Disability Rights Rundown
Did you know it only costs $6000 per year to support a person with a disability in integrated housing? (Compare that to the tens of thousands it costs to house a person in an institution).
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. This 110-member coalition (of which the RAC is a part) has played an influential role in the passage of fundamental disability rights legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. At the annual meeting this week, we heard from a panel of CCD past leaders and a panel of bipartisan Hill staff from various offices and committees. We were briefed on upcoming legislative battles, including Medicaid, employment, and housing.
The major thing all the panelists, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, focused on was the upcoming debates surrounding the sequester and the debt ceiling, which are both expected to be debated around March 1. They stressed that the debt ceiling is not just a fiscal discussion; it will affect everything. It is not something the disability community can ignore because it “doesn’t affect them.” Instead, spending cuts used to counter the raise in the debt ceiling could certainly affect programs that support people with disabilities.
This message was reiterated today at the quarterly meeting of the Jewish Disability Network (which the RAC co-convenes). When we discussed what the most pressing issue facing the disability community in the next few months will be, it was not health care or employment or civil rights; it was deficit reduction. If anything, this is a time to ramp up advocacy efforts to protect programs we care about. You can help!
At our Jewish Disability Network meeting we also had the pleasure to hear from Ari Ne’eman, the president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. He spoke about the urgent need to take mental health issues and people with disabilities out of the gun control discussion. The wake of a tragedy is not the time to be reforming national mental health policy. In his words:
“Not only does the focus on mental illness and disability distract from the more productive lines of discussion on how to deal with gun violence, it also plunges into a horrific swarm of stigma and stereotypes those of us who deal with the consequences of pundits’ willingness to demonize people with neurological and psychiatric disabilities.”
I highly urge you to read the rest of his brief, informative, and compelling recent article in the Jewish Week, “In Grief, Stereotyping Mental Illness.”
Both meetings this week closed looking forward—the first meeting closed with a call to action for legislative advocacy and the second closed with an opportunity for Jews around the country to do that. If you have not yet signed up for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, click here, clear your calendar, and start counting down the days until February 12th!