A Need to Pave the Way Worldwide: International Disability Rights

November 7, 2018 | Johileny Meran, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern

The world has put a microscope on my disability, labeling it as the ultimate challenge, a tragic side effect of an illness or freak accident, something to pray about. But in reality, the challenge is living in a society that refuses to acknowledge that everybody is different.

Born in the Dominican Republic, I saw no positive examples of successful individuals with physical disabilities. It is only now, in my young adult life, that I can accept my disability as a positive aspect of my identity. For perspectives to change, we need to write ourselves into popular narratives. One issue is the portrayal of disabled persons on television. We are usually portrayed as helpless, a secondary or background character. As a senior in high school, I received a scholarship from an award show on the Univision channel. Afterward,  at a basketball game, someone stopped me and asked if her son could take a picture with me. Through tears, she explained the powerful image of me on stage had encouraged him because he saw someone like him. A small act of representation can vastly change disability-focused media.

At the age of 8, I moved to the United States. Eleven years passed before I returned to the Dominican Republic. The difference was shocking. During my trip, I had to be dependent on family members. I couldn’t even step out of the house without two or three people helping to carry me out, and my wheelchair shortly behind me. I felt uncomfortable and discouraged by the reality that if I had grown up in my homeland, I would have never been able to accomplish the same level of independence. It shocked me to think of the stark difference my trajectory would’ve had. As my time on vacation in the Dominican Republic narrowed down, I thought about the kids that were growing up in that restrictive environment. I thought about the type of surroundings needed to develop empowered personalities.

This summer, I had the opportunity to learn about the Disability Integration Act (DIA), a piece of legislation that aims to ensures that disabled Americans have a right to live and receive services in their own homes. It contributes to the fundamental goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): assuring the full participation of people with disabilities by allowing individuals to live in the most integrated setting possible. The DIA is still in its primary stages of the legislative process, but both pieces of legislation assert the difference that resources and supports can have on an individual’s ability to be part of their community.

Since the ADA was signed into law, there have been several legal cases regarding certain aspects of the law that impact the lives of people with disabilities. However, other countries like the Dominican Republic don’t have fundamental legislation that affords these rights and supports to fully participate in their societies.

I am determined to be part of a change that guides other countries to offer essential opportunities to children with disabilities that will allow them to reach their full potential. I have decided the way to do this kind of advocacy work is by establishing a career in international disability rights. In the simplest of terms, I would make it my life’s work to ensure that the same rights afforded to able-bodied citizens are just as accessible.


* * *

Johileny Meran is a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. She interned with the National Disability Rights Network.

Action Alert! Congress is on August Recess… We have work to do!

August 18, 2017

On August 3, 2017, both the Senate and House of Representatives began their month-long recess and will be back in their home states and districts until after Labor Day. This comes after months of fierce and successful advocacy by our community to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid. Once again, thank you for all of your hard work and continued advocacy!

However, we are not done fighting just yet. We must take advantage of this opportunity to meet and engage with our senators and representatives at home to protect Medicaid, other essential healthcare services, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While we’re fighting to protect the rights we have, we must also work on passing the Disability Integration Act (DIA) – an act to ensure millions of Americans with disabilities have access to the services they need to live in the community.


Take Action

Healthcare and Medicaid

Even though recent attempts by the US Senate to repeal the ACA and cut Medicaid failed, there are still threats to the lives and liberty of people with disabilities. The Trump Administration’s budget proposal released in May calls for a 17% cut, or $877 billion reduction to Medicaid over 10 years. Today, Medicaid supports approximately 10 million non-elderly people with disabilities who will be adversely affected if Medicaid is cut or capped.

  • Thank your Members of Congress if they opposed the recent healthcare repeal efforts and ask them to continue to fight to protect Medicaid.
  • If your Members of Congress supported the recent healthcare repeal efforts remind them of the real and devastating impact their efforts would have on people with disabilities that lose healthcare.
  • Use the August Recess Toolkit from Families USA to engage your Members of Congress through events and meetings, Twitter, and letters to the editor.


The Disability Integration Act of 2017

The Disability Integration Act (DIA) would complement the ADA, accelerate the rate of people with disabilities leaving institutions, and expand access to home- and community-based services. For more information, visit www.DisabilityIntegrationAct.org.


The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (HR 620)

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) would seriously weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by delaying requirements that businesses be accessible to people with disabilities. The proposed legislation requires a person with a disability to give businesses with accessibility barriers a written notice of the barrier, after which the business has 60 days to even acknowledge there is a problem, and then another 120 days to begin to fix it. No other civil rights group is forced to wait 180 days to enforce their civil rights! There are currently 21 Democratic and Republican representatives co-sponsoring this legislation.

  • If your Representative is a current co-sponsor of the bill ask them to reconsider their support if they believe in equal rights and equal access for people with disabilities.
  • If your Representative is not a current co-sponsor of the bill thank them for not signing-on and underscore why this bill weakens the ADA and threatens the rights of people with disabilities.
  • Use talking points from AAPD’s Action Alert: Tell Congress Not to Weaken the ADA!


Engage your Members of Congress


Participate in town halls or other events

You can find public events for senators and representatives all across the country thanks to the Town Hall Project. Make sure that Medicaid, independence, and civil rights for people with disabilities are raised during these events. Sharing personal stories can be particularly impactful.


Call your Senators and Representatives

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senators or Representative. Contacting Congress also provides phone numbers for the DC and state offices of each Member.


Tweet your Senators and Representatives

Twitter has become a powerful political tool and is another way you can interact with your Members of Congress.


Additional Resources

Action Alert! The Disability Integration Act has been Introduced in the US Senate and House

May 24, 2017

About a month after Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) re-introduced the Disability Integration Act (DIA) of 2017 (S. 910) in the US Senate, Representative James F. Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5) introduced the US House of Representatives version (H.R. 2472). If passed into law, the DIA will require states to provide people with disabilities with the opportunity of living and participating in the community without discrimination through the strengthened use of long-term services and supports, such as personal care assistants, accessible housing, etc. as an effort to end institutionalization for people with disabilities.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. As the Committee reviews the legislation, it is essential that we as a community reach out to Members of Congress to inform them of the importance of the inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of society as well as to encourage them to support the DIA  and become a co-sponsor.

View the American Sign Language (ASL) version of this Action Alert.


Current Senate Co-Sponsors

  • Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) [Sponsor]
  • Sen. Casey, Robert P., Jr. (D-PA)
  • Sen. Warren, Elizabeth (D-MA)
  • Sen. Baldwin, Tammy (D-WI)
  • Sen. Leahy, Patrick J. (D-VT)


Current House Co-Sponsors

  • Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5) [Sponsor]
  • Rep. Conyers, John, Jr. (D-MI-13)
  • Rep. Slaughter, Louise McIntosh (D-NY-25)
  • Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes (D-DC-At Large)
  • Rep. Tonko, Paul (D-NY-20)
  • Rep. Blunt Rochester, Lisa (D-DE-At Large)
  • Rep. Ruppersberger, C. A. Dutch (D-MD-2)
  • Rep. Lieu, Ted (D-CA-33)
  • Rep. Cohen, Steve (D-TN-9)
  • Rep. Jackson Lee, Sheila (D-TX-18)
  • Rep. DeGette, Diana (D-CO-1)
  • Rep. Clay, Wm. Lacy (D-MO-1)
  • Rep. Moore, Gwen (D-WI-4)
  • Rep. DeFazio, Peter A. (D-OR-4)
  • Rep. O’Rourke, Beto (D-TX-16)
  • Rep. Davis, Danny K. (D-IL-7)
  • Rep. Doggett, Lloyd (D-TX-35)
  • Rep. Brady, Robert A. (D-PA-1)


Take Action

Participate in town halls or other events

You can find public events for Members of Congress all across the country thanks to the Town Hall Project. Make sure that the DIA and the importance of community inclusion for people with disabilities are raised during these events. Sharing personal community inclusion stories can be particularly impactful.


Contact your Senators and Representative

Contacting Congress allows you to easily search for your Member of Congress and access multiple methods to contact them (phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Call your Senators and Representative through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Despite multiple methods of communications, congressional offices respond best to in-person meetings and phone calls.

Tweet your Senator

Tweet your Representative

Sample Tweet:

[insert handle of your Senator/Representative] please support the Disability Integration Act & the right for people w/ disabilities to live in their community! #DIAToday


Additional Resources

Information and Resources on Disability Integration Act of 2017
This website provides useful information and resources on how to show support for the DIA and take action.


Our Sponsors