Eligible Voters With Disabilities Increase By Nearly 20%

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As the November election draws near, new research finds that the number of voters with disabilities across the nation has grown exponentially and could make the difference in how races are decided.

There are an estimated 38.3 million eligible voters with disabilities in the U.S., according to a report out this month from the Rutgers University Program for Disability Research. That represents an 19.8% increase since 2008 and outpaces a 12% rise in voters without disabilities during the same period.

Moreover, the researchers noted that when people with disabilities and the family members they live with are factored, disability issues are significant to 28.9% of the electorate.

“The sheer size of the disability electorate makes it clear that people with disabilities and their family members have the potential to swing elections,” said Lisa Schur, a professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers and an author of the report. “While their partisan split is similar to that of other citizens, people with disabilities put a higher priority on health care and employment issues, so how candidates deal with those could be decisive.”

The report is based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey and Census population projections for 2020-2021.

The new figures suggest that there are more potential voters with disabilities than there are Black or Hispanic voters in this country.

Researchers behind the report cited a surge in turnout among people with disabilities in 2018 and said turnout could be especially strong this year given the expansion of mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue on to DisabilityScoop to read the full article. 

DC-Area Man Signs National Anthem in American Sign Language at Super Bowl 55

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Warren Snipe wearing a black t-shirt up close shot

As stars Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan belted out the national anthem at the Super Bowl, a trailblazing Gallaudet University graduate communicated the emotion, lyrics and rhythm to viewers in American Sign Language.

Warren Snipe, known by his stage name Wawa, signed H.E.R.’s rendition of “America the Beautiful” and later “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“The best performance to start the #superbowl is Warren Snipe with the ASL Star Spangled Banner. I don’t sign but I want to learn now! #SuperBowl2021,” Twitter user @PforPatrick said on the platform.

Prior to his performance, Wawa provided a behind-the-scenes look at his day on his Facebook page. He shared his arrival to his trailer and said he ran into Russell and Ciara Wilson in the stadium tunnel.

Wawa is from the D.C. area and graduated from Gallaudet University, a private school whose mission is to empower deaf and hard of hearing students.

He went on to develop his own niche within the hip-hop genre, called Dip Hop, which he defines as “Hip Hop through deaf eyes,” according to a press release.

“His unique rendering of Dip Hop explores Hip Hop through a mesmerizing blend of audio and imagery, and seeks to put Deaf recording artists on the map in the mainstream public interest,” the release reads.

In 2016, Wawa released an album called “Deaf: So What?!” He is also known for his role in the television series “Black Lightning.”

Read the original article at NBC Los Angeles.

Biden Plan Would End Subminimum Wage, Offer Stimulus Checks To More With Disabilities

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By Disability Scoop

In his first major undertaking, President-elect Joe Biden wants to do away with a decades-old option to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage while giving stimulus payments to more people in this population.

Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion proposal late last week to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout from it. The so-called American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 in direct payments to many Americans as well as funding to support vaccine distribution, reopen schools and support state and local governments while

(Photo Credit – Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

also extending unemployment benefits and expanding paid leave.

Notably, the plan would provide stimulus payments for adults with disabilities who are considered dependents for tax purposes. These individuals have been disqualified from the previous rounds of direct payments issued by the federal government since the start of the pandemic.

The proposal also calls for eliminating subminimum wage for people with disabilities.

Under a law dating back to 1938, employers are able to receive special 14(c) certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor allowing them to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

But many disability advocates have been pushing for years to end the practice, which they say is outdated and exploitative. Some states and cities have already banned employers from paying subminimum wage and, as a candidate, Biden pledged to support a phaseout of the program.

Read the full article at Disability Scoop. 

Convening in the Time of COVID-19: Disability Advocates Converge on Zoom for The Arc’s National Convention

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While this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business as usual for many businesses, it has also presented unexpected opportunities. Like many others, The Arc was forced to cancel and shift all in-person events starting in March.

When the time came to plan our annual convention—which draws people with disabilities, family members, The Arc’s chapter leaders, and allies together to learn, grow, and celebrate and advance disability rights—the choice was obvious: go virtual and give more people than ever before the ability to attend our flagship event. The best part? The event was free. In an era when time and money are short for many and screen fatigue is more prevalent than ever, it was important to The Arc to ensure this year’s programming was valuable, accessible, and affordable. A record nearly 3,000 people registered, surpassing previous in-person attendance almost threefold. The format also enabled more first-timers than ever before to participate.

The event featured speakers from a wide range of backgrounds: grassroots advocates, policymakers, The Arc’s chapter staff, and The Arc’s national office. Sessions covered everything from voting to police safety to community supports and organizational hardship in the time of COVID. Sessions were also carefully curated to be accessible through captioning, real-time American Sign Language interpretation, and accessibly designed slide decks and support materials. Between structured sessions, attendees had the opportunity to connect in more informal settings and share their knowledge and challenges with others facing similar circumstances. These new—and renewed—connections will provide networks of support as advocates, family members, and professionals prepare to dive into the coming year.

People with disabilities and those who support them are at a critical inflection point in our history. Existing budget crises, waiting lists, and other service delivery challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As we navigate the challenges of today and work to build a better tomorrow, The Arc is proud to provide ongoing resources and support.

As a benefit of this year’s online format, you can watch archived sessions from the event on-demand for free.

And, save the date for next year’s event which we expect to hold from September 27 – 29, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana!

Chris Nikic Shatters Stereotypes to Become First Person with Down Syndrome to Complete an IRONMAN

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Chris Nikic and Dan Grieb running past the finish line

As the sun barely began to rise at 5:52am on Saturday morning, 7 November 2022, Special Olympics Florida athlete Chris Nikic and his Unified partner and coach Dan Grieb, entered the water in Panama City at the start of the IRONMAN Florida triathlon.

Sixteen hours and 46 minutes later, as the nighttime darkness settled in, Chris crossed the finish line and made history of as the first person with Down syndrome to finish a full IRONMAN race.

Chris conquered a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 marathon run to complete the IRONMAN in a total time of 16:46:09. During the race, Chris suffered an attack by ants during a nutrition stop and fell off of his bike a couple of times. With blood dripping from his knee, he jumped right back on in a show of true sportsmanship and grit.

Chris’ achievement landed him on the Guinness World Records list. Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief, watched Chris persevere with great joy saying, “It’s an honour to welcome Chris into the Guinness World Records fraternity as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN, and I look forward to seeing what more is in store from this remarkable young man.”

To stay motivated during the long months of training, Chris and his father Nik developed the 1% better principle – get better, faster and stronger by 1% every day. According to Nik, IRONMAN is further proof that all things are possible with a plan and determination. “To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory,” he said. “IRONMAN has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion and leadership.”

“I’m no longer surprised by what Chris can accomplish because I recognize who Chris is; a human being who has goals and dreams just like everyone else,” said Coach Dan. “He wants to make the path easier for those just like him and can follow his lead.”

Continue on to the Special Olympics to read the full article

Photo Credit: Getty, Michael Reaves / Stringer

 

‘Run’ Hopes to Change the Conversation on Actors with Disabilities

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Director chair and movie clapper displayed in an empty room

Gaslighting and the fear that the person we’re closest to is lying always have been popular motifs in the horror and thriller genres — most famously depicted in 1941’s “Suspicion” and 1944’s “Gaslight.”

Features like 1962’s “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” utilized disability to create an added air of helplessness to Joan Crawford’s character; it’s expanded out to the Munchausen narrative portrayed most recently in the 2019 series “The Act.” With the addition of disability, these tropes take on added poignance.

Carrie Sandhal, Associate Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, explains the fear of being gaslit and disbelieved is a real concern outside of celluloid walls. From recent run-ins with the police involving the mentally ill or deaf to the historical associations of the insane asylum, able-bodied people watch horror as a means of distancing themselves, believing it can’t happen to them. Sandahl references a 2003 article written by disabled writer Harriet McBryde Johnson, “The Disability Gulag,” wherein Johnson writes about visiting friends of her in a nursing home. “[She] was mistaken for one of the residents,” Sandhal said. “There’s this feeling that we can always become trapped.”

Hulu’s upcoming feature, “Run,” treads this territory in its story of the teenage Chloe (Kiera Allen), whose relationship with her mother Diane (Sarah Paulson) becomes one of survival and uncovering buried secrets. It shows how the horror genre is one  of the few refuges for tales about disabled women — if not in giving them great stories, at least by putting them on-screen.

Director Aneesh Chaganty and Allen see “Run” as a thriller as opposed to a horror film, but the two genres go hand-in-hand from a disabled perspective, with Allen even telling IndieWire that if this was a horror feature Chloe would be a fantastic “final girl.” And even within the thriller vein, like “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane,” the thrills are often left to the able-bodied audience, leaving the disabled audience to draw on real-life experiences to manifest an added layer of fear.

One of the posters for “Run,” inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, plays on the fear of inaccessibility, with Paulson’s character looking down from the top of a staircase at her daughter. It’s an image that gives Allen chills because as a wheelchair user herself, she has felt that terror. “When people consider things like accessibility, and other obstacles that are unnecessarily put before disabled people, I don’t think they [able-bodied people] see it as terrifying,” she said. “I’ve been trapped in a building because of inaccessibility. I’ve been picked up by strangers, in my chair, without my permission, because of inaccessibility [and] I’ve never seen a movie that portrays that fear.”

Because that terror is so specific, it was important for Chaganty to draw on Allen’s own experiences for the movie as well as examine his own privilege as an able-bodied person. “I spent a lot of time talking to a disability studies professor at Brown and she educated me on this concept of ableism [discrimination in favor of able-bodied people],” Chaganty told IndieWire. He said nearly every element of the script had Allen giving advice and input, even having her write down her thoughts, from a character perspective, in a series of journals. After these discussions changes were made — especially with regards to Chloe’s room, which Chaganty admitted was made purely from an able-bodied perspective and not necessarily from the mind of a teenage girl in a wheelchair.

The history of actual actresses with disabilities in this genre is rare. So rare, in fact, that Hulu’s advertising of “Run” emphasizes it’s been over 70 years since a disabled actress led a thriller for an American studio, that being actress Susan Peters in 1948’s “The Sign of the Ram.” It’s a statistic Chaganty is used to hearing in some form. When he debuted his feature “Searching,” starring John Cho, in 2018 he learned at a film festival that it was the first mainstream Hollywood feature to star an Asian American.

“We [he and co-screenwriter Sev Ohanian] realized that everything we make, there’s no reason for it not to have a win associated with it,” he said. “The idea that we can cast somebody….in any project that we make [who] traditionally doesn’t get a hero role or main character was something very important to us. Or at least to me, growing up, and not seeing an Indian-American or a South Asian person.” And while Chaganty says home studio Lionsgate was incredibly supportive of hiring the best actor for the role, regardless of ability, the director said there were several Disney stars who auditioned for the role of Chloe.

Ultimately, hiring an able-bodied name or anyone who wasn’t disabled was anathema to him and it compelled him to realize what a broad word “disabled” is in the acting community. It wasn’t until he started watching audition tapes that he realized how limited his own purview was with regards to a wheelchair user.

Continue on to IndieWire to read the full article

 

How A Trainer Moved Special Olympics Online To Engage Athletes

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By Luke Ranker, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

When the coronavirus pandemic hit North Texas, Fort Worth-area Special Olympics organizers were left wondering how athletes would cope with stay-at-home orders and the loss of their sporting communities.

Typically the spring and summer months are filled with Special Olympics events. The competitions thrive on close personal interactions that provide a social network for the athletes, their families and the volunteers. With the virus limiting gatherings, like all sports, Special Olympics had to get creative.

Enter Everett King.

“He was at the forefront of saying, ‘We need to do something for our athletes,’” said Dalton Hill, an associate executive director at Special Olympics Texas.

King had been a special education teacher in the Northwest school district when he started volunteering as Special Olympics coach in 2014. He quickly gained a reputation as being one of the most engaging and positive volunteers even before he became the full-time program director for the Fort Worth chapter last year, Hill said.

Hill said King “has a heart to serve” and stepped up immediately to brainstorm ways to engage athletes during the shutdown.

“The athletes want to be in an environment where they can just be themselves and have fun and interact with other people,” King said. “So once this pandemic started, it really was kind of hard on not just on the athletes, but on everyone — their coaches, families because this is something that a lot of us look forward to.”

Paxton Alexander is one the athletes who has grown attached to Everett’s coaching and camaraderie.

He had long been outgoing and considered everyone his friend, his mom Malisa Alexander said, but he rarely asked to go places with friends or meet up with other people. That changed when King asked Paxton, who has autism and is now 21, to join special Olympics during his sophomore year of high school.

Wrestling piqued his interest but he eventually moved on to football, becoming the quarterback. He quickly become obsessed with the game, his mom said.

“It kind of built this confidence in him that he could do more than he thought he could,” Malisa Alexander said.

Continue on to DisabilityScoop to read the full article.

How the Child Care for Working Families Act Benefits Children With Disabilities and Their Families

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A child in a wheelchair at the park with his mother

By MK Falgout and Katie Hamm 

More than 1.1 million children under age 6 in the United States receive services for a disability,1 while 2.5 percent of parents of young children have a disability that affects their workforce participation.2

All families, including those with disabilities, benefit from access to affordable child care that will support their children’s development in inclusive and enriching environments. These programs also provide parents with the support they need to thrive. But the dearth3 of inclusive, affordable child care options causes job disruptions for parents of disabled children at twice the rate of those whose children do not have disabilities.4 This fact sheet highlights how the Child Care for Working Families Act provides a comprehensive solution to meet the child care needs of all families.

Families of children with disabilities and the current child care system

The current child care system requires additional public resources to reach all the families who need high-quality services. This lack of public investment results in a mostly private-pay system that marginalizes historically underserved communities.

  • Although 1 in 8 children ages 3 to 5 who is enrolled in an early childhood program has a disability or significant social or emotional challenges,5 nearly 1 in 3 parents of disabled children report that finding available slots is a primary difficulty in accessing child care, compared with 1 in 4 families with nondisabled children. 6
  • Nearly one-third of children with disabilities live in poverty,7 making most licensed child care options nearly impossible to afford.8
  • Children of color are underrepresented in early intervention9 programs through infancy and toddlerhood for reasons pertaining to disproportionate lack of access to quality health care.10
  • New data suggest that in all but six states, no more than 2 percent of children who receive a child care subsidy have a disability.11*
  • Children ages 3 to 5 who have disabilities are 14.5 times more likely to face suspension or expulsion than children without disabilities,12 due in part to the fact that only 1 in 5 early childhood educators and providers report “receiving training on children’s social and emotional development.”13
  • Child care workers, primarily women and disproportionately women of color, earn on average less than $12 an hour,14 and only 1 in 5 early childhood educators receives training on children’s social and emotional development.15 Both of these realities contribute to the inadequate support for providers caring for children with disabilities, given that nearly 10 percent of the early childhood workforce works mostly with children who have disabilities.16

The Child Care for Working Families Act benefits children with disabilities

The Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA) creates a new standard for inclusive and accessible child care by investing in communities historically underserved by an underfunded child care system dependent on parental fees to cover the high cost of care.17 Just as importantly, the CCWFA ensures that providers are appropriately compensated for providing quality child care. More specifically, the bill has the following benefits:

  • The CCWFA prioritizes policies and funding that serve disabled children in high-quality, inclusive early learning environments by:
    • Affirming the importance of child care in supporting children with disabilities by setting benchmarks that ensure the system provides care for children with disabilities alongside children without disabilities.
    • Investing in expanding the supply of high-quality, inclusive child care for children with disabilities and infants and toddlers with disabilities.
    • Requiring states to consider the additional cost of providing high-quality and inclusive care to children with disabilities when developing child care provider payment rates, as well as requiring that parents of disabled children are consulted in the process of developing these rates.
    • Requiring states to provide training opportunities for child care providers so that they can learn how to care for children with disabilities and conduct developmental screenings.
    • Prohibiting the use of suspensions, expulsions, and adverse behavioral interventions in all child care settings receiving public funds.
    • Establishing a new funding stream to provide early intervention services in child care settings.
    • Allowing states to prioritize funds to construct or renovate child care, including for providers who are caring for children with disabilities.

Continue on to AmericanProgress.com to read the complete article and to view original sources.

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