In 2012, the Commonwealth of Virginia moved its Department of Aging into the Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) making it Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). In 2014, the Agency on Community Living (ACL), the federal overseeing and funding agency, was created and encompasses a wide range of previously separate disability agencies and aging. The first research project focused on the federal agency, ACL, and its distribution of power via its funding opportunities (or what we call grants). Owing to work experience, I was able to understand what these federal funding opportunities (grants) look like at the local and state levels. The first research project looked at the division of funding opportunities with regards to access to funds between disability and aging groups. Of the 24 funding opportunities, 22 are accessible to the aging population, 12 can be accessed by people with disabilities who are not over 60 years of age and two are disability specific. This distribution of funds makes some sense with the growing aging population but does not take into account that existing disability agencies who have access to half of the funds (or less) are also serving the same growing aging population with half of the funds because they were not created as a designated “aging” agency and provide services to individuals in the community based on need rather than label or age. This local and state competition for funding is the basis for the second research paper where the first gave an introduction to how power can be handed out in the form of funds from a federal agency (ACL).
Please see Research Paper at following link:
This timeline illustrates that the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), Department of Health and Human Resources, and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) continue to operate outside of federal laws and mandates for person centered practices and community integration.
1990—The ADA mandates that public entities provide services in the “most integrated setting.”
1999—“The Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.” (www.ada.gov/olmstead/index.htm)
2006—Virginia awarded federal Systems Transformation Grant to implement Person Centered Practices across the Commonwealth and initiate the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program designed to assist individuals transition from living in institutions to the community (most integrated setting).
2011-2012—The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launches investigation with findings that state “the Commonwealth fails to provide services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs in violation of the ADA” (Letter of findings from the U.S. DOJ to Gov. McDonnell, Feb. 10, 2011). The DOJ Settlement also includes language mandating Person Centered Practices and shortening of lengthy waitlists for services.
2015—Twenty-five years after the signing of the ADA, thousands of Virginians with disabilities remain on long waitlists for home and community based services while the thousands who have services remain in segregated living, employment and day programs where the paid staff make decisions for the individuals with funds that are intended to be used under the principles of person centered practices and community integration (most integrated setting). Federal funds continue to be misused by the Departments in Virginia listed above under federal regulations. This systemic problem is twofold: It violates human rights to decision making and community inclusion (segregation) and it costs the state much more to support an individual in an institution than to provide services for support in the community. At face value, people living in nursing homes are refused their requests to live in the community 16 years after Olmstead and 25 years after ADA. A young man (now deceased) is refused the opportunity to have lunch with his mother due to the segregated nature of the day program receiving 50% federal funds with “most integrated setting” mandate attached.
From a Pluralist approach, indeed, all positive change came from involvement and strong advocacy. Amazing grassroots efforts have turned into national organizations that strive to protect human rights to live and work in their communities even 25 years after the ADA indicating a strong example of Resource Mobilization. Even the DOJ Settlement resulted from a formal complaint. Advocates have a lot to be proud of but Virginia state bureaucracies echo Regime tendencies in resistance to pressure from both the people (below) and the federal government (above).
Travel a Block in Our Shoes Shows That We May Be Moving in the Right Direction with Many Miles to Go
The Culpeper Disability Services Advisory Committee (DSAC) proves to be a dynamic and active group once again. Strong leadership, collaboration, impressive representation, goal oriented, hard work and openness to both ideas and community concerns are the first terms that come to mind in describing this committee that holds personally responsible those charged with accessibility for all. This past Saturday, October 17th, not only did the Culpeper DSAC offer guidance and input related to Downtown accessibility but they also brought out the best in our elected officials. Before assuming that these officials showed up for this accessibility awareness event based on elections around the corner, elections were rarely discussed and few constituents were present. The exercise was an opportunity that the Culpeper DSAC gave officials to personally experience accessibility barriers of Downtown Culpeper. A particularly ambitious member of the Culpeper Disability Services Advisory Committee had already printed and provided a large volume of downtown accessibility barriers to town officials last year for a reference. For effective accessibility improvements, it is crucial for the conversation to remain open because no one knows accessibility like the person who needs accessibility. Members of the Culpeper DSAC are available by phone, email or meetings to assist with these issues and it is strongly recommended that these discussions take place to make sure that changes made truly are accessible. In any locality, it is also crucial to have true representation of those who have personal expertise on accessibility in all planning processes. The town and county officials that were brave enough to show up to this thoughtful event obviously know the importance of this communication and open discussion and made the effort to both hear these concerns and recommendations but didn’t stop there because they experienced accessibility barriers downtown first hand. Participants were given the choice between experiencing accessibility of maneuvering sidewalks either without sight with the expert guidance of DBVI staff, Timothy Brown, also a long time DSAC member and past chair, or using a wheelchair. A volunteer had to be close behind the wheelchair because the grade of some of the curb cuts downtown is so steep, the wheelchair tipped backwards in an attempt to cross the street and would have caused injury. This shows that the participants literally placed their safety into our hands for the sake of downtown accessibility and should be congratulated along with the impressive efforts of DSAC members. As a lifetime community member, I feel fortunate to live in a place where there are individuals as proactive and concerned as the members of the Culpeper Disability Services Advisory Committee combined with the rare willingness of elected officials to not only listen to these concerns but go above and beyond the call of their duty to personally experience these concerns. This certainly represents a unique community that has much to offer. The success of the first “Travel a Block in Our Shoes” accessibility awareness event the Culpeper Disability Advisory Committee organized that invited and allowed elected officials to learn and experience accessibility barriers of downtown Culpeper proves that we are moving in the right direction with open discussion but have many miles to go to achieve true accessibility. The Culpeper Disability Services Advisory Committee (DSAC) also showed advanced planning strategies from which localities can learn by collaborating with the disAbility Resource Center who assisted with planning, equipment and offered participants accessibility information, ADA guidelines and proposals, as well as free training opportunities to localities and planners through the ADA Leadership Network which offers the following:
Customized training provided to those directly and indirectly affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act from dRC’s ADA Leadership Network Trainer. Available free trainings, which can be customized to meet your needs, include:
• Understanding the ADA
• Getting hired and moving ahead in a job when working with a disability
• Hiring people with disabilities: Tapping into talent
• Serving customers with disabilities
• Reaching individuals with disabilities: Accessibility in Federal, State and Municipal entities
• Reaching individuals with disabilities: Accessibility in private or commercial businesses
• Accessible technology in the workplace
• Accessible websites
More information about the ADA Leadership Network Trainings may be obtained at www.cildrc.org.
Information about the Culpeper Disability Services Advisory Committee can be found at the Culpeper County website http://web.culpepercounty.gov. Meetings are open to the public and held the fourth Wednesday of every month at 9:00 am in the Board Conference Room at 302 N. Main St. Culpeper, VA 22701.
Research Project 1 Abstract
Petrina Thomas, SOCG 371M: Community Power, Section 1
Fifteen months after President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) on July 22, 2014, the immensity, guidance, opportunities, organization, expanded programs and funding promised by this great work continue to offer more questions than answers. Rebecca Cokely, Executive Director of National Council on Disability (NCD), ends her Opening Keynote Address at the Statewide Independent Living Conference on October 8, 2015 with the awareness that disability advocacy groups often fail to work together in obtaining effective legislation and change and is a result of existing programs that purposely segregate people with disabilities and reduce their power to advocate and produce effective systems change. This does not mean that people shouldn’t have a wide choice of service providers, it means that the state and federal funding and regulatory programs are separated according to type of disability. This makes no sense for a variety of reasons such as a developmental disabilities often coexist with sensory, intellectual or physical disabilities. Splitting programs and policies by disability is the same as splitting people. The newest grand illusion that policy makers probably truly believe in their innocent ignorance is the efficacy of clumping previously separate programs together under one roof as WIOA has done with disability and aging programs now under the Administration on Community Living (ACL).
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the discrepancies in the funding opportunities (grants) that the Administration for Community Living advertises in its role to oversee and administer disability and aging programs and services. Before embarking on this adventure, please know that the founding activities of the mentioned disability programs came out of advocacy efforts during, before and after the 1960s that helped produce the Rehab. Act of 1973 while the programs aimed at serving the aging population is a political reaction to the growing needs of the aging population of baby boomers. It seems to be good policy to attach aging needs to the existing structure of disability programs. The glaring problem at the local level is that many disability programs that were already greatly serving the aging population have experienced significant funding cuts while newer and possibly lesser effective aging programs receive new funding with the illusion that government is being responsive to the growing aging population. Put simply, clumping programs together under one roof (ACL) does not necessarily equal increased collaboration and efficacy to produce better outcomes for the people who are supposed to benefit from these programs.
Please access the research paper attempting to prove this argument at link below:
Newspaper Editorial Concerning The Third Dimension of Power as exercised with regards to legislation proposed and passed reducing state education accountability.
Any Virginia public school native (up to middle age) or parents of children learning in Virginia’s public school system, enjoy a common dislike of the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) and the strict “teaching to the test” requirements it puts on our already stretched teachers and educators. I have had kids in Virginia public schools for 13 years running and I have never heard a positive word said about the SOLs within school walls. The students come home with similar attitudes about them but I try to paint a positive picture to reduce the dread which could climax on test day in the form of a low score. I tell the children that the SOLs are designed to make sure that all students are receiving educational instruction because in this country, we are born with the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for which we should be thankful as that is not a global right. My message is be thankful that there is accountability for taxes used to educate our children. My message is not that the current accountability system is the most effective use of teachers’ time, expertise and energy.
The federal laws of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) have made educational instruction accessible for thousands of individuals across the nation that were not previously exposed to or receiving it. States can enact accountability assessments to satisfy these federal laws in ways that are more educationally appropriate. Some state legislation like HB930 passed in early 2014 in Virginia’s General Assembly reduce the amount of tests and offer creative learning opportunities. One must be very careful to not fall into the trap that SOLs are bad and thus federally mandated state accountability laws are bad. These are the messages that voting parents hear from our children’s educators and state legislators.
On July 16, 2015, S 1177 passed the Senate after being proposed by a Republican from Tennessee. He answered the call of complaints from state educators regarding federal mandates as this legislation swings the pendulum of power back to the states which is where it had been decades ago when populations of students were left out of the general education curriculum. This legislation even has a nice fuzzy name: Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.
I cannot predict the future outcomes of any proposed or passed state or federal legislation but I do know that I have almost fallen into the popular outcry against SOLs and the corresponding state accountability many times when in fact, IDEA and NCLB have been the saving grace in allowing so many Virginians to access the general education curriculum, graduate with a real diploma and go to college or get a job thus ultimately saving taxpayers millions. That is certainly a message a Republican can understand.
“Power is a basic component of human agency. Absolute lack of power means ceasing to be a human agent. Power is the human ability to intervene in events and to make a difference.” (Sadan, p. 68).
Education gives us power. Lets be sure not to deny that from anyone.
I was thinking that an example from my hometown might be an example of the 3rd dimension of power. Many years ago, we did not have a health and wellness center, an indoor pool and we still do not have a YMCA. I felt as a member of the community the excitement over plans for a new health and wellness center with an indoor pool which, I thought was for the community so with that excitement, I engaged in fund raising and supported initiatives that were donating resources to this cause. Now, it turns out that the average citizen like myself cannot afford to be a member of this health and wellness center and it is owned by the hospital with membership, swim lesson fees and therapy sessions paid to the hospital now owned by UVA. Please let me know if this is an accurate example of the 3rd dimension. Thanks!