Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Staff Perspective: A New Understanding

By Jenna Drollette, CDPAP Assistant

For most of my life I have had numerous encounters with people who are “differently abled.” I've seen many of their struggles. But I have never experienced them first hand. I have always experienced them by observing and assisting. Which allowed me to have compassion and empathy but limited my ability to have a full understanding of how they view the world as someone who is distinctive. This only partially prepared me for today's undertaking. Or so I thought. My friend Jacky, who lives her daily life in the “differently abled” community, and I decided to conduct an experiment to help me see things from her perspective.

I started the day with a struggle right off. The sidewalks had a layer of snow on them that was quite difficult to propel a wheelchair through. My hands were cold, and it took quite a bit of my strength, but I pushed through it. A few times during the day people that knew about this project asked me; why I chose the day after a snowstorm to do this, or why didn't I wait until the spring. Honestly, I did have a choice. I could have waited for a nicer day. But I simply told them that someone who is “differently abled” doesn't have the choice. I wanted to get the full experience, no matter what the obstacle may be.

3 dimensional stick figure in a wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs
Once we arrived at the Angell College Center (ACC) from Macdonough Hall, we headed to get breakfast. One of the first things I noticed, while we waited in line to order our food, was the way people reacted around us. Some would stare in what seemed like wonder, and some looked and then looked away or put their head down and avoided looking again. When Jacky and I first met, when she was a freshman, I had noticed this reaction in people. As the semesters passed the looks seemed to dissipate. Was it because they eventually got comfortable with her there? Maybe. Today was very similar to then. A new person that is different. Should we look? Should we avoid because she is visibly different? Only people who recognized me, and people I had spoken to before approached me and asked questions.

The snow on the sidewalk and the strange looks were just some challenges I faced throughout the day. The doors I came upon seemed to be problematic for me as well. I have a new appreciation for the automatic/power doors that allow for easier access into a building. Unfortunately, not all the doors had buttons and not all the buttons to open the doors worked. When I came upon the first power door with a dead button, at Kehoe, I was kind of shocked and a bit angry at the fact that one of the few accessible entrances was not accessible. I struggled to open a heavy door without the aid of my body weight to pull. Then I struggled to hold the door with one hand and maneuver my wheelchair into the doorway. Luckily, a young man came over and did his best to hold the door for Jacky and I. That young man was the first stranger to offer help when there was an obvious struggle.

For the next few hours I was around people who I have spoken to before, or have seen before. Most were Jacky's classmates, and know I am with Jacky often. So my next undertaking was my lack of comfort. As I said earlier, I was trying to get the full experience. So I had done my best to not use my legs to aid me in any way. I would move my feet slightly on the foot rests, but I didn't stand up or cross my legs like I usually do for comfort. Sitting in one position for so many hours was becoming slightly painful. All I allowed myself to do was use my arms to lift my bottom off the seat to a different spot. But there was really nowhere to move to ease my discomfort. For me, this was a challenge. Being able bodied, when my body gets uncomfortable or in pain, I can easily change position or stretch to feel better. But, again, to get everything from this experience, I endured it.

I found myself experiencing an array of emotions throughout the day. I started the day with a fierce determination, even when I was faced with the difficult task of pushing myself through the snow. After coming across more people, experienced confusion and then taken aback by their reaction to me. Coming to the dead door button, I was shocked, defeated, and angry that this is the reality for many who are “differently abled.” I was happy and relieved to find that there were some people who would provide assistance, but was disappointed that the number was so few. The majority of people would just pass by, when they witness me struggling. At the end of the day I was still determined, but I was exhausted too.

Overall, I found that throughout my experiences, and with my awareness of some of the struggles Jacky faces, I was given a deeper sense on how much I don’t understand. I have come to see that I have taken my ableness for granted, in some sense. In reflection, I have come to realize that a day in a wheelchair, for me, is just that. I am an able bodied person, and will only be able to get the full experience if I am not. But I now possess a deeper knowledge of this life. I have a grown admiration for the life of a person who is “differently abled.” Through this experience, I found that I am now changed. I have a new view on the world, and I am humbled by it. These people face many struggles, but they aren’t defined by them. People are not one dimensional beings, we are made up of multiple identities and experiences. A physical aid does not define a person, but is just one facet of a multitude of their identities.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Make A Year-End Donation to the NCCI Homecoming Fund

Photo of four letter blocks lined up to read: "GIVE"

As 2017 draws to a close, it's a good time to make charitable donations. We hope you will consider contributing to the NCCI Homecoming Fund. This online GoFundMe campaign is an opportunity to make a valuable local, small-scale donation that helps disabled people get out of nursing homes and hospitals, and make a smooth transition into their own homes.

Click here to give to the NCCI Homecoming Fund at GoFundMe.com.

The NCCI Homecoming Fund helps pay for:

• Kitchen supplies
• Bed and bathroom supplies
• Furniture
• Adaptive equipment
• Startup groceries

It also helps us pay for storage space for these purchased supplies and donated items that we can then give to people with disabilities making what can be a difficult, but exciting move back to independence in our community.

Help us out! It doesn't take a large donation to make a big difference. And whether you give or not, please share this with friends and family who might be interested.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! in festive red lettering, with gold colored bells decorated with red ribbons

Happy Holidays, from everyone at the North Country Center for Independence!

The NCCI office will be closed for Christmas on Friday, December 22nd and Monday, December 25th ... and for New Year's on Friday, December 29th and Monday, January 1st.

Note that time sheets for the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program need to be in by December 19th at 12 noon, and January 2nd by 12 noon.

Finally, here is an excellent article with tips on how to make all kinds of holiday parties and events accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities:

‘Tis the Season for Inclusive Holiday Festivities
Rooted In Rights - December 15, 2017

Best wishes!

Monday, December 11, 2017

New Year Resolutions

Long Term Care Ombudsman Forum
January 4th at 5:30 PM
North Country Center for Independence
80 Sharron Ave, Plattsburgh, New York

At this time of year you may find yourself asking, “Where has the year gone?” Thoughts of what will my resolution for the New Year be? Commitments such as this is the year I will lose the extra pounds or exercise may quickly fade as we lose sight of our goal because results are slow to come. Our nature is to seek immediate gratification as it makes us feel good.

So why not make a resolution that will give you gratification each and every time you do it? Why not choose to feed your soul rather than your empty stomach? This year choose to be a volunteer and make a difference in someone’s life. There is nothing more gratifying than putting a smile on someone’s face or helping to resolve a situation or helping them seek answers. Long-term Care Ombudsman do that every day.

New York State Of Opportunity -- Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman logoYou may be saying right now Ombud what??? Om-buds-man. This is a person that advocates, educates and empowers residents in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult and family type homes. As an ombudsman you visit a local facility and assist in being the voice for a resident who may not be able to advocate for themselves. Many of our residents no longer have anyone that comes to visit them. As an ombudsman you are able to fill some of this void by listening to resident’s stories and bringing a smile to the face of someone who may feel that no one cares anymore. A certified volunteer ombudsman meets people from all walks of life and has the honor of being a part in a chapter of their lives that enriches it by being a caring advocate.

The ombudsman program covers Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.  We cover 27 facilities in which there are over 1,500 residents. Currently we are at a critical low number of advocates with far more facilities than we have volunteers. This is truly a volunteer commitment. So you may be asking, “How do I get involved?”

Step one is getting more information. If you like what you hear then you shadow a certified ombudsman in a facility to see if this is truly something that will be a good fit for you. If you say yes, and we love when you do, then you take the certification training. Finally you are mentored by an experienced ombudsman until you become certified and get assigned to a facility.

Why not take the first step and at least hear more about this volunteer opportunity? A forum will be held on January 4, 2018 at 5:30 pm at the North Country Center for Independence located at 80 Sharrron Ave (next to the VA clinic) in Plattsburgh. If you find that this is not the commitment you are looking for then we can refer you to one of the many other volunteer opportunities available if you are interested.

As you sit and reflect on the year and ask yourself questions such as, did I make a difference this year?  Was I able to reach out and assist someone in need? Do I want to stand up for resident’s rights and fill my heart with one of the most amazing volunteer opportunities there is? If this is calling to you, then please reach out to get more information on becoming a volunteer ombudsman. If you are unable to attend the forum please contact Amy Gehrig, Ombudsman Coordinator, at 518-562-1732 to set up a time to discuss the program and your potential involvement.

Why not try something new for 2018? Dieter Uchtdorf says it perfectly, “As we lose ourselves in the services of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.” Become a volunteer ombudsman.  Pay it forward and BE the difference. Hey, you may even lose some pounds

Call Amy Gehrig, Long Term Care Ombudsman: 518-562-1732

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Action Alert: Call In Day on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017

ACTION ALERT in bold white letters on a dark red background

This Action Alert is based on information from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities and the Center for Public Representation ...

Join people with disabilities, our families, and advocates around the country on Monday, December 11th, for a national call-in day to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).
The Senate and House have each passed versions of the TCJA and the bill is in a conference committee to come up with the final bill. THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE TO MAKE OUR OPPOSITION HEARD TO THIS #TaxOnDisability
This bill will hurt people with disabilities.
* It dramatically cuts the revenue needed to fund Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, housing, and other services that benefit people with disabilities.

* The over $1 trillion cut in revenue is the “pay for” for tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.

* Members of Congress who support this bill have already said that they next plan to make cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs on which people with disabilities rely to address the increased deficit caused by this bill.

* The bills themselves have provisions that directly hurt people with disabilities. It eliminates tax deductions and credits that help people with disabilities pay for high medical expenses, work, access housing, and get medication.

* It repeals the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that everyone have health insurance. This will cause premiums for people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions to increase, leaving heath insurance unaffordable for millions. 
Help us send a loud and clear message that this legislation is unacceptable!

After you call: email, write, or tweet!
You can RSVP and invite friends using the Facebook event.
You can find a list of Congress members to contact here.
Note that Representative Elise Stefanik is on this list. She voted "No" on the original House bill, and needs to hear again the issues with the bill now, especially how it would affect people with disabilities.
Elise Stefanik @RepStefanik
DC: (202) 225-4611 
Glens Falls (518) 743-0964 
Plattsburgh (518) 561-2324 
Watertown (315) 782-3150
Additional Resources

Fact Sheet: How to Call Your Elected Officials (Autistic Self Advocacy Network)
Event Sponsors

American Association of People with Disabilities
Autism Society
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Center for Public Representation
Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
Justice in Aging
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
National Council on Independent Living
National Disability Rights Network
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Health Law Program

Monday, December 4, 2017

Action Alert: Last Chance to Stop the Dangerous Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

ACTION ALERT in white bold letters over a dark red background
Update on the original Action Alert below, from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities:

As we emailed over the weekend, it is critical that we keep up the advocacy against the tax bill with the House. The report that we got from the Hill this morning is that targets in the House were pounded with opposition to the bill over the weekend.  Keep it up! Re timing of the bill, we know that a vote in the House is scheduled for 6 pm today.  While the intel we are getting is that the vote is likely going to be to set up a conference, it still is possible that the House could just vote to accept the Senate bill.  And the timing of a conference is complicated by the other work that Congress needs to do this week to keep the government open.  We'll be sending another update late today.

In case it is helpful to your advocacy, here is the CCD fact sheet on the worst impacts of the tax bill on people with disabilities; here is a link to call, email, and with talking points; and here is a recent alert from AAPD with lots of resources.

CCD Fiscal Policy Task Force


This Action Alert comes from the American Association of People with Disabilities:

Early Saturday morning (around 2am Eastern Time), the Senate passed their version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This vote in the middle of the night left little to no time for other Members of Congress and the general public to review the content of the bill. Since the House of Representatives passed their version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) in mid-November, the House and Senate must now reconcile their versions of the bill. This is expected to happen in Conference Committee starting today. It is also possible that the House will pass the Senate’s version of the bill as is.

Either way, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is very close to reaching President Trump’s desk and becoming law. NOW is the time to call your Representative and tell them to OPPOSE this dangerous bill!

The Senate tax bill is extremely dangerous to the well-being of people with disabilities.
  • Tax cuts open the door for cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, and other services that benefit people with disabilities. While neither the House nor Senate tax bill includes direct cuts to these services, cuts are expected to follow to offset the $1.5 trillion added to the deficit due to providing large tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Medicaid and other disability services were the target of intense cuts over the summer through the various Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bills proposed in the House and Senate. There is no doubt that these same services remain on the chopping block to help pay for the proposed tax cuts.
  • The Senate bill eliminates the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate. The individual mandate helps make health insurance affordable. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 13 million people would lose access to affordable coverage by 2027 if the individual mandate were eliminated. Furthermore, insurance premiums would rise by 10%, which amounts to an increase of hundreds of dollars per year for nearly 7 million middle-income Americans and by over $1,000 per year for seniors, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
  • The Senate bill benefits the wealthiest Americans while the poorest would be worse off. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report which found that Americans earning less than $100,000 a year would, ultimately, not benefit from the proposed tax cuts. According to a Washington Post analysis of the CBO report, “By 2019, Americans earning less than $30,000 a year would be worse off under the Senate bill, CBO found. By 2021, Americans earning $40,000 or less would be net losers, and by 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 a year would be worse off. On the flip side, millionaires and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 would be big beneficiaries, according to the CBO’s calculations.”
The House bill is also damaging as it proposes to eliminate several tax deductions and credits that benefit people with disabilities. These include:
  • The Medical Expense Deduction: This tax deduction allows people to deduct large, unreimbursed medical and dental expenses that exceed 10% of their income. Approximately 8.8 million people utilize this deduction, 70% of which have an income at $70,000 or lower. Most filings are around $10,000 by people with high healthcare costs, which largely includes people with disabilities, chronic health conditions, and other medical conditions. People are allowed to deduct expenses for a variety of expenses including treatments, surgeries, medications, and medical travel.
  • The Disabled Access Credit and Barrier Removal Tax Deduction: Businesses that accommodate people with disabilities may qualify for tax credits and deductions including the Disabled Access Credit and the Barrier Removal Tax Deduction. This credit and deduction incentivizes small businesses to make their businesses accessible for disabled people. Small businesses can claim a 50% credit per year for expenditures between $250 and $10,250 that increase access and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • The Work Opportunity Tax Credit: This federal tax credit is available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups (including disabled people who receive services from Vocational Rehabilitation, SSI recipients, returning citizens, veterans, and long-term unemployment compensation recipients) who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. The current tax credit for hiring a person with a disability can be as high as $2,400 for a business.
The final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could contain any of these harmful provisions from the Senate and House bills.

While neither tax bill includes direct cuts to Medicaid or other disability services, these cuts are expected to follow to offset the roughly $1.5 trillion added to the deficit due to providing large tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Medicaid and other disability services were the target of intense cuts over the summer through the various Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bills proposed in the House and Senate. There is no doubt that these same services remain on the chopping block to help pay for the proposed tax cuts.

Take Action

Contact your Representative and tell them to oppose this bill!

What to say:

  • Please vote NO on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
  • This tax bill will hurt people with disabilities and their families.
  • Tax reform should not be rushed. People should have time to understand the legislation and how they will be affected.
  • Services that benefit people with disabilities and low-income Americans – such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Supplemental Security Income – are in danger of losing funding to help pay for these proposed tax cuts.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate will reduce access and increase costs for people with disabilities and all Americans.

Call your Representative

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY) and ask to be connected to your Representative.

Email your Representative

Contacting Congress
 provides unique links to email your Representative directly.

Tweet your Representative

Twitter has become a powerful tool to communicate with elected officials directly. Find your Congress Members on Twitter and tell them to oppose these bills.

Sample Tweets to Fights Against Disability Attacks in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) (developed by Access Living)

  • 8.8 million households claimed medical deductions in 2015. Eliminating deduction vital to people with high medical costs is a #TaxOnDisability.
  • Taking away medical deductions from seniors with greater medical needs, people with disabilities, and families with disabled kids is a #TaxOnDisability.
  • Average deduction claimed is close to $10K; cost of long-term care could be $100K or more. Keep deduction, no to #TaxOnDisability
  • #TCJA eliminates incentive for businesses to hire people with disabilities, including older Americans with disabilities. No to #TaxOnDisability
  • Current tax credit for hiring a person with a disability can be as high as $2,400; ending the Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a #TaxOnDisability
  • Eliminating orphan drug tax credit is a #TaxOnDisability. Older Americans and people with disabilities are more likely to have a rare disease or condition #TCJA
  • Eliminating small business tax credit for increasing accessibility to employees with disabilities, older workers, and customers is a #TaxOnDisability
  • The #TCJA may result in older Americans and individuals with disabilities paying more taxes on Social Security benefits.
  • If seniors and individuals with disabilities can’t deduct medical expenses, many may need to use tax-deferred accounts. No to #TaxOnDisability
  • #TCJA could kill investments in underserved communities that provide people with disabilities a place to live. No to #TaxOnDisability
  • Eliminating deduction of state/local income, sales taxes from federal taxable income would squeeze state budgets No to #TaxOnDisability
  • #TCJA could force massive cuts that block grant #Medicaid and damage state programs for people with disabilities. No to #TaxOnDisability
  • Tax Bill Disability Tweets – Center for Public Representation

Additional Resources