Every single day, our Network protects and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities across the United States and the territories.
We fight to end abuse and neglect where we find it. We assist people to find and keep their jobs. We work with kids, parents, and schools to combat bullying and ensure educational opportunities for students with disabilities.
As you well know, the National Disability Rights Network is constantly vigilant on behalf of the 57 Protection and Advocacy organizations that comprise our Network. Because the organizations in the Network get government funding, they are limited in their ability to advocate on Capitol Hill on behalf of people with disabilities in their communities. That’s where we come in! This year in particular, that vigilance has meant that we have been fighting non-stop. We cannot afford to stop fighting—but we cannot afford to continue at this pace without your support.
The National Disability Rights Network has taken on Capitol Hill, the White House, federal agencies, state governments, corporate lobbyists, and others on behalf of the Network. We fought White House attempts to cut funding to make polling places accessible. We fought the Congress when legislation was introduced to limit penalties against institutions proven to have done wrong. We fought the powerful hotel industry when they tried to carve out an exception for themselves in the Americans with Disabilities Act – even though they have had 20 years to comply. We fought back when school administrators released a national report that grossly distorted the true impact of restraint and seclusion on school children. We fight and fight for people with disabilities, and the needs of our Network every single day—and often with great success.
But unfortunately, in the real world, David doesn’t always beat Goliath.
While the National Disability Rights Network—and many organizations across the country—fought as hard as we could, we were not able to save a national program aimed at getting unemployed people with disabilities back to work. And considering the incredible impact the economic downturn of the past few years has had on people with disabilities, this loss of federal support is devastating.
And to make matters worse, the Social Security Administration has made the work of the Network even harder by refusing to fund the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program. PABSS provides guidance for people with disabilities who receive Social Security benefits as they attempt to obtain, maintain, or advance in employment. The Network, through the PABSS program, has helped thousands of people across the country to navigate the tricky process of ensuring that they can return to work without losing the ability to maintain a stable level of health care and sufficient income to maintain basic needs for living. PABSS has put countless people with disabilities on the path toward economic self-sufficiency and has eventually allowed many of them to discontinue their Social Security benefits altogether.
The reduction of funds available to the Network – around $8 million! - equates to a reduction of services for people with disabilities. More than two-thirds of our affiliates have been forced to lay off staff and turn away people who need help desperately. PABSS is too important and we are not done fighting for it, but we will need your support to help us do it. Your support of our public policy work helps us keep the pressure on so that we can undo this damage and ensure this doesn’t happen again. I hope you will help us by making a donation of $250.
With your help, we will continue to influence public policy for people with disabilities. We will continue to educate those who work in the field of disability rights and bring people with disabilities from across the country, their family members, and other advocates to Capitol Hill to participate in public policy activities. We will continue our work to engage policymakers in addressing the needs of returning veterans with traumatic brain injuries, youth with disabilities in juvenile detention centers, and the needs of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness.
It is plain to see that your continued support is essential to our success—now more than ever. As we work tirelessly to fight off the chipping away of disability rights, I hope you will give. Your support will ensure that the work of the Network will continue and people with disabilities across the country will continue to have access to the support and services they deserve.
Beyond support and services though we are working every day to ensure that people with disabilities can participate in all that our great country has to offer. One of the achievements I am most proud of is our work to ensure that people with disabilities could participate in the 2012 elections. We conducted thousands of polling place accessibility surveys and advocated for improvements where necessary; educated people with disabilities on their voting rights; worked collaboratively with election officials; and trained poll workers. This work resulted in a record number of voters with disabilities exercising their right to vote this year.
The Network is also on the cutting edge, anticipating future needs. As we are more and more successful in our efforts to increase opportunities for people with disabilities to live, work, and fully participate in their community, we must also be vigilant that the community lives up to its promise. To that end, the Network has begun implementing community monitoring plans across the country to ensure that people with disabilities can flourish rather than languish in their new homes. We cannot let the scourge of institutional isolation and restriction become part of community living. We need your assistance to stay on the cutting edge.
NDRN has also been working with our partners at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross as the Network responded to the devastation that followed Hurricane Sandy. You might remember last year when I told you about how this partnership was essential in ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities would no longer be an after-thought. We certainly didn’t want to see how this partnership would play out, but I can tell you I was relieved to know it was in place when word of the storm began to be heard. In fact, it was impressive to see—for the first time—planning measures put into place that considered people with disabilities before the storm hit, as well as response efforts after. Of course, nothing in a national disaster runs perfectly, and all the partners have learned lessons from this one. But I know that as NDRN keeps pushing the issue, people with disabilities will be better served before, during and after future events.
As you can probably tell, I am proud of the incredible work being done by the staff of the National Disability Rights Network and that of the entire Network, but there is still much more to do.
So, I and the National Disability Rights Network won’t stop fighting. And the truth is that we are not fighting alone. The National Disability Rights Network represents an army of fighters—and you should count yourself among them. Your past support of our work makes these efforts possible.
We’ve faced many challenges—including a reduction of funding that means the Network is doing more and more with less and less—and budget battles in Washington that have left us wondering what tomorrow may bring. Know that the National Disability Rights Network will keep working hard to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities whatever may come.
Your gift of $250 will go a long way to ensure that the Network has a voice on Capitol Hill and that those working on the frontlines have the training and support they need to fight for people with disabilities who need help.
Curtis L. Decker, Esq.
PS — I know that your mailbox is jammed packed with requests for support from many worthwhile causes. As you make your year-end contributions, I hope you will consider the National Disability Rights Network among them. Remember, your gift to us is tax-deductible. Help the National Disability Rights Network fight for people with disabilities on Capitol Hill and help keep the national Network strong and active in every corner of the United States and territories.