Policy & Advocacy Newsline ~ February 21, 2019

Transformation to Competitive Employment Act

NDSC is proud to be one of the organizations leading the effort to pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (H.R. 873/S.260). Recently 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.

While other bills have sought to phase out Section 14(c), this bill is unique in that it also includes a systematic approach to expand capacity for competitive integrated employment, particularly for people transitioning out of sheltered workshops. The grants provided under this bill would provide technical assistance and funding to help states and 14(c) certificate holders move to a paradigm of more integrated and innovative approaches to disability employment. The grants would bring stakeholders together to develop the system infrastructure and align funding for competitive integrated employment and ensure that ending the subminimum wage is done thoughtfully to avoid unintended consequences for individuals with disabilities. For more information about this bill, please visit the House Committee on Education and Labor website for a Fact Sheet HERE and a section-by-section summary HERE.

Yesterday, February 20th, NDSC sent an Action Alert asking our members to contact their Members of Congress and request that they cosponsor this bill, click HERE to Take Action. You can find a two-pager about this bill on the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination website HERE.

Autism CARES Reauthorization

It is estimated that between 18-39% of individuals with Down syndrome are also on the Autism spectrum. Given this prevalence, NDSC has joined with many national groups to advocate for the reauthorization of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act (also known as the Autism CARES Act). The current Autism CARES Act, set to expire on September 30, 2019, provides $260 million annually to autism research, surveillance, and education programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Last week, Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Autism CARES Act (S. 427/H.R. 1058). NDSC is supporting this legislation and will be advocating for its passage as soon as possible so that the funding does not expire. For information about the co-occurrence of Down syndrome and autism, please see the DS-ASD Connection at HERE.

ABLE Act Update

NDSC continues to be active in the effort to implement and expand the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014, which enables people with Down syndrome and other disabilities to open tax-exempt accounts to save for their future without jeopardizing their much-needed public benefits. To date, there are forty-two ABLE programs around the country (41 states plus the District of Columbia). Many of these programs are open to qualified individuals nationwide and offer additional benefits like state income tax deductions. Please see the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) for information concerning ABLE, at www.ablenrc.org. ANRC offers a wealth of information about ABLE accounts and free monthly webinars on various ABLE-related topics. ANRC’s February webinar, “Strategies for Funding an ABLE Account”, will be presented on February 28, 2:00 p.m. ET. Click HERE to register.

Last Congress, NDSC joined with many other disability organizations to advocate for the passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act to increase the eligibility threshold for ABLE accounts for the onset of disability from before age 26 to before age 46. This increase would result in six million additional individuals with disabilities becoming eligible to open an ABLE account, which is an important savings tool to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve and maintain health, independence, and quality of life. This age increase would also enhance the sustainability of some ABLE programs nationwide. Although this bill did not get over the finish line last Congress, it will be reintroduced again shortly. We will keep you informed about details and send out an Action Alert for support.

Autonomous Vehicles Information Gathering Report Available

Last October, NDSC joined other disability leaders to participate in an information gathering session hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide insight on issues relating to physical, sensory, and cognitive accessibility of autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs are more than a transportation innovation—they have the potential to expand access to competitive, integrated jobs for Americans with disabilities while strengthening America’s economy.
ODEP has captured the valuable insights and deliberation that took place during the information session in order to share the results with stakeholders, policymakers, and subject matter experts. The “Autonomous Vehicles: Driving Employment for People with Disabilities” Information Gathering Report recounts the session’s discussion on issues related to physical, sensory, and cognitive accessibility of AVs, and how AVs can support greater access to employment in a variety of settings, including urban, suburban, and rural areas. ODEP continues to seek input from the community. Please click HERE for more information and to share your ideas.

Advocacy Training Boot Camp

Advocacy Training Boot Camp at the NDSC Convention
Thursday, June 27, 2019
8 a.m. –12 p.m.

  • Designed to be an Advocacy 101 mini-course
  • Defining advocacy
  • Overview of basic government processes (state vs. federal, appropriations)
  • Discussion on how to effectively engage with legislators
  • Hear from panels of advocates (including self-advocates) will share their tips and experiences

Hear from NDAC member, Julie Rothholz about her experience in advocacy and more about the Boot Camp, click HERE.

Free to Convention attendees!

NDSC Convention – June 27-30, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA


Restraint and Seclusion

NDSC supports a recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Education regarding more inquiry and review of schools’ use of seclusion and restraint. This is a positive step forward to protect the rights of students with disabilities, and students of color, who are much more likely to have restraint or seclusion used on them than their peers. The use of restraints and/or seclusion in most circumstances violates student rights and the receipt of a Free and Appropriate Public Education. The announcement can be read HERE

NDSC also hopes the Department of Education will support the reintroduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which prohibits seclusion, prevents restraints in many circumstances and provides grants to states to train and support district and school teams in effective, research-based techniques that promote safety and support students remaining in school. More info HERE.

Rescission of Discipline Guidance

NDSC has joined a letter with 48 leading national education and advocacy organizations opposing the decision by the U.S. Department of Education to rescind the 2014 school discipline guidance. Read the letter HERE.

Letter to Chief State School Officers about amending ESSA Plans

NDSC also joined with civil rights groups to send a letter to all the Chief State School Officers, which urges them to amend their state accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act in a way that advances key principles of educational equity and serves the interests of all children, especially those facing the greatest barriers to success. Read the letter HERE. You can find analyses of state ESSA plans HERE.

CCD Title IX comments

NDSC collaborated with other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities to draft and submit comments on proposed regulations that would make it more difficult for students with disabilities in K-12 and college to report sexual harassment/assault and ensure that the school has a responsibility to investigate and take appropriate action. We provided insight into issues that particularly impact students with intellectual disabilities in K-12 and postsecondary education. View the comments HERE.

Brief on Alternate Assessments and WIOA

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) with support from the Research and Training Center on Community Living (RRC-CL) recently published a brief that provides information on state alternate assessments (based on alternate achievement standards) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The brief makes several suggestions about ways to show that a student who meets a state’s alternate academic achievement standards is on track to pursue postsecondary education and integrated employment as required by ESSA. The brief is found HERE.

Higher Education Reauthorization and Students with ID

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Senate HELP Committee, recently announced his intention to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) during this Congress. In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, he outlined several key areas of focus, including simplifying financial aid and increasing accountability, and indicated that he plans to work with HELP Committee Ranking Member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and other committee members in a bipartisan manner to reauthorize the HEA. Sen. Alexander said, “In my conversations with Democrat and Republican senators, I have found a remarkable degree of bipartisan consensus about the directions we should take to make college affordable and make students’ degrees worth their time and money.”

This reauthorization is particularly important to students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Current provisions allow certain financial aid, authorize model programs, and a national coordinating center to expand postsecondary options for these students and must be reauthorized in order to continue. The Inclusive Higher Education Committee (IHEC), co-chaired by NDSC, has developed a letter to Congress signed by 100 organizations with a set of recommendations to continue and improve these programs. See HERE. Stay tuned as reauthorization bills are developed in the Senate and House.

State of the Art Conference

NDSC is a proud cosponsor of the State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Students with Intellectual Disabilities, happening this year in Reno, Nevada on November 13 & 14, 2019. One of the largest conferences in the field, State of the Art brings together students and other stakeholders from inclusive programs across the country, as well as support organizations, policymakers, non-profits, and families to discuss the latest research, challenges, best practices and goals. A Student Leadership portion of the conference will also take place. If you are interested in presenting at the conference, click HERE for more info. Presentation proposals are due March 15, 2019.

Come to DC this Spring for an Advocacy Training!

NDSC is a promotional partner of the Disability Policy Seminar (DPS). The DPS is a three-day annual federal legislative conference co-sponsored by The Arc, AAIDD, AUCD, NACDD, UCP, and SABE. The purpose of the DPS is to strengthen federal advocacy efforts by bringing people from around the country together in Washington, DC to receive training and updates, and to visit their Members of Congress. The DPS helps promote unity, strengthens movement building, and amplifies the concerns of people with I/DD before Congress. The 2019 Disability Policy Seminar is April 8-10 at the Renaissance Hotel, Washington, DC. Click HERE to register.

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