Note: This is the full-length version of AAPD’s January 2024 policy update. AAPD sends out a shortened version to its mailing list each month. If you have feedback or questions, or have any access issues, please email Jess Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the AAPD Policy Team
Michael Lewis, Vice President of Policy
Michael Lewis joined the AAPD team in December 2023, and serves as AAPD’s new Vice President of Policy. Michael has spent over a decade working in disability rights for a variety of organizations. His passion for disability policy advocacy stems from his experience as an individual with cerebral palsy. He grew up in Chapel Hill, NC and received his undergraduate degree from the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a Master of Arts in Government from Regent University. He is a diehard Tar Heels fan and lives in northern Virginia with his wife and five children.
Rachita Singh, Senior Policy Associate
Rachita Singh has been with AAPD’s team since 2021. She came to AAPD through her interest in voting access for the disability community, which got her involved in REV UP. Prior to joining the AAPD staff, Rachita spent a summer with AAPD through a Google Policy fellowship program.
Prior to this, she earned her Master’s in Public Policy at Duke University. Rachita’s desire to work in disability policy started from her passion for helping people and solving problems, as well as her personal experience living with epilepsy. She was born, raised, and lives in Northern Virginia and is a self-proclaimed member of the Beyhive.
Supreme Court Decision in Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer
On December 5, 2023, The U.S. Supreme Court released its decision to dismiss as moot the matter of Acheson Hotels, LLC. v. Laufer. The case was brought by Deborah Laufer, who is a wheelchair user and a “tester,” which means she volunteers to put herself in situations where she may experience discrimination. Ms. Laufer sued the Coast Village Hotel in Maine (owned by Acheson Hotels at the time) for failing to provide accessibility information on its website, as required by the ADA’s reservation rule. AAPD was relieved by and glad for the decision, as the Read AAPD’s statement on the decision here.
The Wall Street Journal ran a letter to the editor from AAPD President and CEO Maria Town that stressed the importance of testers in enforcing civil rights for all. Previously, the editorial board praised Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in the case, in which he argued that he would have gone farther than the majority and found that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not permit “testers” like Deborah Laufer to enforce their civil rights. The letter was published in the December 17 issue of the Journal. Read it here.
White House Visit
On December 12, 2023, the White House Domestic Policy Council convened stakeholders for a discussion about the historic $40 billion investment in Home- and Community-Based Services as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as the need for more investment to address the dire shortage of direct support and care professionals. AAPD President and CEO Maria Town and Policy Michael Lewis attended the covening.
AAPD Comments on the American Community Survey
AAPD submitted comments responding to the U.S. Census Bureau’s proposal to change the current disability questions in the American Community Survey (ACS). The proposed adoption would exacerbate the underrepresentation of disabled people in the ACS. Data from the ACS is used to set funding levels for vital programs that people with disabilities rely on, such as Medicaid and housing assistance. AAPD emphasized that the Census Bureau must consult with the disability community to devise any revisions to the disability-related questions in the ACS. Read our comments here.
Comments to OMB on AI
AAPD submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget on their memorandum to federal agencies regarding the use of Artificial Intelligence. AAPD emphasized the importance of consulting members of the disability community, hiring technology professionals with disabilities, and engaging experts in disability policy before agencies implement the use of AI platforms to ensure such technology does not discriminate against disabled people. Read our comments here.
Press Conference with Bishop William Barber II
AAPD President and CEO Maria Town joined Rev. Bishop William Barber II for a press conference after Bishop Barber had the police called on him by the manager of an AMC movie theater in Greenville, NC, for attempting to access and attend a movie in his own wheelchair. Bishop Barber has a disability and had attempted to bring his own, specialized chair into the accessible seating section of the theater where he and his 90-year-old mother were seeing The Color Purple. Read Maria’s remarks here.
REV UP Updates
REV UP stands for “Register, Educate, Vote, Use your Power!” and is AAPD’s program focused on building the power of the disability vote through increasing civic engagement in the disability community and improving the accessibility of elections. Learn more on the REV UP website.
2024 is off to a busy start for the REV UP network! Please continue to check our resources and efforts to ensure our elections are accessible to all on AAPD’s Election Engagement Hub throughout the 2024 election. Here are just a few highlights from the work REV UP is doing:
Presidential Election and Voting Kickoffs
This week AAPD sent letters to the chairs of both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee addressing ableism in the race thus far. Ableism is never acceptable, and this should be especially true in the race for the highest office in the country. Read the letters here.
We also sent a memo to all major American television news networks this week, regarding accessibility and disability in the 2024 election, with important recommendations and information. The memo can be read here.
AAPD covered accessibility and the Iowa Caucuses with help from Piper Haugun, of Disability Rights Iowa.
We also received our first response to our 2024 Disability Presidential Candidate Questionnaire from Governor Asa Hutchinson. Governor Hutchinson has since dropped out of the race, but we are grateful for his engagement and looking forward to hearing from more candidates.
Check Vote411 for election dates in your state!
AAPD submitted comments, alongside 20 other organizations, to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on their 2024 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). The EAVS policy survey collects data on voting policies across states, and can be an important opportunity to learn more about the disability vote. We commended the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on the addition of several new questions that will provide useful information about accessible voting options, and suggested further additions to collect more data on accessibility. Read the comments here.
As part of its work to implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the FCC recently held a listening session on digital discrimination. AAPD testified at the listening session and filed comments during the digital discrimination rulemaking process. Those comments can be found here.
AAPD is working with Communication First, TDI and the NACDD to improve access to Assistive and Augmentative Communication devices some people with a range of disabilities can access and use a broadband connection for communication purposes.