The Advocacy Newsletter of ILRCSF
The entire country is talking about Occupy Wall Street. In our neck of the woods, the Occupy movements in San Francisco and Oakland have been really invigorating to those of us who have been involved in political activism for a long time. They've also been inspiring to people who have never been politically active. This issue of DELA focuses on community activism, the importance of participation, and the strength and experience that veterans of the disability rights movement are bringing to the Occupy movement. ILRCSF Executive Director Jessie Lorenz talks about all of these things. Also in this issue: The White House has just opened applications for their internship program, information about the settlement of a class action suit against Whole Foods regarding accessibility, tips and links to some great resources to get you started on your own activist journey, and lots more.
It's never too early - or too late - to become an activist. On behalf of ILRCSF staff and Board, Happy Thanksgiving!
Occupy Wall Street: Community Activism and the Disability Community
On September 17th, approximately 1,000 people gathered in NYC's financial district to stage the very first Occupy Wall Street event. Since then, what started as a sit-in/sleep-in, has turned into a global movement. (An interactive timeline of the movement's progressionis available online) I sat down with ILRCSF Executive Director Jessie Lorenz to talk about the Occupy movement and what, if any, action ILRCSF is taking in relation to it.
Lana: What does Occupy Wall street have to do with ILRCSF's mission, and disability rights, in general?
Jessie: The Independent Living philosophy, under which ILRCSF operates, is all about people speaking up, making their voices heard, and about what people need and want in their lives actually counting for something. I think a lot of people forget that the Independent Living movement has always been part of the greater civil rights movement.
This is an exciting time, in terms of activism and civic engagement. ILRCSF has always been involved in systems change advocacy. In the last few years, this has involved a lot of policy analysis, and advocacy at the legislative level. The Occupy Wall Street movement is taking activism back to the streets, and make no mistake - disability rights advocates are old hands at this sort of activism and community organizing. The historic 504-sit-in? That was us. The 2001 Laguna Honda protest? We were right there, with our friends from ADAPT.
When you hear people talking about the 99 percent, you've got to remember that people with disabilities are part of that 99 percent. Our support of this movement, and even participation in it, is only natural. People with disabilities are activists, small business owners, employees, military veterans, parents, labor union members - you name a category, and I guarantee you, there are people with disabilities in there.
Q: You're an activist, a parent, and a supporter of labor unions, as well as a person with a disability, yourself. Have you gotten involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement, at all?
A: I joined a group of other disability rights activists on the day a General Strike was declared in Oakland (November 2.) ILRCSF pooled resources with Berkeley CIL and the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center and sponsered a van so that advocates with disabilities from the Bay Area were able to get there and participate. We thought it was important to be there to show our support for the people who have been peacefully occupying Frank Ogawa Plaza, and exercising their right to free speech. It was also important to us that people with disabilities be out there in large numbers. We're angry and concerned about a lot of the same things many other Americans are angry and concerned about: unemployment, cuts to vital services, healthcare disparities.
The poverty rate among people with disabilities is staggering. Levels of unemployment have always been high for people with disabilities, and they're getting worse. Proposed cuts to In Home Support Services (IHSS) would be devastating to thousands of people with disabilities who have every legal right to live independently and access community-based services. These are just some of the issues that disability rights activists are making noise about, and they'll all part of the same big picture. Participating in the General Strike was really great, because it was a huge, diverse group of people coming together over the things we all had in common.
Q: If someone interested in getting involved and making some noise in protest of cuts to vital services were to ask you how she could join in and participate with other like-minded people, where would you direct her?
A: I'd invite that person to join ILRCSF on December 2nd, when we participate in a Day of Action to stop the cuts. This will be a great opportunity for anyone who has never been involved in activism to jump right in. The San Francisco Labor Council has planned this day of action, and ILRCSF fully supports and endorses it - it's going to be a day when lots of different groups get together and show our strength in numbers and solidarity. People with disabilites are most definitely involved in the planning of this, and we'll be there, every step of the way. It's a day for everyone in the Bay Area who wants a fully supported public school system, fair and accessible services for people with disabilites and seniors, and the generation of more jobs. (Note: Details of the Dec 2 Day Of Action are linked below)
Q: What would you say to the person who says that community activism and advocacy aren't effective and don't lead anywhere?
A: I'd tell them that there wouldn't be a whole network of Independent Living Centers, if not for activism and self-advocacy. I'd also point to all of the victories - big and small - that the disability rights movement has garnered...from the passing of the Americans with Disabilites Act, to the development of an accessible public transportation system in San Francisco, to the corner store installing an accessible front entrance. Just today I got some great news about a ruling that will keep the Adult Day Health Care program from having to shut down. The ruling came about because of the perseverance of a group of disability rights advocates who were willing to fight for what they knew was right. (Note: Details of this ruling are below.) Political activism and community organizing have, over time, proven to be incredibly effective tools of change. The only thing that guarantees things won't change? Doing nothing.
SAVE THAT DATE: A Day of Action to
STOP THE CUTS
The San Francisco Labor Council, with the support of ILRCSF, the AFL-CIO, Single Payer Now, CARA, Jobs With Justice, and other groups and organizations, has planned a DAY OF ACTION in San Francisco.
DECEMBER 2, 2011 - Join the rally at the Federal Building, march to key spots within the City, and join a rally and concert at Justin Herman Plaza.
For more information, check out the flyer, keep checking the SF Labor Council's website for updates and, of course, read ILRCSF's blog. You can also contact Conny Ford, SF Labor Council Vice President at 415-647-7776
Settlement Reached - Advocates Successfully Negotiate For Community-Based Adult Services
Seven plaintiffs who represent a class of 35,000 low-income people with disabilities, including older adults, and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit that challenged the State's planned elimination of Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) as a Medi-Cal benefit on December 1, 2011 (Darling et al. v. Douglas C:09-03798 SBA ). The settlement ensures that even in these challenging economic times, critical community based services will be preserved and low income seniors and people with disabilities will avoid unnecessary hospitalization or institutionalization.
After extensive negotiations, the Parties reached a compromise which preserves ADHC-like services for people who are at risk of institutionalization, in a new program called Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS). Similar to ADHC, CBAS will offer center-based skilled health and nursing care, therapies, transportation and other services, to eligible low income seniors and people with disabilities.
Original plans were to totally discontinue services on December 1, leaving thousands of people without access to community-based services, and possibly forcing many into institutions. Under the settlement, the planned December 1, 2011 ADHC elimination date will be moved to February 29, 2012 to ensure a seamless transition for eligible ADHC participants to the CBAS program, and provide time for the Court to review the settlement and give final approval of the Agreement.
This settlement has been reached just as DELA is going to press. For more details as they develop, check out the California Association for Adult Day Services website .
ILRCSF will share more details of this late-breaking victory as the story unfolds.
Settlement for Shoppers With Disabilities
Are you a wheelchair or mobility scooter user who shops at Whole Foods in California? If so, you may be entitled to part of a cash settlement regarding accessibility.
A class action lawsuit settlement has been reached with Whole Foods Market for failing to provide wheelchair access to customers at California stores. As a result, anyone who visited a California Whole Foods store between 2006 and 2011 and used a wheelchair or other mobility device can file a claim to receive as much as $4,000 from the class action settlement.
While litigants stand to receive a cash settlement, the true victory lies in the fact that Whole Foods is making alterations to all 60 of its California stores to increase accessibility for shoppers who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
To find out if you're eligible to claim part of the cash settlement, and to download a claim form, check out the site devoted to the suit. Information about the suit is avialable at this site in a variety of languages.
Applications Open For White House Internships
Have you ever thought about being an intern at The White House? Interns learn about the workings of government, get a bird's eye view of the ins and outs of the President's day, meet other young people interested in public service, and the experience is a great accomplishment to cite on college applications and resumes.
If you'll be at least 18 years old by May 29, 2012 and have a high school diploma or GED, you can apply. The application deadline is January 22nd, and the application is available online.
Making Sure Your Rally or Protest is Accessible
Considering the fact that 1 in 4 Americans will become disabled before they retire, people with disabilities (PWD) make up a very important part of the 99% - let's work together to make sure they are welcome and encouraged to join the movement!
Simple ways you can make your occupation more accessible:
- Always keep a clear 36- inch-wide path throughout the camp so that folks who use wheelchairs can be right in the center of the action.
- Remember, when planning marches, that just because some of us can't walk or roll long distances doesn't mean we don't want to be included in these actions. Try getting accessible buses donated for these events.
- During GA's, encourage people not to shout and hoot to show agreement - extraneous voices make it hard for interpreters to translate and sign well - instead try wiggling fingers to signal agreement.
- Contact your local Independent Living Center (ILC) and ask to partner with them to make your occupation more accessible - some ILC's have money that can be donated and/or equipment and tools which can be loaned.
- Make websites as accessible as possible by using large, sans-serif fonts and writing descriptions of images, etc. You can do a web search for tips on ways to improve accessibility.
- Create an "Accessibility Committee" to ensure people with disabilities are included in every aspect of the movement. Tasks could include: procuring donations of ASL interpretation, organizing a crew of volunteer guides for the blind, and assigning monitors to keep aisles wide and clear.
- Actively encourage PWD to speak and join committees.
PWD: The Occupy Movement is For You!
Are you tired of struggling to pay for food, housing, and medical care while the super-rich demand deep cuts to the social safety net that you depend on for survival? Would you to see your tax dollars go to improving accessibility in your community? Are you fed up yet?
Join the foreclosed-upon, disenfranchised, homeless, un-insured, hungry 99% in taking back our power through representative democracy as we create a new, FULLY ACCESSIBLE, and just future for all, rooted in a commitment to human need. The people have never before been as united in our refusal to accept the injustices that the 1% levy against us as we are now, but the movement will NEVER BE COMPLETE without the voices of people, like you, with disabilities - WE NEED YOU!
Ways you can get involved:
- Visit www.occupytogether.org to find your local occupation and then can "friend" them on Facebook, "follow" them on Twitter, and, if you like, get out to the camp - most cities have General Assemblies several times a week
- Help organize a teach-in, march, or rally about an issue that affects you, such as cuts to healthcare
- If you cannot get out to occupy physically, then write a letter to the editor of your local paper, blog about the movement, and talk to your family and friends about why you support this movement
- Donate food, medical supplies, tents, or any skills you may have to the cause using your occupations' website
How A Bill Becomes A Law
There are some great resources online that explain the legislative process. Some of them have been developed for children, and it's never too early to get your kids involved in the democratic process. Below is a list of our favorites. If you have any to add, please send them to us at Lana@ilrcsf.org - we'd love to share them with our readers.
Constitutional Topic: How A Bill Becomes a Law
Classic Schoolhouse Rock: I'm Just A Bill
How A Bill Becomes A Law: Visual Diagram
Social Studies for Kids: How A Bil Becomes A Law
Young Learners: How Laws Are Made
ILRCSF Economic Empowerment Services
ILRCSF has two staff members who focus on Economic Empowerment. They provide information, support and advocacy regarding benefits and eligibility, work incentive programs, and emergency rental assistance programs.
Economic Empowerment staff work one-to-one with many consumers on specific topics and goals. They also lead two different types of group workshops every week:
1. Basic Benefits Overview
2. How Employment Affects your Benefits - for those on SSDI &/or SSI
For most consumers, attending a group workshop is the best way to begin working with ILRCSF's Economic Empowerment staff.
All workshops are on Thursdays at 9:30am. However, only one topic - basic benefits or employment -- is covered each Thursday. Please attend the workshop that best suits you.
If you need information about applying for SSDI, SSI, Medi-Cal or other benefits, come to the Basic Benefits Overview workshop.
If, on the other hand, you already receive SSDI or SSI and are considering going to work, come to the workshop entitled How Employment Affects Your Benefits. At this Employment Workshop you will learn how to use work incentives to keep some of your benefits as you transition into a job, as well as how to use the PASS program, and Ticket to Work.
To hear the schedule of upcoming workshops, call 415-543-6222 ext. 155.
NOTE: ILRCSF is wheelchair accessible and provides reasonable accommodations upon request. In order to be fully accessible to all people with disabilities, ours is a scent-free office. When visiting ILRCSF, please do not wear any scented products, including perfumes, aftershave, hairspray, etc.
The Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit organization. Donations from the public support our workshops, one-to-one services, multi-cultural outreach, advocacy and systems change work, the Herb Levine Legacy Fund, and this newsletter. Please consider making a donation to help us keep offering information, support and advocacy to people with disabilities.
Tax deductible donations may be sent to:
649 Mission Street, 3rd Floor,
San Francisco, CA 94105
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