Friday, November 11, 2016

The Trump Era: What It Means for People with Disabilities, and What You Can Do

If you or someone you know has a disability and are looking for encouraging words about the election of Donald Trump, you won't find it here. But it's important to evaluate the potential impact of a Trump presidency, understand how you can be involved, and how to move forward.

Where We Are Today

I started this blog in 2008 to advocate for people with disabilities during a presidential campaign that I knew would have a major impact. Looking back, there's no doubt that our choice of President Obama led to eight years of progress. Here are just a few examples:

  • Health care reform that provided coverage for millions of people, prevented insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and removed lifetime caps on coverage.
  • Advocated for rights. The Obama Administration strongly advocated for the rights of all citizens. The Department of Justice and Department of Education issued a letter to schools telling them not to tolerate bullying -- including bullying against the 6.5 million students with disabilities.
  • Signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, pushing the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and other agencies to advance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
  • Launched the "Curb Cuts to the Middle Class" initiative focused on hiring people with disabilities to prepare to qualify for jobs with federal contractors and giving those employers tools to recruit and promote them.
  • Signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century.

Many of my friends and/or Facebook friends have children with disabilities but don't appreciate the advances that have been made under President Obama. People complain about the health system, and there's certainly room for improvement, but if you have a child with a disability or chronic condition, you should cherish and fight to protect the Affordable Care Act. One way or another, changes will be made (and need to be made), but the fundamental principles -- 1) the right to health care, 2) the right to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and 3) the ban on lifetime caps -- must be preserved.

The Impact of a Trump Presidency

There is much fear and speculation about what Trump will do as president, but the first place to look is his stated priorities:

  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Something the Republican-led Congress also wants to do.)
  • Reverse the expansion of Medicaid. About 10 million people on Medicaid have disabilities, representing 15 percent, and it covers not just health care, but home health aides and other critical services. If Trump repeals the ACA and turns Medicaid into a block grant program, as many as 30 million people could lose their insurance.

There is also concern that Trump will soften enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by shifting the priorities of the Department of Justice's civil rights division and other agencies. See "Disability Rights Advocates are Terrified of a Donald Trump White House" from the Huffington Post.

I don't have a crystal ball, but several patterns are emerging:

  • President-elect Trump, the "outsider," is filling his transition team with "insiders." Many of them come from the Heritage Foundation, which advocate for traditional conservative positions like cutting taxes on wealthy people and corporations, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and reforming Social Security and Medicaid in ways that would negatively affect families. If you wonder how much the Heritage Foundation cares about families like yours, consider that they strongly advocated AGAINST signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • The people he is putting on his transition team gives you a good idea of the kind of people who he will appoint to his Cabinet. Remember, many experienced, admired Republican policy experts and government officials have distanced themselves from Trump, so he will have a hard time finding qualified people for many positions. Most will argue for less government "interference," which families like ours may call "protection" for those who most need it. For example, Ben Carson, who's been mentioned as a potential secretary of education or HHS, has said that disability issues can be better managed by "businesses, industry, Wall Street, churches, and community groups." I don't know about you, but I'm not counting on Wall Street to ensure my child's education rights and health care.
  • Trump's statements and behavior on the campaign trail have created more division than unity. Now that he's been elected, he's paying lip service to bringing America together, but everything he's said and done so far has had the opposite effect. His campaign has empowered bigots, racists, anti-Semites, and misogynists -- which is even more apparent now that he's been elected. Discrimination is likely to increase, and we can only hope that Trump will enforce existing laws and not weaken them. Let's just say that people with disabilities are not and will not be a high priority among his various constituencies.
What You Can Do

1. Advocate for People with Disabilities

Here are just a few organizations that will busy fighting for your rights, services, and programs in the next four years. Don't just visit these websites. Sign up for their newsletters, register for advocacy alerts, follow them on Facebook and Twitter. When issues come up, be ready to learn about them and take action.
2. Focus on Your Family and Loved Ones

The night Donald Trump was elected president, I was in the hospital with my daughter, during an almost two-week stay. I was disappointed -- devastated -- by the results, but it wasn't the most important thing to me at the time. Do what you can do for the people closest to you. Being a good parent, spouse, and caregiver is one of the most important things you can do, no matter what else is going on in the world. Love and support the people who need you, and take care of yourself.

3. Be Nice

This may seem trite, but as much as we complain about Trump's behavior, comments, and actions, all we can control is how we act ourselves. Set an example for your children, neighbors, and colleagues by treating people with respect, tolerating different views, and trying to understand where people are coming from. We are not as divided as much as a 50-50 election may suggest. Let's focus on what we have in common, what we can do for others, and fight for what we believe in.

"I'm a Disabled American. Trump's Policies Will Be a Disaster for People Like Me."

Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is not encouraged by the prospects of a Trump presidency. Ne'eman, one of President Obama's appointees to the National Council on Disability from 2010 to 2015, says he was bothered by Trump's mocking of people with disabilities, but he has been more focused on policy.

He writes, "Hillary Clinton offered clear, specific, and timely policy proposals to expand the social safety net and civil rights of people with disabilities, while Trump made clear his intent to slash services and roll back legal protections. For the millions of Americans with disabilities who depend on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act to access the health care and public services that mean basic survival, it is policy -- not personal insult -- that has brought terror and despair in the aftermath of Trump's victory."

His concerns:

  • Trump plans to slash the main source of federal financing for disability and aging services.
  • Trump plans to eliminate critical legal protections for disabled people in the health care system.
  • Trump may be about to set back federal autism policy by at least a decade.

But there's hope:

  • Disability activists have faced down conservative attempts to roll back disability rights before -- and won.
  • The Trump presidency will be a disaster -- but even a disaster presents certain opportunities.

Read his detailed analysis at, "I'm a Disabled American. Trump's Policies Will Be a Disaster for People Like Me."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Undecided: My Civil Discussion with a Confused Voter

I had a rare experience the other day -- a conversation with an undecided voter who was interested in hearing my thoughts. It was particularly interesting because she was a nurse helping to take care of my daughter during a scary stay at the hospital.

In a setting like that, I'm pretty good about not raising politics or forcing my views on anyone. But it was the day after the Cubs had won the World Series, and I mentioned that my Facebook friends seemed pretty excited about it, and it was a nice break from all the political chatter.

She said, "I know what you mean. Boy, what do you think about Hillary's emails? It sounds pretty bad." I told her that I think people are suggesting the "scandal" is worse than it is -- and that if Hillary had broken the law, she'd be prosecuted and convicted. She's not above the law and has never claimed to be.

But the nurse said she just doesn't know what to believe because there's so much bad stuff on both sides -- and many of her friends have told her some really negative things about Hillary. I asked innocently, "Would you like to hear what I think?" And here's what I said:

While many people don't like Hillary, there's no doubt she's experienced. She's been First Lady, the Secretary of State, and a senator. She knows our international allies, and understands the complex relationships we have. So I think she's the best choice for people who care about national security international stability.

One of the issues I most care about the most is health care. (And since she's a nurse, I assume she cares a little about that too.) And an independent analysis shows that under Trump's health proposals, as many as 25 million people would lose health coverage. And low-income families and people with complex medical needs would be hurt the most.

The president is only one person. Hillary will appoint good people, and I don't care if they're "insiders" if they will work toward positive change.

She then asked about the Supreme Court, and I conceded that if that's the only thing she cares about and wants the NRA and right-wing groups to select our justices, that's what Trump would do. But I told her that even if I shared her views about that, I'd still vote for Hillary for all the other reasons.

It was a civil, candid exchange of ideas, which is all too rare this year. And it was obvious that she's pained by this choice. She will vote, and she wants to make the right decision, and she's confused by all the name-calling, rumors, and accusations. So yes, there are undecided voters among us, and they're not all jerks.

Fact Check: Real Data on the Candidates' Health Proposals

If you or someone you know wants more than rhetoric, hyperbole, and personal attacks, take a look at these issue briefs from The Commonwealth Fund. Lots of data, charts, and easy-to-read analysis.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Father: Reject Trump to Protect People Like My Son

[This post contains no personal insults, no reference to emails, and nothing about sex. But please read it anyway.]

Blogger and author David Royko is literally begging people to not vote for Donald Trump. Why? Because he understands the threat a Trump presidency would represent for children like his his son Ben, who has autism. Read "Please, We BEG You, For Ben's Sake, Keep Trump Out."

Like other parents with firsthand experience with disability, I can relate to David's opinion in many ways. Most parents plan for the time when their child will move out, get a job, and live on their own. For fathers like David and me, we know our children will need specialized support their entire lives. The reality is that the future of Ben and other children "is 100 percent dependent upon our government," he says. "There is no other option."

In looking at next week's election, David says, "Even if Hillary Clinton is the biggest liar on our planet and is a despicable person, nothing in her history suggests she would dismantle our government, or that she would be unpredictable in absolutely extreme ways."

This is a critical decision for our country, he says, because the current system is "functional but rickety." A seemingly small change -- defunding a program, eliminating a "wasteful" agency, appointing an unqualified leader -- could have devastating effects on families that are already struggling.

David makes his final case this way: "I am begging ― BEGGING ― everybody to consider people like Ben....This is personal for our family and specifically the most vulnerable member of our family, and the most vulnerable members of many people’s families."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Do You Have a Plan? Resources for Voters with Disabilities

Easter Seals, one of the leading national advocacy organizations for people with disabilities, has prepared a helpful checklist to ensure that all eligible voters can vote. The organization has partnered with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) on a campaign called REV UP to ensure that Americans with disabilities can fully participate in the political process. The campaign is about much more than a a presidential election every four years -- "REV UP" stands for "Register, Educate, Vote, and Use Your Power."

Read and print the one-page checklist here, and download a voting resource card with important phone numbers. You'll also find tips for finding your polling place and making arrangements for curbside voting, mobile voting at long-term care facilities, and getting transportation on election day -- as well as specific links for topics including deaf and hard of hearing, blind or low vision, mobility, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Read more.

Additional resources:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Voting for Hillary? Watch this. Not sure? Watch this.

Enough with the email talk. Do you want to feel real emotion and see the real reasons why Hillary Clinton should be our next president? Just watch this video. And if you're moved by it, share it with others. I don't want to write too much about it. Just watch it. I think it's one of the best, most authentic videos of this long campaign season.

Also, view "Reasons Why Deaf People Support Hillary Clinton" (select closed captioning if preferred).

Want to read more and get involved? Follow the Facebook page "Deaf People for Hillary."

Obstacles for Voters with Disabilities

"For many people with disabilities, the question is not will they vote, but can they vote." Read Vox's article "Americans with Disabilities Struggle to Exercise a Right that Most Take for Granted -- Voting."

Review the Justice Department's ADA Checklist for Polling Places.

Listen to or read NPR's story "Disabled Voters Fight for More Accessible Polling Places."

Thursday, October 27, 2016

From a College Student with Autism: "Why Hillary Clinton Deserves Disabled Community's Support"

In a powerful and persuasive op-ed in Vassar College's student newspaper, Jesser Horowitz shares her personal story, her relationship with Hillary Clinton, and why she urges all people with disabilities to vote for Clinton.
She writes: "I believe that Hillary Clinton can be the Amer­ican president the disabled community of this country has been waiting for: a champion of dis­ability rights that can finally bring our issues to the forefront of American politics where they belong. She, more than any other candidate in the history of America, shows a unique understanding of the struggles that disability poses....
"Most candidates for public office feel content addressing the major issues and ignoring the people that are impacted by them. They’re great at talking, but they’re terrible at listening. This becomes especially prominent when addressing issues of disability. Donald Trump doesn’t even mention the word disability on his website, yet he feels the need to comment about how vaccines cause autism on national television.
"Hillary Clinton differentiates herself from al­most every other politician through her passion for listening. She has a unique ability to ensure that voices are heard, and she utilizes that ability when crafting policy. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate with an extensive, detailed plan on how promote disability rights. That is because she is the only candidate who truly appreciates the power of listening and learning from people. That quality is essential in performing the responsibilities of pub­lic office generally and addressing issues facing the disability community specifically. It is that ability that will make her the best advocate we have ever had in the White House."

Read "Why Hillary Clinton Deserves Disabled Community's Support."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fact Check: Did Donald Trump Mock Reporter with a Disability?

Last night was the final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and a lot of people are relieved that debate season is almost over (except one more between the VP candidates). Disability policy was not a major topic (as has been true throughout this campaign), but Clinton did briefly express concern about Trump's attitudes toward people with disabilities.
While she was listing several examples of Trump's discriminatory behavior, she said, "He also went after a disabled reporter, mocked and mimicked him on national television," referring to New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition which limits the movement of his joints. 
Trump interrupted with one word: "Wrong."
Did he or didn't he mock Kovaleski? He did. The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Trump "4 Pinocchios" -- their lowest rating. And Politifact concludes his denial last night was false. Read "Donald Trump Says Hillary Clinton is 'Wrong' to Say He Mocked a Disabled Reporter" from Politifact. 

Four Threats to Medicare if Trump is Elected

Read "The 4 Ways Congress Could Weaken Medicare if Trump Becomes President" by Diane Archer, founder of, in the Huffington Post.

1. Republicans in Congress want to privatize Medicare and turn it into a defined contribution program. This will force people to pay more for health care, because private insurers would have few limits on what they can charge for premiums, deductibles, and copayments.

2.  Republicans want to eliminate traditional Medicare. Traditional Medicare is the preferred option for 70 percent of people, because of the choice it offers for doctors and hospitals. This would restrict the government's ability to improve the program, which will mean fewer choices and higher costs.

3.  Republicans want to means-test Medicare even more, which would increase costs for middle-class and wealthier Americans.

4. Republicans want to raise the age of Medicare eligibility. People eligible for Medicare based on age can enroll when they are 65, but Republican leaders in Congress want to increase that to 67.

Read more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Candidate Comparison: Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein

What about the third-party candidates? I'm glad you asked. Instead of just comparing the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the website "Complex Child" also examines the disability positions of Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) and Jill Stein (Green Party). Take a look for all four candidates' positions on:

  • Disability rights
  • Medicaid, insurance, and the health care system
  • Special education
  • Community living (including Medicaid waivers)
  • Special condition plans

Read "Disability Positions of the 2016 Presidential Candidates."

How Will Disability Vote Influence the Election?

2016 is a unique election year when it comes to disability issues, according to researchers at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Highlights from a Q&A with Professors Douglas Kruse and Lisa Schur, who predict voter turnout will be higher this year for people with disabilities and their family members:

Kruse, on the potential impact of these voters:

"We project that 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote on Nov. 8, representing about one-sixth of the electorate. Perhaps more importantly, we project 62.7 million eligible voters who either have disabilities or household members with disabilities, representing over one-fourth of the electorate."

Schur, on what's different this year:

"Disability has not been a significant partisan issue in past elections, but that changed this year with the controversy created by Trump's behavior and the focus by Clinton on policies to expand employment for people with disabilities."

Kruse, on obstacles that voters with disabilities may encounter:

"Our 2012 national post-election survey found that 30 percent of voters with disabilities reported some type of difficulty in voting at a polling place, compared to 8 percent of voters without disabilities. The most common problems reported were difficulty in reading or seeing the ballot, or understanding how to vote or use voting equipment."

Read the full Q&A: "Voters with Disabilities and the 2016 Presidential Election."

LA Times Op-Ed: Trump's Pattern of Discrimination

An op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times calls Donald Trump "the most ableist presidential nominee in modern American history." David Perry, a disability rights journalist who has a son with Down syndrome, describes ableism as "discrimination against and stigmatization of people with disabilities or people perceived to have disabilities." He writes, "Ableists convey the message that disabled people are not full members of our society, leading to exclusion and even abuse. Trump is fully complicit in sending precisely that message."

Perry cites numerous examples of Trump's pattern of discrimination:

  • He mocked a reporter who has a physical disability.
  • He made fun of Hillary Clinton for her alleged illness, including pretending to wobble and faint to draw laughs from a crowd.
  • He has made fun of people's weight, including Alicia Machado, Rosie O'Donnell, and even Chris Christie. 
  • He has stated that some people are born with qualities to lead, while others aren't.*

But Perry explains that words are not what he's concerned about -- it's what Trump would do as president. He's promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would once again make it legal to discriminate against people with a pre-existing condition. When asked by Perry and disability advocates to explain Trump's position on issues, his campaign has been silent. Read "Trump's Not Just Racist and Sexist. He's Ableist."

* Trump's biographer Michael D'Antonio has said that Trump's father taught him that "there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring." Called "eugenics," this theory until the 1940s was used to justify sterilizing disabled people. And Adolf Hitler's theory of racial hierarchy was the justification for the Holocaust. Read "Donald Trump Believes He Has Superior Genes, Biographer Claims," from The Independent.

Secretary Clinton on ADA: "We Still Have Work to Do"

In 2015, Hillary Clinton spoke in Ames, Iowa, about the 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act:

"I think that we should acknowledge how the disabilities community has played such an important role in changing things for the better in our country," she said. Speaking of her first job after law school at the Children's Defense Fund, she said she went door to door to ask families if they had a child who wasn't in school. "I heard mostly that, yes, we have a blind child, a deaf child, a child in a wheelchair, a child with some other kind of disability that is not accepted in school. So we gathered up all of our evidence, and we presented it to the Congress, and that first effort resulted in passing Education for All, and all children with disabilities were given the right to go to school."

She added, "We've come a long way in the last 25 years. We still have work to do. We're by no means finished....There's a lot of unfinished business -- both at home, and around the world....We have our faults and we have our challenges, but there isn't any nation that has continually tried to push forward to widen the circle of opportunity the way we have. Despite the continuing problems that we face, we're going to keep doing that."

Read her full statement.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Q&A with Founder Maureen Graves

The website summarizes disability issues as they relate to the 2016 election, with a strong preference for Senator Clinton over Donald Trump. See my post about the site. I interviewed the site's creator, Maureen Graves, about her site and the importance of this year's election for people who care about disability issues.

Q: Why did you create the website?

A: I have been an active Democrat since before I was old enough to vote, starting in the civil rights movement and McGovern campaign in Oklahoma. As a grownup, in advocating in Sacramento on behalf of students with disabilities, I have seen the importance of bipartisan advocacy, and I have certainly seen that both parties need to be pushed on disability issues. But I am afraid that much of the disability movement has gotten stuck in a position of nonpartisanship. Politicians fill out our questionnaires, sometimes, but don't see us as a powerful bloc that will support those who support us, and vote out politicians who don't. Partly because of the cautious approach of organizations, individuals and families affected by disabilities tend to stick with the politics of their families of origin, often without realizing that despite the nice words of both parties, often one supports their interests and one effectively opposes them. This year, Democrats are on our side, and Republicans endorse policies which would be disastrous if Trump wins, and very harmful if Clinton wins but does not get the Congress  she needs to get things done.

Q: What kind of response or reaction have you gotten about the website? 

A: It's hard to tell. I have never waited for Facebook "likes" to roll in before and don't know what to expect. I don't know how much information is being passed along. Families are busy; lawyers and other advocates are busy. The electorate is very polarized, and disability issues are currently not a priority for many voters, partly because the differences are often hard to see. I've encountered little hostility so far. I think people know this year is different and that many centrists and conservatives realize that the "others" Trump is attacking includes people with disabilities.

Q: How is this election different from past elections for people who care about disability issues?

A: I've been following presidential elections with meaningful understanding since 1968, and I think this year is uniquely terrifying. Trump does not just seem to disagree with areas of bipartisan consensus on domestic and foreign issues -- he doesn't seem to have any idea what that consensus has  been. He is bringing kinds of bigotry that used to be on the fringe into the mainstream. His treatment of people with disabilities is part of a very scary movement.  

Q: What do you think is most important for people to know?

A: First, the problem is not just Trump. His economic policies except on trade are those of the mainstream of the Republican party -- cut regulations and legal protections, reduce taxes on the rich, cut spending to meet people's needs, etc. In fact, if elected, it seems he would turn over domestic policy to his running mate Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That would be horrible for people with disabilities.

Second, this isn't going to be over after the election. Trump and people with similar views will continue outright attacks against people with disabilities, among others. "Traditional" Republicans will profess concern but vote for the wrong policies. We need a long-term presence that is not afraid to be partisan when necessary. Our community needs report cards on politicians, and we need to be seen as a group that can swing depending on politicians' campaigns and actions once in office.

Learn about the issues at

Get the Facts:

I'm going to report on a few of the most important issues facing people with disabilities, but I will only scratch the surface compared to what's already available on the new website, created by special education lawyer Maureen Graves. Like me, Maureen strongly supports Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, and she doesn't hide that fact. But the analysis is not the emotional, name-calling, hate-filled rhetoric you see so much online these days. Instead, she provides factual summaries of the candidates' past records and proposed policy positions on critical issues, including:
On the site, you'll also find:
  • Records of the vice presidential candidates
  • Information about close Senate races
  • Critical Supreme Court cases and issues
  • And other resources
Kudos to Maureen for creating such a thorough resource for people who care about these issues. And she even cites sources, which is often lacking in Facebook and Twitter posts, to name just a few places you'll find false or misleading claims. Read my Q&A with Maureen.

Please read about the issues you care about, and vote.

Time for People With Disabilities to Show Their Power and Vote

From the Special Education Law Blog:

"Persons with disabilities now represent the largest minority group in our country's electorate....35.4 million people with disabilities, which represents one-sixth of the U.S. electorate, are eligible to vote. When family members of the disabled are included, the number of Americans directly affected by disability swells to 62.7 million....

Charles Fox, who runs the blog, points out that several key issues are at stake:

  • protecting Medicaid and Social Security Disability
  • ensuring that children get the special education services they need
  • protecting people from violence
  • and much more.
Fox does not express his personal political beliefs on his blog, but he closes with this:

"It has been an ugly and brutal presidential election cycle. It is time for all voters who have disabilities to take a good hard look at the candidates....Viewing the websites and conduct of each candidate should readily inform voters with disabilities and their loved ones with all they need to vote with knowledge of who will support their interests. Register, vote, and let our power as a community be felt."

I couldn't put it any better. Vote.

Eight Years Later, Another Critical Election

In a few weeks, we will elect a new president who will have a major impact on our country, our economy, our security, and our values as Americans. So this blog is back.

In 2008, I felt compelled to create this blog after Sarah Palin entered the presidential race when John McCain ran against Barack Obama. Many of my friends who have children with disabilities -- including many who typically don't follow politics -- thought that Palin would be an advocate for children with disabilities, because she herself had a son with Down syndrome. However, her record indicated otherwise.

While being transparent about my bias toward Democratic candidates and the fact that I had worked in the Clinton White House, I attempted to report objectively on issues like special education, the economy, and health care. After President Obama was elected, I continued to advocate for these issues, so campaign promises would become real action. If you look back, you'll see that I was critical of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, for example.

In 2012, President Obama ran for reelection on his strong record, which included passage of the Affordable Care Act. The legislation had direct benefits for people with special medical needs -- such as removing lifetime caps on benefits, ensuring that everyone could get health care, and eliminating denial of benefits for people with pre-existing conditions. But Governor Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan (now speaker of the house) pledged to eliminate the ACA, which would have had disastrous effects. Today, that is even more true. No one thinks the legislation is perfect, but rescinding it altogether would mean that people would lose their coverage and maybe never get it back again.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be reporting on the issues from the perspective of how they will impact people with disabilities. And unlike 2008, the purpose of this blog will not be to give a balanced view. I am biased, and the content will be biased -- but as factual as I can possibly be.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Special Hockey Weekend

I typically write about policy issues on this blog, but I thought many readers would be interested in how I spent last weekend -- at the first-ever American Special Hockey Tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y. Since the historic "Miracle on Ice" game in 1980, when the USA team beat the Soviet Union in one of the biggest upsets of all time, there have been hundreds of events and tournaments. But last weekend was the first time a tournament was held in Herb Brooks Arena specifically for people with disabilities.

Special Hockey: Do You Believe in Miracles? from Mark Miller on Vimeo.

Parent Jean Stimey Winegardner wrote a terrific blog post about the tournament, specifically asking if the word "miracle" is accurate or exaggerated in describing the experience.

"I struggle after every single hockey trip to let you know what it is like at these tournaments. I mean, it’s like any other away game trip, right? Kids play games. Some have rough days. Some have incredible days. You swim in the hotel pool. You explore the town. It’s just a team trip, right?

"But it’s not. Part of it is that some of these kids won’t get a lot of opportunities to travel for sports. Part of it is that these tournaments are a space where it is safe for these players to be themselves. Part of it is that these players, who have to work so hard in everyday life, are heroes on the ice. Part of it is that the players get to relax and form friendships, something that can be so hard for some young people with disabilities. Part of it is that these players put on a ton of gear and kick ass at a sport that you and I would probably suck at.

"But it’s more than that.

"I have never seen nor experienced such sportsmanship, respect, and camaraderie as I do at these tournaments. There is competition and there are fierce match-ups, but there are also games where on-ice rivals help each other and make sure the puck gets to players that don’t skate as fast or that don’t have the same skills. I’m not talking about the coaches. I’m talking about the players helping each other. I’m talking about inter-team congratulations, celebrations, and encouragement between players. I’m also talking about teams skating as hard as they can to win. There is that too. There is some fantastic hockey at these tournaments."

I encourage you to read her post, "Miracles on Ice." And consider subscribing to her blog -- it's better and more engaging than most parent blogs.

You don't have to be a hockey fan to be inspired by these players. Learn more about the American Special Hockey Association and programs in your area.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Administration: Students with Disabilities Have a Right to Play Sports

The U.S. Department of Education has clarified the legal obligations of school districts to provide access to extracurricular sports activities for students with disabilities. In a letter from Seth Galanter, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Civil Rights, the department encourages school districts to work with community organizations to expand opportunities for students with disabilities.

Galanter said, "Participation in extracurricular athletics can be a critical part of a student's overall educational experience. Schools must ensure equal access to that rewarding experience for students with disabilities.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan: "Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion, and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or court."

Read "For Disabled Athletes, a Right to Compete in School?" and "What Everyone's Getting Wrong About Special-Ed Sports." Read the full 13-page guidance from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Vote Against People with Disabilities

Around the world, 126 countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of those countries.

Today, all but eight Republicans in the Senate voted against ratifying the treaty, which
was modeled after the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Senate actually voted 61-38 in favor of ratification, but a full two-thirds majority was required -- and the count was five votes short.

The treaty was supported by disability advocates, veterans groups, and prominent Republican leaders, including former Senator Bob Dole and Senator John McCain.

I'll let two senators explain for themselves why they voted the way they did:

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.): "It really isn't controversial. What this treaty says is very simple. It just says that you can't discriminate against the disabled. It says that other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act."

On the other hand, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) apparently doesn't think too highly of the United Nations, saying "I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society."

While supporters of the treaty made the case that the treaty would not change American law, opponents like the Heritage Action for America claimed that it would lead to more abortions, interfere with the rights of parents to homeschool their children, and "erode the principles of American sovereignty and federalism." As crazy as it sounds, those arguments were enough to persuade 38 Republican senators to go on record as opposing the rights of people with disabilities. I wonder if disability groups will remember those 38 when they run for reelection.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Proclamation: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today President Obama signed a proclamation commemorating the 20th International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The proclamation states in part:

"...we reaffirm that the struggle to ensure the rights of every person does not end at our borders, but extends to every country and every community. It continues for the woman who is at greater risk of abuse because of a disability and for the child who is denied the chance to get an education because of the way he was born. It goes on for the 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide who all too often cannot attend school, find work, access medical care, or receive fair treatment.

"These injustices are an affront to our shared humanity -- which is why the United States has joined 153 other countries around the world in signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls on all nations to establish protections and liberties like those afforded under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While Americans with disabilities already enjoy these rights at home, they frequently face barriers when they travel, conduct business, study, or reside overseas.

"Ratifying the Convention in the Senate would reaffirm America's position as the global leader on disability rights and better position us to encourage progress toward inclusion, equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities worldwide."

Read the full proclamation on the White House's website.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The President Has Been Reelected. What Now for People with Disabilities?

"I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try."
--President Obama's acceptance speech, Nov. 7, 2012
Here are some reactions from disability advocates.

From American Training, Inc.:
"Obama's Victory Speech Includes People with Disabilities. Will His Policies Do the Same?" Chris Lenois writes, "Yes, people with disabilities are part of the President’s vision of the American dream. Obama used practically the same inclusive language at the start of his 2008 acceptance speech and I’m sure many other U.S. Presidents also have done so. Now comes the work to make the vision a reality."But the election is over, mercifully. Now it is time for the country that President Obama called 'the most diverse nation on Earth' early Wednesday morning to open its arms a little wider and embrace the more than 50 million Americans with disabilities who walk among us."
From the American Association for People with Disabilities:
"AAPD looks forward to working with President Obama, his administration, and Members of Congress to continue to expand employment opportunities, improve access to affordable health care, and increase independence for people with disabilities." AAPD President & CEO Mark Perriello said, “President Obama has a strong record on disability issues. I am confident that President Obama’s second term offers an opportunity for significant progress for Americans with disabilities.” Read more.

From Autism Speaks:

In a blog post titled "The Election is Over. Now What?" Shelley Hendrix of Autism Speaks writes: "Autism doesn’t take a break for the holidays. It doesn’t have a lame duck session. It doesn’t conduct business as usual until it is sworn into office....Our community understands that autism is an urgent public health crisis. Over the next couple of months, we need to continue our 1 in 88 Can’t Wait campaign to ensure that our family members, friends and most importantly, our elected officials, understand that as well....

"We have a lot to do....We must unite this community. We must unite our voices. We can make a difference and we can make change, but that change that we all want to see will come faster when we work together. We can do that. We just have to make a commitment to ourselves and our children that we will.

"The Autism Votes advocacy program makes it easy for you to engage to affect change at the state and federal level for people with autism and their families. Sign up today at and when we send you an email, take five minutes to open it then make the call, send the email and ask your friends to help you make a difference."

See also "Following Election, Disability Advocates Fear Budget Cuts," from

Monday, November 5, 2012

Disability Policy and the Election: A Wrap-Up

Still trying to decide who to vote for? Want to easily share a summary of the top issues to people with disabilities? Review this blog's most popular posts this election season:

Easter Seals on Campaign Issues: Exclusive Interview. The head government relations official at Easter Seals on the record of the Obama Administration, health care reform, special education, and key differences between the candidates' positions.

Thank You, Ann Coulter! A response to Coulter's offensive use of the "r-word."

Ayn Rand and Disabilities: Part 1 and Part 2. Why author Ayn Rand is relevant to this year's election, and her shocking disdain for people with disabilities.

Advocates Agree: Health Care Law is Good for People With Disabilities

Obama vs. Romney: The Bottom Line

All things considered, the 2012 presidential election comes down to one issue for people who care about people with disabilities -- and that's health coverage. Put aside the misleading attack ads and confusing statistics, and consider the following facts.

  • Fact 1: The Affordable Care Act prevents insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or disabilities.
  • Fact 2: The Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid coverage for people with disabilities.
  • Fact 3: Governor Romney has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act on his first day in office.

From the Arc of the United States, read "How the Affordable Care Act Helps People with Disabilities."

Having a major health need, or a chronic health need like a disability, can easily lead to bankruptcy even for working Americans. In Massachusetts, Governor Romney implemented a plan very similar to the Affordable Care Act. Now he wants to deny coverage to 45 million Americans, including veterans, families living in poverty, and people with disabilities. Is that the America we want?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

VOTE -- and Do It Early If You Can. State-by-State Info

 A Message from the Association for Americans with Disabilities (AAPD):
"We would like to take this time to remind everyone that Election Day is fast approaching, and that for many, it has already begun. You have a lot at stake in this election. Many issues like employment, education, and health care will have a real impact in your life and the lives of people you care about. These are issues that affect all of us. Whether it’s you personally or a family member, friend, neighbor, grandparent, parent, or child who has a disability; together we will make sure important programs are preserved. But whatever your issue, whoever your candidate; your vote is important. Join us and the AAPD community by voting early. Your strongest civic tool is your vote and early voting is the best way to ensure your vote is counted. We hope that you are able to get out to vote and make your voice heard. In many states, early voting has already begun. Find out when and where early voting is available in your area."
Check the early voting schedule for your state.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Krugman: This Election Is Really About [Which Program?]

Writing in the New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman says that in many ways, this election is all about Medicaid. That's because if Governor Romney wins, his plan will deny health coverage for up to 45 million people who will have coverage if President Obama is reelected, and two-thirds of those people are current Medicaid recipients. 
More than 9 million Americans benefit from both Medicaid and Medicare, most of them elderly or disabled. Krugman outlines the program and its beneficiaries and points out a fact that would surprise many people -- most Medicaid recipients are in working families.
"For those who get coverage through the program," Krugman writes, "Medicaid is a much-needed form of financial aid. It is also, quite literally, a lifesaver. Mr. Romney has said that a lack of health insurance doesn’t kill people in America; oh yes, it does, and states that expand Medicaid coverage show striking drops in mortality."
Another perception that Krugman corrects is that Medicaid is poorly managed, with skyrocketing costs. Actually, Medicaid controls costs better than the rest of our health care system -- the average cost of care for adult Medicaid recipients is about 20 percent less than it would be under private insurance, and the difference for children is even larger.
Krugman concludes: "By any reasonable standard, this is a program that should be expanded, not slashed — and a major expansion of Medicaid is part of the Affordable Care Act. Why, then, are Republicans so determined to do the reverse, and kill this success story? You know the answers. Partly it’s their general hostility to anything that helps the 47 percent — those Americans whom they consider moochers who need to be taught self-reliance. Partly it’s the fact that Medicaid’s success is a reproach to their antigovernment ideology.
"The question — and it’s a question the American people will answer very soon — is whether they’ll get to indulge these prejudices at the expense of tens of millions of their fellow citizens."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scary Statistics: Romney's Plan Would Deny Coverage for 30-37 Million Americans

Governor Romney has said several times that he wants to turning Medicaid into a block grant program to the states. A good idea? Sure, if the goal is to take health insurance away from tens of millions of poor people, which is what a new report says it will do. Oh -- and it will also reduce benefits for other Medicaid recipients. And if Romney keeps his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even more people will lose their insurance.

The study comes from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. By cutting Medicaid spending by $1.7 trillion between 2013 and 2022, the plan would save $810 billion -- by kicking tens of millions of poor people out of the program. And estimated 14.3 million to 20 million Americans would no longer be eligible. By repealing the Affordable Care Act, another 17 million people would not be able to get health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The report says it could be much worse. "If there are no requirements that federal payments be matched by state contributions, states could reduce state spending more than federal spending and these enrollment estimates would be understated.” And state payments to hospitals and nursing homes could fall by more than 20 percent, likely resulting in reduced services for seniors in long-term care facilities. So in other words, the people most affected by these cuts would be people with disabilities, poor people, and seniors.

Read the MSNBC article.

Download the 21-page white paper from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Coelho: "No President Has Done More for the Disabled Community"

From the Disability Power & Pride website, here's a message from former House Majority Whip Tony Coelho, a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities and a primary sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Friends, serious challenges confront our great nation. In the next four years, decisions will be made that will impact us as people with disabilities, our neighbors, friends, and families. Ask yourself who do you trust to make these tough decisions? A President that works tirelessly for our rights or someone who has not listened to our community?
"In the 40 years I have been in Washington DC involved in politics and government - no President has done more for our community than President Obama. Our community just has to look what the health care law does for us -- we probably benefit more than any other community! And I don't have to even go into the Medicaid debate.... Because of the President's leadership and commitment to our community, his administration has upheld our rights under the Olmstead Decision, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and countless programs ensuring people with disabilities have a level playing field. Now is not the time to turn back.
"We possess great political power. It’s simple math. People with disabilities have power when we unite and vote. Let's take pride in our diverse community and unite to uphold the dreams of Americans with disabilities."

Disability Scoop

Special Ed News (Education Week)

Special Education Law