Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rules on Travel with Emotional Support Animals are Discriminatory

On May 13, 2009, the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Air Carrier Access Act revised regulations went into effect. These rules for the first time applied U.S. nondiscrimination provisions on foreign air carriers with flights the originate in the U.S.

However, another provision of the regulations requires a uniquely high level of documentation from individuals who seek to board aircraft with psychiatric service animals or emotional support dogs.

These rules demand written documentation, such as a note from a mental health professional testifying to the need for the animal to accompany the passenger, 48 hours in advance for both psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals to be allowed on an aircraft. This is not required for service animals of people with disabilities that are not psychiatric in nature.

Seeing the regulations as discriminatory to people with mental illnesses, the Psychiatric Service Dog Society attempted to stop the rule a few months before it went into effect, but was not successful.

However, on September 18, 2009, the Department issued a new request for comments, based on the Psychiatric Service Dog Society's letters urging repeal on the rules.

DOT is seeking comments from the public on whether it should begin a new rulemaking on this practice. They are particularly seeking comments from the public on how the rule, which has been in effect since May 13, 2009, is working or not working.

The deadline for comments is December 17, 2009.

The make your voice heard, visit DOT's special input page to view and comment on the rules:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

President signs hate crimes bill into law

President Barack Obama signed an expanded hate crimes bill into law Wednesday making it a federal offense to commit a crime against a person based on their disability. The law entitled the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. The law is named after two murder victims from 1998 who were targeted for attack because of bigotry. Federal law already includes protections for crimes committed based on race, color, religion or national origin.

President Obama Stated, “No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability. At root, this isn't just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another -- whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.”

Quoting President Johnson from when he signed civil rights legislation into law in 1968, Obama said that "the bells of freedom ring out a little louder," when he signed the Act into law.

“You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear,” Mr. Obama said, “You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights -- both from unjust laws and violent acts. And you understand how necessary this law continues to be. “

People with disabilities are 50 percent more likely to experience nonfatal violent crime than those without disabilities, according to a Justice Department study released in early October. The study found that about one in five crime victims with disabilities believe their disability was the reason they were targeted.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Tube Video on Healthcare

Heather Graham stars as the Public Option in this funny ad, showing how she'll force the lazy, bloated private insurance companies to get back in the game and compete.
After all, competition is as American as apple pie.
Featuring actor Peter Coyote as the narrator

Act Now to Ensure the CFC Option and CLASS ACT Remain in Healthcare Reform!

Call Sen. Shelby and Sen. Sessions, today, and ask for their support!

You may call toll-free (thanks to Families USA): 1-800-828-0498 or use the
Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121.


I am calling to urge Senator _________ to ensure that both the CLASS Act and
the Community First Choice Option are included in the final healthcare
reform bill in the Senate. People with disabilities who need long term
and supports now or in the future should be:

1. a part of the solution;
2. able self-determine the services and supports that they really want;
3. able to have the freedom to choose where they want to live.

Background Information

This week the Senate Finance and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions (HELP) Committees are merging their separate healthcare reform
bills into one single bill that will go to the Senate floor to be debated as
early as next week. Two critical provisions that change the way long term
services are delivered and funded for people with disabilities are included.
These two provisions complement one another and must be a part of the final
Senate bill!

The Finance Committee bill includes the Community First Choice (CFC)
Medicaid Option. This state option will allow the states to offer broadly
defined attendant services and supports in one's home or community setting
to individuals eligible for nursing home, ICFs/MR, and other institutional
level care. To encourage the states to implement the CFC Option, the state
will receive a 6 percent increase in its federal medical assistance
percentage (FMAP) match for services provided under this option. The CFC
moves us one step closer to ending the institutional bias in Medicaid!

The Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee's bill includes the
Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS) Act. The CLASS
Act would create a solvent, affordable, premium-based, national insurance
providing a cash benefit that can be used for assistance with the
activities of daily living. This helps state Medicaid budgets because many
people will have a way to avoid becoming impoverished by spending down to
Medicaid eligibility levels. The CLASS Act complements the CFC Option and
Medicaid, Medicare, and private long term care insurance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Community First Choice Amendment Now Included in Senate Finance Committee Healthcare Legislation!

NCIL alerted our members this week to the importance of supporting the Community First Choice Option as an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee healthcare bill. The amendment was offered by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and accepted by Chairman Max Baucus. This means that it will be included in the modified version of the bill, also known as the “Chairman’s Mark”, which is being debated this week! This is incredible news, as this amendment will advance our efforts to end the institutional bias!

The CFC Option would encourage states to provide Medicaid home and community based attendant services, rather than require them as the Community Choice Act would. The cost of the CFC Option is estimated to be $1 billion over five years. It includes a “sunset provision”, which means that after five years Congress will need to approve keeping the CFC Option in place.

One important feature of the Chairman's Mark language is that the Money Follows the Person program would be modified to move the basic eligibility requirement of six months of institutionalization to only 90 days.

What Will Happen Next:

Since the CFC Option is now part of the Finance Committee’s bill (assuming there are no objections), the amendment does not need to be offered and debated during the ongoing mark-up process. If the Finance Committee passes the bill after mark-up, it will be merged with the bill passed in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Once a final bill is created from the two versions, it will be voted on by the full Senate. Having the CFC Option as a part of Senate Finance Committee mark is a huge step forward, but we still have important work to do.

What to Do Now:

Please contact your Senators and let them know that you support the Community First Choice Option in the Senate Finance Committee bill, and that it is critical that it be kept in the final version approved by the Senate. It is also important to thank those who have made this possible. Senator Baucus (MT) and David Schwartz (from the Senate Finance staff) were crucial in making this happen. NCIL also appreciates the efforts of Senator Schumer (D-NY) for submitting the CFC Option Amendment and Senator Harkin, our Senate champion who has tirelessly fought to eliminate the institutional bias. Call and thank them!

You can call using this toll-free number: 866-324-0787. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

FYI: If you have no health insurance

Federally-funded health centers are mandated to provide care for you, even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford, based on your income.

Health centers are in most cities and many rural areas. Go to Type in your address and click the 'Find Health Centers' button to find health centers near you.

Health centers provide:
1. Check-ups when you are well
2. Treatment when you are sick
3. Complete care when you are pregnant
4. Immunization and check-ups for your children
5. Dental care and prescription drugs for your family
6. Mental health and substance abuse care if you need it

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Huge Turnout for Home Repair and Energy "Connect" Event

On August 20, 2009, the first Home Repair and Energy Conservation Event was held at the Community Health Systems Activity Center. Over 147 people came seeking help, information and resources. The event focused on assisting low-income individuals, senior citizens, and people with disabilities needing help with home repair, weatherization, and home modification.

The sponsors embraced this event from its conception several months ago until it ended last night. Sponsors included the Walker Area Community Foundation, Red Cross, Community Action, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, USDA Rural Development, Community Action (Decatur), Habitat of Humanity, United Way of Central Alabama, Independent Living Resources, Witcher Office Supply, Grace Nicholas, Sandy Perry, Jasper City Councilperson Sandy Sudduth, and former Jasper Mayor Don Goetz. Last, but not least, the volunteers from Red Cross who stepped up and just seemed to know what to do.

Walker County is a place where people and agencies work together for the common good with an attitude of “Just do It”…and we did.

Trecia Benefield

IL Specialist

For more informarion go to

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

War Eagle, Arkansas--The Movie

Yesterday I received word that an independent film called War Eagle, Arkansas will be shown in Birmingham this weekend. This movie is about two friends, one with a disability. I went to their website (, to read more about the movie and the story. While reading the story synopsis, I was disappointed to see the language was not Person First. In describing the young man with a disability, the story synopsis stated, " He has been confined to a wheelchair since early childhood,"I have contacted the movie's publicist, Theba Lolley, stating my disappointment with the language used in describing the young man with a disability. I explained to her the importance of using person first language and the proper statement would be, "He has used a wheelchair for mobility since early childhood."I would encourage each of you to contact Ms. Lolley at 501-246-1964 or and explain to her the importance of person first language.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

19th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

With the 19th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coming up on Sunday, July 26th, I would like to reflect upon the importance of advocacy that was involved in getting this legislation passed. The ADA did not just happen, people with and without disabilities had to advocate a long time before this legislation was brought up then passed. Justin Dart was the lead advocate and is now considered the "Father of the ADA". After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Mr. Dart, along with with many others, saw the need for a Civil Rights Act for people with disabilities. Many people advocated for the ADA and it was passed. Advocacy is still important today, especially with the Community Choice Act and the CLASS Act being debated in Congress. Help continue working for rights of people with disabilities. BE AN ADVOCATE!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Action Alert: Obama Administration Continues Institutional Bias in Healthcare Reform

Take action to eliminate the institutional bias!

1. Contact the Obama Administration with this message:

2. Please use the links below to send a personal message to the senior White House staff that they must eliminate the institutional bias as a part of healthcare reform.

· Jeffrey Crowley:

· Kareem Dale:

3. Forward the alert to grassroots members in your groups asking them to take action to eliminate the institutional bias.

For more information and an update on the Community Choice Act go to the IL Resouces website at:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Visitability Workshop a Success

On Monday of this week, Alabama Power hosted a Visitability Workshop. Eleanor Smith, the main speaker at the workshop, defines visitability as a movement to change home construction practices so that virtually all new homes - not merely those custom-built for occupants who currently have disabilities - offer a few specific features that make the home easier for people who develop mobility impairments to live in and visit. The emphasis is on entering a home and fitting through the interior doors. Ms. Smith spoke to a group of about 100 attendees, and talked about the positive aspects of making a home visitable and the reasons why it is imperative to make all new homes visitable. Graham Sisson, the state ADA Coordinator, gave a brief overview of the City of Birmingham's Visitability Ordinance. Charles Moore, the Executive Director of the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham, spoke about Habitat's experience with visitability. The workshop concluded with a panel discussion, facilitated by Dr. Gary Edwards of United Cerebral Palsy of Birmingham. The panel included Scott Renner, Charles Moore, Cindy Yarborough, HUD Field Office Director , Eleanor Smith, and Scott Phillips. The panel took questions from the audience. There was an opportunity for people to tour two "visitable" homes in Birmingham after the workshop.

If you would like more information about visitability and how to get involved, go to

Independent Living Resources of Greater Birmingham would like to thank our co-sponsers of this event. They are: The City of Birmingham, Habitat for Humanity Greater Birmingham, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Collaborative Solutions, Inc., Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, Governor's Office on Disability, and United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

URGENT Action Alert Calls Urgently Needed to All Senators - Support Health Care Reform

People with all types of disabilities have a significant stake in securing comprehensive health reform legislation this year that improves access to quality, affordable health and long term services and supports. According to a 2008 National Center for Health Statistics report[1], from 2001–2005, approximately 19% of non-institutionalized adults with mobility, sensory, and cognitive disabilities and mental illnesses and 17% of people with complex disabilities (such as those that limit self-care, work, or social or leisure activities) reported being uninsured. This is compared to approximately 19% of adults who do not have a disability who were uninsured. Twenty-eight percent of people with mental illness reported being uninsured, the highest rate among people with disabilities.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has begun its mark-up on health reform legislation. This historic legislation addresses many of these access issues including: prohibiting discrimination based on health status or disability; requiring guaranteed issue of insurance policies; prohibiting pre-existing condition exclusions; prohibiting life-time and annual caps on coverage; and inclusion of community-based long term services and supports.

Offices on the Hill are being flooded with calls and emails opposing health care reform. Please contact your Senators as soon as possible to voice your support for health care reform efforts. This will likely be the only vehicle for enacting long term services and supports.

Your voice is needed now. Use this toll-free number to contact the offices of your two Senators: 866-210-3678.

Urge others to call their Senators, also! Our voices must be heard this week!

[1] : B. Altman and A. Bernstein, Disability and Health in the United States, 2001–2005, (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2008).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Call or Write your Senator and Representative supporting the Community Choice Act.

Now is the time to contact Senators Sessions and Shelby, as well as your Representative asking them to support the Community Choice Act.

Currently, every state that receives Medicaid is required by law to provide nursing home services, but paying for medical or personal care services in the home remain optional. This means if a person needs any kind of personal care services, he or she is not given a choice as to where they live, the state determines where they live. In Alabama, 8 out of every 10 people that require personal care services and on Medicaid are placed in nursing homes.

The Community Choice Act requires states to offer medical or personal care services for Medicaid-eligible consumers who want to stay in or return to their homes and communities. This act will allow people with disabilities the choice of where they want to live and live the American Dream!

Currently, only Representative Jo Bonner supports this bill from the Alabama Delegation. Please let your Senator and Representative know that you support the Community Choice Act and would like their support for this bill.

Below are links to the contact information for each member of the Alabama Delegation and a sample letter to your Senator and Representative. If you wish to use the letter, just copy and paste into a word document and add what you wish.