A Post-Election Hangover Remedy

Posted by Michael Collins in Life After Paralysis on December 01, 2016 # Advocacy and Policy



Some may consider democracy to be on its last legs, based on what they have just witnessed during this landmark election, but similar tensions and political surprises have existed throughout the lifespan of this country. The United States is still here, and we continue to push democracy as a type of governance for any country in this tumultuous world.

It makes no sense to turn our backs on democracy or drop out of actively participating in it when it has become most obvious that so many people no longer believe that the democratic process works. Dropping out will guarantee that democracy will not work, and we cannot afford that; more importantly, our children and grandchildren cannot afford for us to do that.

Fortunately for those of us who are disabled and living in the United States today, disability grants no immunity based on political party. Elected officials of all political persuasions have participated in helping draft and pass important disability rights laws, even if they did not have a disability themselves. That is because committed people with disabilities have worked within the party framework and followed the legislative process to assure that there was a good understanding of the need for a particular program or protection while also identifying routes that would guarantee that such ideas could become realities.

The birth of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a prime example of that.

Justin Dart is the acknowledged "Godfather of the ADA." Mr. Dart was an outspoken Republican whose circle of influence encompassed everyone within government including President George H.W. Bush, who signed the law in 1990.

Such landmark legislation does not "just happen." In order for any great idea to become a law requires backers on both sides of the political aisle or that idea will die a slow death. Justin Dart was effective because he never forgot the importance of his mission and was willing to spend his own money, and seemingly tireless energy, to twice travel throughout the country to educate the rest of us about the promise of the ADA.

Don't worry about being bored if you decide to get involved. There is much work that remains to be done, as this partial list of disability community priorities reveals; we need to:

-- prevent some types of mobility device accessories, like wheelchair cushions and similar items, from falling under the competitive bidding program of CMS (cms.gov). To accomplish that, support current legislation introduced for that purpose, “Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology” (H.R. 1516 and S. 1013).

-- work toward the enactment of the Disability Integration Act (S.2427). That law should also have an amendment or additional section added that eliminates the archaic homebound rule that governs CMS purchase of wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

-- convince Congress to fully fund the research budget of the National Institutes of Health.

-- protect quality healthcare that serves people with disabilities well. That includes maintaining the Community First Choice Option now found in the Affordable Care Act, and preventing privatization of Medicare.

-- stop movement toward "block granting" of Medicaid which would encourage states to forego the Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver optional services like personal care attendants.

As you can see, we cannot afford to have concerned members of the disability community sitting on the sidelines simply because an election may not have gone their way. Without their involvement, nothing will change and getting involved is not that difficult. During the upcoming midterm elections in 2018, there will be a significant number of congressional seats up for grabs. Candidates hoping to fill those positions will be seeking volunteers to assist in their campaigns between now and then.

The federal government is also holding one of the nation's largest job fairs, over 4,000 full or part-time positions, and some states with new governors are doing the same. Our newly elected President and those governors need to identify and recruit qualified individuals to staff their administrations or serve on the broad variety of boards, commissions and councils that exist to administer and protect the programs we rely on or require. They cannot locate those qualified individuals if their applications and resumes are not on file in the offices where personnel are tasked with doing most of the hiring.

The election is over, and it is time to crawl out from under the bed covers and get involved for the sake of everyone who is dealing with a disability or concerned about their futures. The next step should be to dust off your résumé and seek an appointment or employment; if that doesn't interest you, simply contact the local offices of your elected representatives to offer your counsel and support in dealing with any issues concerning disability.

We will all benefit from that involvement.