How to Protect Disability Rights in 2018

Americas, Misc., December 29 2017

USADisability rights have always been an important political issue in the United States, but in 2017, the growing profile of activist group ADAPT highlighted what’s at stake. The fight for health care is only a small part of the larger battle for full inclusion in society — something that will be under threat in 2018, thanks to Republican policies.

If you’re disabled and feeling helpless — or nondisabled and wanting to work in solidarity with the disability community — there are lots of actions you can take that will make a big difference.

Guide dogs Memphis and Donna meet during the NRC-sponsored Combined Federal Campaign Charity Fair during which federal workers learn about community charities. Pictured (left to right) NRC staff member Trish Gallalee and Memphis, her guide dog, and Dave Gill, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, and Donna, his training service dog. Looking on in the background are NRC CFC campaign manager Reinaldo Picón-Colón, Leigh Trocine and Deirdre W. Spaulding-Yeoman

Photo credit – Nuclear Regulatory Commission

ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL

Many disabled people are extremely concerned about threats to Medicaid, which will likely be targeted for significant cuts in 2018 –  in part to pay for the GOP tax bill. Medicaid provides key health services to millions of disabled and/or low-income Americans. Consider contacting your legislators to let them know you support Medicaid funding and don’t want to see the venerable program converted to block grants or subjected to extreme cuts.

Two other pieces of federal legislation should also be on your radar: The Disability Integration Act and the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017.

The Disability Integration Act explicitly affirms the right of disabled people to live in their communities — something vital for civil rights and full inclusion, but also incidentally less expensive than institutionalization. Make sure your legislators support it.

The ADA Education and Reform Act would introduce significant barriers that will make it harder to file ADA-related lawsuits. Proponents claim this will resolve the problem of nuisance lawsuits, but they neglect to mention that lawsuits are the only way to force businesses to comply with the ADA — a law that has been in effect for 27 years. It will be harder for disabled people to access their communities if this law passes, so make sure your legislators oppose it.

You may also want to consider looming policy changes to the education system, which tend to hit disabled students first. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made it clear that she doesn’t think disabled students are entitled to an education, and she’s trying to dismantle key legal protections that keep disabled kids thriving in school. Equity and fairness in housing, employment and other aspects of life are also under threat on the federal level.

It can be overwhelming to keep track of every single legislative change, so consider picking a single issue and sticking with it. Maybe for you that’s fair housing, or health access for disabled children. Band together with friends to cover different issues; that way, you can call in support when you need it!

ON THE STATE LEVEL

Republicans, once fond of citing “states’ rights” as a doctrine, are changing their colors on this issue — especially for blue states. Even so, states have a tremendous amount of power when it comes to passing civil rights legislation, prioritizing health care spending, extending anti-discrimination protections and more. It’s time to lean on state lawmakers. If the federal government won’t protect the disability community, make sure your state does.

You can push for greater guidance and enforcement on civil rights issues like voting rights, education access and employment discrimination. If you’re not sure what’s happening in your state or how to help, reach out to advocacy groups. Consider that disability rights almost always overlaps with other civil rights issues.

For example, voter ID laws disproportionately affect the disability community — and that’s a great reason to oppose them and support political candidates who believe in unrestricted voting rights. This also helps communities of color, who are similarly harmed by such laws.

ON THE LOCAL LEVEL

Your local government makes a lot of decisions that have a profound effect on disability rights. For example, new construction should be ADA-compliant, so showing up at planning commission meetings to voice concerns can improve accessibility in your community. The same goes for a variety of other civic activities and projects, from retrofitting sidewalks to holding community events in accessible venues. Your proactive measures will make your community more accessible and welcoming over time.

For full article by S.E. Smith, visit source: Care2

Re-posted with permission

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