Americans with Disabilities Demand Democrats Support Fundamental Rights in Platform

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Demanding Fundamental Right to Live In Freedom in Democratic National Platform

The National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) is extremely disappointed that the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee failed to join with the Disability Community in calling for Federal civil rights legislation to assure that Americans with disabilities and older Americans are able to receive Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) in the community, rather than be forced into unwanted institutionalization. NDLA urges the Democratic Party to amend its platform to endorse legislation ensuring that every American with a disability has the right to a meaningful choice in where we live and where we receive services and supports.

The Disability Community has been working to address this issue for more than 25 years, most recently securing needed changes in the Affordable Care Act to encourage states to provide LTSS in the community. However, few states have taken advantage of those changes and virtually all still restrict access to community-based services, forcing Americans with disabilities into nursing facilities and other institutions.

Additionally, although the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that under the Americans with Disabilities Act such institutionalization is illegal, that ruling has failed to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to live and receive services in their own homes in the community.

In the past year, Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Gibson (R-NY-19) have introduced the Disability Integration Act (DIA), bi-partisan civil rights legislation establishing that disabled people have the right to live and receive services in the community. The existing system of long-term services and supports is plagued with ableist bias against the independence and equality of people with disabilities and in favor of institutions which segregate our people and prevent us from living as equal participants in our own country. The Disability Integration Act overturns that bias by establishing in Federal statute our fundamental right to liberty, promised in the Declaration of Independence, secured by the Constitution, and yet still denied to many older Americans and Americans with disabilities.

NDLA, and organizations throughout the Disability Community, commend the Democratic Party for including a provision in the Platform calling for an end to subminimum wages paid to people with disabilities. Disabled workers who are paid sub-minimum wages in sheltered workshops deserve equal protections under labor law, but the failure to include any reference to the right of disabled individuals to live in the community suggests that some Americans can be “too disabled” to deserve equality.

With both Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders supporting the Disability Integration Act, as well as over 400 disability organizations, disability rights advocates believed the issue – if not the specific legislation – would be addressed in the Democratic Platform. Instead, the Democratic Party Platform Committee ignored the Disability Community on this critical civil rights issue, and rather than joining with the Disability Community on this fundamental issue of freedom and civil rights, the Platform perpetuates an ableist view of disabled people, even suggesting that people with LTSS disabilities are burdens to their families.

This is a historic moment in the Disability Rights movement, and we urge the Democratic Party not to let this moment pass by in silence, but to join with us in bringing the promise of Liberty to all Americans – including those with LTSS disabilities.

Sign On to NDLA’s Organizational Letter!

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Individuals Can Sign This Petition!