Voter Education

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Paraquad’s Public Policy & Advocacy Department has been busy spreading the word across the state about how and why to make sure everyone is able to vote and be heard this November.  If you haven’t had the chance to attend one of our trainings, no worries!  Public Policy & Advocacy Specialist Sarah Schwegel recorded a training to share with you.

Follow the link below to watch the video, and feel free to email sschwegel@paraquad.org with any questions!

Breaking Down Barriers: Ensuring People with Disabilities Can Exercise Their Right to VOTE

If you would like to attend a live presentation, check out our schedule, or contact us to schedule an event for your organization or group!

Social Movements: An Introduction

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2020 has been a rough year. There is a global pandemic, communities are hurting, people are dying, and everything in the news is bleak. While what is happening today may seem hopeless, nationwide protests aren’t necessarily bad; they can invoke massive social change. During times of civil unrest, like we are experiencing now, we can look to other social movements, not only for comfort–to know what tactics have created change in the past but also for a framework for how to act and how to have cross-movement solidarity.

In this blog series, we will examine the intersectionality of four major movements: Civil Rights in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Second-Wave Feminism, LGBTQIA+ Pride, and Disability Rights. None of these movements would have been successful without the support of other movements and multiply marginalized (having more than one minority identity) people.

Before we can dive into the history of social movements to understand how cross-movement solidarity and being aware of intersectionality is crucial to any movement’s success, we need to understand what intersectionality is. As a concept, intersectionality is not new; in fact, Maria W. Stewart alluded to the idea of intersectionality in the 1830s. The term itself was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989. It is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, as they apply to a given individual or group regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. This definition is complicated and very academic. Another way to conceptualize intersectionality is to list out how you identify yourself and think about what identities might cause you to be discriminated against or oppressed. A white, middle-class, nondisabled man in his 40s is likely going to experience less discrimination than a 70-year-old Black woman who has a visible disability and is living in poverty. Folks who have intersecting identities are more likely to experience discrimination than those without. For example, a Black woman may experience discrimination in employment in companies where a Black man or a white woman world not.

Our identities make up how we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us. Massive social movements have been necessary to ensure equality for oppressed people for a long time (early settlers came to America to escape religious oppression). What our country is experiencing now is not new, and has a proven record of change, although slow and incremental. Take a moment to reflect on the Disability Rights Movement (which we will examine in a future post): the Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1973, section 504 was not enforced until 1977, and it took a 24-day sit-in to get that done; then ADA was not signed until 1990 after a number of other protests and a crawl up the capitol steps. Reform does not happen fast. Through examining past social movements, including our own, we can learn to be better allies and further rights of all people.

2021-2023 State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL)

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Authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2015, the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) is a three-year plan developed by the Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council (MOSILC). The plan issues guidance for the state to achieve the mission of ensuring individuals with a disability in Missouri can live independently and participate in the community as they choose. Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are primarily responsible for implementing the mission of the SPIL; however, other agencies that serve people with disabilities are expected to implement the plan as well.

There are four specific goals, each with measurable action steps outlined to fulfill the mission of independent living for people with disabilities in Missouri.

The first goal is community integration across housing, employment, and transportation. To achieve the housing portion of this goal, CILs will use educational materials to influence housing authorities to encourage universal design. CILs and other stakeholders, such as people with disabilities, will advocate for and take an active role in developing policies ensuring access to affordable and accessible housing. The second part of this goal calls for CILs and other agencies dedicated to independent living to increase competitive integrated employment. To do this, CIL staff will sit on local boards and commissions, learn about work incentives through webinars/online classes, educate employers and consumers about work incentives, and facilitate Vocational Rehabilitation programs such as Summer Work Experience and Pre-ETS. To meet the goal of community integration through transportation, CILs will increase awareness of existing systems and make sure information is accessible, influence transit planning by serving on boards and commissions, and work to increase the number of consumers who use transit services.

The second goal is to stimulate civic engagement through self-advocacy, voter registration, and encouraging advocates to serve on boards and commissions. CILs will educate people with disabilities on the importance of civic engagement and self-advocacy and prepare advocates to sit on boards, committees, and commissions. In addition, CILs will educate policymakers about the importance of disability policy issues by hosting voter forums and advocacy days. Finally, CILs will assist election commissions with ADA compliance.

The third goal is to ensure emergency preparedness by making sure consumers have access to resources during emergencies and that people with disabilities are included in disaster planning and emergency management. People with disabilities are at high risk of being negatively affected by disasters and must be included in emergency preparedness. CILs are to make an emergency plan and share accessible information about disasters with their consumers. CIL staff needs to encourage participants to have their own emergency plans. CILs and other organizations need to collaborate to ensure emergency plans are inclusive of people with disabilities.

The fourth goal is to grow the Statewide Independent Living Council’s (SILC) capacity to support more people with disabilities in Missouri. To increase the SILC’s capacity, resources will need to be obtained and developed so that dedicated staff can implement the action plan outlined in the SPIL.

The SILC committee will meet bi-monthly to evaluate the success of the SPIL. Success will be measured in the implementation of time-specific action steps, satisfaction surveys, and program reports from CILs. The committee will create an annual independent living progress report.

While there are 22 Centers for Independent Living in Missouri and no unserved people in our state, the SPIL recognizes the need to continue outreach to underserved populations. These populations include youth, individuals who are Deaf/hard of hearing, veterans, folks with mental health diagnoses, people with intellectual disabilities, individuals who are blind/low vision, and other multiply marginalized people. CILs will make an effort to better serve people in these groups and will outreach to other organizations to make sure that traditionally underserved individuals are able to receive the services they need to be successful in the community.

The full SPIL is available for review here. If you have comments regarding the 2021-2023 SPIL, please submit them to AdonisTBrown@mosilc.org by June 15th.

Action Required: Federal Medical Assistance Percentage Increase Request

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Last week, we reported that there were no increases or cuts to Consumer Directed Services providers or Centers for Independent Living in the FY 2021 budget. This is still true; however, providers and CILs will struggle to adequately provide services to people with disabilities without a rate increase.

You can help secure a potential increase by reaching out to members of Congress. Call and email your federal representatives and senators to share the following message with them:

My name is ______, I am a constituent in Missouri. My zip code is _____. I am calling today to ask ______ to work with their colleagues at the federal level to enhance the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). FMAP Funding may be used as general revenue in Missouri and could help disabled voters maintain crucial services that help them live independently. Without enhanced FMAP disabled constituents could lose services, potentially resulting in costly hospitalizations that could become fatal during a pandemic.
Thank you for your time.

If you use social media, you can share a sentence or two about how important CDS/Paraquad is to you along with the ask “enhance FMAP so I can remain healthy and independent”. Be sure to tag your representatives, senators, and Paraquad so that we can share!

#WeAreEssential Week 4 – The Danger of Institutions

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This week we are refocusing our attention on the importance of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). One of the most important services Centers for Independent Living, like Paraquad, provides is transition services for individuals who are living in nursing homes or other institutions but would like to live independently in the community. COVID-19 is running wild in nursing homes across the country, putting people with significant disabilities and the elderly (who are already at increased risk) in grave danger.

It is crucial for Congress to increase funding to HCBS so that people with disabilities and older adults are able to stay in their homes. At the best of times, Medicaid funded nursing homes and institutions are understaffed and generally unpleasant places to live, not to mention far more expensive than HCBS. During a global pandemic, the negatives of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are exacerbated; it is difficult to control illness when folks are living in small spaces and employees go from room to room assisting residents. Often people who do not need to be institutionalized become institutionalized due to illness. With increased funding to HCBS people with disabilities and older adults will have the opportunity to remain in their community and stay healthy.

This week we urge you to tell Congress:
• Disabled people in institutions are not disposable; Congress must act now to support our communities. #WeAreEssential
• Coronavirus numbers have increased dramatically in nursing homes and long-term care facilities – over 10,000 deaths. Congress needs to support these workers. #WeAreEssential
• My civil rights and my life will be at stake if I cannot stay in my home during the #coronavirus outbreak. Congress needs to support home and community-based services in coronavirus relief! #WeAreEssential

#WeAreEssential Week 3 – SSI & SSDI #FixTheGlitch

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This week, in addition to using #WeAreEssential to talk about HCBS and Paid Family Medical Leave, the disability community is using #FixTheGlitch. We need to ensure that all Americans are able to receive their Recovery Rebate that was included in the CARES Act and that everyone who files taxes and meets the eligibility guidelines will receive.

Many people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and certain VA benefits are not required to file taxes; therefore, they will not automatically receive payments. The IRS and Social Security Administration worked together to fix the problem for people who receive SSDI, but not SSI or VA benefits. This situation is creating confusion amongst beneficiaries and increasing barriers to stimulus checks, as it is unclear who needs to fill out the IRS non-filer form (best practice is to fill it out if you did not pay taxes in 2018 or do not plan to pay them for 2019).

This week’s asks are focused on the IRS/Treasury, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as Congress:

Sample text to tweet/email the IRS/Treasury, SSA, and VA:

#FixTheGlitch and share data and make these payments automatically. #WeAreEssential

Sample text to tweet/email Congress:

Please tell IRS/Treasury, SSA, and the VA to #FixTheGlitch by sharing data and making stimulus payments automatically, and if they will not, please order Information sharing amongst agencies in the next COVID-19 bill. #WeAreEssential

Don’t forget to tag Paraquad in your social posts so that we can lift up your voice and make sure the disability community is heard!

#WeAreEssential Week 2 – Paid Family and Medical Leave

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This week, members of the disability community are adding Paid Family and Medical Leave to our list of asks (don’t stop talking about HCBS).

Families First Coronavirus Response Act included two weeks of paid sick leave for people who were diagnosed with COVID-19, needed to self-isolate to avoid becoming ill, or to take care of someone who was diagnosed or instructed to self-isolate. The Act also authorized 12 weeks of leave for parents who need to take care of children of all ages who lost their typical source of care.

However, many people feel that this didn’t meet their needs. Individuals who work for organizations with less than 50 employees or more than 500 employees, and many health care workers, are not eligible for leave. In addition to the limited eligibility, caregiver leave is only paid at 66% of an individual’s salary.

This week’s asks are targeted to Congress.

Tell Congress to:

  • Expand Paid leave for people with disabilities who need to self-isolate.
  • Ensure non-parent caregivers can take leave to care for their loved ones who have lost care.
  • Pay caregivers like everyone else!

The best way to reach your members of congress is via Twitter, Facebook, and Email, since everyone is working from home. You can find your members of congress here.

If you have an experience with paid leave (either good or bad) and COVID-19, reach out to the Public Policy and Advocacy by calling (314-289-4277) or emailing Sarah and she will help you craft a story to share across social media channels.

#WeAreEssential Week 1 – Home and Community Based Services

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Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) allow people with disabilities to live independently in the community. COVID-19 is negatively affecting people’s access to HCBS—if personal care attendants don’t come to work because they are sick, and if the person with a disability can’t find another attendant, he or she could be forced into a nursing home, disabled people could be forced into institutions and out of their homes.

#WeAreEssential HCBS Sample Tweets & Facebook Posts:

  • Disabled people in institutions are not disposable. Congress must act now to support our communities! #WeAreEssential
  • Coronavirus numbers have increased dramatically in nursing homes and long-term care facilities – more than 400 as of last week (a 200% increase). Congress needs to support these workers. #WeAreEssential
  • My civil rights and my life will be at stake if I cannot stay in my home during the #coronavirus outbreak. Congress needs to support home and community-based services in coronavirus relief! #WeAreEssential

You can use this language, along with a photo of you in your home or with your attendant to post on social media. Be sure to tag your members of Congress (they can be found here) and Paraquad so we can share your story!

#WeAreEssential Campaign – Introductory Blog Post

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Over the next 4 weeks, the disability community, lead by AAPD and Center for American Progress, is building a social media campaign and rallying behind #WeAreEssential to ensure that disability needs are included in the next COVID-19 response packages. There will be a different theme each week so that people with disabilities can share their stories:

Week 1 (April 6) – Home and Community-Based Services
Ask: Tell Congress Medicaid funding for home and community-based services must be increased.

Week 2 (April 13) – Paid Family and medical leave
Ask: Congress and the Department of Labor need to expand paid family and medical leave and ensure that everyone is paid fairly while caring for their loved ones.

Week 3 (April 20) – SSI & SSDI and the Recovery Rebate #FixTheGlitch
Ask: #FixTheGlitch Congress must compel agencies to work together to share data so that all eligible individuals can get the rebate checks.

Week 4 (April 27) – Medication and Supplies
Ask: Tell the President to invoke #DefenseProductionActNow. There is an extreme shortage of supplies such as ventilators and face masks. At the state and local level, people must be able to access their medications.

Each week, we will provide background information on the topics as well as templates and suggestions for you to use to reach out to your elected officials. These are unprecedented times, and innovative advocacy is crucial to the success of our cause. The disability community needs to be creative to ensure they are not forgotten. Right now, the best way to contact officials is through social media and email.

If you are new to digital advocacy and have any questions, please reach out to Sarah at 314-289-4277 or sschwegel@paraquad.org; we are all learning about new tools and how to organize without meeting in person.