#Disability Blog Carnival: Living in a Post ADA World

Photo collage of children and adults with disabilitiesEditor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from MomsRising.org.

By Christina D’Allesandro, New Hampshire State Director, MomsRising, and Rebecca Cokley, Executive Director, National Council on Disability.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans are living with a disability, and countless others are deeply involved in caring for and supporting individuals affected by disability. Last year we celebrated 25 years from the passage of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). We highlighted many successes, while realizing that we still have a long way to go.

Those who have grown up under the infrastructure of laws including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the ADA are referred to as the “ADA Generation.” As this generation comes of age their expectations for their lives are different than those who came before. Many have been mainstreamed in schools, some have gone to college and graduated and others went straight from school to the workforce. These outcomes have been shaped by the expectations for their success set forth in policy, and as a result, their perception of the American Dream is one that looks much more like that of their non-disabled peers. This includes the right to be a parent, whether by having biological children, adopting or fostering. While these individuals are seeking out the tools and resources to become parents, the social service system, judicial system and everyone from Babies “R” Us to your neighborhood daycare center is also needing to make adjustments to their definition of parenting.

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A Collaborative Learning Community to Benefit Youth and Young People with Disabilities

Queener Staff Pic By Guest Blogger Jessica Queener, Communications and Outreach Manager, Youth Transitions Collaborative and the National Youth Transitions Center

The Youth Transitions Collaborative (YTC) is a community of organizations that share the goal of empowering youth and young people with disabilities to create a self-directed path to adulthood and employment, and to participate in and contribute to society. The National Youth Transitions Center (NYTC) provides a single location in the nation’s capital for modeling cross-systems collaboration and improving the transition services available to youth and young people, their families and communities. As an innovative “collaborative community,” the NYTC provides opportunities for nonprofits serving youth and young people to build capacity, create new partnerships and benefit from its national agenda. This national agenda is comprised of policy and advocacy efforts, innovative research and cross-sector collaborations that stimulate new thinking and learning across the country.

The NYTC is the focal point of the Collaborative’s community. This by-invitation-only membership group, facilitated by The HSC Foundation, is comprised of over 50 regional and national organizations with a commitment to serving youth and young people with disabilities. These organizations are united by shared values and a desire to be stronger together, providing direct services, expertise and guidance for the Center. The Collaborative also serves as the basis for The HSC Foundation’s efforts to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations serving the disability and youth communities, and to create a cohesive community among these organizations. They also participate in a variety of programming initiatives that provide further opportunities to partner on topics including advocacy, career preparation and employment.

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Future Planning – It’s Possible and Necessary

The Arc logo

By Guest Blogger Liz Mahar, Program Manager, Individual and Family Support, The Arc

Future planning is important for all families. Yet, thinking about the future can be challenging and emotional. In 2014, The Arc of the United States launched the Center for Future Planning™ to encourage and support adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families as they plan for the future.

There are an estimated 600,000 – 700,000 families in the United States where an adult with I/DD is living with aging family members and there is no plan for the individual’s future. Having a plan is important especially after the parent or caregiver can no longer provide support. The Arc recognized that too many people are facing the next chapter in their lives without a plan and is working to provide help to families and people with disabilities trying to create that roadmap.

The Center’s website provides reliable information and assistance to individuals with I/DD, their family members and friends, staff at chapters of The Arc and other disability professionals on:

  • person-centered planning;
  • supported decision-making and guardianship;
  • housing options;
  • financial planning (including public benefits, special needs trusts and ABLE accounts);
  • employment and daily activities;
  • making social connections; and
  • providing information if an urgent need arises.

In addition, the Center’s website features stories of individuals and families who have created future plans, or who are in the planning process. These stories are meant to provide support to people so they can get ideas about what to include in a plan, or modify an existing plan if necessary. The Center also offers webinars to families, individuals with I/DD, staff at chapters of The Arc and other professionals who support people with I/DD to help them learn about different aspects of the future planning process.

Finally, The Arc recently debuted two new tools to help families plan more effectively. The first new resource is Build Your Plan™ an online tool that enables families to create accounts and begin to build their plans within the Center for Future Planning™. Check out the demonstration webinar to learn more about how to navigate Build Your Plan and encourage families to begin creating plans. The second new resource is the Professional Services Directory, where families can find professionals in their communities to help them create and implement their future plans. If you’re a professional who wants to be listed in the directory, please visit https://futureplanning.thearc.org/pages/join-the-professional-services-directory.

Planning ahead can be difficult, but it’s possible and necessary. You can learn more about the resources and training opportunities the Center for Future Planning™ provides at futureplanning.thearc.org. Please contact The Arc’s national office at 202-617-3268 or futureplanning@thearc.org for more help.

About the Guest Blogger

Liz Mahar joined The Arc in 2014 as a program manager on the HealthMeet initiative and The Arc’s Center for Future Planning™. Previously, Liz spent five years as a consultant and Managing Supervisor for FleishmanHillard, managing stakeholder relations for government-funded public health campaigns on topics including binge drinking, drug abuse and chronic diseases.

In addition to Liz’s expertise in public health and managing partnerships, she brings social policy expertise from five years of working on Capitol Hill. Liz earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She is a native of Southern California and proficient in Spanish. Liz is the sibling of a younger sister with I/DD and hopes that her experience and passion can have an immediate impact on The Arc’s mission of supporting people with I/DD and their families.

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Accessing Our Country’s National Park Sites and Sights

eremy Buzzell, Chief of the National Accessibility Branch, National Park Service

By Guest Blogger Jeremy Buzzell, Chief of the National Accessibility Branch, National Park Service

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service – a defining moment that offers an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate our accomplishments as we prepare for a new century of stewardship and engagement.

America has changed dramatically since the birth of the National Park Service in 1916. The roots of the National Park Service lie in the parks’ majestic, often isolated natural wonders and in places that exemplify our cultural heritage, but our reach now extends to places difficult to imagine 100 years ago – into urban centers, across rural landscapes, deep within oceans, and across night skies.

In our second century, the National Park Service must recommit to exemplary stewardship and public enjoyment of these places. This includes renewing our efforts to ensure that visitors with disabilities have equal opportunity to benefit from all that our parks have to offer. That’s why the National Park Service released a five-year strategic plan for improving accessibility in August of 2014.

Our strategic plan has three overarching goals for the National Park Service: (1) Make parks more welcoming to visitors with disabilities through improving our outreach to the disability community, providing better information to visitors with disabilities, and improving the training of park personnel. (2) Ensure that all programs and facilities the National Park Service develops from this point forward are accessible from the beginning. (3) Upgrade our existing facilities and programs to improve their accessibility while preserving their historic and natural features.

While the strategic plan has a five year target for implementation, the changes expected by the plan are intended to live for decades to come.  The intent of the committee that drafted the plan was to spur culture change throughout the organization and move us to where accessibility is not an enhancement to what we do but is instead embedded in what we do.

While the National Park Service works to ensure better accessibility, it doesn’t mean we don’t have accessible places and features for individuals with disabilities to explore today. Parks around the country have created accessible trails and campsites, added captioning and audio description to videos, installed tactile features and created alternate formats of written materials.

For example, in the past year, the National Park Service initiated a series of projects that will create accessible waysides on a ten mile tour loop at Saratoga National Historical Park, accessible trails at Devil’s Tower National Monument and Mammoth Cave National Park and accessible boating and camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Every park website should have a description of its accessible features under the Plan Your Visit link or you can contact the park directly looking for tips about accessible experiences available wherever you want to visit. During this centennial year, we encourage every individual with a disability to find your park.

Copies of All In! Accessibility in the National Park Service, 2015–2020 can be found on our website at: https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/upload/All_In_Accessibility_in_the_NPS_2015-2020_FINAL.pdf

About the Guest Blogger

Jeremy Buzzell is the Chief of the National Accessibility Branch for the National Park Service.  He is responsible for providing assistance to parks nationwide to make their programs and facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities. Jeremy has been in Federal service as an ally to the disability community for fifteen years. He spent eight years at the U.S. Department of Education working on programs to support education, employment, and community living for individuals with disabilities. He also was honored to spend a year-and-a-half working on disability legislation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Jeremy moved to the Transportation Security Administration and headed the branch responsible for ensuring that airport security was accessible to and protected the civil rights travelers with disabilities. Prior to joining the National Park Service, he worked for the Chief of Support Operations at the Library of Congress, assisting with facilities management, security and human resources.

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The ADA in 2016

A photo of President George Bush signing into law the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 on the South Lawn of the White House. L to R, sitting: Evan Kemp, Chairman, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Justin Dart, Chairman, President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. L to R, standing: Rev. Harold Wilke and Swift Parrino, Chairperson, National Council on Disability, 07/26/1990.

By the Disability.gov Team

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 26th anniversary on July 26, 2016. For some, 26 years may seem like a long time, but the truth is 1990 isn’t so far in the past. The ADA improves the lives of people with disabilities by protecting their rights to have access to employment, public entities, transportation, public accommodations and commercial facilities, telecommunications and more. It helps people with disabilities compete equally for employment and receive the accommodations and protection they need to work. In public and commercial spaces, the ADA requires accessible features and technologies, such as  curb cuts and closed captioning.

The achievement of the ADA was accomplished through hours of planning, organizing and hard work by the disability community. As the ADA was being voted on, disability rights activists gathered together, some crawling up the steps of Capitol Hill without their crutches or wheelchairs. The image of disabled activists of all ages, races and genders proudly making their way up the steps where their rights were being determined moved the nation. This demonstration, called the “Capitol crawl,” helped result in the passing of the ADA.

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