Sunday, July 27, 2008

National Forum on Disability Issues

The forum, organized by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and sponsored in part by ASAN and The Autism Acceptance Project, was held at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday afternoon, July 26th. Ari Ne'eman, president of ASAN, arrived from Washington DC in the Road to Freedom disability rights bus. Bishop Timothy Clarke greeted the crowd, and Jeff Moyer provided original music. Welcoming speeches were given by Rep. Jon Husted, Ohio Speaker of the House; Tim Harrington of the Ability Center of Greater Toledo; and Andrew Imparato of AAPD.

Robert David Hall, who plays the part of Dr. Albert Robbins, the coroner on the popular television show CSI, spoke about his experiences as an actor with a disability and how hard it was for him to find roles that were not just stereotypes. He is the National Chairman of the Performers with Disabilities Caucus and seeks to bring about greater visibility of the disability community as a political constituency.

News director Mike Thompson of WOSU introduced the forum's moderator, broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff, who is currently working as a senior correspondent and political editor for the PBS program NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. A panel discussion then began, addressing the question of what is at stake for people with disabilities in this year's election.

John Hannah, Vice President of The Arc of Ohio, spoke about the need for better education and self-determination for people with developmental disabilities, calling for representation of self-advocates at the highest levels of policymaking groups and committees. Rebecca Hare, a project coordinator for the National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership, stated that "the American dream is not ADA-compliant yet" and spoke about the failure of many school districts to provide a meaningful education to students with disabilities; all too often, she said, these students receive "special diplomas" without having met state graduation requirements and are rejected by employers as a result. Cynthia Owens of the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities described her son's success in transitioning into the workforce, aided by SSI work incentives, and she advocated for a simpler benefit system that would be easier for recipients to navigate; with regard to the increased number of students with autism spectrum diagnoses, she stated that there should be more training for teachers and more funding for classroom aides. Paul J. Tobin, President and CEO of United Spinal Association, discussed medical care and benefits for injured veterans and the need to hire more adjudicators to clear up the claims backlog.

In response to a question from Judy Woodruff about funding constraints and disability services, the panelists agreed that these services should not be seen simply as a cost; rather, ensuring that all Americans are properly educated and productively integrated into the community would be a significant investment in the future. Mr. Tobin also pointed out that this question would not even be asked if the discussion had to do with services that were necessary for other groups of people.

Mike Strautmanis of the Democratic National Committee stated that exclusion makes everyone's lives poorer. He introduced Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, a long-term advocate of disability rights, who appeared as a surrogate for Sen. Barack Obama.

Sen. Harkin, who was the chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, suggested that voters should consider not only the presidential candidates themselves but also their potential Supreme Court appointments. In the years since the passing of the ADA, Sen. Harkin explained, its original coverage was greatly constricted by Supreme Court decisions that redefined people as nondisabled—and therefore not protected from discrimination—if they could function effectively with medication or assistive technology. Although Sen. Harkin and others in the Senate are working on amendments to the ADA that will restore the original protections (the ADA Amendments Act already has passed in the House of Representatives), Sen. Harkin stated that an unfriendly Supreme Court made up of conservative activists could once again interpret the legislation to provide less coverage than Congress intended.

Sen. Harkin spoke about the importance of having a full-time advisor for disability issues, as Sen. Obama has pledged to do, in order to ensure that disability issues are not overlooked in making policy decisions.

The Community Choice Act, sponsored by Sen. Harkin and co-sponsored by Sen. Obama, was described as a means of correcting a structural bias in the Medicaid system that has the effect of forcing people into nursing homes and institutions. The CCA will provide funding for personal assistants and other supports and services necessary to allow Medicaid recipients with disabilities to live productively in the community. Sen. Harkin also noted that the CCA will help injured veterans.

Sen. Harkin stated that it is in America's economic interest to enable people with disabilities to live and work in the community and that it is also a moral imperative to do so. He also commented on the lack of accessible housing and proposed that federal housing and mortgage assistance programs should include accessibility requirements.

After a short break with more music, Sen. John McCain appeared by video from Arizona for a question-and-answer segment with Judy Woodruff. He spoke of his support for the Disability Vote Project and stated that he believes the exclusion of people with disabilities from community participation is a loss to America. After mentioning that he was a principal co-sponsor of the ADA, Sen. McCain pledged to support the ADA Amendments Act.

Sen. McCain proposed that the Veterans Administration should focus on providing specialized care for service-related conditions and that veterans should obtain their routine health care elsewhere, with a health insurance card. He suggested reducing excessive spending in other areas of government to make more funds available for veterans' health care.

Briefly discussing an Arizona program that funds home health care, Sen. McCain stated that he generally favors the idea of community choice. In response to a direct question from Judy Woodruff, however, Sen. McCain said that he does not support the Community Choice Act. He indicated that he believes it would be too expensive and the federal government has been spending too much.

Responding to Sen. Harkin's comment that the ADA Amendments Act might end up being eroded by decisions from conservative members of the Supreme Court, as the original ADA had been, Sen. McCain stated that he did not believe the Supreme Court was the problem. Rather, Sen. McCain attributed the judicial narrowing of protections under the ADA to a failure on the part of Congress to write the law in specific enough terms.

Sen. McCain also spoke about bipartisan Social Security reform.

After the question-and-answer session ended, a public service announcement "Get Out The Vote," produced by Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, was shown.

Darren Jernigan, who is a member of the Metro Nashville City Council and the Director of Government Affairs at Permobil, Inc., spoke about how much impact a small number of involved and committed citizens can have in an election. He urged those attending the forum to get out the vote, to volunteer to work on a campaign, and to contribute to a candidate.

Jim Dickson and Andrew Imparato of AAPD also spoke about the importance of the issues in this year's election to the disability community.

ASAN Southwest Ohio would like to thank AAPD, Sen. Obama's campaign, Sen. McCain's campaign, Judy Woodruff, Robert David Hall, and the other forum participants and sponsors for helping to clarify the issues facing the disability community in the upcoming election.

A video of the forum is available from AAPD.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ad Boycott Against The Savage Nation and Talk Radio Networks‏

In response to the grossly offensive statements made on the talk show The Savage Nation regarding autism, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other disability rights organizations are calling on the sponsors to withdraw their advertising, as announced today by ASAN President Ari Ne'eman:

Hello everyone,

As many of you have already heard, this past week talk radio personality Michael Weiner, better known on the air as Michael Savage, made several outrageous remarks in regards to autism, including, "Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I'm not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket…I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot." A full transcript of his statements can be found here. Remarks like these spread ignorance about autism and threaten to return us to a previous era where parents were blamed and labeled as "refrigerator mothers" for having autistic children. Not only have Michael Weiner and Talk Radio Networks refused to retract these outrageous comments - they have added to them by claiming, unsupported by science of any kind, that the autism spectrum is an overdiagnosed medical condition. This is part of a broader pattern of statements attacking people with disabilities and our families. It requires a strong response.

As a result of this continued attack against autistic people and the broader disability community, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network has joined with over a dozen national and regional disability rights organizations to call on the sponsors of Talk Radio Networks and the Savage Nation to pull their support. Together, we have issued a strong joint statement calling for an ad boycott. In addition, we've collected contact information for several of the major sponsors of Talk Radio Networks in order to empower our community to take further action. We urge you to use the information below to write, call and e-mail these sponsors and tell them why it is imperative they join companies like Aflac and Telesouth Communication that have already pulled their ads in response to these hateful remarks. There are over 50 million people with disabilities in the United States with approximately $200 billion in disposable income. It is time for us to make our voices heard.

Below you will find contact information for Talk Radio Networks' largest sponsors and a sample letter for you to use as a reference point in your e-mails and phone calls. We will be keeping an updated list on our website here and will post updates and changes to contact information as new information becomes available. In addition, if you would like to express your support for the disability community's joint statement on this issue, you can do so by signing our petition here. Organizations wishing to become signatories to our joint statement should contact us at Please distribute this message to your networks and feel free to repost.

Sample Letter:

"To Whom It May Concern:

As a member of the disability community, I am outraged by the recent comments made by Talk Radio Networks' host Michael Alan Weiner, also known as Michael Savage, stating that autism is "a fraud...a racket...In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is." Not only have these comments not been retracted but Talk Radio Networks continues to stand by Michael Weiner as he continues spreading public misinformation about autism. Autism is a very real developmental disability affecting millions of Americans. Public ignorance and prejudice against people with disabilities represent one of the most significant obstacles to full access and inclusion of people with disabilities throughout society. I urge you to take immediate action and pull your financial support from Talk Radio Networks and The Savage Nation Radio Show in response to these hateful comments."

Contact Information:

ABC, Inc.:
VP Advertising/Sales Mike Shaw
Phone: 212 456-7272
VP Public Relations Kevin Brockman
Phone: 818 460-7756
Fax: 212-456-1424

Acura Public Relations
Mike Spencer, 310-783-3165

American Express:
Leslie Berland
American Express
P.O. Box 981540
El Paso, TX 79998-1540

Boca Java:
Stefanie Hochstadter
Boca Java
730 South Powerline Rd.
Suite D
Deerfield Beach, FL 33442

Campbell Soup Company
Campbell Place
Camden, NJ 08103-1701
Phone: 800-257-8443
Phone: 800-871-0988

851 West Cypress Creek Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309, United States
Americas PR
Jason Wyse
Americas Senior PR Manager
Phone: (786) 449-3740
Eric Armstrong
Director, Corporate Communications
Phone: (954) 267-2977

Dish Network:
CEO Charlie Ergen: (303) 723-1010
CEO assistant: (303) 723-1005
EchoStar Satellite L.L.C.
Attn: Corporate Communications
9601 S. Meridian Blvd.
Englewood, CO 80112

Alan Marks
Senior Vice President Corporate Communications
Telephone: 1-408-376-7400
Fax: 1-408-369-4855

General Motors:
Andrea Canabal
General Motors, Northeast Communications,
Work: +1-914-244-6059
Cellular: +1-914-391-6898
Stockholder line: 313-667-1500

Gallo Winery:
John Segale
Gallo Winery Spokesperson
Work: 916-960-5341
Cell: 916-600-1081

Bob DeFillippo
Phone: 973-802-4149

Nestlé Purina PetCare:
Phone: 314-982-2577
Fax: 314-982-2752

Simon & Schuster:
Michael Selleck
(800) 223-2336

Staples, Inc:
Paul Capelli, 508-253-8530

SUBWAY® Public Relations
(203) 877-4281
Les Winograd Ext. 1683
Kevin Kane Ext. 1329

Keyes, Steve
Director, Press and Public Relations
Phone: 703 364 7650
Fax: 703 364 7071

Thank you for your support and please distribute. Our combined activism has and will continue to help us create a world that respects, includes and supports people with disabilities throughout society. Remember, nothing about us, without us!

Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
1101 15th Street, NW Suite 1212
Washington, DC 20005

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meeting Minutes, July 2008

At the meeting, we had both ASAN Southwest Ohio members and new visitors from the Columbus area who are interested in organizing an ASAN Central Ohio chapter. We talked about the lack of useful social groups for autistics in Columbus. Although there are a few groups led by professionals that focus on improving social skills, the Columbus area currently does not have social and community organizations where autistic people can just get together, chat, and network.

We discussed the efforts made by ASAN on both a national and international level to develop meaningful community organizations and to promote the involvement of autistic citizens in public policy discussions. Having an ASAN chapter in Columbus will be helpful from a political standpoint because it is the state capitol and the members of the Central Ohio chapter will be able to get involved in committees and other state government activities.

Community organizations for autistics also are important because the younger generation can benefit from the experience of older autistics, through both formal mentoring programs and informal discussions. Young people need to know that although our society often is overly rigid in expecting everyone to have certain kinds of skills, having a different set of skills does not mean that there is something wrong with a person; rather, that is diversity. Today's autistic youth need to be helped to overcome the discouragement that many of them have faced and, instead, to find encouragement.

We talked about the need for better and more inclusive programs in the schools. Sometimes autistic children are treated as if they are disruptive and a nuisance, when the real problems are lack of understanding, negative expectations, and failure to provide simple accommodations. The effect of the classroom on the child should be considered, not just the child on the class.

ASAN Southwest Ohio has offered to help with setting up a new blog for the ASAN Central Ohio chapter.

edit: The new blog is at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Response to Cincinnati Radio Broadcast

On July 14th, radio host Mike McConnell of the Cincinnati station WLW 700 discussed a recent incident in which a family in South Carolina was told to leave a restaurant because their four-year-old autistic child was crying loudly. Several people called in to comment on the program, including some who were obviously uninformed about autism and who suggested that autistic children did not belong in public places or in mainstream schools. Here is a link to the podcast.

ASAN Southwest Ohio sent the following letter to Mr. McConnell to express our concerns. For those who may also wish to contact Mr. McConnell about the program, is the address where he can be reached.

Dear Mr. McConnell,

We are writing to you on behalf of the Southwest Ohio chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). ASAN is an international organization that seeks to improve the representation of the autistic community in public policy discussions, to advance the autistic culture movement, and to raise awareness of civil rights issues that affect the autistic population.

Regarding your July 14th discussion of autistic children at restaurants, we are concerned that the tone of the comments suggested that some listeners might have thought you were advocating exclusion of autistic children from public establishments. Although we realize that this probably was not the intended message, we would appreciate it if you could issue a clarification to ensure that your listeners do not have the wrong impression.

Autism is not a static condition. Autism at age 5 does not look the same as autism at age 25 or age 50. Many autistic children outgrow their behavioral problems and become successful later in life. Autistic children, like any other young children, need opportunities for social interaction in public places so that they can learn proper behavior and become integrated into the community. Placing autistic children in restrictive and isolating environments only causes the child's social skills to deteriorate. This applies to restaurants, churches, and even mainstream education.

Also, forcibly removing someone else's autistic child from a public place is counterproductive on many levels. In addition to depriving the child of much-needed social interaction, it will increase the child's stress level and make the situation much worse. The child's feelings should be considered, in addition to the feelings of the other patrons. The child is indeed under stress, likely due to sensory overload, and a more gentle approach will help relieve some of this stress and make the situation better for everyone.

Perhaps the most dangerous thing an autistic child can learn when forcibly removed from a public place is that a stranger apparently has the right to discipline someone else's children.

Please help us to spread a message of inclusion and tolerance.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Joint Meeting of Southwest and Central Ohio Chapters

The July meeting of ASAN Southwest Ohio will be a joint meeting with a Central Ohio (Columbus area) chapter that is in the process of forming. Accordingly, our meeting is being held in Springfield, which is midway between the two regions. The two groups will be getting acquainted, and we will discuss the ASAN-sponsored Presidential Forum in Columbus and other upcoming events.

The meeting will take place at 7 PM on Friday, July 18th, at the Panera Bread off of US-68 and OH-41. Its address is:

1950 N Bechtle Ave.
Springfield OH 45504

We anticipate that we will have at least three people attending from the Southwest Ohio area and at least three people from the Central Ohio area. If anyone reading this blog will be in or around Springfield on July 18th, please let us know (by sending an email to asansouthwestohio AT hotmail DOT com) if you would like to join us at the meeting.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Presidential Forum Update: Action Needed

The presidential campaigns have not yet committed to their candidates' attendance at the National Forum on Disability Issues, scheduled to take place in Columbus, Ohio, on July 26, 2008. (Note that the location has been changed to the Conference & Technology Center at the First Church of God, 3480 Refugee Road, Columbus, Ohio 43232.)

Sending e-mails or otherwise contacting the campaigns will help to show that there is substantial community interest in this event. The following grassroots alert, distributed by the American Association of People with Disabilities, provides contact information. Please write to the campaigns and urge the candidates to participate in the forum in person.

ASAN and The Autism Acceptance Project are sponsors of this event.

~~~~~~~~~~GRASSROOTS ACTION ALERT~~~~~~~~~~

People with disabilities are 50 million + strong in America, 37 million of whom are voting age. Add to that figure our families, friends, caregivers, and advocates, and we're a force to be reckoned with.

On July 26, 2008, in Columbus, Ohio, the disability community wants to hear from the presidential candidates - Do they have specific policy objectives for Americans with disabilities? How will their existing policy platforms affect us? How will they include us in the new administration, if elected?

You can make sure that happens. Ask the candidates to participate in our forum. Let them feel the power of the disability vote!

WHEN: Start today! The forum isn't until July 26, and we need daily, every-day pressure on the campaigns all the way until the event.


1. Call, fax, email the campaigns.

Help us to create some friendly pressure on the McCain and Obama campaigns by calling, emailing, and faxing the campaign offices, urging the candidates to participate in person at The National Forum on Disability Issues on July 26, 2008 in Columbus, Ohio.

Sen. Barack Obama
Obama for America
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, IL 60680
Call: (866) 675-2008
Fax: (312) 819-2089
Email: Alyssa Mastromonaco, (Chief Scheduler); Heather Higginbottom, (Policy Director); David Plouffe, (Campaign Manager)

Sen. John McCain
John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215
Call: (703) 418-2008
Faxes: (703) 752-2515, (703) 413-0740
Email: Steve Schmidt, (day-to-day operations); Carla Eudy, (National Scheduler); Doug Holtz-Eakin, (Deputy Policy Director); Donna Jones, (National Coordinator, Americans with Disabilities for McCain Coalition)

2. Show up with signs at their events.

We know the campaigns are likely to make stop-offs in or near where you live. If they do, go out to the rallies they hold and hold up a sign that says, "SEE YOU IN COLUMBUS, OHIO ON JULY 26!" Decorate the signs however you like, or print and paste a copy of the "Feel the Power of the Disability Vote" logo. We want the candidates and their staff to see these signs EVERYWHERE they go!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council Seeks Members

There are two positions currently available for self-advocates on the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, which works with policymakers, providers, and individuals to improve services and supports for Ohio residents with developmental disabilities. Applicants should have experience serving on committees, boards, or organizations. The application deadline is August 1, 2008.

ASAN Southwest Ohio encourages qualified autistic self-advocates to apply.

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (ODDC) is currently seeking applicants for membership terms beginning in October, 2008. Council membership must comply with categories listed in the federal DD Act. Openings this year will be for the following categories: a) two (2) individuals with a developmental disability, and/or b) two (2) parents or guardians of children with a developmental disability. It is possible that one (1) representative will also be selected from a non-governmental agency or private nonprofit group concerned with services for individuals with developmental disabilities.

All candidates for DD Council membership should have experience serving on committees, boards, or organizations. Such experience concerned with persons with developmental disabilities would be especially relevant. Applicants should have first-hand knowledge about developmental disabilities in Ohio.

It is very important that applicants have time to attend six meetings per year and serve on at least two committees. Each meeting of Council occurs over a two-day period.

Serving as a member of Council provides the opportunity to get involved and work in a collaborative manner with state and federal policymakers, state and local providers, and individuals with developmental disabilities and their family members. Council advocates to improve the system of supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, and it conducts grant activities for the same purpose.

Governor Ted Strickland will appoint members for three-year terms beginning October 1, 2008 and ending September 30, 2011. Application packets are available from the ODDC office and must be completed and returned to the office by August 1, 2008. Applications may be requested:

By mail: ODDC, 8 East Long Street, Suite 1200, Columbus, Ohio 43215
By phone: (614) 466-5205 or toll-free (800) 766-7426. If you are leaving a message, please spell out your name, and give your address including zip code, and phone number.
By email by contacting