The NDSC policy team connected with advocates from all over the country during six workshops, “Ask the Experts” sessions, and meetings with coalitions and groups. A top priority for advocates was the health care bill being considered that week in the Senate that would have dismantled Medicaid. Throughout the conference, advocates video recorded messages to Senators about what Medicaid and health care means to them and their families. NDSC Board member, Mitch Rothholz, Julie Rothholz, and Cindy Liu coordinated this effort. The advocacy of the Down syndrome community, and a united disability community, were instrumental in the defeat of the Senate bills.
Video messages can make a real impression. We urge you to consider making your own and sharing them with your Members of Congress and on social media!
Keep up the Advocacy during the Congressional Recess!
Members of Congress are home in their districts and states through September 4. This is a perfect time to meet with them and their staffs to let them know how important it is to you and your family to protect people with preexisting conditions and save Medicaid. See our alert here for tips on what to say and do.
House Higher Education Disability Bill Introduced
NDSC strongly supports the Improving Access to Higher Education Act, H.R. 3199, which would amend the Higher Education Act to improve educational opportunities for all students with disabilities. The bill would update and continue programs for students with intellectual disability (ID) first established in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 at the urging of NDSC and other advocacy organizations. NDSC Interim Policy Director, Stephanie Smith Lee, and Public Policy Advisory Council member Madeleine Will, spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill announcing the bill. To see the press conference click here.
State of the Art Conference Early Bird Registration and Leadership Awards
NDSC is pleased to support the State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Students with Intellectual Disabilities that will take place November 15 and 16 in Syracuse, New York. This conference is a great opportunity for families, students, researchers, higher education faculty and program staff and others to network and learn from one another. Take advantage of the early bird registration rate by registering by September 1. There are also a limited number of scholarships for family members and self-advocates. This year there will be a parallel Student Leadership Conference. Leadership award nominations are due by September 10.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
For the past nine months states have been developing their plans to implement ESSA, the law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in December 2015. These state ESSA plans are very important for students with disabilities because they determine how schools will be held accountable for the academic performance of all students, as well as specific subgroups—including the disability subgroup.
Some of these plans were submitted to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for approval in April and May and the rest will be submitted on September 18, 2017. You can find links to state plans that were submitted here. If you click on the name of the state it will take you to a page that shows the most recent action on the plan, including any feedback from ED. If the plan has been approved, there will be a link to the final version.
Although the time to advocate for changes to state plans has passed for most states, you should know that NDSC continues to advocate on your behalf. NDSC and the Advocacy Institute developed detailed analyses of more than 35 state plans, which were submitted to state departments of education and shared with state disability advocates. The analyses can be found here.
Also, it is important to know that regardless of how strong or weak your state ESSA plan turns out to be, there is still critical advocacy that can be done in your school district. Each local education agency (LEA) is required to develop an ESSA plan. This plan is an important place to get your district to commit to strategies that will improve educational outcomes for your children, for example implementation of inclusive best practices and UDL. You can find a tool for advocacy regarding the LEA ESSA plan here.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
On July 31, CAST, the organization that developed the UDL framework, held a UDL and Social Justice Symposium in Boston. NDSC’s Senior Education Policy Advisor, Ricki Sabia, represented NDSC at this conference. As part of the Symposium activities, Ricki presented a video created by parent-advocate Indrani Solomon, which can be viewed here. Indrani says: “I made the video mainly to engage with the community and help them understand that they are the champions among us, universally designing their respective lines of work to bring equity into their administration, teaching, coaching, medical practice, parenting, etc. and above all believing in the philosophy of meaningful inclusion.” To find out more about UDL visit http://www.udlcenter.org.
NDSC Education Effort About ABLE Accounts
NDSC has been participating in the #AbleToSave ABLE Awareness campaign spearheaded by the ABLE National Resource Center (“ANRC”) to blanket the country with information about ABLE and spur individuals with disabilities and their families to open ABLE accounts. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that have the potential to significantly increase the independence and quality of life of individuals with disabilities without jeopardizing much-needed benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. There are over two dozen states that have already launched ABLE programs, most of which are available to qualified individuals with disabilities nationwide. Please see www.ablenrc.org for informational resources such as webinars, videos, downloadable print materials and to compare ABLE programs.
NDSC will be continuing education about ABLE into the month of September, when we partner on a joint webinar about ABLE with Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action. NDSC’s Public Policy Advisory Council Member, Heather Sachs, who is also the Senior Advisor for the ABLE National Resource Center, will present a free webinar with Chris Rodriguez of ANRC on ABLE Basics on Thursday September 14. This webinar will be offered at both 1:00pm ET and 8:00pm ET that day, and will also be recorded. Register here.
NDSC Continues Its Push Towards Community Inclusion
NDSC, along with 31 other national organizations, signed a statement supporting the Disability Integration Act (S. 910, H.R. 2472).
The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is anti-discrimination legislation introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in the House of Representatives. This legislation, if passed, would ensure the right of people with disabilities to live full and independent lives in their communities. It is a first step towards providing the support needed for all people with disabilities to live in their communities.
It builds on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision which asserts that people with disabilities who are institutionalized have the right to choose to live in the community if they wish to do so.