National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October 7, 2013

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  What does this mean?  It is a time that is recognized by the federal government.  People with disabilities are employed at a rate of 24% vs 76% for individuals without disabilities.  That is a 52% difference.  Some of the reasons for this lack of employment include:

*Lack of education

*Lack of exposure to the workplace

*Lack of expectation to work

*Lack of opportunities

People with disabilities are held to a different standard.  They are not given the same education, opportunities or exposure to work as their non-disabled peers.  This statistic will not change until these factors change.  If this issue is important to you, then let me know.  I will be blogging all month about it.

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October 2, 2013

What The Shutdown Means For Disability Services

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October 1, 2013Text Size  A  A

As the first U.S. government shutdown in more than 17 years takes hold, some programs benefiting people with disabilities will continue with business as usual while others grind to a halt.

The shutdown, which began Tuesday, comes after Congress failed to reach a deal to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year starting in October. Under a shutdown, some services considered “essential” will continue operating while many other government activities will come to a standstill as 800,000 federal workers are sent home until a new budget takes effect.

Here’s a look at how the shutdown will impact programs that people with developmental disabilities rely on:

SOCIAL SECURITY Benefit payments will continue to be distributed on schedule to individuals receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. Local offices will be open, but only to perform select services.

MEDICAID Services provided by Medicaid will largely proceed as usual since an advance appropriation ensured that states receive funding for the program on Oct. 1. However, disability advocates say they are worried that the shutdown could exacerbate payment delays that providers of long-term services and supports are already facing. “The long delays have put many of our affiliates in almost untenable cash flow positions and further delays may cause some to cease Medicaid services,” said Katy Neas, senior vice president of government relations at Easter Seals.

HOUSING The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says it will not be able to provide further funding to local housing agencies during the shutdown. However, most local agencies already have enough money to fund rental assistance vouchers for the month of October, more than half of which help the elderly and people with disabilities.

SPECIAL EDUCATION Schools won’t see much impact immediately, with states receiving $22 billion in special education funds on schedule this month from the federal government, the U.S. Department of Education said.

DISABILITY RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT The U.S. Department of Justice says that civil litigation, which includes the enforcement of disability rights laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, will be “curtailed or postponed” to the extent possible.

RESEARCH Developmental disability surveillance programs — which track the prevalence of such conditions — will come to a halt during the shutdown, said Barbara Reynolds of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health will not make any new grant awards for research.

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Michael J. Fox a role model for disabled

September 25, 2013

Michael J. Fox a role model for disabled

With his battle with Parkinson’s disease, his new show will advance cause of handicapped.

Michael J. Fox’s appearance at the Emmy Awards this week brought him a standing ovation from the celebrity audience. But was the applause recognition of Fox’s extraordinary record as a five-time Emmy-winning actor? Or was it perhaps the equivalent of “pity-applause” because of Fox’s public battle with Parkinson’s disease?

Hard to tell. But with the premiere of the Michael J. Fox Show Thursday night, Fox’s role as an actor could transition him into a major civil rights leader for people living with disabilities.

Television has the power to change lives. From our favorite sitcoms to the evening news, polls show that television is the lens through which Americans form opinions. Indeed, TV can have a stronger impact on both viewers and this country’s laws than even education or our own families.

Consider, for example, the media’s central role in the progression of civil rights. The Cosby Show and Oprah charted new territory for race relations in our nation. For the first time, African Americans were welcomed like family members into the living rooms of white Americans.

On another front, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Will and Grace and Married with Children helped advance LGBT issues. These TV programs shifted public opinion on marriage equality so quickly that elected officials and courts have been falling over each other to change their views — and legislation — on these issues.

In the Michael J. Fox Show, the popular actor will portray a reporter with Parkinson’s who re-enters the workforce. Because Fox is already so well-liked and talented, the disability community harbors high hopes that viewers will not only root for him, but will also absorb and accept the fact that people with disabilities can succeed in the workplace.

Why such big hopes and dreams? Consider this: 70% of working-age Americans with disabilities don’t have jobs, even though most of them want to work. That compares to 28% of Americans without disabilities who don’t have jobs. This disparity has resulted in extremely high levels of poverty, isolation and financial dependency for Americans with disabilities, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year in government benefits.

Unfortunately, the American public has a negative misimpression of what it’s like to have people with disabilities in the workplace, even though some of the nation’s greatest presidents and thought leaders lived with such challenges. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for example, were thought to have been dyslexic; President Franklin Roosevelt used a wheelchair; Albert Einstein is believed to have been on the autism spectrum; and, despite physical challenges, Stephen Hawkins is literally unlocking the secrets of the universe. But none of them had or have the power of television propelling them forward like the wind at their backs.

The Michael J. Fox Show may be the catalyst for a welcome change and its star can be the Martin Luther King of our era. After all, according to the U.S. Census, almost one in five people — approximately 57 million Americans — identify as people with disabilities. With the advent of the Michael J. Fox Show, this population will now have a visible positive role model in the eyes of millions of America.

Some major businesses have already made the effort to include people with disabilities in their workforces. They have found that it brings them an economic advantage. Walgreens, for example, is a proven model for hiring people with disabilities. The company, and others who have made similar decisions to hire people with disabilities, find that they are often exceptionally loyal workers, have fewer accidents in the workplace and can make a company more profitable.

With any luck, Michael J. Fox and his new show will chart a new course, moving jobs for people with disabilities beyond the fantasy of TV screens and into our real lives.

This article was written by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, a person with a disability, is the president of http://www.RespectAbilityUSA.org, a non-profit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream.

Published by USA Today.

 


Leaving the Job

September 17, 2013

My son needs me and I need him.  I feel the pull all day everyday. I know he is cared for to the best of the caregiver’s ability but not mine.  There are things that need to get done that are not getting done. For this reason, I am leaving my job.  

I’m not sure how I feel about this transition.  I can rationalize the decision but I am not sure all of my reasons are true.  I feel like I am doing the right thing (rationalization) and at the same time I feel that I have to sell myself and others on my decision.

I’m getting lots of questions from friends and family about my decision to leave.  You’re leaving? Why?  I give the reasons and most of what I get is good luck with that!  

The flip side of the coin is that the students that I am working with have given me positive feedback on the job that I have done.  I feel rewarded in that arena.  My son is happy so I am happy.  

I made the right decision.


Managing at home

September 12, 2013

Dan has moved home. I didn’t understand how this would change my life.  He has a caregiver so that I can work and take care of my responsibilities.  But after three months, things are not going as smoothly as I hoped.  I tenured my resignation at College Living Experience, effective September 27th.  I am starting my own business October 1st.  I also plan to start taking better care of myself, Dan and my other responsibilities.  It is a time of change and it is exciting!


Social Security: Gateway to Medicaid

August 6, 2013

Once you can prove that your adult child is a single head of household, you should apply for SSI or Supplemental Security Income.  This is an important gateway to Medicaid, a doorway to a plethora of services.  The income is not much on a monthly benefit but the doors it can open is key to providing services to your adult child with significant disabilities. An adult living at home will get anywhere between $474 and $710 per month based on need.

Like all services, there is an application.  The application asks numerous questions about the applicant’s ability to perform tasks independently.  The key is not to lie but to show the level of dependence.  Can they function without help from another adult, most often a parent?  What can and can’t they do on their own?  These skills range from Activities of Daily Living, to use of transportation services to paying one’s own bills.  Don’t sugar coat the answers but don’t downplay the level of dependence so that you are caught in a lie.

The next step after the application is an interview.  This is where the fact checking comes in.  Let the interviewer meet with your adult child. Let them see how the adult child functions.  This is often where the truth is found out. For example, when they ask your child do you pay your bills, let them answer…no my mom/dad/caregiver does it for me.

Then there is a waiting period while the decision is being made….patience is key but remember, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”. Call to check on the progress.  You are not being a pain.  You are doing your job, you are advocating.

If the answer is no, appeal. What can it hurt?  If the answer is yes, bravo, you are one step closer to getting Medicaid which will open all kinds of doors. That will be discussed in my next blog; stay tuned.


Social Security To Drop ‘Mental Retardation’

August 2, 2013

 

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August 2, 2013Text Size  A  A

The Social Security Administration will become the latest federal agency to start using the term “intellectual disability” in lieu of “mental retardation.”

In a final rule published in the Federal Register on Thursday, Social Security officials said they approved the change in terminology citing “widespread adoption” of the term “intellectual disability.”

“Advocates for individuals with intellectual disability have rightfully asserted that the term ‘mental retardation’ has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it,” Social Security indicated.

Under the rule, all references to “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded children” will be replaced with “intellectual disability” and “children with intellectual disability” within Social Security’s Listing of Impairments and other agency rules. The change will not impact how claims are evaluated for those with the developmental disability.

The move this week finalizes a proposal issued in January. Of 76 public comments submitted on the matter, 71 supported replacing the term “mental retardation.” Most commenters favored adopting “intellectual disability,” but some preferred the existing terminology arguing that it’s more precise while others suggested terms like “developmental disability” or “cognitively impaired.”

Ultimately, Social Security opted to finalize its proposal as is and said the new rule will take effect in 30 days.

In making the update, agency officials said they were looking to align with other government entities even though they were not mandated to do so by law.

Nearly three years ago, President Barack Obama signed legislation known as Rosa’s Law replacing references to “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in federal health, education and labor policy following a switch that already occurred in many states. And earlier this year, the terminology update was included in the newly-released fifth edition of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.