Monday, May 6, 2024

Status of Disability Museum Initiative

 I can't believe I have not written a post since last July! Well, I have news on the group focused specifically on the brick and mortar effort. We have created a group called Friends of the Museum of Disability History and Culture (FMDHC). We are working on incorporation, obtaining nonprofit status, and planning to solicit funds from an established funding source. We have formed a steering committee made up of the right kind of experts to guide us. We are working with Senator Casey to introduce legislation on a commission to assess the potential of authorizing a Museum of Disability and Culture. This is the first step. If a Commission is enacted and it recommends Congress pass a legislation for an actual museum, separate legislation must be passed for that -- step 2. So, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

We have generated bipartisan interest in the Senate.  Our current plan is for introduction of the step 1 legislation, the commission, in early June 2024. We have reached out to the Bipartisan Disability Caucus in the House of Representatives as well. Its Co-Chairs are Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and Debbie Dingell (MI). It would be AMAZING if both the Senate and House would introduce the legislation on the same day!

If you would like to help here are some points to use when contacting your Senators and Representatives:

People with disabilities comprise approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population. Significant change began to occur in the last quarter of the 20th century for this segment of the population. Most notably was the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The catalyst for this action was an unprecedented grassroots campaign comprised of people with disabilities and their advocates. This exceptional collection of problem solvers deserves a place to tell their stories and the U.S. population needs a place to learn about and grasp the challenges people with disabilities have faced in this country over time – what they did to make the U.S. more inclusive and accessible and what more remains to be done to bring about a fully inclusive society, a model for the world. 


Such a Museum of Disability and Culture will: 

  • Provide a platform to educate people about the intersectionality between disability and other distinct populations including but not limited to those celebrated in our national museums for African Americans, American Indians, Women, and Latinos. 
  • Be a stage for collaboration with museums, organizations, and every day people and influence their exhibits and programs. 
  • Trigger interest among others to identify, collect, preserve, and share disability-related artifacts and events, including oral histories. 
  • Be an immersive experience, shaping and reshaping attitudes and perceptions of people with disabilities in positive ways that last; reinforce advocacy for disability rights; and perhaps motivate people to embrace careers connected to building fully accessible communities.

This is something that could bring us all together just like the ADA did. If you have questions or want to chat just send me a comment here and I will respond. I promise. In the meantime, let your elected federal officials know what is coming and ask them to be a cosponsor of the commission legislation. It would be phenomenal if we all push hard to have the legislation on the President's desk by July 26, 2024, the anniversary of the ADA. It will happen if we work together.

Thank you.

Common Grounder


Friday, July 7, 2023

The National Disability Museum Concept Is Alive Again!

Aloha from Hawaii! 

It has been awhile, I know. 

In the spring of 2018, after hearing Lonnie Bunch (now head of the Smithsonian) speak about the challenges of establishing the African American Museum, I wrote two blog posts on the need for a disability museum on the national Mall. That idea did not gain visible traction again until the death of Judith Huemann, a friend to many and a national/international advocate for disability rights, in the spring of this year.

Now things are really hopping! There are two groups working on the museum concept.  Neither group has a formal name yet. One group, the small one, is focused on the necessary steps to get to a brick and mortar national museum. It is working on legislation to authorize a commission to recommend on the feasibility and approach to creating a national museum on disability history and culture. 

The other group, the big one, is focused on all aspects of collecting, cataloging, and otherwise curating materials for disability exhibits, and eventually the creation of a national museum. Currently it wants to foster and help others to consider, build, and share exhibits throughout the country, including local museums, regional museums, and the Smithsonian, with emphasis on educating others about the importance of disability rights. 

I am participating in both groups.

It has been fascinating to be involved in this process. The larger group, which may have a listserv of more than 400 people at this point, was started in March 2023. It has had five meetings. The attendance at the first few meetings was impressive, but, according to one participant at today’s meeting only 19 people participated. A great deal of time has been spent in these large group meetings discussing how to maximize access for anyone and everyone with disabilities and on how to attract the broadest diversity of people with disabilities. These two priorities have left less time to discuss and decide structure and designate people to leadership roles. 

I have never observed such an organic process. I fear, however, without a name, leadership, and organization, this admirable effort may dissipate or break into smaller groups over the next year. So much energy, enthusiasm, and effort has been generated and they need to be sustained and grow.  This will happen if they are channeled and directed. This won’t happen without structure and leadership. 

Based on what I have heard and observed so far, full accessibility and broad diversity will be clearly reflected priorities in any organization adopted and any leadership designated. By their nature, access and diversity will always need tending, but right now we need to address organization and designate leaders.

This summer, the smaller group will be reaching out to disability and museum sources/experts to join a steering committee to oversee promotion and realization of legislation that would authorize the commission to advise on a museum on disability history and culture. The commission option appears to be the first step on the path to create any national museum for any population.

I will be writing more about the efforts of both the small group and large group as the year progresses. I hope you too will decide to help by tracking what develops and alerting your contacts. A national museum on disability is a big deal and long overdue. Disability intersects with each and every category of human beings. We need to identify, collect, and organize the disability experience, the good, the bad, and ugly, and preserve it so today’s and future generations can learn from it.

Here the larger group’s communications link: 

The smaller group does not yet have a public link. I will keep you apprised of its actions through my blog.

Thank you.

Pat Morrissey (aka: Common Grounder)

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Judy Heumann, 1947-2023

 Yesterday Judy Heumann officially acquired angel status.

Judy always knew what the right thing was to do. But she also knew, it would take more than one person to make something right to happen. She was a human Rolodex, the best connector of others, and the best button pusher to make right things come about.

She was super human. I’m not sure that she ever slept. She would call people at all times of the day and at night. Sometimes just to see how they were feeling, but often also to motivate them. 

Her geo-political reach was unmatched in the disability rights arena. She had genuine relationships with disability advocates across the globe. They knew when Judy called, texted, or sent an email it was for a good reason and they were committed to action. 

She had the best intuitive sense of why certain people needed to get to know each other. Perhaps for personal growth, but more likely to combine forces to bring about needed change. 

She knew that for disability rights to be understood and to flourish younger generations needed to be nurtured and included. So many young people saw Judy as a mentor and friend. 

She had vast audiences and platforms. She recognized educating others about disability rights was an incremental process. She realized words alone were not enough, books alone were not enough. She saw the timely value in public speaking, social media, blogs, documentaries, and film. 

She wanted legislation to create a permanent disability advisor in the State Department, with staff, money, and clout to become law, but it did not. 

Now is our turn to act. To honor Judy and give traction to her energy, passion, and legacy, let’s get that legislation passed. Judy is above us now, watching over us. Let’s not let her down. Reach out to all Members of Congress to pass the legislation quickly to honor Judy Heumann and provide a catalyst for what she so tirelessly fought. 

When Judy was in a room the electricity was palpable. When Judy was on a zoom call, ears waited for Judy to speak. Brains waited to process what she said. 

Though we no longer have direct access to her wisdom, we know what we need to say and do. 

Remind others that disability rights is nonpartisan, that access without meaningful inclusion is of marginal value, and that planning anything without people with disabilities at the table is not smart and likely, costly. 

We will miss Judy. She does not want tears. She wants action.

Pat Morrissey 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

DO YOU WANT TO BE PART OF SOMETHING TRANSFORMATIONAL? Ask your Senators to Cosponsor S. 4982: International Children with Disabilities Protection Act

S. 4982 would authorize spending $10 million dollars in small grants to organizations across the globe that provide parents of children with disabilities with information, advocacy, training, and support to keep their children in their families and stop the placing of these children in institutions. Senator Menendez (D, NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the bill on September 28, 2022. Senator Moran (R, KS) joined him as the first cosponsor. On the same day nine other Senators joined them: Durbin (D, IL), Murkowski (R, AK), Leahy (D, VT), Blackburn, (R, TN), Shaheen (D, NH), Tillis (R, NC), Kaine (D, VA), Duckworth (D, IL), Merkley (D, OR), and Murphy (D, CT). On November 14, 2022, Senators Cardin (D, MD) and Casey (D, PA) joined as co-sponsors. There is no opposition to this legislation. Its first stop is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should be our initial contacts. In addition to Senator Menendez, cosponsoring Senators Cardin, Shaheen, Murphy, Kaine, and Merkley are on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We need to get a majority of the Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support quick passage in the Committee, so S. 4982 can be considered by the full Senate before this Congress ends. Other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are: Senators Coons (D, DE), Markey (D, MA), Booker (D, NJ), Schatz (D, HI), Van Hallen (D, MD), Risch (R, ID), Rubio (R, FL), Johnson (R, WI), Romney (R, UT), Portman (R, OH), Rand (R, KY), Young (R, IN), Barrasso (R, WY), Cruz (R, TX), Rounds (R, SD), and Hagerty (R, TN).


S. 4982 is one of those small miracles. If enacted, it could change societies that have invested heavily in institutions. Parents of children with disabilities, once empowered, will convince others to see the value and benefit of keeping families intact -- individuals with disabilities will thrive and contribute to their communities, parents will get the support they need, social infrastructure will align with disability rights, and economies will benefit.


If the Senate moves with speed and passes S. 4982 soon, one of two things could happen. The legislation could be attached to another bill in the House, which has a high probability of passing, and be signed into law this year. Or, if passed by the Senate with overwhelming support, but not considered by the House, it would have a smooth path for reintroduction in the Senate in the new Congress and with that could promote serious and speedy consideration by the House of Representatives.


One hundred organizations support S. 4982. They represent disability, faith-based, children’s, and international development interests. An opportunity like this does not occur often, yet here it is. If you engage and help over the next few weeks and we are successful, we will produce a holiday miracle and lay the foundation for powerful, bipartisan cooperation in the future.


Thank you. Have a great holiday season!

Patricia Morrissey, 

President, US International Council on Disabilities

aka Common Grounder

Thursday, November 25, 2021

A Gala to Celebrate People with Disabilities

 Aloha from Hawaii and Happy Thanksgiving! 



"Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.” This is the theme of the United Nations International Day to Celebrate Persons with Disabilities, December 2, 2021. The U.S. International Council on Disabilities is having its virtual gala on December 2, 2021. Please buy a ticket. Details are below.


We are all grateful for so many things. Supporting USICD is one way for us to make our gratitude concrete and have an impact. If you go to our web site,, you can access our most recent annual report.


I am thankful for all of you for viewing this blog, now in its seventh year. We have a lot in which to engage next year on behalf of people with disabilities, especially when they experience discrimination and lack access to the basics of living. USICD is the little engine who could. Please help us broaden and strengthen our impact.


Thank you.

Patricia Morrissey




USICD’s Fundraising Annual Gala

Every year we observe and celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on or around December 3rd. At our gala, we honor leaders of the disability rights movement whose impact has been felt on the international stage—American policymakers are recipients of the Dole-Harkin Award, for distinction in public service to the global disability community, and an overseas disability rights advocate is honored for his/her outstanding work in advancing the rights, opportunities, and dignity of persons with disabilities.


2021 Virtual Gala

PLEASE PLAN TO CELEBRATE THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES With the USICD Board, Donors, Friends and Congressional, Corporate, and other Partners of USICD!

Date:  2 December, 2021

Time: 7pm EST

Visit Eventbrite to Purchase Tickets ($100)

Ready to sponsor our 2021 Gala and Mission? Contact USICD’s Executive Director Isabel Hodge .


 Gala Flyer 2021 RFS4.pdf


Friday, October 8, 2021

Talking Points for Your Elected Officials: IT IS TIME TO WORK THINGS OUT

As a voter, a taxpayer, and as a civic-minded American, I am beyond frustrated with the bickering in Congress between and within parties. We all benefit from clean air. Many people need and will benefit from more child care and pre-kindergarten. Everyone will benefit from infrastructure repairs and improvements, including the expansion of broadband. The economy will be positively affected. We must increase the debt ceiling and not put the good faith and credit of the United States at risk, which means, among many things, making sure checks to soldiers and retirees don’t stop.

There has been enough posturing in Congress. It’s time to make decisions and take actions that will allow us to go forward and prosper. The behavior and rhetoric among members of Congress cannot be explained or justified any longer. It must change. If not, we are creating a situation in which a third-party option, such as the Forward Party of Andrew Yang, will become more attractive and gain real traction to many people and make federal election outcomes even more unpredictable. I urge anyone who reads this post to use it as a basis to write to their members of Congress and get us the results we need. 

  1. Pass the Infrastructure legislation (roads, bridges, broadband)
  2. Pass the Build Back Better legislation (more child care, pre-kindergarten, community college, elder care, and cleaner air and more)
  3. Pass legislation to increase the debt ceiling so we will have money to pay federal bills
  4. Congress is out of excuses. We each must let it know we are out of patience. 
  5. Tell Members now is the time to put aside differences and give us the action we need to not just to survive but to prosper.

Thank you,

Common Grounder

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Arrival of Afghan Evacuees in the U.S.: An Opportunity for the Disability Community

 I have many years living with a disability, writing disability legislation, and administering disability programs. The disability community is always interesting in expanding our impact, increasing accessibility, and forging new partnerships. Focusing on the pending influx of Afghans is an important way we may do that right now.


We all have watched the video feed from Kabul. It was heart wrenching. Two things are certain – people at the airport wanted to leave and most are coming to the U.S. The unanswered question is what will they experience when they get here? The U.S. military is responsible for logistics, including immediate housing when they get here and their safety. The State Department is responsible for their clearance. The Department of Health and Human Service Office of Refugee Resettlement will participate in where they will go long term and arrange start up support. All states will have the chance to play a role in this resettlement process. It will take time. So much will depend on community readiness.


The critical factor will be the nature of community-level receptivity to these Afghanistan refugees. Is a community welcoming? Is a community prepared? Are Afghans involved in deciding what they need?


We in the disability community have experience and expertise in assisting someone secure his/her rights and live a more independent life. This happens within a context of a network of support. Natural support, like that of family, is especially vital to help children and young adults with disabilities learn about choices and their consequences. As Afghans arrive in this country, even those with disabilities, they are likely to come with family. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to assist families and individuals with disabilities within them take advantage of what our communities have to offer in housing, food, clothing, employment, health care, transportation, education, recreation, and other services and supports.


These things must be coordinated for and explained to Afghans, and if disability is a factor, we need to offer appropriate accessibility accommodations. First, it makes sense, for those of us interested in helping, to get together and share what we may contribute to the effort. That means nonprofits, social organizations, including churches, mosques, and public agencies.


Second, we should identify the size of the current Afghan population in our area for several reasons. 

·      If the population is large, we may see a great increase in the number of new Afghans.

·      Members of the current population may assist with translation of print and other media material, as well as direct conversations with new arrivals.

·      Members of the current population may offer informal services and supports in a variety of ways.

·      The scope of services and supports needed and the capacity of a community to respond will be driven by the number of new arrivals and their characteristics.


Third, someone among us needs to become the point person/expert on what is available in key service sectors (housing, food, clothing, employment, health care, transportation, education, recreation, and other services and supports) and keep the larger group advised. 


Fourth, it makes sense to offer, each family with one or more members with disabilities, a coordinator/navigator to secure appropriate services and supports from varied agencies and organizations.


Fifth, we should maintain a tracking system to measure our progress in assisting new arrivals.


Sixth, we should maintain a website in appropriate languages where new arrivals and their navigators make access the most recent information, including eligibility requirements, for accessing services and supports.


These things I have outlined here require funding and person power. Securing them may take time. However, if we start thinking and talking about them now at the community level, when official funding sources become known, we will be in a stronger position and be able to access them more easily. 


I have shared common sense ideas for assisting Afghan families experienced with disability, but any family would benefit from the community commitment I have described. Moreover, the arrival of new Afghans to any of our communities provides us with the chance to set aside silos and lessen bureaucracy, so that these new people see what is best in us.

Thank you.

Common Grounder