NDSC is Working Hard to Protect LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)
Last week, NDSC received word that the US Department of Education (ED) was planning to release guidance in the immediate future that would likely make it more difficult than it already is for children with disabilities to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Immediately, the NDSC Policy Team and members of the NDSC Policy Council began to take action to protect the legal presumption in IDEA that all children with disabilities will be educated in the general education classroom; except in the rare circumstance that the child cannot get a satisfactory education in that environment even with the provision of supplementary aids and services.
What a great time we had in Pittsburgh! It was fantastic to meet so many of you – our team made some wonderful memories with the families in attendance.
Speaking of our team, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a HUGE shout-out to my NDSC colleagues, our Board of Directors, Convention Planning Committee, the Pittsburgh Host Committee, and the hundreds of volunteers who made our 47th annual convention successful.
Money Follows the Person (MFP) Program Reauthorization Passes House; Calls to Senate Needed Now!
On June 18, the House passed a bill that included 4.5 years of funding for the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. This is great news, but it is time for the Senate to act! Please call your Senators and urge them to pass the EMPOWER Care Act (S. 548) to reauthorize MFP. You can use our Action Alert.
The Money Follows the Person (MFP) program is a Medicaid program that has helped more than 75,000 people with disabilities and seniors move from nursing homes and other institutions into the community. First authorized in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 with strong bipartisan support, the MFP Demonstration program was designed to assist states with (1) supporting Medicaid enrollees who want to transition from institutional settings to community-based settings; and (2) developing infrastructure to promote and enhance access to Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). HCBS provides critical supports to people with disabilities to enhance their ability to be included and integrated into their communities instead of receiving care in restrictive, institutional settings. Each state can decide how to use the MFP funds, which they have used to expand or enhance HCBS programs, reduce waiting lists and fund housing supports.
It’s a busy time at the NDSC Center as we put the final touches on this year’s NDSC Annual Convention! We’re all very excited to see you – old friends and new – when the world’s Down syndrome community comes together in Pittsburgh. If this is your first time attending an NDSC Convention, I strongly encourage you to attend the First Timer Orientation session Thursday night – it will help you get the most out of your conference experience. No matter how many times you’ve joined us, it will help to get familiar with the Convention App well before you arrive. You’ll find instructions on how to download this handy tool below.
Tuesday, June 4th is the last day to pre-register for the 2019 NDSC Convention. Registration will re-open onsite at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh Thursday, June 27th at 4:00 PM. Register now and skip the lines on-site. If you have already registered, please review your email confirmation to ensure you have a conference listed for each person in your family attending and have registered or purchased all optional add-ons, such as the Evening of Champions tickets, t-shirts, flash drives, etc. Changes or additions to existing registrations can be done by calling the NDSC Center at 770-604-9500 but must be done by 5:00 PM, June 4th.
Comment Today to Support Equal Pay for People with Disabilities!
This week the Department of Labor announced its new website, “the Section 14(c) National Online Dialogue.” The purpose of the website is to collect comments from the public about the impact of paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers with 14(c) certificates can legally pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage, often times pennies on the dollar. Section 14(c) certificates are typically used in “sheltered workshops,” where people with disabilities are segregated from the broader community. The vast majority of disability advocates view Section 14(c) (created in 1938) as outdated, discriminatory, and reinforcing a life of poverty, segregation, and dependency on public support for people with disabilities. It is critical that you make your voice heard!
Input from people with disabilities, families, employment providers and employers is important. Share your perspective online here. COMMENT DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO FRIDAY JUNE 21,
Great news – the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/S.260) was featured at a hearing entitled“Eliminating Barriers to Employment: Opening Doors to Opportunity” in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 21 before the full Education & Labor Committee. This is a very positive step towards promoting awareness of this bill and generating support for it, but we need YOUR help to get more cosponsors onto this bill so that it can continue to advance! Please contact your Members of Congress through this NDSC Action Alert and let’s build support for this bill.
Introduced in the Senate by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and in the House by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), this bipartisan legislation will address barriers to employment and expand opportunities for competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities while phasing out subminimum wage certificates under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act over a six-year period. In addition, for those who choose not to work, work part-time, or for whom their disabilities make it too difficult to maintain work in a competitive integrated setting, this bill includes individualized wraparound services that provide them with opportunities for meaningful training and social activities in the community.
You can find a two-pager about this bill and additional resources on the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination website. For information about Competitive Integrated Employment, please see this new website developed with our partners in the newly formed Coalition to Advance Competitive Integrated Employment. Please #WorkWithUs and build more opportunities for competitive integrated employment!
There are a few remaining spots in Kids’ Camp Friday, June 28th! If you were hoping to attend a pre-conference session this is a great chance to spend 4 hours diving deep into a topic while we provide a safe, structured, and fun environment for your child. Kids’ Camp is available for children with Down syndrome – ages six months to 14 years old, and their siblings – ages six months to rising 3rd graders. (Rising 4th graders and older may register for the Brothers & Sisters Conference.)
Thirteen years ago, my husband and I were given the news that so many of you have also heard – your baby has Down syndrome. Ours was a delivery room diagnosis (and unfortunately not delivered in a sensitive way), and we were left in complete shock and confusion. We were expecting a healthy baby girl and didn’t even really know what Down syndrome was, and our lives were suddenly placed on a completely unanticipated and unclear path.
With the support of national organizations like NDSC and our local Down syndrome group, we began to adjust to our new reality. We plunged into the world of heart surgery, early intervention, private therapies and we started learning about the potential personal and systemic challenges that our daughter could face.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the NDSC convention last met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and we can’t wait to come back! If you are planning to attend the convention June 27-30 the time to register is now! Best Value Pricing ends May 17th and we have limited space left in Kids’ Camp, Youth & Adults Conference, and Brothers & Sisters Conference. If you are still trying to decide if you will be attending this year’s convention check out the amazing workshop schedule or the exclusive specialty tracks we have planned. The convention is not just about learning, it’s about celebrating too. We have two awesome dances planned and many networking opportunities for families to meet and interact. To see a glimpse of what the NDSC Convention is about, you can watch a short convention video then make plans to be a part of what many call a “life-changing” weekend. Register Now!