Saturday, February 23, 2008

Congressional Briefing on Independent Living

ASAN supports the ongoing efforts to restore the protections against employment discrimination originally intended by Congress in the Americans with Disabilities Act. We are providing this information about Tuesday's policy briefing as a courtesy to the National Council on Independent Living and for the benefit of any readers who may be interested in learning more about this issue. If you have any questions about the policy briefing or about the National Council on Independent Living, please direct them to:

John A. Lancaster, Executive Director
National Council on Independent Living
Ph 202-207-0334 (V/TDD)
john (at)

National Council on Independent Living's
2nd Annual Congressional Policy Briefing

Washington, D.C. (February 21, 2008) -- The National Council on Independent Living Board of Directors announced its 2nd Annual Congressional Policy Briefing to outline for Members of Congress NCIL's priorities and those of the broader Independent Living and Disability Rights Movement.

"Now, more than ever, is the time to focus Congress' attention on the needs of America's poorest and most disenfranchised minority - people with disabilities," said NCIL President Kelly Buckland. "Our policy priorities focus on key legislation needed to empower people with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of society," Buckland added.

The briefing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 26, 2008 from 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM in the historic Russell Caucus Room, SR-325 in the Russell Senate Office Building at Constitution Avenue & 1st Street NE, Washington, DC 20510.

NCIL's top priority is increased federal funding for the Independent Living Program. IL funding has been cut three consecutive years, while our member Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and their State Councils labored with dwindling resources throughout the country to provide essential services to people with disabilities, enabling them to live independently and productively in their own homes and communities. Indeed, last year, CILs prevented 28,000 people from entering nursing homes, helped nearly 2,800 people out of nursing homes into community-based settings, and served another 300,000 people with disabilities with essential supports. "In 2007, we saved the country more in Medicaid funding than the entire Federal Budget contribution to our IL programs. We could do so much more, serve so many more, and save our nation so much more with appropriate investment in the IL Program," Buckland emphasized.

NCIL is also focusing on passage of the ADA Restoration Act. In recent years, a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have significantly reduced the protections available to people with disabilities in employment settings. With passage of the ADA, Congress clearly intended to prevent discrimination based on disability, and hundreds of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives support this corrective legislation to restore their original intent. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Former Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), introduced this legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) are moving this legislation forward in the U.S. Senate. NCIL and the broader disability community and pushing for passage of this legislation before the 110th Congress adjourns. Restoring Congress' original intent to the ADA would ensure that people with disabilities are getting the opportunity to present their cases fairly when they have experienced discrimination.

NCIL continues to focus on passage of the Community Choice Act. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus has asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to indicate the funding necessary to implement this legislation. Regrettably, the federal government continues to fund services in institutional settings, but refuses to mandate these same services in home and community-based settings. This institutional bias forces many people with disabilities to reside in an institution in order to receive supports they need to survive.

NCIL recently adopted a position paper entitled "Being American: the Way Out of Poverty" as an alternative to the current Social Security programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which freeze many Americans with disabilities in poverty by forcing them to choose the disability rolls for fear of losing healthcare and a meager monthly check. "Our approach would enable people with disabilities to choose employment by providing necessary supports. It would also provide hiring incentives for skeptical employers. Doesn't it make more sense to invest in human productivity than human poverty," queried John Lancaster, NCIL's Executive Director.

"The core IL philosophy, to which NCIL and our members subscribe, is support for consumer-directed, community-based services," said NCIL Vice-President Dan Kessler of Alabama. "Equal opportunity, a base line of essential community-based services, and economic empowerment will give choices to all people with disabilities which allow them to be active contributors to the prosperity of their communities."

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is America's oldest cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents over 700 members, including individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.

The four core services provided by all federally funded Centers for Independent Living are peer-to-peer support, information and referral, independent living skills training, and systems and individual advocacy. With additional funding, CILs can serve more disenfranchised people with disabilities, enabling them to get the services they need to be empowered contributors to their communities, employers and families.

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