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Legislation: National and Around the World - 2014 Archives

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New Sign December 16th, 2014 - the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 by a vote of 76 to 16. - Important Legislation for people with disabilities and their families, for the option to save up to $14,000 in a tax free savings account, without losing public assistance.

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act will allow people with disabilities (with an age of onset up to 26 years old) and their families the opportunity to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for maintaining health, independence and quality of life. In the past if you were born with Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida you were only allowed to keep $2000 to maintain eligibility for public assistance. Your parents could not save for costs related to raising a child with significant disabilities or a working age adult with disabilities. The ABLE savings account will allow individuals to supplement that which assistance will not cover for accessible housing and transportation, personal assistance services, assistive technology and health care not covered by insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. You will have the option to save up to $14,000 in a tax-free savings account, eliminating the $2,000 asset cap SSI and SSDI beneficiaries face. This could finally mean financial freedom!! The individual states will need to set up an ABLE program and hopefully you will be able to set up an account by the end of 2015. See the National Disability Institute's article on the passage of this bill.

New Sign September 23, 2014 - National Voter Registration Day

Gubanatorial, Senatorial, Congressional elections will be happening November 4th, 2014. Are you registered to vote at your current address? If not, take a little time to get registered today. Not sure if you're registered? Want to know more about how to register or how to help a friend get registered? Check your local community calendar or municipal website to find out about voter registration events near you!

New Sign October 2014 - Upon retirement, Senator Tom Harkin will leave lasting disability rights legacy

If you are an American with a disability, you should surely join us in thanking Tom Harkin for his 40-plus years of public service. Just about every piece of contemporary disability legislation has Senator Harkin’s mark on it. He is OUR advocate! He has championed our cause, fighting for our rights in education, employment, housing, community inclusion, independent living, and health care. He stood up for us not because it was popular, but because it was right. Because, including people with disabilities is good for America! Though we still have a long way to go, we have come this far, thanks in large part to Senator Harkin’s passion for, and commitment to equality.

Here is just a small summary of all that Senator Harkin has accomplished on behalf of Americans with disabilities:

  • Authored the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – the civil rights act for people with disabilities that expanded access to education, employment, and the community at large

  • Authored the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 - required all TVs to be capable of providing closed captioning

  • Co-sponsored the 1997 and 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - ensured that early childhood special education services were available to children starting at age 3

  • Authored the Community First Choice (CFC) Option within the Affordable Care Act – allowed states to create programs that care for people in their homes and apartments instead of nursing homes

  • Advocated for increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities during twelve hearings and four HELP Committee reports between 2010 and 2014

  • Led the passage of the 2014 reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act – designed to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities in competitive integrated settings

    Though he is retiring from the public sector, Senator Harkin will continue to work on behalf of marginalized Americans via the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University.

    September 18, 2014 - Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities

    This report from the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions describes that although we have made progress since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are still twice as many people with disabilities who are unemployed or living in poverty and unable to achieve full equality in American society. Read the HELP Committee Report with an introduction from Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa)

    August 25, 2014 - Mental Health First Aid Act

    has been introduced in Congress By Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) To learn more: Article on Mental Health First Aid Act on The Hill

    August 8, 2014 - The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act or Autism CARES Act of 2014 has passed the U.S. Senate and was signed by President Obama

    Autism CARES Act of 2014 reautherizes the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize research, prevalence monitoring, and education activities and services related to autism spectrum disorders (autism) conducted by various agencies within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The authorizes $1.5 billion in funding for fiscal years 2015-2019. This investment has helped to support progress in key research areas such as identifying risk factors, treatments and interventions, services, and data collection. The Department of Health and Human Services also supports the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, which trains health professionals from a variety of disciplines in evidence-based ASD practice and also supports states in developing and improving the system of health care for autism spectrum disorders, including early identification and coordination of care. For more information on the new legislation, visit the article at the The Whitehouse Blog. For more information on the work of the U.S. HHS on Autism, visit U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Our commitment to Supporting Individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their Families

    June 2014 - The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014 has passed the U.S. House of Representatives

    Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014 is a bill that would amend the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize research, surveillance, and education activities related to autism spectrum disorders (autism) conducted by various agencies within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The bill authorizes $1.3 billion in funding for fiscal years 2015-2019, otherwise assistance to these servies would expire on October 1, 2014. This bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate must now approve the bill.

    March 2014 - Senator Warren has introduced a new bill for individuals who receive SSI

    Senators are proposing a new bill for individuals who receive SSI. The new bill calls for the asset limit to increase from $2,000 to $10,000 and eliminates restrictions that currently disallow friends and family from providing financial, food and housing support. This would be a historic raise as the last raise of asset limit was 1989. For more information visit the article at Senators Raise SSI Asset Limits

    Advocacy Alert! 2014 - February - Ask Your Senators to Keep Students Safe article from DAWN

    Senator Harkin introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the US Senate, February 12. The act has been deferred to committee. The act would limit seclusion and restraint in schools. As students with disabilities are the most apt to be secluded and restrained, disability advocates are hoping you will contact your Senator and let him know how you feel about these often hurtful and harmful practices. Once more research is showing that more positive approaches for working with students are far more successful in helping students. For more information about this Act, visit Ask Your Senators to Keep Students Safe

    Advocacy Alert! 2014 - February - President Obama signed Minimum Wage Executive Order to Include People with Disabilities

    Executive Order - Minimum Wage for all future Contractor and subcontractor workers to include people with disabilities establishing a $10.10 per hour minimum wage starting January 1, 2015. "14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows for workers with disabilities to be paid subminimum wage. This law dates back to 1938 and has been used by sheltered workshops where people with disabilities are segregated from other workers and can be paid as little as pennies per hour for doing the same work as employees without disabilities. About 95% of Americans with disabilities working for subminimum wage are employed at sheltered workshops, and about 420,000 workers with disabilities are being paid subminimum wage under the 14(c) program." (AAPD) We congratulate President Obama for equalizing pay for people with disabilities. Legislation is now pending in Congress that would phase out the 14(c) program, effectively ending the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wage. Now is the time to let your legislators know how you feel about making equal pay as those without disabilities. You can also sign a petition thanking the President and Secretary Perez for signing the Executive Order but also asking that they come out publicly in favor of phasing out and ending Section 14(c) and subminimum wage for people with disabilities. This form is published through the Autistic Advocacy organization.

    Advocacy Alert! 2014 - January - Section 508 Amendment Rehabilitation Act

    The White House is seeking your input and expertise on the Section 508 Strategic Plan. Join the national dialogue on the strategy to improve the management of the Section 508 program. Read comments, view summaries and join the dialogue if you have ideas about breaking barriers to information technology.

    What is the Section 508 program? "In 1998 the US Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others." (Wikipedia, 02/03/2014)

    2014 - January - Department of Justices' Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Mediation Program informally resolves ADA complaints

    The Department of Justice's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Mediation Program (the Program) informally resolves ADA complaints, allowing parties – the person who filed the complaint and the business or local government named in the complaint – to develop mutually agreed upon solutions that comply with the ADA. Since its inception, the Program has mediated more than 4,000 complaints nationwide, with 78% of them resulting in successful resolutions. Using professional ADA-trained mediators throughout the United States, the Program provides a confidential, voluntary way to resolve ADA complaints fairly and quickly. The Program greatly expands the reach of the ADA and the speed with which alleged violations are resolved at minimum expense through a partnership between the Department of Justice and the mediation contractor, the Key Bridge Foundation. Visit this overview about the Mediation Program

    Advocacy Alert! 2013 - December - U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — Federal government has shown great development as a model employer for people with disabilities!

    The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, people with disabilities were hired at a higher percentage than at any point in the past 32 years. Additionally, people with targeted disabilities were hired at a higher percentage than at any time in the past 17 years. This success has also led to more people with disabilities serving in federal service than at any time in the past 32 years. “People with disabilities are a vital part of the federal workforce, as we are better able to serve the American people because of the talents and experience they bring to the table.” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. “Since President Obama issued his Executive Order in 2010, we’ve made substantial progress in hiring and retaining people with disabilities over the past three years. This work is enabling the federal government to continue to develop as a model employer for people with disabilities.” To read more of this article, visit the OPM press release

    Write to your legislators encouraging them to increase the hiring of people with disabilities serving in their state and local governments. To find your legislator, find links above.

    Advocacy Alert! 2013 - December - U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) — developing a list of Books that Shaped Work in America

    In honor of its Centennial this year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress — is developing a list of Books that Shaped Work in America. Published works have played a significant role in shaping American workers and workplaces. To help get started, a diverse cross-section of individuals, including several former Secretaries of Labor, have shared their suggestions. Disability.gov points out that several books on disability employment challenges have made the list including Barbara Angle’s Those That Mattered, a novel about a female miner who acquires a disability on the job, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography My Beloved World, in which she includes being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age seven that helped her develop the determination and self-reliance to seek a better life through education and a legal career. But they need your assistance too! Do you have a book of interest on employment challenges of people with disabilities. Recommend a book you feel should be on the list.

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