UCP Applauds the Decision to Release Rosa Maria Hernandez into the Custody of Her Family

UCP applauds the decision from the Department of Health and Human Services to release Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10 year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy held in federal custody by immigration authorities, to her family on November 4th. Rosa Maria was stopped at border checkpoint on her way to emergency gallbladder surgery on October 24th in Corpus Christi, TX. She was then held in custody at the Office of Refugee Resettlement in a facility for children in San Antonio, TX. Rosa Maria was brought to the United States at 3 months old by her parents, and has remained in their care since. According to news reports, Rosa Maria was released on Friday into the custody of her parents. Her release comes after a lawsuit lead by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the U.S. government to have her reunited with her family.

For people with disabilities and their families, having access to medical care and support networks, especially in the case of complex medical needs is vital. We are happy and thankful to know that Rosa Maria can be with her family to heal, recover, and get the care that she needs.

UCP National Talks Assistive Tech with Provail

This post was written by UCP Summer 2017 Programs and Development Intern, James O’Connor

 

“We try to ask ourselves: what would make this person’s life better, faster, easier?”

This is what motivates Brenda Chappell, Director of Clinical Services at Provail, a UCP affiliate located in Seattle, Washington. Brenda recently spoke to us about Provail’s assistive technology programs.

[Image Description: A white woman with short brown hair wearing a green sweater and a black scarf holds a smartphone to a book while reading in what appears to be a children’s classroom. She is looking off to the side.] Photo: Lawrence Roffee

 

Assistive technology is an umbrella term that covers equipment, software, system, or any item that is used by people to find and or maintain a job and/or perform activities of daily living. Technology can be big, like an automated lift for van or bath, or small, like a Velcro-attached grip for a fork or a pen. It can be new-age interactive voice activated software for speech therapy or a wheelchair component. It can be high-tech–a computer screen operated by eye movement or low-tech, like a specially-designed door handle for people with muscle strength or dexterity problems.

Assistive technology can often be complex and very user-specific, and this is where Provail’s team plays an important role. At their AT (assistive technology) clinic, they take a holistic approach to finding the best technology for each person.

Brenda and her colleagues’ AT  programs bring professionals from Provail into schools and homes to recommend AT, and teach users, parents, teachers, therapists, and caregivers the best ways to put a person’s AT to best use. Provail works with kids as young as 4 years old, as well as adult clients, and individuals all the way through the lifespan.

Brenda notes that students with earlier access to AT have overwhelmingly better outcomes in both learning and lifestyle. She makes it clear that enabling mobility and communication at an early age are core to the program at Provail. “Before this unique program, we would see adults coming into the clinic with no AT and no mobility. Now, parents doing a 10-week program with us are finding successes that they never knew were possible.”

On top of helping people find and use the best possible AT for their needs, Provail also helps connect users with typical and alternative funding sources, making the stressful process of financing AT easier for many of their clients.

As assistive technology becomes more complex, more varied, and more common, it is important to put people first and keep in mind Brenda’s important question: what would make this person’s life better, faster, easier?
Check out your local affiliate to find out more about what type of AT services may be available, including financial resources that may be available.

#KnowMedicaid

 

As Google search results indicate, many more Americans have grown concerned about losing their (or a family member’s) Medicaid benefit. We at UCP are receiving an increasing number of inquiries about Medicaid and the services and supports it provides for many individuals with disabilities and their families.

 

Even without a pending health care bill in Congress, it can be overwhelming to navigate the process of accessing the funding and benefits necessary to receive the support needed so you or your loved one can live a life without limits. While there is no one way to simplify the process, there are ways to make it a bit easier. The tips and tricks below will help you in your conversations with Medicaid and other agencies.

 

When you’re done checking out our tips, you will also find a PDF guide with the contact information for Medicaid (and related agencies in all 50 states) at the bottom of this post.

 

Keep Records of All Conversations, and Be Sure to Seek Clarification When Necessary:

 

Whenever calling your state or any other entity) regarding services and supports, be sure to keep notes about your conversation including: who you speak with , what department they are in, what department they refer you to, and any other pertinent details.

 

This is really important in the case that there is any confusion or conflicting information during the process , because you will be able to provide past information about what you were told and when.

 

It is also a great idea to ask the person you are speaking to to follow up with an email, if possible; that way you are able to see their summary of the conversation, and open up a dialogue that may help in the future should there be any misunderstandings.

 

Remember That State and Federal Agencies Are Not Identical:

 

When working with Medicaid, or any other government program or agency, it is important to be aware of the difference between the agency in your state, and the federal agencies in Washington, DC.

 

While agencies can be connected, the state agency handles state programs and issues and the federal agency counterpart handles national ones. When getting information about services and supports, it is vital to differentiate between what is available and provided by your state, and what might also be available on the national level.

 

This is also key because these differences affect how programs are funded, and may alter the process required to become eligible. Sometimes programs may be jointly run on the state and national level, but it is still important to be aware of when you’re talking to, or about, your individual state versus when you’re looking at things on a national level.

 

Not All States Run Programs the Same Way, (or a Call Agencies by the Same Name):

 

Another reason it is important to be aware of the difference between state and federal programming is because the way programs, such as Medicaid, are administered can vary significantly from state to state.

 

Therefore, be sure to investigate how things are run in your specific state, and not go off of the experiences of an individual who may live someplace else. A program that is provided through the Department of Health and Human Services in one state may be provided through the Department of Welfare in another.

 

Before getting discouraged and thinking something doesn’t exist, always remember to try a different name or department, because you never know what it might fall under in your state.

 

Always Ask for Other Options:

 

Just because one program, grant, or service is not an option for you, doesn’t mean there isn’t something out there that can help with your situation. Even if you find out that the program you are looking into will not work (or be available) based on for your situation,, be sure to ask the person you’re speaking with if they know of any other programs that may be able to help.

 

When considering your options, it is also important to remember that different programs have different eligibility requirements. So, be sure to provide as much information as possible to determine if you are eligible for a specific program.

 

Obtaining services through Medicaid (or other agencies) is rarely a simple process, but we hope that these tips– as well as our guide of various state offices involved in the administration of services and supports for individuals with disabilities– will make your journey a bit easier.
Do you have any other tips or tricks you would like to add to the list? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #KnowMedicaid. To learn more about Medicaid in your state, check out our resource guide.

Navigating The Scholarship Landscape

 

A Signpost With Blank Signs Pointing in Many Directions

A Signpost With Blank Signs Pointing in Many Directions

As we have mentioned before, the transition from high-school to college comes with challenges for everyone. Oftentimes, one of the biggest challenges when starting college is figuring out how you are going to is pay for it!

 

With college costs skyrocketing in recent years, scholarships are becoming more and more important for college applicants. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012 the average student at a 4-year institution received $9,740 in scholarship and grant money. This is a quick guide to help students with disabilities navigate the often complex world of scholarships.

 

Finding A Scholarship

 

It’s important to understand the three biggest categories of scholarships: Merit-Based, Need-Based, and what I will call “other.”

 

Merit-Based scholarships award students based on academic, artistic, athletic, and really every imaginable type of achievement.

 

Need-Based scholarships attempt to identify individuals, through the FAFSA form, who need help paying for college. These scholarships are often provided by the college itself, or through the government.

 

The third category, what I referred to as “other,” contains scholarships that you could win for essentially every imaginable reason. Many of these scholarships are essentially an essay contest. There are scholarships for women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who play the drumset, and yes, even people who are really into daydreaming about the zombie apocalypse.

 

There are literally millions of scholarships out there, and a seemingly equally high number of services on the web dedicated to helping you find the right ones for your situation. Luckily for you, I spent some time sorting through those services. I narrowed them down to the three listed below.

 

Here is a list of three free, reputable scholarship search engines:

  • https://www.petersons.com/
    • Peterson’s has over 5000 scholarship providers, 1.5 million scholarships, and $10 billion in scholarships on their site.
    • As well as a scholarship reference, Peterson’s has great resources for finding the ideal university, as well as standardized test prep.
    • Their site is relatively easy to navigate and allows users to search scholarships by keyword (disability, Cerebral Palsy, etc.).

  • https://www.collegeboard.org/
    • CollegeBoard, the same company that administers the Advancement Placement (AP) and SAT tests has $6 billion in scholarships on its website.
    • The real advantage to using this site is that it allows users of AP and SAT testing to use the same login and profile information that they entered for those programs to search for scholarships, as well as a host of other resources.

  • https://www.fastweb.com/
    • Fastweb, a subsidiary of Monster.com, also boasts around 1.5 million scholarships, with $3 billion in total scholarship funds on their site.
    • Fastweb requires users to create a profile in order to search for scholarships. The profile is free and takes 10-15 minutes.
    • Fastweb will tailor the scholarships that it shows users based on their profile, and will notify users of new scholarships that might interest them.
    • Fastweb also has free career advice, financial aid and college search resources.

There are many other sites that may work for you, but these are the three that I relied on when I was applying for college scholarships only a few years ago.

 

Before using these sites, it helped me to sit down and make a profile of myself. Starting with characteristics such as race, gender, disability status, etc. and, then, try to make a list of the things you were involved with in high school such as:  your academic interests, your hobbies, and your potential areas of study in college. Each and every one of these things can open the door to a potentially lucrative scholarship opportunity.

 

It is also important to keep a few things in mind as you begin your search for scholarships.

 

Look Locally

 

Don’t forget to look for scholarship opportunities in your local area. Ask your school counselor about local scholarships, and maybe even give your local area library a call. I learned about a few very important local scholarships through my library.

 

You should also find out which UCP Affiliate is closest to you by using your zip code in our affiliate finder. It is worth giving your local affiliate a call to see if they have any scholarship or  suggestions of other funding opportunities for students headed off to college.

 

Pay Special Attention to the School You Are Attending

 

If you know which school you will be attending, make sure to do everything you can to find out about all of your specific college’s  financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Many of the scholarships you apply to will be specific to that school, and can be found on their website or by contacting their financial aid office.

 

You may also want to contact the disability services offices at your prospective schools to see if there are any grants or scholarships available specifically for disabled students.

 

Keep Track of Deadlines and Eligibility

 

You will find that as you accumulate scholarship applications, you will accumulate even more deadlines. I recommend putting together a calendar that only has scholarship deadlines and keep it separate from your application deadlines.

 

Put the Work In

 

You will notice that there is a wild difference in the amounts of work required to apply to various scholarships. While it may be tempting to spend a lot of time applying to “no-essay” national scholarships with applications that don’t take much time, keep in mind that there are probably hundreds of thousands of other students doing the same thing. I’ve found that you will get out what you put into the scholarship process, so don’t ignore the scholarships that require an essay or two.

 

This is a good little resource for writing scholarship essays. It always helped me to try to envision who was going to be reading my essay, and why they were interested in me and what I had to say. Try to convince your friends, family, teachers, mentors and anyone who is willing to proofread your essays and provide suggestions. Don’t be shy!

 

Getting Started

 

Here are some trustworthy scholarships specifically for individuals with disabilities to get you started on your scholarship search:

Google Lime Scholarship Program

 

Microsoft DisAbility Scholarship

 

Newcombe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

 

Ameriglide Achiever Scholarship

 

Joe Cleres Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

 

Foundation for Science and Disability

 

disABLEDperson Inc. National College Scholarship

 

NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

 

It may also be worth checking out this financial aid resource for students with disabilities put out by George Washington University’s HEATH Resource Center. HEATH serves as a national online clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities.  

 

In conclusion… applying to college is stressful for a plethora of reasons, but scholarships don’t have to be one of them!

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 of Greater Cleveland Client Shines On The Job and Stuns On the Ice

 

Sharita Taylor is a client of UCP of Greater Cleveland. Sharita has autism, and first came to UCP in October 2009 because she was looking for job opportunities when she graduated from high school. Sharita’s story has a little ‘twist.’ When she’s not working, she’s shining on the ice and is heading to Austria for The Special Olympics World Winter Games!

Sharita Taylor on the ice. [Image description: A young African-American woman in her mid-20’s, wearing a yellow and blue dress. She is wearing ice skates and her arms stretched out in a pose.]

Sharita has been a UCP-contract employee at a bank processing center in Cleveland, OH since November 2009. She works in various departments in the bank, such as statement preparation, lockbox department, and image retrieval. Of her job, Sharita says: “I love the atmosphere and I love the people here!” “They make me feel at home. I love my job too! It keeps me up on my feet!” She says her favorite job is delivering documents to other departments as well as meeting and talking to people outside her division. Sharita also enjoys helping the Statement Prep Department with mailings. Sharita says that jumping from job to job is challenging for her, but she just tells herself to focus. Her job has taught her that multitasking can be a positive thing.

While Sharita thrives at her job at the bank, she is also very interested in theater and hopes to one day have a job in that field. She is active in UCP of Greater Cleveland’s Career Exploration Program, which assists clients in exploring a variety of job fields to see where their true passion lies. Sharita also ushers at the Beck Center for the Arts, a local visual and performing arts center.

When Sharita isn’t working or volunteering, she is an accomplished level-five figure skater, along with her twin sister Shaye. They both became involved in figure skating through the local Special Olympics chapter in Ohio. According to the U.S. Figure Skating Association, a level five figure skater has mastered basic figure skating skills such as a beginning spin and a hockey stop. In an interview with ABC News 5 in Cleveland, Sharita was the only athlete from Ohio invited to participate in the World Games. She will be participating in both figure skating and ice dancing in Austria.

 

UPDATE: Sharita Taylor brought home the Bronze medal in Ice Dancing and came in sixth place in figure skating singles in the 2017 Special Winter Olympic games in Vienna, Austria. Read More (ideastream.org)

 

 

To find out more about UCP of Greater Cleveland, you can visit their website here.

 

For a schedule of events for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, click here.

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 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

 

United Cerebral Palsy and the National Council on Disability Coming Together for “First Responders and Disability”

UCP-NCD2United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) and the National Council on Disability (NCD) are coming together to host a day long convening on December 9th, 2016, focusing on First Responders and the Disability Community. The discussion will center on first responder reform and the impact on the disability community.

The purpose of this discussion is to gather information and resources to inform NCD’s 2017 policy project focusing on how to transform the policies and practice around First Responders engagement with the disability community. This conversation will include experts in criminal justice reform, disability rights advocates, policymakers, law enforcement organizations, and individuals impacted by state violence directly.

Please join us from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm EST in person or tune in to the live stream.

For more information, including how to RSVP: Please click here.

See the program agenda here.

Read Speaker Bios here.

UCP Celebrates the 17th Anniversary of The Olmstead Decision

 

The outcome of the Olmstead v. L.C. case began in Georgia where two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, saw constant segregation due to their intellectual disabilities. Their frequent trips to state mental hospitals brought attention to the fact that community support and personal choice for individuals with disabilities was lackluster, almost nonexistent. After being represented by an attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Lois, and later Elaine, saw her position for removal of institutional bias being taken up to the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.

It was found under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), that discrimination against an individual with disabilities was illegal, and that the behavior portrayed towards both Curtis and Wilson held both legal and moral conflict.

 

iStock_000012685951XSmall

Under the Olmstead decision, The Court stated that individuals with disabilities have rights that are inclusive of:

  • Prohibition in the segregation of individuals with disabilities in community living
  • The ability to receive services in integrated environments
    • Services received may be appropriate to individual needs
  • The ability to receive community based services rather than institutionally based ones, in the event that:
    • Community placement is the appropriate course of action
    • The individual in question does not oppose to the treatment being offered
    • The individual’s placement can be accommodated in a reasonable manner

 

As a section under the ADA, the Olmstead decision follows the anti-discriminatory nature that the ADA set many years ago. The ADA, which celebrates its 26th signing anniversary, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a number of areas that include transportation, employment, government activities, and more. According to the Olmstead decision, unjustified segregation would violate Title II of the ADA, which stated that individuals with disabilities may not be discriminated against when it came to State and local government provided public services. This gave individuals with disabilities the right to choose where they were to live, instead of having economic factors coerce them into making decisions they may not otherwise wish to make. The Olmstead decision tied together the anti-discriminatory nature of the ADA by not legally binding individuals with disabilities to be institutionalized, meaning that there legally cannot be a system that will inevitably end up with a majority of the disability community in institutions.

For individuals with disabilities, these acts held the power to allow them to work in traditional office environments, live in community settings that foster independent lifestyles, receive equal opportunities when it came to a variety of traditionally implemented services, and most importantly, have the right to decide where to live, without economic or legal influences.

Here at UCP, we appreciate the previously implemented and ongoing efforts for integration, habilitation, and opportunity for expansion for those who live with disabilities. Many of our affiliates provide services that both directly and indirectly relate to the Olmstead decision. For example, most of our affiliates offer community living based services. Outlined below are a sampling of specific services that follow ideals set by the Olmstead decision.

 

 

  • Within the UCP of Central Pennsylvania lies In-Home and Community Support Programs, which offer a variety of training and support to individuals with disabilities in the realm of opportunities that allow them to participate further in the community around them. These community integration and in-home habilitation programs allow for an individual to feel as though they can be cared for and supported throughout processes in any environment that they choose. It need not have to be an institution that can provide habilitation, but rather, it can occur within the home, simultaneously alongside community support options.

 

  • Through UCP of Central Arizona, the Summer Program, as an extension of the Day Treatment and Training for Kids and Teens Program, works on even further enhancement and training of social, community, cognitive, and communication skills for kids and teens. This program focuses on the individual needs of each child, and exposes each individual to real life scenarios in preparation for community integration. This program, along with many other of it’s kind, provides services of transportation to and from the individual’s home/school, making it clear that such services, again, are not contingent upon whether or not an individual is residing at home or within an institution. Usually, habilitation skills are not necessarily provided for children outside of an institution setting, however, as can be seen from such programs, not only is the child free to reside wherever he/she may desire, but he/she may also be provided with many character building and habilitation services that otherwise would confine them to institutions.

 

In addition to skill specific programs, services such as Child Development, Respite Care, and Early Intervention are made available in a location of the individual’s choice, making it clear that community integration, and most of all, personal choice, is the priority when it comes to the creation and reformation of programs focused towards individuals with disabilities.

While disability rights and removal of bias and segregation from the disability community has seen great progress, there is much still much to be done.  On the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Olmstead decision, we at UCP wish to not only celebrate, but also take part in movements that further advocate for the rights that all individuals are entitled to.

We want to hear how the Olmstead decision has impacted your life! Share your stories using the hashtag #OlmsteadAction on social media.

Find out more information on the Administration for Community Living’s celebration of the Olmstead Anniversary here.