People with disabilities face enormous obstacles in the United States today – due to a pandemic that is killing disabled people, especially in institutions, at astounding rates; schools that fail too often, traumatize and criminalize students with disabilities; to a criminal justice system that unnecessarily targets, detains, and kills black and brown people with intellectual disabilities. The administration must prioritize the rights of people with disabilities from day one and commit to tackling this damage head on and overlapping discrimination and marginalization on disability, race and poverty.
Here are just a few of the many items that should be high on the Biden Harris administration’s to-do list:
Ensure people with disabilities can live in their communities, not in institutions, and support the direct care workforce:
- People with disabilities have the right to live as independently as possible in the community and receive the necessary services and support in their homes. However, for many people with disabilities, especially those of skin color, this right is far from a reality as they are segregated in facilities such as nursing homes, interim care facilities, and psychiatric facilities – even if they could live in integrated community environments with adequate support . As COVID-19 ravages care facilities and kills people living in those facilities at exceptional rates, the dangers of life in facilities have been exposed. The in-depth Biden-Harris administration must implement a national strategy to expand access to Medicaid’s Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). HCBS funds home support and services that enable people with disabilities to live safely in their communities. Long waiting lists for HCBS hamper the goals of many disabled people to drop out of facilities and lead a self-directed life. The administration needs to end the long waiting lists for HCBS by allocating more resources to these services and step up enforcement of laws prohibiting the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities in institutions.
- In addition to removing HCBS waiting lists, the new administration must urge Congress to re-authorize and fully fund the Money Follows the Person program, which helps states provide services and assistance to disabled people in their communities. Money follows the person is critical to ensuring that people with disabilities can lead self-directed, inclusive, and safe lives in their communities.
- Administration must work with Congress to ensure that the safety and needs of the direct caregivers (e.g., home carers, direct support professionals, home caregivers, caregivers) who provide services and support to people with disabilities, Priority will be given to the pandemic during and after treatment. These workers, who are predominantly women and disproportionately colored women, have worked in the shade for far too long and must have access to PPE, sick leave, hazard payments and other workplace protection.
Stop law enforcement agencies’ disproportionate targeting of people with intellectual disabilities and the inclusion of people with disabilities in the criminal justice system::
- As the recent murders of Walter Wallace Jr. and too many others have made clear, urgent action is needed to end police over-reliance on mental health emergencies that injure, traumatize, or cause far too many people with disabilities in black and brown are dead. Administration needs to promote federal support for solid community-based programs that provide mental health professionals and peer support – rather than law enforcement – to respond to mental health crises.
- Even if people with disabilities survive a first encounter with the police, the criminal justice system is stacked against them at every stage. Release, surveillance, prisons and prisons in court are demanding and challenging for many people with disabilities. People with disabilities are excluded from classes and programs in detention and cannot escape the criminal justice system that does not take disabilities into account. Incoming administration must campaign for changes in criminal law that will lower incarceration rates across the country, reduce the risk of harm to people with disabilities, and provide the shelter that disabled people need to avoid incarceration and live safe, productive lives without that To lead the criminal justice system.
Ensure that students with disabilities have access to effective and safe education:
- More than ever, government must ensure that states and school districts continue to meet their commitments to provide adequate educational services and assessments to students with disabilities. This includes helping to compensate for class time and services lost during distance learning and school closure due to COVID-19. To support students with disabilities who have been left behind during the pandemic, the administration must make funding the Targeted Disability Awareness Act (IDEA) a priority for the next COVID-19 aid package from Congress. The Department of Education must also provide robust guidance that highlights best practices that school districts have followed during the pandemic and ensure that students with disabilities are not unnecessarily pushed into alternative schools during the pandemic.
- The administration must also stop the unnecessary and harmful reluctance and isolation of students with disabilities in schools through executive action and the support of appropriate legislation. Mechanical or physical limitations harm children and cause permanent psychological trauma, but their use is still far too common in schools. Action is now needed to end these draconian practices and ensure that our schools are places where children can feel safe to study.
- The overuse of police, known as school officials, in our country’s schools harms disproportionately colored students with disabilities, criminalizes normal behavior in childhood, and puts students down the school-prison pipeline. The administration must take executive action and use legislative opportunities to get rid of federal funds that police bring to schools and reinvest those funds to hire school counselors, psychologists and other mental health support staff for our students. The administration must also investigate school districts where the data shows a disproportionate frequency of referrals and law enforcement arrests for students with disabilities and hold those school districts accountable.
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December 10, 2020, 9:49 PM GMT
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