Saturday, October 22, 2016

You Still Have Time to Request and Submit an Absentee Ballot in Most States

Every presidential election is a big deal. But this one, my friends, is a zinger! The contrasts between the two major candidates are stark. The mud that's being thrown makes many wonder, what an embarrassment, what a choice. But the fact of the matter is one of them -- Hillary or Donald -- is going to win. So don't you dare not vote just because you are disgusted or upset. This is not the year to sit one out.

One option that is still out there is to vote by absentee ballot. I counted -- most states are still accepting requests for absentee ballots. Most states allow you to make a request on line. Most states' criteria for voting absentee are easy to understand and reasonable.  This information ( should be especially useful for people, including some with disabilities, who are not sure if or how they will get to the polls on Election Day, November 8, 2016.

Please check out your state. Please consider the absentee ballot option if you are unsure of a ride on Election Day. This is one year when EVERY VOTE WILL COUNT big time. Anyone, who is eligible to vote and doesn't, is saying they don't care about their future or the future of the rest of us. We need the biggest turnout ever so everyone knows where the USA stands. We need clarity. We need direction. Then, we can work on finding common ground and a prosperous future for all.

Common Grounder

Friday, October 21, 2016

On Election Day Think Like an Uber Driver, Help Your Contacts with Disabilities Get to the Polls

I moved to Waikiki in August of this year. I am now the Director of the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. It is a very rewarding job. I get to interact with people who do all sorts of things to help the people of Hawaii lead fuller lives and achieve their potential in paradise -- individuals with disabilities of all ages, Native Hawaiian children, parents, and leaders in state agencies.

Another amazing thing that has happened to me is that I met an Uber driver, who has become my friend. He can collapse and open my electric scooter and put it in and out of his trunk with lightening speed. He did it on my first ride. He is always available and always on time. We talk about everything, including how to solve the world's problems. He has made transportation a non-problem (Is there such a word?) for me.

Transportation is a big deal, especially when you need it and don't have it. Election Day is November 8th. It is a holiday. Everyone who reads this post and has a car consider giving someone with a disability, perhaps more than one person, a ride to the polls. Also, consider helping them with the voting process if they need it. Workers at the polls have become very attuned to accessibility and reasonable accommodations in the last 15 years. Most polling places have procedures that allow one person to help another.

Pundits are speculating about voter turnout out. Let's help set a record. We can. We should. The United States of America needs it. And who knows, you might make or strengthen a friendship.

I'm back.

Common Grounder

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Invest in Inclusion Internationally

As some of you know I am the president of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD). On Friday I sent an e-mail message to USICD members. Today through this blog post, I am sharing it with you in the hope that you will join Project Triple I. Project Triple I is asking congressional leaders who decide on appropriations for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to include money for disability inclusion in the year 2017 budget which begins on October 1, 2016.

 I am asking you to help in convincing 27 members of Congress (15 Senators and 12 Representatives) from 22 states to do something that is greatly needed for citizens with disabilities around the world.  These members of Congress serve on either the Senate or House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. We want these subcommittees to:

1.      Give the office of the USAID disability coordinator funding for six new professional staff and $10 million to support initiatives to foster and create greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in community development and for advancement of disability rights around the world.

The disability coordinator position has been vacant since December 2014. Even then, the coordinator was on loan from the World Bank and had no budget or staff. So our request is an attempt to repair a case of significant neglect.

2.      Give the Office of the International Disability Rights Advisor in the State Department funding for six new professional staff and $10 million to support initiatives to foster and create greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in their communities and for their advancement of disability rights around the world.

Currently, the Advisor and one professional staff are able to pursue this work only with contributions from other units in the State Department and with staff from these units lent to them temporarily.  We seek a new approach: adequate capacity (real money and staff) in these offices through appropriations in order for the U.S. to have a broader, smarter, sustained positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities, a greater ability to share our experience and expertise in disability rights.

The only way our requests will gain traction is if those of you from the states in the chart below contact your member(s) of Congress and ask them to support the idea as their subcommittees develop appropriation bills.

USICD in May 2016 has written to seven key members on the Appropriations Committees asking for funding for both offices.  This was the first step.  We contacted:

·       Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, Chair of the full Senate Appropriations Committee (SC)
·       Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Ranking Democrat on the full Senate Appropriations Committee (MD)
·       Republican Rep. Harold Rogers, Chair of the full House Appropriations Committee (KY)
·       Rep. Nita Lowey, Ranking Democrat on the full House Appropriations Committee (NY) and on the House subcommittee that funds the State Department
·       Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Chair of the Senate subcommittee that funds the State Department (SC)
·       Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee that funds the State Department (VT)
·       Republican Rep. Kay Granger, Chair of the House subcommittee that funds the State Department (TX)

The next step is for each of these seven leaders to hear from constituents directly, and for all members of the two subcommittees to hear from their constituents directly.  With volume, the committees are more likely to seriously consider our requests and to include them in the appropriations bills.  These key members need to hear from constituents now.  

We have developed talking points to help you approach these important members.  Contact Andrea Shettle,, if you would like a copy of either the Senate or House talking points or both sets of talking points.  Please let Andrea know the state in which you live.  Or, if you do not live in one of the targeted states, please consider friends or relatives in targeted states who you could convince to help.

This is a time sensitive matter. If you are willing to help, now is the time to do it!

 Key Members of Congress for Contact

Arkansas (Boozman, R)

California (Lee, D)
Connecticut  (Murphy, D)

Delaware (Coons, D)

Florida (Diaz-Belart, R; Crenshaw, R, Rooney, R; Wasserman-Schultz, D)
Illinois (Durbin, D; Kirk, D)

Kansas (Moran, R)

Kentucky (McConnell, R)
Kentucky, Rogers, R)
Maryland (Mikulski, D)
Maryland (Ruppersberger, D)
Mississippi, (Chochan, R)

Missouri (Blunt, R)

Montana (Daines, R)

Nebraska (Fortenberry, R)
New Hampshire (Shaheen, D)

New York (Lowey, D; Serrano, D)
Oklahoma (Lankford, R)

Oregon (Merkley, D)

Pennsylvania (Dent, R)

Texas (Granger, R)
South Carolina (Graham, R)

Utah (Stewart, R)
Vermont (Leahy, D)

Please remember: if you do not live in one of the targeted states, you may have a friend or friends who do.  Please invite them to join the project and have them reach out to Andrea, or let Andrea know to whom to send the talking points (

Thank you,
Common Grounder

Invest in Inclusion Internationally!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Wisconsin Voters: Vote with your brain tomorrow, vote for John Kasich

I'm a political junkie. I love presidential campaigns. Initially, I thought I was really going to love this one. Not anymore.  Serious issues have not received the time they deserve. Difference in style dominate verbal space. Debasement has become an acceptable tool to hurl at opponents. Lying or accusing others of it has become commonplace.

The one candidate who has not taken the bait to participate in the new underbelly of campaigning is John Kasich. The most recent statement made about him by Donald Trump, the king of the new order, is that he, John Kasich, should get out of the presidential race because he’s taking votes away from Donald Trump. Well, that’s one reason you may want to consider voting for John Kasich tomorrow.

Here are a few more. He has a public record associated with results that are bipartisan and smart. He recognizes problems and works with others in a collegial manner to solve them. He has been involved in addressing all of the issues that concern most Americans: national security, smart fiscal policies, expanding job opportunities, improving access to healthcare, and offering quality education to children.

Throughout most of this campaign we have been distracted, entertained, shocked, confused, and disappointed by what we’ve heard from most candidates, but not what we’ve heard from John Kasich.  His style is gentle. His compassion is real. What he says we understand the first time he says it. His promises can be delivered. His relationships with members of Congress are long-standing, bipartisan, tested, and durable. He is a realist. He is a pragmatist. Yet, he finds the quickest, smartest paths to solutions that people want and support.

If you’re like me you’re tired of bling, threats, negativity, obstructionism, doom and gloom, and lack of the right kind of executive experience and knowledge of how government works. I want America to be great. I want a strong economy. I want Congress to accomplish things for us. I want the Supreme Court to protect our Constitution and civil rights. I want us to be safe and smart about keeping us that way. I truly believe the John Kasich is the only person in the race who can make sure these things are part of our future. Everyone else in the presidential race has too much baggage that will negatively affect their ability to deliver, no matter how-well intentioned they are.

Tomorrow those of you in Wisconsin have the opportunity to send a very important message to the rest of the country – John Kasich is the only one who can achieve the change that everyone is looking for.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beyond Trump: A Webinar to Sharpen Your Engagement with Those Running for Office This Year, All of Them

The cable news channels are saturated with Trump-related news. Print media and other TV channels are also seeking rating heaven by tracking his every utterance and what his competitors are responding. There is no doubt he is a one-of-a-kind phenomenon, or at least I hope so.

What will we do when the dust settles? I hope, recognize that there are many other people running for elective office -- 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 Seats in the Senate are up for grabs this year. Now is the time to learn about these OTHER candidates and engage them. Make them an ally early on things that are important to you.

 I am president of the U.S. international Council on Disabilities (USICD). I have agreed to do a webinar for USICD, "Engaging Politicians: High Impact Strategies for Individuals with Disabilities & Their Advocates".

In this one-hour web-based lecture, I offer a little history and strategies for exercising your civic-minded muscles -- what to do, how to do it, and how to judge your success. The webinar will focus on goal setting, messaging, organizing, and assessing your becoming a force for disability rights, not only here but around the world. The webinar will be held at 3:00-4:00 pm East Coast time on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

For those new to my blog, my career includes stints in both the public and private sector. I worked for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for five years and worked for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor for seven years. During those times I played a central role in the drafting of major disability legislation ranging from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, to the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, to the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act of 1999, the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA), and more.

I have also served as a consultant to Fortune 200 companies on ADA compliance and was a member of the U.S. Delegation to a United Nations while it drafted the Convention on Civil Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

To register here's the link:

By June we should know who the presidential front runners are. Why not use the time between now and then to refresh our knowledge of our congressional candidates and develop plans for engaging them as individuals and through organizations in which  we are members. One step in the preparation process is my webinar. It costs $50, which will help USICD expand its work overseas. With your $50 you receive a one-membership to USICD. If you are already a member, you can pass it on to someone else as a gift. The membership is worth $25.

I look forward to your joining me on March 22, at 3 PM (EDT). There are a limited number of slots, so please register today!

Thank you,

Common Grounder

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Question that Has Yet Been Asked of Presidential Candidates

 We have been given many examples of policies candidates would implement if elected president. I come down on the side of those who have had executive experience in government.

The question I would like somebody to ask every candidate is this – Since the president has limited power to do things unilaterally and since we cannot assume or predict the makeup of the House and Senate, how would you get the Congress to support the policies you have proposed if you do not have a safe majority of those that agree with you in Congress?

Strong rhetoric doesn't guarantee any new policy will be embraced by a new Congress. We need a president who has experience in negotiating his or her way to a desired outcome. We need a president with experience and success with interacting with others who have leverage on their side equal to the president. I spent many years working in the Executive and Congressionl branches of the Federal Government. I saw that facts, the right timing, respect for other, integrity, reason, and persuasion were very important traits to have and practice. My time in government also taught me, change in and by government takes a ton of time. Government is like a battleship. It turns in new directions, but ever so slowly. We need a president that understands how government works, appreciates the importance of allies and support, and understands that opposition cannot be ignored or dismissed, but must be worked with to find common ground.

All candidates are right about one thing, we cannot afford a president who will need to spend 18 months learning how two branches of government work and work together.

I hope those of you who are the first to say who the presidential candidates will be will think about my comments. A lot is at stake. The good news is that many people understand that this time around and are engaged.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Getting Ahead of the Curve: Let's Make Ukrainian Orphans A Priority in Senate Aid Package

I have learned that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is working on an aid package for Ukraine. I went looking for some information about it on the committee's website and found nothing. Nonetheless, I trust my sources and see this as an opportunity for us to get ahead of the curve. I am sure that Ukraine could use aid for many things. But there's one thing I know from my friend, Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of Disability Rights International ( There are 200,000 orphans in the Ukraine. They are not in communities. They are not in foster homes. They are in institutions and sometimes these institutions are in unsafe areas. Guess what can happen to these children when they reach 18? They can become trafficking victims, and if they are disabled, they can be placed in another institution for adults. A horrible future for these kids, wouldn't you say?

Believe it or not, the hits on this blog are reaching 20,000. Amazing. Equally amazing is the fact that I have some viewers from Ukraine and Russia, approximating 30 hits a week. My friend Eric and his colleagues have developed a proposal, recommending $19 million in aid to help Ukraine prepare for and integrate orphans, especially those with disabilities, into safe communities. Just think what that would mean to and for those dear, young people.

I am very optimistic about the chances of the proposal making it into the Senate Ukraine aid package. Both Republicans and Democrats endorse U.S. aid for Ukraine, so the proposal should receive bipartisan support. But, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, especially Senator Corker (TN, 202.224.4651, corker@senate. gov), the Chairman, and Senator Cardin (MD, 202.224.4524,, the ranking Democrat on the committee, need  to hear from us about our support for the proposal.

If the text of the proposal makes it into the aid package, then it will be a slam dunk at the committee mark up. Please weigh in and let committee members know of your support. Here's a list of other committee members. If you are from one of their states be assured they will consider your recommendation. And, if many of us contact these Senators, they will heed our advice.

Risch (Idaho)
Rubio (FL)
Johnson (WI)
Flake (AZ)
Gardner (CO)
Perdue (GA)
Isakson (GA)
Paul (KY)
Barrasso (WY)

Boxer (CA)
Menendez (NJ)
Shaheen (NH)
Coons (DE)
Udall (NM)
Murphy (CN)
Kaine (VA)
Markey (MA)

Opportunities like this do not come along every day. Think about the children, then act.

Thank you.
Common Grounder