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

Thursday, June 24, 2021

LeftBrainArtStudio on Etsy.com

Many of you know me as someone who pushes for opportunities for people with disabilities to participate fully in and contribute to community life. Well, I continue to do that on a voluntary basis. But, now I am also a digital artist. I have launched a shop on Etsy — LeftBrainArtStudio. 


All profits will go to the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD) (I am the current President) or the Greg Moyer AED Fund. 


USICD promotes disability rights worldwide. An upcoming USICD free webinar, jointly sponsored with Trickle Up, will focus on international economic development and inclusion and disability rights on July 8, 2021 at 2:30 PM EDST. Check www.USICD.org for information on how to register.


The Greg Moyer AED Fund sponsors education, legislation, training on how to respond to sudden cardiac arrest, especially in young athletes, and provides automatic electronic defibrillators at cost. The fund was established by Rachel Moyer, my sister, and her family, when my nephew, Greg, died of cardiac arrest at the mid-point of a high school basketball game on December 2, 2000, and no AED was available that may have saved his life.


I have made my first sale!  I have eight paintings in the shop — some flowers and Hawaiian seascapes. More to come. So if you have an empty wall, check my paintings out and help me support two very worthy nonprofits.


Thank you.

Pat Morrissey

Monday, June 7, 2021

Disability Matters, Why Isn't It Counted?

 The pandemic, latest travesties connected to police, hate-related shootings, and assaults on voting rights have elevated public attention to and support for equitable treatment of Blacks and other racial groups. That is good, but it is tragic that it took horrific behavior and deaths to get us to focus on and begin conversations and take actions that are long overdue. Attention increases visibility. Attention creates potential for power. The availability of data perpetuates both. It allows comparisons. It strengthens arguments for change. It increases credibility for positive directions.


Those who are disabled and those who advocate for disability rights must realize unless we push for disability-related data collection in all contexts aggressively, we will remain an afterthought and marginalized in the current social push for equity in health care, treatment by police, voting access, and other circumstances.


There are many reasons why people with disabilities are absent in existing data bases. Disability is not like race, age, socio-economic status, or sex. If we start collecting disability data in addition to other characteristics, it will cost a fortune, because disability crosses any and every other category. We don’t have enough time or money for collecting such data. Yet, without it, we don’t know what’s happening to people with disabilities.


Disability-related data comes with risks. If we collect it, we run the risk of being sued if the story it tells is a bad one. Yet, without it, we don’t have validated reasons for making decisions that make sense and bring needed change.


Designing surveys takes time. If we get input from people with disabilities, that will take more time and money because of the need of accommodations to ensure full participation in creating a survey. But, if we don’t do this, our attention to disability is absent, based on faulty assumptions, or handled in a superficial manner.


If we ask detailed questions of people with disabilities directly, then we may need to spend more time and money in getting their answers. Yet, if we do not do this, then the data we collect may have little use.


When disability-related data collection does occur, it is often separate, and includes modest samples, lessening the ability to do comparisons and reach wide reaching implications, especially in the area of disparities in varied settings.  


We must change what is happening in data collection. We need to shape data points. We must push for as many as necessary data points to secure meaningful data. If we do not, then we will remain less visible, remain marginalized, and not be a force in America’s effort to become a fairer, more inclusive, less discriminatory landscape. There are 60 million plus of us. We need to take a seat at all data collection tables now. Sitting this one out or relying on others to remember and treat us as we should be treated, is not an option. This is a central disability rights issue that must be appropriately addressed in policy, including federal legislation, regulations, and guidelines, and in actions guided by these policies.


Thank you. 

Common Grounder


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Joy and Inclusion: Open Letter to President Biden


 

During your campaign and at your inauguration you offered messages on inclusion that were strengthened by your past and promised actions. My heart is filled with joy and a sense of hope. Hope that real lives will be changed for the better because of the actions of your administration and our collective commitment to help. I come to these beliefs as a person with a disability who has promoted disability rights for most of my life, spanning 76 years.

 You understand that for government to be enlightened requires leadership that reflects diverse perspectives. Your leadership team includes accomplished individuals who come from backgrounds and have had life experiences that equip them to bring America’s diversity to decision-making tables in Washington, D.C. What we have yet to see is the inclusion of people with perspectives of those who have lived with disabilities. You may say those appointments will come, and they should. But what I urge is something broader than appointing people with disabilities to run disability programs. You need people with disabilities at all levels throughout government. I especially propose appointing people with first-hand experience with disability to decision-making ranks of all departments and units that touch the lives of human beings. Such people are some of the best problem solvers and team players on the planet.

If we want meaningful inclusion throughout American society, then disability perspectives must be present at all decision-making tables in government. People with disabilities may need accommodations, but those should not be solely understood to mean separate or special treatment or programs or disability-related appointments.

 I recommend five things to build into your ongoing appointment process. 

·      Consider qualified individuals with disabilities when filling positions in the Departments of Defense, State, Agriculture, Treasury, Transportation, Energy, and Interior as well as in the Departments of Education, Labor, Veteran Affairs and Health and Human Services

·      Consider people with disability perspectives for appointments to all kinds of input groups such as committees, boards, and commissions 

·      Ask all government leaders to promote and consider disability perspectives in hiring

·      Mount targeted recruitment campaigns by reaching out to disability organizations for qualified candidates

·      Recognize that disability perspectives are available to you from leaders in the disability community, everyday citizens with disabilities, and their parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, and advocates

 I know you and your administration are thoughtful and include persons with disabilities in any list you give referring to race, sex, gender and other characteristics. This is very important. But much more is needed and expected in this new chapter in American history that people with disabilities want to participate in writing. They have seen discrimination and fought against it. They have experienced abuse yet maintained their dignity. They have witnessed inequity and changed laws to overcome it. They have faced barriers to opportunities and access and knocked them down. They are represented in every subgroup in America, 60 million people wanting to contribute to a new, vibrant America where opportunity, choice, and prosperity are within reach of everyone. They know the need for and value of partnering with others. They accept compromise when diverse strategies lead to shared goals. They are patient and practical, respect facts, recognize honesty, they are smart and creative, and seek and offer respect. These people could and should flourish within and partner with your administration. The results of their full inclusion will mean greater speed of implementation and broader impact of the goals you have set for us to achieve together. You and the First Lady have direct experience with disability. Make sure others in your administration come to understand its value and use it to reflect an inclusive federal work force, a model for others to replicate.

 Sincerely,

 

Patricia Morrissey

Friday, November 27, 2020

It Is Time to Support the International Council on Disabilities, Attend USICD's Virtual Gala, December 3, 2020, 2 to 4 ET

Not another Zoom gathering! You bet. It's up to you to help us build our momentum and we have it!

As the result of the election, Make America Great Again has been replaced by Build Back Better. Slogans are statements that imply direction. Symbols like walls confirm intent. Symbols like open doors celebrate opportunity. USICD is in a key position to help the incoming Biden-Harris team demonstrate that the U,S. will open doors and will not be spectator. 

Our organization has the experience, the standing, the will, and the ideas to work with and through transitional partnerships to – 

 

·      Assist local leaders achieve disability rights, 

·      Shape inclusive economic development initiatives, 

·      Bring people together to create practical solutions for reducing poverty among the disabled and opening opportunities for women with disabilities, and 

·      Educate policy makers about the importance and benefits of having the disability perspective represented at all decision-making tables.



A new day has dawned. It is up to each of us and all of us to ensure that promotion and understanding of disability rights become as visible and pervasive as wearing masks.

Please join us for a great two hours -- elected officials will be honored, screen stars will share their approach to inclusion and entertain, generous sponsors will make the case for disability rights, and I have pushed for a door prize (no one knows how to do it virtually).

 

Thank you.


Patricia Morrissey

President

 

  

Monday, November 2, 2020

ELECTION EVE 2020

We are exhausted. Wherever we stand and whomever we support, we know very clearly that actions have consequences. President Trump has taught us many things. If you say something enough times, whether it is true or not, the number of people believing it increases and the number who will never change their mind when they hear information to the contrary becomes solid, like a stale piece of cake. What was once considered intolerable in word or action becomes tolerable. We lose the ability to be shocked. The standards for what is acceptable become extremely lax. We have not had an impact on President Trump but he has had an impact on us.

I live in Hawaii. I voted early by mail. I am comforted in the fact that so many Americans, over 90 million have already voted. Those of you who are left, please vote tomorrow.

Over the last three months I have read seven books about President Trump by people who have worked with him or spend time with him, unlike the rest of us. Their collective impressions are clear. He does not read very much. He makes decisions without much consultation. He is focused on ends that benefit him. He expects people to be loyal to him, but does not reciprocate that loyalty.

When President Trump's interests and those of the U.S. have aligned, we have benefitted -- in some trade negotiations, in reduction of our military in areas of conflict, through reemergence of economic zones, greater support for HBCUs, and high values in our 401Ks and stocks.

But, we have lost so much more -- protection for our environment, trust in government and our institutions, an open ear for those that do not agree with us, disconnect from young people who think we are clueless, and the politization of everything from public health to the judiciary. The pandemic has exacerbated our collective situation. More things have surfaced that are fraying our social order -- inequities in policing, health care, education, food security, and access to housing. 

The best thing that could happen, when all the votes are counted, is a landslide. However, whoever wins we must each hold our next president to very high standards and if he does not meet those standards immediately within the first year, we should fire him. We will have evidence very early in the next four year term. What are the standards? Truth, transparency, integrity, compassion and empathy, economic and social justice are the first standards that come to mind.

If President Trump loses we need to urge and expect the media to stop covering him. Their coverage gives him and destructive forces in this country and abroad oxygen in order to foster division and chaos. That must stop no matter how financially lucrative it might be.

I have spent my professional life successfully promoting common ground. I believe in the strength it gives to all those who participate in bringing it about. Together we can accomplish so much good. We must find our way back to problem solving together. The alternative is too scary and the America we want will be so much harder to achieve.

The future is in our hands. We do not have to give up, give in, or regret if each of us votes for the next president. The world is watching and so are 60 million individuals with disabilities who have been neglected for the last four years.

Thank you.

Common Grounder