National Disability Voter Registration Week

Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power! RevUp! Make the Disability Vote Count!

Do you have a disability? Does someone in your family of voting age have a disability? Are you registered to vote? Are they registered to vote?

The deadline to register in New York State for the November 6, 2018 Midterm Election is October 12, 2018.

For more information or to register, call the North Country Center for Independence at 518-563-9058.


Important things to know about voting and people with disabilities:

  • People with any kind of disability can register to vote, as long as they are U.S. citizens of voting age, 18 or older. Cognitive or mental disabilities do not disqualify someone from voting, unless an individual been ruled legally ineligible. Election officials and poll workers alone cannot determine a disabled person’s eligibility to vote.
  • Disabled adults who are under legal guardianship may or may not be eligible to vote, depending on the terms of their guardianship. If you are not sure, you should find out. Guardianship terms can be changed if necessary to specifically allow an otherwise eligible person with disabilities who is under guardianship to vote.
  • Polling places should be physically accessible, and have voting mechanisms that are accessible to blind, visually impaired, and physically impaired people. Some disabled people may, if they choose, request a mail-in absentee ballot, but that does not lessen the obligation for polling sites to be accessible.
  • If transportation is an issue, and you want to vote, it’s best to make arrangements well ahead of election day.
  • You may be asked to provide identification at your polling site. A driver’s license, passport, or non-driver ID will suffice.
  • If you have any difficulty voting, or anyone tries to prevent you from voting, call your Board of Elections: Clinton Co. 518-565-4740, Essex Co. 518-873-3474, Franklin Co. 518-481-1663.
Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse of Rutgers University have been studying voting participation among people with disabilities over the last few elections. Their most recent report, looking at 2016 voting, included some key findings:

About 16 million Americans with disabilities voted in 2016.

68.3% of voting age people with disabilities were registered to vote in 2016, compared to 70.6% of non-disabled people, a 2.3% registration gap. 82% of registered disabled voters actually voted, compared with 88% of non-disabled registered voters, a 6% gap in voting participation.

Kruse and Schur found that while voting by disabled people increased from 2008 to 2012, the voting rate for people with disabilities actually went down in 2016.

National Disability Voter Registration Week: July 17-21

Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power! RevUp - Make the disability vote count
In the 2016 election, over 16% of eligible voters were people with disabilities. If you add non-disabled people living in the same households of people with disabilities ... spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters ... the potential "disability vote" was as much as 25% of all eligible voters.* That is potentially a large and influential voting bloc.

Are you registered to vote? If not, next week is a great time to get that done.

A group of national disability organizations is once again sponsoring National Disability Voter Registration Week, July 17-21, 2017. You can register to vote any time, but during this week we will pay special attention to voter registration in the disability community. Registrations done through participating organization will be tallied, so we have will have a good sense of how many people with disabilities and family members have registered during the week.

Here's what to do:

1. If aren't sure whether you are registered, find out by clicking the link below and typing in your name and address.

Am I Registered To Vote?

2. If you are eligible but not registered, click the link below to complete your registration online.

Online Voter Registration

3. If you prefer, you can fill out a paper registration at NCCI, any weekday from 8 AM to 4 PM.

By the way, even though it probably seems like we just had an election, check out the dates for upcoming elections:

Election Day 2017 - November 7, 2017
2018 Mid-Term Elections - November 6, 2018
2020 General Elections - November 3, 2020

* Source: "Projecting the Number of Eligible Voters with Disabilities in the November 2016 Elections", Doug Kruse & Lisa Schur, Rutgers University

Action Alert: Call your member of Congress today and urge them to vote NO on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)

ACTION ALERT in bold white letters on a dark red background

This Action Alert comes from the New York Association on Independent Living, (NYAIL) ...

The BCRA would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and threaten the lives and liberty of people with disabilities by making devastating cuts to Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the BCRA would cut Medicaid by $772 billion and that 15 million people will lose Medicaid coverage over the next 10 years.

The BCRA would end Medicaid's over 50 year history of providing coverage to all who are eligible, and instead impose per capita caps. This means states will only receive set reimbursement rates, and if state spending exceeds that formula, the financial burden falls to the states. New York State has calculated that if BCRA passes, New York would need to come up with an additional $7 billion over the next four years in order to maintain Medicaid expansion coverage and offset per capita cuts. This would mean that New York would need to decide whether to limit the amount of services they provide, limit the number of people they cover, or some combination of both. Either way, the services we rely on to go to school, work, and live in our communities are at grave risk!

If the Senate passes the BCRA, the bill will then go back to the House of Representatives.

ACTION:

1.   Call your members of Congress TODAY at 844-898-1199 and tell them to say "no" to the Better Care Reconciliation Act and to end efforts to take away our health care. You will be routed to the appropriate representative.

2.   Share your story about how Medicaid or the ACA has affected your life to help advocates to educate policymakers about why this bill is bad news for Americans.

Disability Policy In The U.K.

Scroll down for a list of articles on disability policy in the United Kingdom during the last several years. A lot has happened and is still happening there that could signal trends that could take hold here in the U.S. For example:

Austerity

The UK government's main response to the 2008 financial crisis was to go into deficit reduction mode, by cutting spending. Cuts reached across every sector of the British government, but some of the must notable cuts were made to long-established disability support programs.

Restructuring

The government argued for many of it's cost-savings in disability programs by saying they would restructure and improve these programs. They claimed that existing programs provided more than necessary to some, and not enough to others. They also embraced the idea at least of more employment of people with disabilities. However, their main approach in this was to hire a handful of consulting firms to do a complete work ability reassessment of everyone getting benefits, with the idea of finding possible savings and motivating disabled people to go get paid work. They also eliminated and consolidated independent living benefits in ways that were supposed to be more sensible, but of course almost always resulted in people losing benefits, and independence.

"Scroungers"

Part of the backdrop for all of this was a rise in popular resentment of people receiving disability-related benefits. Everyone suddenly knew three neighbors who were "benefits scroungers," people getting disability benefits who maybe? / perhaps? / who knows? / might not be "properly" disabled according to the limited understanding of their nosy neighbors. I saw her stand up out of her wheelchair and walk! He went to a movie, how can he be too mentally ill to work? Us working people are strapped because of all these scroungers!

So far, problems with disability benefits and services here in the U.S. seem to have more to do with neglect than purposefully harmful or wrongheaded ideas. But in this volatile political climate, we need to watch out for these themes. Read more about disability in UK politics in this collection of articles:

Who Speaks For The Disability Community?

White 3-d stick figure speaking through a bullhorn
The short answer to this question is, "No one!" No single person or organization can claim to represent all people with disabilities.

Another answer is, "People with disabilities ... all of us, each of us ... represent ourselves." Others who care about us can help, and do their best to speak up for our needs and interests. But families, friends, doctors, teachers, and disability professionals can only do so much to speak for us. In the end, we need to speak for ourselves.

A more practical answer is that there are several disability organizations that in various ways do a pretty good job of speaking for what matters to Americans with disabilities of all kinds. Here are a few disability organization that are worth knowing about, especially now when politics and policy-making are in turmoil and hard-won progress is in doubt.

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)

The national organization representing independent living centers all over the country. In addition to advocating for centers, NCIL has a strong voice in nationwide disability policy advocacy.

American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT)

The premier organizer of large-scale disability rights protests. ADAPT actions are legendary, but it also does smart, sophisticated policy analysis and traditional legislative advocacy. ADAPT is mainly focused on home care, while it's origins were in advocating for accessible public transportation.

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

A national organization aimed at encompassing the broadest range of disability issues and types of disability community.

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

This California-based organization focuses on defending disability rights in the courts, and development of sound policy. DREDF was instrumental in crafting the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)

Although ASAN focuses on autism issues, in particular advocating for more humane and autistic-person-centered approaches to autism, it has also become one of the most committed, razor-sharp advocates on the full range of disability issues.

The Arc

ARCs haven't always been on the forefront of disability rights, and many chapters are still heavily invested in sheltered workshops and segregated programs. However, the national Arc organization has recently been a powerful, progressive voice on issues like health care and Social Security.

These are just a few national organizations. There are also organizations at the state level, and, of course, Centers for Independent Living in every state and territory ... all of which strive to amplify the voices of people with disabilities.

NYAIL Action Alert 3/22/17 Call Today to Oppose the American Health Care Act!

Action Alert in bold white letters on burgundy red background
This is an Action Alert from the New York Association on Independent Living ...

See also this Editorial from NCCI on Disability, Healthcare, and Medicaid ... 
The House is set to vote tomorrow, March 23, on the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The AHCA will put the lives and independence of people with disabilities at risk by gutting Medicaid! Call your member of Congress today and urge them to vote NO on the American Health Care Act!

New York's members are incredibly important in this vote! They should all hear from us on this bill but it is especially urgent to get calls to those who are on the fence or support the AHCA. Only one Republican - Rep. John Katko - said he will vote against it. He should get thanked for doing the right thing for New Yorkers.

Undecided

NY-21, Elise Stefanik
NY-11, Dan Donovan
NY-2, Peter King

Plans to Vote YES

NY-1, Lee Zeldin
NY-19, John Faso
NY-22, Claudia Tenney
NY-23, Tom Reed
NY-27, Chris Collins

ACTION:

We can stop this now! Please contact your Representative in the House and tell them to vote no on the American Health Care Act. Dial 844-898-1199 to put in your zip code and get routed to the right Representative.

Talking Points:

The AHCA changes the way that the federal government funds Medicaid-setting a cap on federal funding instead of paying states based on the actual costs of healthcare. This change cuts 25% (or $880 billion) of Medicaid funding and uses that money to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

AHCA Per-Capita Medicaid Caps will force States to cut services for people with the most significant disabilities, forcing people into institutions.

The Community First Choice Option (CFCO) will sunset under AHCA, the major incentive for states to provide community-based services which enable people with disabilities and seniors to live in the community.

The AHCA allows states to require unnecessary and administratively burdensome work requirements for people on Medicaid - ignoring substantial evidence that Medicaid allows many people with disabilities get back to work and losing Medicaid coverage could put many at risk of losing their jobs.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

Disability, Healthcare, and Medicaid

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote Thursday on the American Health Care Act. The AHCA is proposed by Congressional Republicans and President Trump to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."

Aside from pure partisanship and dizzying figures, there are several broad angles from which to evaluate the AHCA:

Young vs old ...
Poor vs rich vs middle income ...
Employed vs unemployed ...
Government vs private sector ...
Costs vs compassion …

Hovering over all of this is a more basic question: Should quality health care be a human right, or is it something to be earned, a motivation for hard work and success?

Even less understood or discussed is what health care means for a specific population of Americans … people with disabilities. Here, then, are a few key points about how the disability community views the health care debate:

1. There is no sugarcoating the fact that as a group, people with disabilities cost more in health care than pretty much everyone else. And, there is little we can do individually to trim those costs. Healthy lifestyles help a little. Cures, therapies, and technologies occasionally produce a breakthrough or two. But by and large, disabilities aren't fixable in any significant, permanent way. Our needs are what they are.

2. Budgeting our needs with Medicaid per capita formulas or block grants, and reducing overall Medicaid funding by over $800 billion, would mean pitting people with disabilities against each other ... my needs against my neighbor's. It would also leave us all crossing our fingers every year, hoping for enough state revenues to keep us living and working in our own homes, and if not, being forced into nursing homes or family care if there is a budget shortfall or spike in demand.

3. Most long term programs for people with severe physical impairments, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, or autism are paid for largely by Medicaid. It is the financial backbone of these critical long term care services, and there is no viable alternative should Medicaid be restructured, limited, or cut significantly. Market-based, for-profit models for these services simply don't exist, except for the most wealthy families.

4. Health insurance for people with disabilities isn't something we want "in case we get sick or injured." That’s already happened for us. Most of us use health insurance constantly, just to keep living and functioning. It is not partisan exaggeration to say that reducing or limiting coverage for people with disabilities would cause many of us to die. Those who didn’t would still see the delicate structures we have built for fulfilling, independent lives shattered.

5. Health insurance for people with disabilities isn't a reward for hard work and success. It is a prerequisite for these things. We can't work hard and earn money without first having health care. For many of us, this includes daily help from another person in order to simply get out of bed, go to the bathroom, and prepare for the day ... services that can only be paid for long term by Medicaid.

Choice, free markets, work ethics, and mandates have little meaning when applied to health care for people with disabilities. Our needs are pretty much set in stone, and they are either met or not, almost entirely determined by how health care policy is designed. We urge lawmakers and citizens everywhere to consider carefully how their beliefs and assumptions about health care apply differently to people with disabilities, and at the very least to vote with care and full awareness.

Election Day +1

Whether you are happy with the election's outcome or not, we as people with disabilities are going to need to pay even closer attention to our civil rights and the service structures we relay on. Big changes of ANY kind are always risky, especially for people with disabilities. Although the election is over, now is the time to learn more about disability issues. We can't let it all drop again until the next election.

Locally, we have a new Mayor in Plattsburgh, Colin Reed, and a new state Assembly Member, Billy Jones. We will need to get to know them, and help them to know the disability community better.

We will have to work twice as hard tomorrow as we did yesterday. But people with disabilities are strong. We have to be. We can do it.

Disability Questions for North Country Election Candidates

Disability issues have been discussed a little more than usual in this year's elections, mostly focused on the Presidential candidates. However, a lot of important disability policy is made in Congress, and by state and local elected officials.

Here are some questions we would like North Country candidates to answer on issues that matter to people with disabilities and their families:

Mayor and City Council

What specific actions should the City government take, beyond bare-bones compliance with accessibility laws, to make the downtown area of Plattsburgh accessible for residents and visitors with disabilities?

County Legislatures

What specific policies and strategies should County governments use to make transportation more accessible, reliable, and affordable for people with disabilities?

Judges, District Attorneys, County Sheriffs

What would you do to prevent harm to people with disabilities from mishandled encounters with law enforcement … including people with cognitive impairments, autism, or mental illness?

State Legislatures

Would you support increasing State Medicaid funding for home care, in order to meet new overtime pay requirements without cutting services that maintain disabled peoples’ basic independence?

Congress

Do you support or oppose "ADA notification bills," which seek to prohibit people with disabilities from suing businesses for Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility violations, unless they first give written notice and allow a waiting period, such as 90 days?

We look forward to honest, thoughtful answers to these questions from all the local North Country candidates. Candidates may send replies to Robert Poulin, Executive Director, at: robert@ncci-online.com. Answers will be shared unedited here on the NCCI Blog, and on NCCI’s Facebook and Twitter pages.