National Council on Disability Statement on the LBJ Civil Rights Summit

  • A
  • A
  • A

April 4, 2014

Director of LBJ Presidential Library
Mark Updegrove

Dear Mr. Updegrove:

The National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) is a national cross-disability coalition that represents the authentic voice of people with disabilities. NDLA is led by 14 national organizations run by people with disabilities with identifiable grassroots constituencies around the country.

In 2015, NDLA, as well as disability organizations and people with disabilities around the country will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is considered the key civil rights legislation that protects and empowers 52 million people with disabilities living in the United States. Yet, unlike the other groups, people with disabilities have been excluded from meaningful participation in the LBJ Civil Rights Summit, which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Though the disability community has landmark civil rights protections, people with disabilities still face unnecessary segregation in institutions, discrimination in housing at a rate higher than any other minority group, exclusion from transportation initiatives, and legalized subminimum wage earnings. On a day-to-day basis individuals with disabilities and disability organizations fight against these injustices through public awareness, advocacy, direct action, legislation, and litigation. In many ways, the disability experience reflects the experience of other marginalized groups (people of color, women, immigrants, the LGBTQ Community) that have won civil rights protections but continue to fight today for the enforcement and implementation of those rights.

When asked by the media about this omission, you wrote, “There is little lingering legislative debate about ADA—it is unquestionably the law of the land. The Summit is tackling the issues that are directly relevant to the bills signed by LBJ or that are still open civil rights issues legislatively.” Your comment fails to recognize ADA litigation across the United States aimed toward enforcing the Olmstead Supreme Court Decision which ruled that the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination. The comment fails to recognize efforts in New York City to make all taxis accessible so that New Yorkers with disabilities will have transportation options equal to taxi users without disabilities. The comment fails to recognize legislative efforts to eliminate Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which legalizes subminimum wage for people with disabilities. Perhaps most damaging, the comment delegates the disability community to outsider status. The community is no stranger to outsider status, but it is deplorable to be positioned there by members of the civil rights community.

As with the other civil and human rights included in the LBJ Summit, the disability rights movement was motivated by movement that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We have a saying, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” With this in mind, we implore the Summit to include disability rights advocates as speakers at the Civil Rights Summit.

Sincerely,

The National Disability Leadership Alliance

***

The National Disability Leadership Alliance: NDLA is a coalition led by 13 national organizations run by people with disabilities with identifiable grassroots constituencies around the country. The steering committee of NDLA includes ADAPT, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the American Council of the Blind, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Hearing Loss Association of America, Little People of America, the National Association of the Deaf, the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer Survivor Organizations, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Federation of the Blind, Not Dead Yet, Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, and the United Spinal Association.

Contact Information: Gary Arnold, 312-640-2199 (voice) garnold@accessliving.org (email)