The Arc Mercer, a local chapter of The Arc New Jersey, recently created a self-advocacy organization for LGBTQ people with I/DD called Special Needs Alliance for Pride (SNAP). SNAP serves the role of providing support, socialization, and advocacy. Lt. Governor candidate and former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver recently attended an event they hosted to speak to members about the importance of diversity in the state.
The Arc Pennsylvania is supporting HB 1650, which will close Pennsylvania’s five remaining state-run institutions. Executive Director Maureen Cronin, who was on the Pennhurst staff when it closed discussed the topic with the Tribune-Review. She is quoted as saying “You can’t deny that, at one time, there was a movement to separate people with disabilities from the community,” and “It’s hard to imagine that we would need legislation in 2017 to close these institutions. Nobody thought they would stay open that long.” The Arc Pennsylvania has a long history of advocating for institutional closures, including serving as chief plaintiff in the case that resulted in the closure of Pennhurst.
Jill Smith, grant officer for The Arc Indiana, and Kelsey Cowley, President of Self-Advocates of Indiana, testified before an interim study committee of the Indiana General Assembly in support of supported decision making as an alternative to guardianship. Cowley stated: “An important part of self-advocacy is choice. We believe all people should have the choice to choose where, how and with whom they live their lives.” The committee recommended no action be taken until data from a pilot project in Wayne County is available.
The Arc New Jersey is in the process of publishing its annual “Get Out the Vote” Guide. The Guide will include information about candidates for Governor and 120 legislative seats. Gubernatorial candidates are being asked to share their stances on DSP wages and Medicaid issues. The Guide will also include information about finding you polling location, registering to vote, and seeking accommodations.
As a result of advocacy by The Arc California, a legislative committee ordered an audit of the state’s enforcement of hate crimes. The audit will consist of a survey of more than 240 local and state law enforcement agencies, and a more detailed review of four local agencies (a city police department, a county sheriff’s office, a university police department, and a jail).
The Arc New Jersey supported and Governor Chris Christie signed Charlie’s Law (A4081/S2662). The law is named after Charlie, the service dog belonging to Ben Shore, a 16-year-old New Jerseyan with autism. He was denied access to a Florida airport because of his service dog. Because refusal of service based on use of a service dog is a criminal offense in Florida, police were able to help him resolve the situation. By contrast, the only recourse in New Jersey was a civil lawsuit. Under Charlie’s law, businesses that deny access to service dog users face a $250 fine for their first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1000 for the third and succeeding violations.
Maura Sullivan, Director of Government Affairs for The Arc Massachusetts, testified in favor of Nicky’s Law (S.64/H.80) at a hearing of the General Court’s Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. The bill creates a registry of individuals against whom there is a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect of a person with I/DD by the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission and requires provider agencies to check the registry before hiring a new employee. During her testimony, she stated: “As I sit here today, I think about my oldest son, Neil, who is making a transition next week into 24/7 services, where I will not be able to supervise who is with him day to day and every night. I just don’t have words strong enough to describe the importance of keeping my non-verbal, loving and vulnerable son and all of our sons and daughters safe. We must pass this overdue legislation now and implement it immediately.”
The Arc New Jersey supported and Governor Chris Christie signed A3386/S2711. The bill provides for more sharing of information regarding abuse and neglect between the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Additionally, it mandates that DCF conduct a child abuse registry check on every individual seeking employment at DCF, in facilities or programs licensed, contracted, regulated, or funded by DCF or DHS, or seeking to provide community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
The Arc of New Jersey has worked closely with a group of families, over the past number of years, on the Komninos’ Law. The legislation aims to protect individuals with I/DD from abuse and neglect. The original version included a number of troubling provisions that The Arc of New Jersey felt would be very costly and duplicative without improving the service delivery system for people with I/DD. We worked closely with sponsors of the legislation and the Governor’s Office to improve the language of the bill and we were glad to see Governor Chris Christie’s recent conditional veto addressed many of our areas of concern. At the end of July, the Assembly voted to approve the Komninos’ Law with the Governor’s recommended changes and the bill now awaits action by the Senate.
The New Jersey Self-Advocacy Project (NJSAP), a self-advocacy group affiliated with The Arc New Jersey, recently held events to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and National Disability Voter Registration week. To honor the anniversary of the passage of the ADA, members gathered at a contact booth at the Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk to spread public awareness. On July 18, they joined REV UP NJ at the State House for National Disability Voter Registration Week to raise awareness of the voting rights of people with disabilities. In addition, NJSAP has recently developed a podcast called “In Their Own Words” focused on transportation issues. More than 120 self-advocates were interviewed about the barriers they have faced in accessing public transportation.