National Disability Leadership Alliance

National Council on Disability Statement on the LBJ Civil Rights Summit

April 4, 2014

Director of LBJ Presidential Library
Mark Updegrove

Dear Mr. Updegrove:

The National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) is a national cross-disability coalition that represents the authentic voice of people with disabilities. NDLA is led by 14 national organizations run by people with disabilities with identifiable grassroots constituencies around the country.  

In 2015, NDLA, as well as disability organizations and people with disabilities around the country will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by President George H.W. Bush.  The ADA is considered the key civil rights legislation that protects and empowers 52 million people with disabilities living in the United States.  Yet, unlike the other groups, people with disabilities have been excluded from meaningful participation in the LBJ Civil Rights Summit, which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Though the disability community has landmark civil rights protections, people with disabilities still face unnecessary segregation in institutions, discrimination in housing at a rate higher than any other minority group, exclusion from transportation initiatives, and legalized subminimum wage earnings.  On a day-to-day basis individuals with disabilities and disability organizations fight against these injustices through public awareness, advocacy, direct action, legislation, and litigation.  In many ways, the disability experience reflects the experience of other marginalized groups (people of color, women, immigrants, the LGBTQ Community) that have won civil rights protections but continue to fight today for the enforcement and implementation of those rights.

When asked by the media about this omission, you wrote, “There is little lingering legislative debate about ADA—it is unquestionably the law of the land. The Summit is tackling the issues that are directly relevant to the bills signed by LBJ or that are still open civil rights issues legislatively.”  Your comment fails to recognize ADA litigation across the United States aimed toward enforcing the Olmstead Supreme Court Decision which ruled that the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination.  The comment fails to recognize efforts in New York City to make all taxis accessible so that New Yorkers with disabilities will have transportation options equal to taxi users without disabilities.  The comment fails to recognize legislative efforts to eliminate Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which legalizes subminimum wage for people with disabilities.  Perhaps most damaging, the comment delegates the disability community to outsider status.  The community is no stranger to outsider status, but it is deplorable to be positioned there by members of the civil rights community.  

As with the other civil and human rights included in the LBJ Summit, the disability rights movement was motivated by movement that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  We have a saying, "Nothing About Us Without Us."  With this in mind, we implore the Summit to include disability rights advocates as speakers at the Civil Rights Summit.


The National Disability Leadership Alliance


The National Disability Leadership Alliance:  NDLA is a coalition led by 13 national organizations run by people with disabilities with identifiable grassroots constituencies around the country. The steering committee of NDLA includes ADAPT, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the American Council of the Blind, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Hearing Loss Association of America, Little People of America, the National Association of the Deaf, the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer Survivor Organizations, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Federation of the Blind, Not Dead Yet, Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, and the United Spinal Association.

Contact Information:  Gary Arnold, 312-640-2199 (voice) This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (email)


With Race and Disability, What is Fair and Right, is Fair and Right for All

Friday, February 28, 2014

National Federation of the Blind (NFB)

By Anil Lewis

I rarely take time to watch television, but during Black History Month, I immersed myself in black films.  As a member of a family led by a widowed mother who supported her family of four children primarily as a domestic worker, I watched The Help and was reminded how much my mom’s subsequent job as a clerk at the United States Post Office drastically changed our lives.   One of the few memories of my father is that he served in the United States Army, so I watched A Soldier’s Story, and I wondered which, if either, of the characters was most like my dad.  I watched them old and new, from A Cabin in the Sky to 12 Years a Slave, acknowledging that the opportunities afforded the actors of the former were forged out of the struggle depicted by the characters in the latter.  I am reminded of how far we have come and how far we still have to go.  I try not to take the sacrifices of Freedom Fighters (civil rights activists) for granted as I enjoy freedoms and opportunities denied others based simply on the characteristic of race.  I understand in a real way that whether it is race, gender, or any other characteristic used to make one group of people seem less valuable than another, we are all limited when we tolerate discrimination. The systemic change we need to effect in order to eliminate discrimination pivots on the small, but poignant epiphany expressed in the movie 12 Years a Slave, “What is fair and right, is fair and right for all.”

You can read the entire blog here:


Welcome to the Organizer's Forum!

NEXT CALL: TUESDAY, April 15th, Topic: Accessible Taxis.

TUESDAY, April 15th, 1-2 pm Eastern time, 12-1 Central time, 11-12 Mountain time, 10-11 am Pacific time

Call in number:  1-213-342-3000

Code: 193134#

The Organizer’s Forum is a resource for disability organizers. Our goal is to build the organizing capacity of the disability community across the country. We aim to support community organizers in the disability community, share tips and tools to do our work more effectively, and provide organizers a sounding board and community for this work.

The Organizer’s Forum is put on by the Organizing Workgroup of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, a national cross-disability coalition of disability-led organizations.

How can you get involved?

  • Join our monthly Organizer’s Forum calls! Calls are held the third Tuesday of every month, 10-11 am PST, 11-12 pm MST, 12-1 pm CST, 1-2 pm EST.

We host a call on a different topic every other month. About half the time the topic covers a specific community organizing skill, such as setting up a town-hall meeting or getting out the disability vote. The other half, we focus on expanding our organizing work by looking at intersections of disability with race, age, immigration, labor, etc. These calls generally format the format of a welcome followed by 2-3 experts in a given area speaking for a few minutes on their experiences, advice and challenges. The calls include a 20-30 minute question and answer period.

In the “off” months, the Organizer’s Forum call provides a chance to discuss the topic brought up the previous month or to share ideas for future calls.

For additional info about who will be speaking on our calls, call details, or information about past calls please check out the Organizer's Forum tab!

Statement of the National Disability Leadership Alliance on the 23rd Anniversary of the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This week, people with disabilities across the country are celebrating the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This was the first comprehensive federal civil rights statute protecting the rights of people with disabilities.  The ADA established that people with disabilities have equal opportunity in employment, state and local government, places of public accommodation, and telecommunications.

Despite the ADA’s promise of equal opportunity for people with disabilities, it is clear that more work must be done so that people with disabilities are to be valued as equal citizens and welcomed in all aspects of American life.  Today, far too many people with disabilities are forced to live in institutions, forced to receive unwanted treatment, denied programs and services, or to be paid less than minimum wage.  On a regular basis, our civil, constitutional, and parental rights are disregarded or stripped away.

Read Full Statement:

Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities

A recent blog on the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) website, extracted from the NFB 2013 Annual Report, discusses fair wages and equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the workforce. The blog underlines efforts of the NFB to work for equality and full participation of blind people in every aspect of society, including employment. It further comments on various barriers faced by individuals with disabilities when obtaining adequate employment; including unfair wages and lack of awareness of assistive technology which leads to low expectations and negative attitudes. In closing, the blog addresses the need to end subminimum wages and correct this injustice.

The National Federation of the Blind is, at its core, a grassroots civil rights movement consisting of blind people, our family members, and friends. Our movement is founded on the principles of equality and full participation of blind people in every aspect of society. Although we have made significant strides toward achieving equality of opportunity, many barriers to our full participation as American citizens continue to exist. Most notable are the barriers that blind people face in our efforts to obtain competitive, integrated employment. Although laws prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in employment are in place, ignorance about the true employment capacity of the blind, lack of awareness about assistive work technologies among employers, the deficiency of proper educational and training opportunities for blind workers, and the overwhelmingly low vocational expectations for the blind held by society all contribute to an unemployment rate of over 70 percent for working age blind adults. Members of the NFB accept the responsibility and welcome the opportunity to play a part in developing strategies to address all of these issues effectively, but our ability to be successful is significantly hindered when we are denied the same fundamental rights as every other American citizen.

You can read the full blog on the NFB website by selecting the link below.

National Day of Mourning on March 1st

Last year, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, along with Not Dead Yet and the National Council on Independent Living, held a Day of Mourning for people with disabilities killed by their relatives and caregivers.

Day of Mourning began as a response to the murder of George Hodgins, a 22-year-old autistic man from California, and to the way people were talking about his death. Far too often, when a disabled person is murdered by a caregiver, journalists write as though it is the disabled victim who has perpetrated a crime simply by existing. In discussing the killing, people say that we should feel sorry for the murderer, because they had to live with a disabled relative. When a disabled person is murdered, many people act as though the murder victim’s life, not their death, was a tragedy.

On March 30th, 2012, we held vigils in 18 cities to remember those we have lost, and to remind the world that their lives had value.

On March 31st, 2012, a 4-year-old autistic boy named Daniel Corby was drowned in a bathtub by his mother.

There is so much work to be done to change public perceptions about the worth and the quality of our lives. That is why the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network will be holding Day of Mourning again this year on Friday, March 1st. We need your help to organize vigils across the country.

Join us on March 1st as we will remember our dead and take a stand against the violence facing our community.  If your group is interested in leading a vigil in your area, you begin by finding a good spot for it, making sure you can gather a group of people there, and spreading the word to your local community. If you want to organize a vigil, contact Zoe Gross of ASAN at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for instructions and support.

NDLA Letter to Vice President Biden

In response to the gun violence in Connecticut, the White House has charged Vice President Biden with leading a commission to respond to this issue. The National Disability Leadership Alliance has written the Vice President to express our concern that the Commission’s recommendations not support the inaccurate idea that people who have psychiatric or neurological disabilities are prone to violence, because it is inaccurate, perpetuates the stigma associated with these disabilities, discourages people from seeking wanted services and potentially threatens the rights of people with disabilities.  NDLA also urged the Vice President to assure that the rights of people with disabilities are respected and that policy makers directly include people with disabilities in these discussions.

Read the NDLA letter… (PDF)

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