Equal Value, Equal Participation
Through the Machon Kaplan program this summer, I am interning at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the longest- running national cross- disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. As a membership organization, NCIL advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities through consumer-driven advocacy. NCIL envisions a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.
Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to do some really awesome things with NCIL! I attended a hearing on Capitol Hill about adoption and the rights of parents and children with disabilities called “Rocking the Cradle” and helped write comments for the Proposed Priority – Assistive Technology: Alternative Financing Programs. I have learned a lot about NCIL’s policies and know that I am contributing to the advocacy works for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.
However, the United States is still a long way from realizing the vision that NCIL is working towards. People with disabilities want to live in their community and not be forced into living in an institution. In order to do so, many people with disabilities require personal care and direct support assistance. Medicaid- dependent home and community- based providers (a term that includes many centers for Independent Living) play a critical role in our healthcare system by providing long-term services and support to people with disabilities.
Jewish tradition teaches us of our obligation to ensure equal access for all people and to help facilitate the full participation of individuals with disabilities in religious and public life. We are taught “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirke Avot 2:5); accordingly, we must prevent anyone from being separated against their will. This occurs frequently; for example, Medicaid will often pay for long-term services for people with disabilities only if they live and receive care at institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes.
In the United States, we are lucky to have the ADA and subsequent Supreme Court rulings that make the rights of people with disabilities a priority. Around the world today, we know that nearly 650 million people live with a disability. As Jews, we also know the importance of advocating for disability rights on the world stage. Take a minute to let your Senators know that you support disability rights worldwide.
If we don’t act now to develop options for Medicaid-dependent providers, it could have devastating effects on the ability of people to get the services they need to stay out of institutions. Forcing these Medicaid-dependent agencies to abide by the Affordable Care Act would severely impact providers and force some to close their doors.
Emily Rabin is a rising junior at Lake Forest College. She is a Communication major and Politics minor. Originally from Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, Emily grew up attending Beth Hillel Temple. As a Machon Kaplan participant, Emily is interning at the National Council on Independent Living this summer.