National Disability Voter Registration Week

Compared to other highly-developed nations around the world, the United States has about 20%-30% fewer registered voters of citizens who are legally eligible to vote. This number might not seem like a lot. However, the importance of voting cannot be minimized, especially for people with disabilities. That is why next week, July 17th through the 21st, is National Disability Voter Registration Week.

Voting gives citizens a voice in their local, state, and federal-level politics. As a constituent, their voice can make a difference. The greater the turnout, the more truly representative our government becomes. This is because voting empowers citizens to communicate their opinions and have the opportunity to influence all levels of government.

While the 19th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act secured voting rights for many historically disadvantaged voters, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 established the requirement of polling centers to have features that make voting areas accessible for citizens with disabilities. More recently, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), includes a provision that aims to further ensure that polling places as well as the registration process are universally accessible, whether accessed online or in person. HAVA also ensures that balloting equipment is accessible to everyone, and directs election administrators to train those who work at the polls on how to adequately and efficiently assist voters.

But, why is voting so crucial? It gives citizens a chance to express how they feel about a variety of issues. Whether it is a social issue, or a matter concerning the economy, casting a vote communicates constituents’ priorities to their elected representatives. Accordingly, representatives vote on legislation that matters to their constituents. Essentially, a democracy does not exist without the vote of the people.

Most people believe that the presidential election is the most important election to vote in. Despite that, votes can greatly influence politics at a state and especially at a local level. State and local policy issues are also usually the ones that impact us the most as a community.

As important as it is to vote, one must register first. Registering is a process that is simple for many, but accessibility is still too often a barrier for people with disabilities. The week of July 17-21 is National Disability Voter Registration Week 2017. To learn more and to host a voter registration event, find more information here.

The Disability Integration Act (DIA) of 2017

It has been nearly 20 years since the Supreme Court ruled that individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the community, but even today, not all people with disabilities in the United States are given that meaningful option.

A new bill, The Disability Integration Act (DIA) of 2017, was introduced by Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY) in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to combat this issue. This bill would ensure that states are providing long-term services and support (LTSS) to individuals with disabilities In community-based settings, such as the individual’s own home. It also further enforces the American with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) mandate on integration.

Alongside the ADA, court cases, such as Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), have set the precedent for this legislation. The Olmstead ruling states that under the ADA, if placement in a community-based setting is appropriate, and the individual would prefer to live there, the state must comply with their wishes and fulfill those accommodations as those are their civil rights. The Disability Integration Act would help to make certain that every state is securing these rights in a timely manner, and that states are upholding the many details of this ruling.

The Olmstead ruling clarifies that “institutionalization is unjustified when:”

Supporters of the DIA legislation seek to provide a life that is as independent as possible for those individuals who can “handle and benefit” from the choice of living in a community-based living situation. This would allow individuals with a disability to have access to their greater community and have the opportunity to participate in economic, social, and educational advancement. 

The most frequent options for living independently are based on benefits provided by Medicaid. The funds provided to individuals through Medicaid afford individuals the ability to pay for their community-based services, such as personal care assistants, without having to worry about how they are going to pay for housing, utilities, or other additional necessities.

The DIA bill would further reinforce the integration mandate under the ADA, by ensuring that every individual that qualifies for LTSS has a “federally protected right” to become integrated into an community, and would create an extensive “state planning requirement” that imposes objectives to help transition individuals out of institutions. Furthermore, there is a requirement for states to annually publish a public report about the number of individuals with disabilities who continue to be served in institutions versus in their communities, as well as the number of individuals who have made the transition.

 

To learn more about the Disability Integration Act and other public policy topics, and to get more involved, check out our public policy resources.

UCP National Names Armando A. Contreras As The Next President & CEO

Contacts: Diane Wilush
 Richard Forkosh



 
 UCP National Names Armando A. Contreras As The Next President & CEO (Washington, DC) – United Cerebral Palsy, Inc., (UCP) the leading national organization which advocates and promotes the inclusion and full citizenship of individuals living with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, announced today that its Board of Trustees has named Armando A. Contreras as President and CEO effective June 5, 2017. Contreras is currently the CEO of UCP of Central Arizona and will replace Richard Forkosh, who is currently serving as UCP Inc., Interim CEO.“We are delighted to have Armando join UCP as the new President and CEO,” said Diane Wilush, Chairman of UCP National’s Board of Trustees. “The selection process was rigorous, and Armando is the perfect choice; his leadership at UCP of Central Arizona and track record of organizational management, fiscal responsibility, and his mission driven focus will continue to build a strong future for UCP National. Most importantly, Armando is devoted to serving and empowering people with disabilities and he truly embodies everything our organization stands for.”

“It has been a privilege, honor and a true blessing to have served as the CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona for the past seven years,” said Armando Contreras. “I am abundantly grateful to have worked with purpose-driven, passionate staff that are committed to enhancing the lives of thousands of children, teens and adults by providing the resources necessary to build a life without limits! I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Richard Forkosh for his executive leadership and exceptional integrity during his term as Interim CEO. I look forward to working closely with the UCP National Board, Affiliates and Staff to address the priorities at hand, set goals and build a pathway to sustainability.

As the CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona for the past seven years, Armando has increased net assets, built internal capacity, standardized business processes and enhanced the trust and communication in the organization. Contreras was instrumental in executing an agreement with Circle K, a major fundraiser collaborator of UCP’s for over 30 years, responsible for expanding therapy services for underserved children at the state of the art, UCP Downtown clinic, and diversified the organization’s grant and philanthropic base. Contreras has significantly increased UCP’s community awareness of the vital programs and services offered by UCP not only within the philanthropic circles, but also with public officials and key stakeholders in the disability community. Today, UCP of Central Arizona is one of the most highly respected agencies in Arizona serving children, teens and adults with various disabilities.

###

About United Cerebral Palsy:

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services through an affiliate network to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Together with nearly 70 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, please visit .

UCP Expresses Concerns About American Health Care Act of 2017

Last Thursday, Members of the House of Representatives passed, by a narrow margin, H.R. 1628 (the American Health Care Act of 2017, or AHCA for short). United Cerebral Palsy, along with our colleagues in Washington, expressed concerns about the bill in its current form (as well as previous proposals that were circulated).

 

We joined coalitions focused on the preservation of coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, coverage for rehabilitative and habilitative services, and protecting Medicaid. We also took part in advocacy efforts with the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of 100 national disability organizations working together to advocate for national public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration, and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society. In short, we are not alone in our concerns and we will continue to work together to fight this harmful bill.

We share the concerns many of you have voiced to us about the lack of review by the Congressional Budget Office of this latest bill, and the potentially devastating consequences the House bill as written could have on the 175,000 families served by UCP’s affiliate network (and really all individuals with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for health coverage and/or long-term services and supports).

We are hopeful that as the Senate deliberates, more information about the projected impact of the House bill will become known and that the Senate will not pass a bill that would bring harm to our community.

Senators need to hear from constituents, and we hope you will tell your story. To learn more about UCP’s public policy work and to get involved, please visit http://ucp.org/what-we-do/public-policy/

Jeffrey Cooper, Recipient of the Kathy O. Maul Leadership Award at 2017 UCP Annual Meeting

Congratulations to Jeffrey Cooper, President, and CEO of UCP of Central Pennsylvania on being named the recipient of the Kathy O. Maul Leadership Award at the 2017 UCP Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN!

Thank you for all of your hard work, leadership, and dedication to individuals with disabilities!

Jeffrey Cooper, President, and CEO of UCP of Cental PA with Interim CEO of the UCP national office, Rick Forkosh.

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District: Students With Disabilities and “Meaningful” Education

January 11, 2016 marked a momentous day for individuals with disabilities throughout the United States with the Supreme Court hearing arguments for Endrew v. Douglas County School District. The debate revolves around the interpretation of the 1982 Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley case, relating to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA).

A family in Colorado and their son Endrew argue that IDEA was intended to provide children with disabilities the access to a meaningful education which also allows for “significant educational progress.” The school district, however, interprets that IDEA has no set standard, and simply ensures that the child receives personalized education which is sufficient (i.e. “merely more than de minimus”). Endrew’s family is concerned that the Douglas County school district did not offer adequate resources for children with disabilities to achieve. After Endrew completed the fourth grade in the Douglas County School District accompanied by his Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), his parents disagreed with the proposed IEP for his fifth year and made the decision to put him in a private school. Endrew and his parents argued that he was not being sufficiently provided a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE), as mandated by the IDEA, and were seeking reimbursement for the tuition of his private school.

Although Endrew and his family lost this case, over the course of administrative hearings and lower court cases, the family and the school district have been arguing over the measure of “some academic progress” and whether the district must meet a “merely more than de minimus” requirement. The federal government supports Endrew and his parents, drawing on Rowley which indicated that a FAPE must provide meaningful access to education which is much higher than “merely more than de minimus.”

Through the course of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. summarized that the main issue at hand is whether or not IDEA places emphasis on the word “some” or the word “benefit” in the phrase “some benefit”, each resulting in both contrasting and notable meanings that has manifested into the current argument: Providing some benefit would achieve the goals of the school district in distributing education that is merely better than nothing; whereas providing some benefit implies that the education be meaningful and allow for academic progress, which Endrew and his parents seek. Justice Elena Kagan also reminded the school district’s attorney of the precedents set in previous cases in which “some benefit” was repeatedly intended to have “some bite.”

The outcome of the Court’s decision will define the quality of education for students with disabilities for years to come. Those interested in following the case, can find a copy of the transcript from this week’s arguments here. United Cerebral Palsy, along with other organizations, has signed to an amicus brief which can be viewed here. We will continue to monitor this case, and will be interested to see how the Court decides.

UCP Remembers Jack Schillinger

Gloria_Jack

On January 4, 2017, UCP lost a great friend, volunteer, supporter, leader and advisor with the passing of Jack Schillinger at the age of 96. Jack was the “face” of the Bellows Committee that he Chaired until recently, was Chair of the UCP Board of Directors in 1991, and was member of the Finance Committee for many years. In 2015, UCP honored Jack with the Chair Award at the Annual Conference in Chicago.

Jack was a huge part of UCP, since 1955,
and we can never thank him enough for his dedication to UCP and to the lives of people with disabilities.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this difficult time. Jack’s obituary can be found within his guest book. To add a note of sympathy, give your condolences to the family, and to share your memories of Jack, please visit the Guest Book.

UCP and the National Council on Disability – “First Responders and Disability”

On December 9, 2016, UCP and the National Council on Disability joined together to host a day of conversation surrounding first responders and the disability community. Bringing together diverse perspectives from across the country, the day was a raw and honest look at the way law enforcement and other members of the first responder community interact with those living with disabilities.

Watch the footage (captioned) below:

 

View the Program Agenda

View the Event Summary here

 

We’re Partnering With The Mighty!

We’re thrilled to announce a new partnership that will bring United Cerebral Palsy’s resources to the front of The Mighty‘s wide-reaching readership. We will now  have a growing home page on The Mighty , and appear on many stories on the site, allowing us to get many more people involved with our organization.

The Mighty is a story-based health community focused on improving the lives of people facing disease, disorder, mental illness, and disability. It is estimated that 764,000 children and adults in the U.S. manifest one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy, and that 1 in 5 Americans live with some form of disability. They want more than information. They want to be inspired. The Mighty publishes real stories about real people facing real challenges.

We’re dedicated to providing comprehensive support and community for children and adults living with cerebral palsy, as well as other disabilities, and their families. With this partnership, we’ll be able to help even more people.

We encourage you to submit a story to The Mighty and make your voice heard.

Here’s an example of the kind of stories you’ll find on The Mighty: Tommy Hilfiger Launches Adaptive Collection for Children With Disabilities

Share Your Photos for UCP’s “Halloween Without Limits”!

It’s that time of year again! It’s time for UCP’s “Halloween Without Limits.” From now until October 31st, share your most creative costume photos and show us how you celebrate a “Halloween Without Limits”! We want to see your style and how you make Halloween your own!

UCP’s “Halloween Without Limits” is open to all ages, children and adults alike, who get into the Halloween spirit. We invite parents and individuals with disabilities to share their most creative, kooky and fun costumes to our Facebook page by tagging @UnitedCerebralPalsy and using the hashtag #HalloweenWithoutLimits. It doesn’t matter if you’re a princess or a hero, a ghost or a ghoul, as long as you have gone the extra mile to accommodate a disability.

Photos of children under the age of 18 MUST be submitted by a parent or guardian.

The rules are simple:

All you have to do is post your photos to UCP’s Facebook page using #HalloweenWithoutLimits or #HWL so we can all see them!

Check out photos from last year! 

We can’t wait to see your photos!

HalloweenWL 2016