Civil and Human Rights
Position of the Disability Community:
Disability rights are civil and human rights, and vice versa. The disability community is diverse and intersects with many other identities and populations. Legislation and programs that strengthen or support any underserved community also benefits people with disabilities. We support the protection and advancement of civil and human rights for all.
If public officials want the disability vote:
Oppose rolling back the civil rights of people with disabilities through attempts to weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Recent years have seen a number of Congressional attacks on the ADA. For example, earlier this year, the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620), which passed the House of Representatives, proposed to amend the ADA to require individuals with disabilities who were denied access to a business due to architectural barriers to send the owner or operator a complex written notice of the access barriers they encountered. Businesses would then have 4 months to make “significant progress” towards addressing the access barrier. This bill would have gutted the ADA’s public accommodations protections, removing any incentive for businesses to comply with the ADA unless they received such a notice. Fortunately, this bill was stopped by the Senate. Other attacks on the ADA have come from executive branch agencies — for example, the Justice Department this year withdrew important guidance documents that helped ensure compliance with the ADA. Living with a disability in the United States has historically meant living with discrimination, segregation, and exclusion – from education, work, housing, and even from routine daily activities. The disability community will guard against any threats to rollback the landmark ADA.
Support safeguarding the right to vote for people with disabilities.
The right to vote is one of the most fundamental and significant rights in the United States. More than 35 million eligible voters in the U.S. — about one in six — have a disability. When we include family members within the same household, that number increases to 62.7 million eligible voters, or 25% of the total electorate. People with disabilities have the potential to be a powerful voting block that influences state and local elections to ensure that elected officials address issues that are important to people with disabilities.
Despite this potential power, people with disabilities still face barriers to voting. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that in the 2016 election, 60% of surveyed polling places had at least one access barrier or impediment. People with mental disabilities also face barriers to voting. Too often they lose their right to vote based on unfounded assumptions by election officials or service providers that they are incompetent to vote, or on state laws that inappropriately disenfranchise people under guardianship. Voter turnout of people with disabilities in the 2016 election was 6% lower than the voter turnout rate of people without disabilities, accounting for 2.2 million votes.
Support robust enforcement of the ADA’s integration mandate and the Olmstead decision, as well as passage of the Disability Integration Act.
The ADA’s integration mandate and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision provide people with disabilities with critically important rights—to live, work, and receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate. These rights have enabled tens of thousands of people with disabilities to move from institutions into their own homes and communities, and to get the services they need to secure real jobs at competitive wages in the community. Enforcement by the Justice Department has been particularly important, although it has been dependent on the priorities of each Administration. In addition to the ADA and Olmstead, a bill called the Disability Integration Act (DIA) would strengthen the rights of individuals with disabilities who need long-term services and supports (LTSS) to live in the community setting of their choice. Community-based living, as opposed to institutions, is a choice that all Americans with disabilities should have. The DIA would build on Olmstead to help make that a reality for more people.
Support strong enforcement of the ADA.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other civil rights laws provide a broad set of protections. In addition to the integration mandate, the ADA prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities in primary and secondary schools as well as in colleges and universities, against people with disabilities in the workplace, in publicly funded housing, in health care, in public buildings and public services, in places of public accommodation, and in telecommunications. Other civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also provide important protections to people with disabilities.
Support safeguarding the ongoing federal funding for independent living programs and centers.
People with disabilities have the right to live independently in the community of their choice. The federal government supports this right by funding centers for independent living – local, community-based organizations run by and for people with disabilities that provide services and supports to help people with disabilities live independently. Level or increased funding for independent living programs is a priority.
Support safeguarding the ongoing federal funding of our nation’s protection and advocacy systems.
Federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems work to improve the lives of people with disabilities by guarding against abuse; advocating for basic rights; and ensuring accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In recent years, some in Congress have tried to stop these agencies from doing their job. The disability community must be vigilant in protecting the funding for these vital organizations that help people with disabilities in communities across the nation.
Oppose electronic visit verification.
The 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 mandated that states create and use Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) systems, which often include intrusive tracking procedures for the delivery of Medicaid personal care and home health services. While there are different methods of implementation – GPS tracking, required home phone check-ins, and randomized check-in calls – EVV assumes that many people with disabilities are homebound, violates privacy, and discriminates against non-English speakers. The disability community supports repeal of the EVV requirement. A bill was recently signed by President Trump to delay implementation of EVV by one year – we must keep up the pressure to support bills that would eliminate, narrow, or further delay EVV requirements.
Support adequate funding for the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce protections for people with disabilities through the ADA and Section 504, as well as the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).
The Department plays a key role as the government’s chief enforcer of disability rights. The Justice Department is the primary enforcer of the ADA and Section 504, including the right to community living under Olmstead. The Justice Department enforces other disability rights laws, including the civil rights of institutionalized persons. The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) allows the Justice Department to enforce Constitutional and other civil rights to end abuse of incarcerated and institutionalized individuals, including people with disabilities, in state-run facilities, and to protect their rights. It also allows the Justice Department to issue subpoenas compelling facilities, nursing homes, jails, etc., to open their doors to inspection and records review.
Oppose the appointment of key administration and judicial nominees who do not have a track record of supporting the civil and human rights of all Americans with disabilities.
Nominees must believe in protecting the rights of people with disabilities and upholding and enforcing disability rights laws, such as the ADA and IDEA.
Support ongoing enforcement of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the U.S. Department of Justice provides funding and technical assistance to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, including crimes against people with disabilities.
Support enforcement of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prevents health insurers and employers from using genetic information in the workplace and in decision-making regarding health insurance, which helps prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.
Support efforts to ban the electric shock device that is used in the torture, inhumane treatment, and punishment of children and adults with disabilities.
Children and adults with disabilities at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts are subjected to painful electric shock as a way to curb behavior. This is torture. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration in 2016 proposed to ban this device, given the lack of evidence that it is effective, the harm experienced by individuals subjected to it, and the existence of effective alternatives. That proposal has never been finalized. The FDA must finalize the regulation banning the use of these devices and end the practice of electric shocks in the name of treatment.
Support the DREAM Act.
The disability community supports the DREAM Act, which would restore protections and services under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA Program gives around 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children the opportunity to work and study in this country without the threat of deportation. DACA is critical for immigrants with disabilities. Some immigrants with disabilities are in the United States in order to receive disability related supports and care that are not available in their country of origin.
Support expanding the quota of vulnerable refugees with disabilities for resettlement in the US.
Refugees with disabilities have extra hurdles when accessing international aid and services in urban and camp environments. As the birthplace of the ADA, the US can play an important role in helping refugees with disabilities seek a life of independence and self-determination. Immigration and border protection officials should receive ongoing training on working with people with disabilities.
Oppose Legalizing Doctor Assisted Suicide.
Many disability rights organizations oppose the legalization of assisted suicide, which is a dangerous and harmful public policy, creating a discriminatory double standard under which some suicidal people get suicide prevention while others get suicide assistance, depending on their health and disability. When assisted suicide is legal, it’s the cheapest treatment available—an attractive option in our profit-driven healthcare system. Terminal diagnoses and prognoses are too often wrong, leading people to lose good years of their lives. If one doctor says “no,” people can “doctor shop” for another who says “yes.” No psychological evaluation is required, putting depressed people in danger. The highly touted “safeguards” turn out to be truly hollow, with no real enforcement or investigation authority. Assisted suicide is a prescription for abuse: an heir or abusive caregiver can steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and in the end, even administer the drug—no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know? Many other pressures exist that can cause people with compromised health to hasten their death. Evidence appears to show that assisted suicide laws also lead to suicide contagion, driving up the general suicide rate. People already have the right to good pain relief, including palliative sedation if dying in pain. Many important concerns are set forth in proposed House Concurrent Resolution 80, which should be supported, “Expressing the sense of the Congress that assisted suicide puts everyone, including those most vulnerable, at risk of deadly harm and undermines the integrity of the health care system.”
Support the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act.
The Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act (H.R. 5536 | S.3459) would make it easier for small businesses to become accessible to people with disabilities and help those businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, the bill would increase tax incentives for businesses to facilitate ADA compliance, increase funding for ADA mediators at the Department of Justice, and collect collect ADA Information Line Data from the Department of Justice to improve the ways individuals with disabilities and businesses learn about their rights and how facilities can become ADA-compliant.
Additional Information and Resources:
- Action Alert! The Disability Integration Act has been Introduced in the US Senate and House – AAPD
- The Olmstead Case – Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
- Understanding the Fair Housing Amendments Act – United Spinal Association
- Rights Task Force – Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
- Civil Rights and the ADA – National Council on Independent Living
- Civil Rights Issues for People with Disabilities – The Arc
- Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone – ADA.gov
- Disability Rights – American Civil Liberties Union
- Disability Rights Organizations Oppose the Nomination of Judge Gorsuch – an example of why judicial appointments are important
- Save the ADA: Resources to Combat ADA Notification Bills – Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
- Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) – Center for Public Representation
- Assisted Suicide Laws – Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
- Oregon State Assisted Suicide Reports Substantiate Critics’ Concerns – Not Dead Yet
The Civil and Human Rights section of the 2018 REV UP Issues Guide was published on June 25, 2018 and last updated on September 20, 2018. AAPD will do it’s best to keep this guide up-to-date as Executive and Legislative changes happen; however, we recommend double-checking Congress.gov, WhiteHouse.gov, or Google for the latest updates.