Friday, March 27, 2015

Mental illness and the Police

Should police be expected to handle the arrest of violent suspects with mental illness differently?

When considering public safety, there is a fine line between individual rights and public safety at large. Right now, the United States Supreme Court is deciding whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) affords extra protection to people who have a mental illness and are being confronted by the police. Many in the disability community would say it does. But, playing devil’s advocate here, how far can we reasonably expect officers to go when their lives and the lives of the people around them is being threatened by a knife-wielder or gun-toter?

The ADA requires “reasonable accommodations” be made available for individuals with disabilities in order to access public services and programs. Do you think police officers should be required to give individuals “reasonable accommodations” when those individuals are presenting a serious threat? Or should violence be treated the same in all cases, whether or not the suspect has a mental illness?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Disability can happen to YOU!

We don't like to think about bad things happening to us personally but the likelihood of you becoming sick or injured and unable to work is higher than you probably imagined. The Personal Disability Quotient, or PDQ, will calculate your odds of eventually becoming disabled. If you do become disabled, you can be out of work for weeks, months or even years, and that can be disastrous to individuals and families. To find out your PDQ in just a few minutes, go here:


Disability Statistics

It happens more often than you'd imagine:

·         Just over 1 in 4 of today's 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.
·         Over 37 million Americans are classified as disabled; about 12% of the total population. More than 50% of those disabled Americans are in their working years, from 18-64.
·         8.8 million disabled wage earners, over 5% of U.S. workers, were receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits at the end of 2012.
·         In December of 2012, there were over 2.5 million disabled workers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s receiving SSDI benefits.

Don’t think Social Security or Workers' Compensation will cover your expenses:
photo credit:

·         65% of initial SSDI claim applications were denied in 2012.
·         Can your family live on $1,130 a month? That's the average monthly benefit paid by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the end of 2012.
·         The average SSDI monthly benefit payment for males was $1,256
·         The average SSDI monthly benefit payment for females was $99316

At the end of 2012:
·         7.3% of SSDI recipients received less than $500 monthly.
·         46% received less than $1,000 per month.
·         93% received less than $2,000 per month.
·         Less than 5% of disabling accidents and illnesses are work related. The other 95% are not, meaning Workers' Compensation doesn't cover them.

For more information go to:


Forward RISE is a NYS nonprofit dedicated to the real inclusion of people with disabilities through forward-thinking workshops and rewarding, inclusive social events.  Forward RISE

Friday, February 27, 2015

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

On July 26, 2015, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. It is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation for the disability community. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public services provided by state and local governments, public services operated by private entities, transportation, commuter authorities, or telecommunications.

An excerpt from the National Council on Disability (NCD) report:

Living in the community with family and friends, working at a typical job in a regular business, and participating in community affairs is a right of citizenship, not a privilege for individuals with disabilities, as for all Americans. This right was confirmed with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, affirmed with the 1999 Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, and repeatedly reaffirmed in the years since that landmark decision. 

Disability rights are a CIVIL RIGHTS issue. Accessibility to public places & social programs, equality in employment practices and education – these are all federally protected rights for every person in the United States, including those with disabilities. We must stop viewing individuals who are disabled as subhuman or charity cases. Having ramps and elevators installed at rec centers; having ample aisle space at department stores and restaurants; providing larger stalls with handrails in public bathrooms – these are not things that people with disabilities should feel grateful for. It is not a privilege to have appropriate supports or removals of barriers. It is the LAW.

Forward RISE is a NYS nonprofit committed to the real inclusion of people with disabilities through knowledge-sharing workshops and inclusive social experiences.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE)

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) was finally signed into law by the President on December 19, 2014. Tax-free savings accounts can now be built for a population that has historically been forced to live in poverty. Up until now, in order to be eligible for SSI and Medicaid, a person could not have more than $2,000 in cash and property ($3,000 for couples) or make more than $700 monthly (!) in order to be eligible for Medicaid or SSI. This means they can’t save money for things that Medicaid and SSI don’t cover like education, housing, a job coach or transportation. While the rest of society is encouraged to save for emergencies, unforeseen expenses and rainy days, people with disabilities – who have naturally higher expenses and higher medical needs – were forced to scrape pennies and do without due to archaic laws and discriminatory notions held by society in general.

What is the ABLE Act?

Once enacted by the States, this bi-partisan piece of legislation will give people with disabilities and their families freedoms and security never before experienced. It amends the IRS code of 1986 to allow savings accounts to be set up for individuals with disabilities much like the college tuition accounts known as “529 accounts” that have been around since 1996. The Treasury Department is currently writing all of the regulations. There will then be a period of time where public comments on the proposed rules will be allowed. Before the end of 2015, every State is expected to establish and operate an ABLE program.
  ü  Allows savings accounts to be set up for individuals with disabilities
  ü  Recipients do not have to count funds as income
  ü  Recipients do not have to pay taxes on funds if they are used for disability-related expenses

How does it work?

In a nutshell, once enacted by a State, an ABLE savings account can be opened up by an individual with a disability or by someone else on their behalf. Up to $14,000 may be deposited yearly untaxed, with that amount to be increased as inflation rises. If an account surpasses $100,000, the owner of the account will no longer be eligible for SSI but would not be in danger of losing Medicaid. When a person dies, Medicaid will be reimbursed first from the account before it is dispersed to the person’s estate.

  ü  Can be opened up by an individual with a disability or by someone else on their behalf
  ü  Up to $14,000 may be deposited yearly
  ü  Up to $100,000 can be accrued without affecting SSI

Who is eligible?

Individuals with a disability wanting to establish an ABLE account must have acquired their disability before turning 26. If an individual is over the age of 26 but their disability onset was prior to turning 26, they will be still be able to establish an ABLE account. Individuals who meet this requirement and receive SSI or SSDI are automatically eligible to establish an account. Individuals who do not receive these services may still be eligible if they meet SSI criteria regarding who is eligible. The Treasury Department will further explain standards of proof in the regulations they are currently completing.

  ü  Onset of disability must have occurred prior to turning 26 years of age
  ü  Must meet SSI eligibility criteria

What can the funds be used for?

While the details are still being finalized, it is anticipated that the funds will be allowed to cover any disability-related expenses, including:

  ü  Education
  ü  Housing
  ü  Transportation
  ü  Employment training and support
  ü  Assistive technology and personal support services
  ü  Health, prevention and wellness
  ü  Financial management and administrative services
  ü  Legal fees
  ü  Funeral and burial expenses

This is a great step forward in the right direction for this community. Let’s hope the regulations are completed sooner rather than later so that individuals and families can begin saving for a better life!