ACTION ALERT: Increase federal funding for the Independent Living Program

The following is an action alert from the New York Association on Independent Living and the National Council on Independent Living.

President Obama’s FY16 budget was released today, and it includes a request for $111 million for the Independent Living Program. This is a $5 million increase over the FY15 enacted level, and it is the first time in many years that such a request has been made.

NCIL has been pushing Congress and the administration to invest an additional $200 million in the Independent Living Program. While we are happy to see the president’s budget requests an increase, it certainly does not go far enough. Furthermore, the president’s budget is only a request, and these increases need to make their way into the House and Senate budget resolutions, as well. For this to happen, Congress needs to hear from you!

TAKE ACTION: Call or visit your senators and representatives and ask them to increase funding to the Independent Living Program by an additional $200 million in the FY16 budget. Help them to better understand how vital the Independent Living Program is to their constituents around the country.
You can locate your representative here.

Additional information: The president’s budget intends to strengthen middle class economics, and the administration has acknowledged that Americans with disabilities must share in the nation’s economic prosperity. The White House has released a fact sheet entitled Expanding Opportunities for People with Disabilities (PDF) that outlines how the president’s budget works toward that. In addition to the Independent Living Program funding increase, there are specific focuses on extending the Money Follows the Person rebalancing demonstration and expanding eligibility for the Community First Choice and 1915 (I) HCBS state plan options. Additionally, the budget addresses transition for youth with disabilities, improvements to the VR system, access to HCBS long-term services and supports through ADRCs, HUD Section 811 expansion, and new transit investments.

Let lever voting machines sunset

For many of the people who make up the American electorate, casting a vote is a routine errand on Election Day. Typically, it goes something like this: Park the car, walk inside, check in, walk to a machine, press a few buttons, leave. Ten minutes well-spent on an important day in our democracy.

If you live in New York and have a disability, however, it’s entirely possible that your voting experience won’t be quite as clean as the scenario described above — at least in the case of local elections.

Why? Because New York State continues to allow lever voting machines to be used in local and school elections.

This fact might not seem significant, but for people with some disabilities, lever machines pose a serious barrier to voting. Sure, they can ask for help from the poll worker or a caregiver, but shouldn’t all voters be allowed to privately cast their ballots?

It’s time for New York to follow the spirit of the Help America Vote Act, which became law in 2002. We must ensure that voting is accessible to all eligible New Yorkers, and implementing accessible voting machines in ALL elections is a huge piece to that puzzle.

Lever voting machines in New York were supposed to ride off into the sunset two years ago, but the Legislature took action to extend inaccessible voting. Like most things, it came down to cost.

Many lawmakers and disability advocates have the issue on their radars, but more work needs to be done. If you’d like to help rid the state of inaccessible voting machines, contact your local state representative. Reps of the Elmira-Corning area can be found here. Or find your senator and assemblyman.