Thursday, October 29, 2009

President signs hate crimes bill into law

President Barack Obama signed an expanded hate crimes bill into law Wednesday making it a federal offense to commit a crime against a person based on their disability. The law entitled the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. The law is named after two murder victims from 1998 who were targeted for attack because of bigotry. Federal law already includes protections for crimes committed based on race, color, religion or national origin.

President Obama Stated, “No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability. At root, this isn't just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another -- whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.”

Quoting President Johnson from when he signed civil rights legislation into law in 1968, Obama said that "the bells of freedom ring out a little louder," when he signed the Act into law.

“You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear,” Mr. Obama said, “You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights -- both from unjust laws and violent acts. And you understand how necessary this law continues to be. “

People with disabilities are 50 percent more likely to experience nonfatal violent crime than those without disabilities, according to a Justice Department study released in early October. The study found that about one in five crime victims with disabilities believe their disability was the reason they were targeted.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Help End Institutional Bias

Join your fellow disability advocates for a second national Day of Advocacy this Thursday,
October 8 to ensure the CFC Option and the CLASS Act make it into the final health care reform bill.

You can call using this toll-free number: 866-324-0787. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

In addition to calling your two Senators, the following Senators are influential in the processes of
merging the legislation, and our message must reach them:

  • Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico

  • John F. Kerry, Massachusetts

  • Blanche L. Lincoln, Arkansas

  • Ron Wyden, Oregon

  • Charles E. Schumer, New York

  • Bill Nelson, Florida

  • Robert Menendez, New Jersey

I strongly support the Community First Choice Option and the CLASS Act as a part of
the final healthcare bill in the Senate. I urge the Senator to please support both of these
priorities for people with disabilities as the Senate Finance and HELP Committees merge their bills.


The Community First Choice (CFC) Option was proposed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) as a way to get
the key provisions of the Community Choice Act (CCA) in the healthcare reform bill. The option would
encourage states to provide Medicaid home and community based attendant services (rather than require them
as the CCA would do). The CFC Option would be a major step in helping to end Medicaid's institutional bias.
The CFC Option is included in the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare reform bill.

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act (also called the CLASS Plan) would create
a national voluntary long term care insurance program. It was developed to help people better prepare for their
long term care needs and to help take pressure off of the Medicaid program. The CLASS Act is in the Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee's version of the healthcare reform bill. The CLASS plan would reduce the
federal deficit by an estimated $58 billion.

Whether the CFC option and the CLASS Act make it into the final Senate health care reform bill is up to us. The time to act is now!