Monday, July 20, 2015

Delaware: Exclusion, Rather than Inclusion, marks ADA 25th Anniversary

This story was covered in an article at delawareonline by James Fisher on July 19, 2015.

Disability advocates from Families Speaking Up! were denied a display table at at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in Dover Delaware on July 18, 2015. When the group then arranged to share table space with Special Olympics, and attempted to display a sign from Families Speaking Up!, they were approached by Dover police officers with instructions to put the sign away. An officer said Families Speaking Up! had a “difference of opinion” with the event’s organizers, according to a witness at the incident.

Families Speaking Up! is a non-partisan, grass roots group of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD), their families, friends, and caregivers.  They work to ensure that all voices are heard in the debate over  where people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilties should live and work.  They have opposed the interpretation of a new federal rule by some federally-funded advocates that would eliminate congregate settings for people with severe disabilities, regardless of individual need and preference for where services should be provided.  Programs that are at risk of being eliminated are those that serve individuals with the most severe disabilities who are the least able to speak up for themselves.

Micki Edelsohn, from FSU and the founder of Homes for Life Foundation in Wilmington, said the group was  denied space under the main tent for the ADA-focused event. They were told to set up a booth more than a block away, out of earshot of the main speakers.

The Dover ADA celebration was organized jointly by several Delaware groups and government-chartered councils, including the Department of Health and Social Services, the Developmental Disabilities Council, the Department of Transportation, and the State Council for Persons with Disabilities. Sponsors of the event said FSU was denied a table because it was reserved for another group. They also denied sending police officers to tell FSU to take its sign down because there was a difference of opinion with the sponsors. They said that was the police officer's fault.


A conference sponsored by Homes for Life Foundation in October 2014 to showcase innovative housing ideas, including planned communities for people with disabilities, stirred up controversy among a few advocates at the event. Daniese McMullin-Powell, the Chair of the Delaware State Council for Persons with Disabilities, said to a reporter that allowing individuals to use funding for these innovative approaches, “…would suck up every drop of Medicaid money there is...If they want to choose congregate living, then let CMS use only nursing home money. Don't suck it all up because you want to live in summer camp forever.'"

Dr. Lanny Edelsohn, a neurologist who treats many patients with autism and other central nervous system disorders, and the co-founder of Homes for Life Foundation with his wife Micki,  was startled by McMullin-Powell's remarks and responded in an opinion piece published at delawareonline on 11/4/14. He was especially offended by McMullin-Powell's characterization of the conference attendees, comparing the meeting to a "segregationist" meeting of "rich white people." Dr. Edelsohn said the conference was free and "the attendees were clearly diverse and a tax return was not a requirement for admission." But he was grateful that McMullin-Powell revealed, "that at the end of the day, this battle over the direction of the Medicaid waiver, while superficially clothed in the appealing rhetoric of 'rights,' is, like many things, actually about money."

The Delaware State Council for People with Disabilities was a sponsor of the ADA Celebration on 7/18/2015.

No comments: