Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What do we want?

I'm not a cynic. I take public figures seriously, including the words they utter. The people attracted to Donald Trump are charged up, their numbers are growing, and they seem to endorse his exclusionary approach to and negative characterization of segments of humanity -- immigrants from the south of the U.S., a war hero (John McCain) who spent time in a prison of our enemy during the Vietnam war, a reporter with a disability (Serge Kovaleski), and all foreign Muslims. Every time he adds a person or group to those who should be excluded, ridiculed, or dismissed he gets free media attention. His latest pronouncement – excluding anyone who is a Muslim from the U.S. -- was no exception. Thank heaven this pronouncement has been summarily denounced by many people within and outside of the Republican Party. I hope these denouncements begin to wither Trump's poll numbers.

The U.S. became a great nation because it welcomed people from across the globe. The U.S. remains a great nation because it respects individual freedom and free speech. The U.S. Constitution, if put up against Donald Trump's rhetoric, should cause his supporters to hit the pause button and look at alternative presidential candidates.

The only way that Donald Trump would succeed, if elected president, would be if he declared a dictatorship. Principles on which this country was founded and the laws which govern us would not permit him to do things that he says he would do if elected president. I think it is time that we, including the media, shift our attention away from Donald Trump, to people with government-related executive experience and sound judgement. Donald Trump has generated two things -- great enthusiasm among his supporters and shock and horror from the rest of us. Yes, we have been entertained. Yes, we have been amazed. But now it is time to get serious and make the choice for whom we are going to work. Now is the time to decide who we want as our next president. Yes, a president, elected by the people and guided by our Constitution and laws, not a celebrity who would be very comfortable transforming the U.S. into a dictatorship -- a reality show replicating the rawness of the Apprentice. We don't want that, do we?

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Monday, November 30, 2015

Some things just don't make sense

I am traveling today, but wanted to share with everyone immediately, especially people who use customized wheelchairs. A recent change in regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will really impact on the cost of such chairs.  Please see the details below.They were forwarded to me by Paul Galonsky of RESNA.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Common Grounder

Message November 25, 2015

Late Monday, CMS published the 2016 Medicare fee schedule. As feared, the new payment rates include major reductions (as high as 30% to 40% or more) to complex rehab wheelchair accessories.

These cuts are being implemented by CMS in violation of prior Congressional legislation. They will dramatically reduce or outright eliminate access for people with disabilities who rely on individually configured complex rehab wheelchairs and critical components such as seating equipment, positioning systems, and specialty controls.

There is one last chance to stop this and protect access. We need to use the next 7 to 10 days to get Congress to add our complex rehab wheelchair accessory legislation, HR-3229/S-2196, to a larger bill and pass it before they adjourn in mid-December.

We have had discussions with our Congressional champions. The good news is they remain committed to working to getting our bill passed. But they can't do it alone. They have indicated that constituents must generate more support by connecting with their own representatives and telling them this is a priority.

Now is the time to contact or re-contact your Members via phone. The message is simple: "I need you to attach HR-3229/S-2196 to larger legislation and pass it before you adjourn in December".

Please go to www.protectmymobility.org<http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001z9a6z-R30Tfcg44gwu6AdAFN4Lh-OME0oEMPey-WjyvxkAwGIRarFXCuigy4ypGsh5aVz_5--U6t3HCRDC99W-IQAyjERy81couVxsUFGXWCb4n3tFVbFI4nnsAEVcyuOIMqchsDNa1n3lYbFv43bQ9a_qXKknYGvPY9vwEPJRsCmDVMghV4Yw==&c=zwIp8hOBzE0kT4_o9LSpMi-oylpyOeQgSz339lx0F_A4eP7yyQHq-g==&ch=Dhcu1WMlbHCNvUhsQMll89iQSgClxednS48j_-tceH6tF-tFY1s-mA==> and use the links to make your contacts. Be persistent until you get a commitment and let us know if you need any assistance.

We can make this happen if enough people make the time to contact Congress. We will be providing further updates as we move ahead. Thanks for making this a priority!


Donald E. Clayback
Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754


Friday, November 27, 2015

How to have an impact now in the presidential campaign cycle

The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary results will determine which candidates survive. These results will also determine what issues and which groups have traction with the candidates who remain. CNN and other media outlets have made it clear that issues that are important to people with disabilities specifically will not rise to the top and be addressed through debates and other media coverage unless many people ask candidates questions of interest to people with disabilities in town halls and other venues now.

So what should we do? Get a pitcher of beer, a bottle of wine, some glasses of milk, a six pack of cola or some other beverage and some snacks and develop a list of questions to which you and your friends want answers. Send them to your friends, relatives, and other contacts in Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as to media outlets and presidential campaigns. Right now everything is concentrated in these two states. Everything that will be addressed later or happen later will be influenced by what is happening now in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The bottom line is that if substantive issues that are important to people with disabilities do not surface prominently in those two states, it is very unlikely that they will become prominent during the rest of the campaign. After February 9, the date of the New Hampshire primary, the presidential campaign process goes from a lot of personal contact to a retail platform. That is because from that point forward there will be many primaries in many states around the same time.  Candidates will shift from individual gatherings every day to a lot of media interviews and campaign commercials as the primary means to reach people.

Here's my list of questions:

1.  What entitlement reform are you considering that would increase and promote the independence of people with disabilities to live in the community and contribute to its vitality?
2. What actions would you undertake to promote meaning inclusion of persons with disabilities into labor market with access to healthcare, career ladders, and supports?
3. What educational policies would you propose to increase the likelihood that students with disabilities would have the same options after high school graduation as their peers without disabilities?
4. What incentives would you introduce into the housing market to increase the likelihood that people with disabilities could become homeowners?
5. When considering tax form, what policies would you propose to provide a basis for people with disabilities to become savers and also not be penalized in anyway for having savings, regardless of their age, income, and assets?
6. When creating incentives for small business development what options would you include to attract people with disabilities who would like to be entrepreneurs?

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Will Donald Trump apologize this time?

No one would question that Donald Trump is a one-of-a-kind presidential candidate. He says things that would cause others to be eliminated from any contest. He appeals to the basest side of human nature. He reduces all human beings to binary categories -- winners and losers. These tendencies and others I referred to in an earlier blog post as things that, ironically, cause many people to tune into the presidential race much earlier than they would have otherwise.

Well his latest trash talk is really over-the-top. He mocked a reporter with a disability -- http://www.aol.com/article/2015/11/26/video-appears-to-show-trump-mocking-the-physical-condition-of-a/21273364/?icid=maing-fluid%7Camp-bon5-t%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D1333081439

I have a strong wish – – I want people with disabilities and presidential candidates to interact during the campaign cycle, to get to know each other and benefit from that interaction. However, with the exception of Jeb Bush, such exchanges have been limited so far. Perhaps, Donald Trump's latest remarks will get us off our couches and get us talking to people, one of whom will be the next president, about existing and proposed policies that affect people with disabilities -- including in those conversations what is said about them.

I think Donald Trump may apologize this time, at least I hope so.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New Hampshire disability advocates: now is the time to weigh in with the presidential campaigns

 As you know your presidential primary is February 9, 2016, a Tuesday. Presidential candidates are spending a lot of time in your state and Iowa, which has its caucuses on February 1, 2016. If you follow my blog posts you know that I did a similar list of campaign contacts for the state of Iowa. My source is www.RespectabilityUSA.com.  If you compare the two states you can see that the staff information is more complete in Iowa.

Nonetheless, the time is now for those of you who live in New Hampshire and care about issues that affect people with disabilities to engage campaigns of your choice. Do not wait for the field to shrink. Do not wait for candidates to decide on their own that disability issues are or are not important. Positions and policies on the minimum wage, the tax code, entitlement reform, access to healthcare, immigration, national security, the family, and veterans could affect your life or someone you know with a disability. By connecting with campaigns of your choice now you will be able to influence how these initial policies and positions are fleshed out.

Every campaign website has information about where the candidates stand on most of these important issues. Spend some time looking at them and talking to your friends. Check out www.therespectabilityreport.org. This site tracks what kind of things candidates are saying about the top issues. There are many things that we need to know.  For example, in entitlement reform does any candidate plan to leave intact the benefits available now to people with significant disabilities who have a work history or are poor?  With regard to the minimum wage, if a candidate supports it, does she or he think that people with disabilities, regardless of where they work, have a right to it? If they don't support it, provide reasons why they should.

Now is the time to do our homework. Now is the time to do research. I urge you to go to events where candidates are present. Ask them questions. Tell them stories about how law and practice affect people with disabilities in good ways and in not so good ways. Read and talk about what they are saying. When we see evidence of candidates talking about and using stories concerning people with disabilities in connection to major issues, we will know we have had an impact and are not operating on the margins.

 N.H. State Director
Nate Lamb
David Tille

Matt Mowers

Mike Lacich
Ethan Zorfas

Lauren Carney
Joe Diron
No information available
Henry Goodwin
No information available
Simon Thomson
No information available
John Bivona

Alicia Preston

David Chelsey
@david chelsey
Karl Beckstein

Julia Barnes
No information available
Nick Pappas

Matt Ciepielowski
No information available

 Remember we are part of the mainstream of America. We are 56 million strong. We have friends and family, who care about our success and independence. Collectively we are very motivated. Campaigns will see us this way, but first we must engage them.

Thank you.

Common Grounder

Friday, November 13, 2015

Time to Think Strategically

We've never seen a presidential election cycle like this one. Those of us with experience and interest in the lives of persons with disabilities have a unique opportunity if we think strategically about how to approach presidential campaigns of our choice. The problem right now is that "disability issues" are seen as minority, niche issues. Most candidates do not see the value of talking about or including references to people with disabilities in their statements at this point. We need to change that. To do so they must recognize where candidates are and start there.

For example, the Democrats -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders talk about income inequality and the need to raise the minimum wage (O'Malley too). They talk about a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, how to provide greater access to higher education, and preserving and extending healthcare coverage to those who need it. We need to give them examples about how the policies they are talking about would benefit or hurt people with disabilities. We need to connect our issues to these broader themes. If we give them examples of how their policies would benefit people with disabilities they will use our examples in their stump speeches, debate answers, and in town hall exchanges.

The 12(?) Republican candidates talk about tax reform, boarder tightening, family supports, entitlement reform, job creation, threats from terrorists, over regulation that strangles the economy, and government not working for the people. Here too we must take on these broader issues and connect them to the lives of people with disabilities. For any policy they pose on these issues, how would it affect people with disabilities? We need to tell them. We have the opportunity to ask for a carveout, exemption, or clarification. If they agree with the idea, they will talk about it to show how much greater or smarter they are compared to their opponents or how different they are from them.

No one is going to elevate us to the "mainstream" unless we do it first. We are very adept about talking about our specialness. In this political cycle we must engage the campaigns in a smart way by talking to them FIRST about the issues that are in the forefront and how they affect us. By doing so they will see us as a vital voter block and not a niche group. Once we see candidates using examples concerning people with disabilities when talking about the benefits of policies they propose, then we can begin to introduce them to issues that are more disability specific.

I recommend that we all checkout www.therespectabilityreport.org. There we will learn what all presidential candidates are talking about. Then sit down and discuss how we would approach them and what we would share about how the candidates' policies would affect people with disabilities.

Remember we are part of the mainstream of America!

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Iowans with Disabilities, Friends, and Families: Engagement Time Is Here!

Engagement time is here. I know you know that. I can’t believe we still have so many candidates– 16.  My source was RespectAbility USA and its presidential campaign blog – therespectabilityreport.org. RespectAbility teams are on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire interacting with all campaigns.

Of course, being a political junkie, I found out a few things myself too. For example, there was a news clip, I believe on CNN, where Jeb Bush commented on how meeting and being educated by a parent with a child with a significant disability helped him understand and improve Florida state services to people with developmental disabilities. That story is also part of his bio. It’s available on his website – https://jeb2016.com/?lang=en. And lo and behold, five days (11/7/16) later on the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert, John Kasich included people with a developmental disabilities in a list of people government should assist. We are starting to see sign language interpreters at big events associated with the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. I am doing research on whether campaigns are captioning their videos.

What do these random points imply? Candidates are going to invest time and energy in groups who help separate them from the pack. We represent 56 million – that’s a pretty big group. We also have many friends and families. However, candidates will not “discover” us unless we engage them and share our concerns and priorities. In fact, if we were to hold a candidates’ debate on disability issues right now we would probably be seeing 12 or more “deer-in-the-headlights” expressions. So please take the time to go to town halls, other events to which candidates come, and to the caucuses (2/1/2016).  The Desmoines Register keeps a calendar on candidates' schedules – http://data.desmoinesregister.com/iowa-caucus/candidate-tracker/index.php.

Those of you who live in Iowa are very important to the rest of us. What you do to elevate issues that are important to people disabilities will affect the status of these issues in other states. Below is contact information for the senior person in Iowa for each candidate. Please connect with the campaigns in which you have a strong interest. Ask them questions and tell them what is on your mind. Weigh in on the economy, tax reform, the cost of college, raising the minimum wage, and immigration, entitlement reform and how their proposals would work or not work for people with disabilities. In reality we are not a niche group. We are mainstream America! Those of you in Iowa need to let the candidates know this.   The contact information is below, please use it.

 Iowa State Director
 E-mail address
Bush (R)
 Annie Kelly
Carson (R)
Ryan Rhodes
Christie (R)
Phil Valenziano

Clinton (D)
Matt Paul
Cruz (R)
Bryan English

Fiorina (R)
Chris Rants
Graham (R)
Tracie Gibler

Huckabee (R)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Jindal (R)
Matt Horihan

Kasich (R)
Cory Crowley

O’Malley (D)
Jake Oeth
Patacki (R)
No information found.
Paul (R)
Steve Grubbs

Rubio (R)
Jack Whitver

Sanders (D)
Robert Becker

Santorum (R)
Walt Rogers

Trump (R)
Chuck Laudner

Thank you.

Common Grounder

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Campaign 2016: Are You In?

Attention to issues affecting people with disabilities is slowly seeping into debates and on some websites. However, the soundbite world we live in doesn't allow for much elaboration. As we ponder how to make attention to our issues more comprehensive and systematic there are four things we need to keep in mind.

First, we have to keep the pressure on campaigns by contacting and sharing suggestions with them continuously. If we delay our communications to a later time with the 20 plus campaigns out there, we will not become a first-tiered niche to which candidates respond. We need to test ideas now and see if they have traction, in essence, to see if they show up in speeches and questions asked at debates. As the candidate field narrows and if our issues stay in the mix of what is emphasized, we will know we have become a higher-tiered niche.

Second, we must ramp up our efforts up. Hillary Clinton has added a website page on disability rights (https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/disability-rights/)? A PAC supporting Bernie Sanders has a page on disability issues (http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-people-with-disabilities/). The topics of mental health, medical use of marijuana, vaccinations and autism surfaced in the last debate (http://therespectabilityreport.org/ ). At a minimum we need to let candidates know how we feel about what was said on these topics, and what we think their positions should be on these topics. These topics could also be a link to other important topics that we could raise.

Third, in communications we need to reflect outcomes that we expect on websites, in speeches, and answers to debate questions. Any communications with campaigns should include what we want them to talk about on their websites, at campaign stops, and in debates. There are many things on which people with disabilities are united and other things on which they have varied opinions (http://www.dailydot.com/politics/disability-voters-2016-election/). Candidates need to learn about these differences and develop responses to them that makes sense and attract voters with disabilities and their families.

Fourth, with the volatility in the polls it is important for candidates who want to be in for the long-haul to take the disability vote seriously and understand its complexity. If 3 million people with disabilities, who registered to vote, but did not vote in 2012, had voted, they could have changed the outcome.

The candidates are not going to increase their attention to issues important to us unless we start interacting with them now. I am optimistic. TheRespectAbilityReport.org is sponsoring/coordinating web-based town halls with candidates. Please check out its website and stay tuned. RespectAbility will be giving us a platform, ALL OUR OWN, to reach presidential candidates (http://therespectabilityreport.org/2015/09/17/disability-groups-to-host-presidential-town-hall-meetings/). Be part of these upcoming events and contact campaigns directly. We can influence the future if we adopt an engagement policy immediately. Are you in?

Thank you.

Common Grounder

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Power of Positive Thinking

A friend shared a video with me that blew me away. The name of it was "The Power of Visualization". Here's the Link -- http://www.visualizedaily.com/

If what this gentleman describes is true, then there is great power in positive thinking. And evidently, if many of us visualize the same thing the effect is even greater. Where we do this visualizing in terms of distance appears not to matter. It's the fact that we do it that matters, and the more the merrier.

The way the world is right now we need a lot of positive thinking and collective positive visualization, for sure. There is ISIS, the pending congressional vote on the Iran deal, the slaughter of presidential candidates by their competitors on the airwaves, and the plight of the refugees from Syria and other conflict torn countries. I can't get that picture of the little boy on the beach, dead, out of my mind.

Everyone talking about these matters easily describes the negative effects. No one is aggressively advocating for strong bold solutions that reflect the resolve and commitment of the good guys to stop the bad guys, to apply civility in national political campaigns, and to show concrete compassion for refugees. 

So as strange as it seems I suggest that we all start doing some positive visualization every day alone and together, maybe we can turn things around.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Friday, August 21, 2015

Water Cooler Politics: New Community Page on Facebook

Many of you followed the Facebook page on the CRPD that two colleagues and I established in Aug. 2013. Today, Isabel Hodge and I created a Facebook community page on the presidential campaign -- www.facebook.com/watercoolerpolitics. We look forward to sharing facts, positions, and commentary with old Facebook friends and new ones. Please check us out and like us. We want campaigns to pay attention to issues that are important to people with disabilities. Our Facebook page is a way to put campaigns on notice and engage us.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Questions Presidential Candidates Should Answer

There are 56 million Americans with disabilities. They have brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, classmates, and colleagues. Seventy percent of those who are of working age are unemployed. The graduation rate for students with disabilities is substantially lower than that for the general population. Persons with disabilities have limited access to accessible healthcare. They have limited access to accessible housing. They have a limited access to accessible transportation, which affects their ability to get a job and keep it. And if they need personal assistance, they must be eligible for federal assistance, and not have a fortune in the bank, to get it.

Here are questions every presidential candidate should answer.

1. Do you have a disability advisor and a disability policy team advising your campaign?
2. What is your personal experience with persons with disabilities? And either way, how do you view people with disabilities?
3. Have you had any experience removing structural barriers for persons with disabilities in terms of their accessing, participating in, or contributing to their communities?
4. In your meetings with the public have you sought comments and advice from persons with disabilities?
5. Are your public speaking venues accessible to person with disabilities? Do you advertise this accessibility in advance of a speaking engagement?
6. Have you trained campaign staff to appropriately assist and interact with persons with disabilities?
7. Is information from your campaign available in multiple formats and accessible through your website by persons with the full range of disabilities?
8.  What do you think is important to persons with disabilities?
9.  How do you feel about the structural barriers facing persons with disabilities? Do you have policies ready to go that would address these barriers?
10. In what executive branch departments would you appoint a disability advisor? To whom would this person report? Would this person have staff and a budget?
11. What is your position on U.S ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

How does this list of questions compare with your list? If you don't have one, consider making one alone or with your family and friends. We all should start engaging with candidates now to ensure that our interests become part of theirs.

Thank you.
Common Grounder