free number: 1-800-462-VOTE (8683). You can also email them at elections@sec.state.ma.us

Civic Engagement Survey

Disabled People and Civic Engagement

Brandeis University in partnership with the Ford Foundation and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy are working to better understand the challenges, gaps, and opportunities for cross-movement work between disability rights and civic engagement communities. This work is informed by disabled people in the disability rights community to identify areas where philanthropy can better commit (and in some cases recommit) to disability rights within their civic engagement work.

As part of this research they are sharing a survey for people with disabilities who live in the U.S. about their civic engagement experiences. This survey is anonymous and voluntary.

They would appreciate if you would take a few minutes to complete the survey, and/or share with your networks. If you have questions or require an accessible version of this survey please let Sandy Ho, hos@brandeis.edu, know and one will be provided.

SURVEY: People with disabilities and Civic engagement: A Way Forward for Philanthropy

You can read more about Civic Engagement at FordFoundation.org.

Thanks to the Center for Living and Working in Worcester for the information!