A Black person against a black background and the text: Disability Advocacy Demands That “All Means All”

by Imani Barbarin 

As we honor and recognize yet another Black History Month, we cannot underestimate the toll the last year has taken on the Black community—specifically those with disabilities. As advocates for the disability community, we cannot gloss over the emotional and physical toll that racism and ableism takes or how it has manifested itself in the Black Community. This type of constant discrimination creates sustained psychological harm for its victims while access to mental healthcare is stigmatized and services are scarce. This all too often leads to horrific outcomes such as police brutality or incarceration when family and community members were only reaching out to law enforcement for assistance. It is an endless cycle that we as disability advocates must have a hand in ending. We do not achieve justice while those within our community are still marginalized due to race. All means all.

As a Black disabled woman, I have seen the disconnect between disability and racial equity advocacy. Often, they are seen as separate goals for two distinct communities. In reality, we cannot have one without the other as historical barriers and discrimination have led to high rates of disability within the Black community. Likewise, the Black community must address the stigma from within that keeps us from speaking about disability and how it affects our everyday lives.

When we look at the disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous, and people of color who have died because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequality demonstrated by vaccine distribution, we must not forget the thousands of people who are now living with newly acquired disabilities and chronic illness. Already rightfully mistrusting of government systems and the medical system, they will now be required to navigate disability services, legislation, and discrimination.

Services like those offered by us, at Disability Rights Pennsylvania and other disability services agencies, are necessary but are most powerful when we take into account the needs of those of differing racial and cultural backgrounds. I personally encourage members of my community, the Black community, to engage in disability advocacy. You can apply to become a member of DRP’s Mental Health Advisory Council and help shape our priorities beginning next month as we reach begin our public forum process to shape our priorities for the coming years. I would also ask that disability advocates reach out to grassroots organizers furthering racial justice initiatives and support organizations at the intersection of racial and disability justice such as Be HEARD and The Harriet Tubman Collective. Lastly, when we speak about furthering the rights of the disability community, we must recognize that we cannot do so without creating a community with one another. We are all connected in the pursuit of justice and equality as part of the civil rights community.

Amtrak Train and the text:

On January 29, 2021, Amtrak began accepting claims for monetary compensation by individuals who have mobility impairments who were harmed by accessibility barriers at certain Amtrak stations between July 27, 2013, and December 2, 2020, including the following Pennsylvania Amtrak stations:

· Coatesville

· Downingtown

· Johnstown

· Lewistown

· Parkesburg

Amtrak is accepting such claims pursuant to a $2.25 million “Americans with Disabilities Act Claims Fund” (“ADA Claims Fund”) it was required to establish under a Settlement Agreement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on December 2, 2020.

If you are an individual with a mobility impairment and you have been denied access to Amtrak services due to accessibility barriers at the above stations, you may be eligible for monetary compensation from Amtrak. Monetary relief will only be provided to eligible persons who timely submit a claim form during the claim filing period which ends on May 29, 2021. If you do not submit a timely claim, you will permanently lose any claim to compensation.

Information on the ADA Claims Fund, including eligibility criteria, and how to submit a claim, can be found here www.AmtrakDisabilitySettlement.com or by calling the Fund Administrator 1-888-334-6165 or TTY: 1-866-411-6976. Information on the Settlement Agreement and ADA Claims Fund can also be found on DOJ’s website at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/225-million-fund-available-justice-department-settlement-amtrak. Please also see the attached Amtrak Notice of ADA Claims Fund...

Governor wolf and the text

On February 3, 2021, Governor Wolf released his budget proposal for the upcoming year. Here are some items of interest that the Governor has proposed:

Department of Human Services

  • Office of Developmental Programs
    • Funding to bring serve 100 individuals with unanticipated emergencies in the Consolidated Waiver
    • Funding for 732 individuals on the Emergency Waiting list to get enrolled into the Community Living Waiver
    • $590,000 decrease to the Base Services line item in State funds
    • $828,000 to provide incentive payments to transition people to independent living
  • Office of Long Term Living
    • $1.05 million to provide training to direct care workers
  • Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
    • $1.25 million increase in funding for 20 CHIPPs to serve individuals ready for discharge from State Hospitals in the community

Department of Education

  • Special Education has a proposed $200 million increase

Labor and Industry

  • All programs including Vocational Rehabilitation, Centers for Independent Living, and the Assistive Technology related programs are level funded
Hands Loading a vaccine into a syringe and the text:
PennsylvaniaCOVID-19 VaccinePlan Fact Sheet
What You Need to Know about the COVID-19 Vaccine
Person in Mask:

Disability Rights Pennsylvania
301 Chestnut Street Suite 300 | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
800-692-7443 | intake@disabilityrightspa.org

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