April 28, 2022 By Suzanna Winter, CDHD Interdisciplinary Trainee Disability Policy Seminar recap On March 28 and 29 I had the opportunity to attend the Disability Policy Seminar virtually. This is an annual federal legislative conference hosted by multiple organizations like The Arc, Autism Society, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and many more. The seminar aims to strengthen nationwide advocacy efforts and provides opportunities to visit with members of congress. I attended multiple training sessions, all of which had discussion panels to answer questions from the attendees. Here’s a brief summary of what I learned: Education: Currently the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes the federal government to pay 40% of education costs for students with disabilities. Only 14% of this funding is currently being used, which results in a shortage of special education teachers, crowded classrooms, and limited special education services and classroom aides. The IDEA covers access to early intervention services for infants and toddlers but doesn’t cover childcare. Restraints and seclusion are still allowed in schools, which can cause physical and emotional harm to students. These practices are disproportionately applied to students with disabilities. The rates are even higher for students of color with disabilities. Voting Rights: Individuals with disabilities who voted in our last election went up from 16% to 66%. This is due to the increased accessibility of mail in ballots nationwide. The introduction of electronic voting has addressed some accessibility concerns; however, there are still barriers to tackle. This includes untrained poll workers, voting machine malfunctions, poll location accessibility, and lack of transportation to polling locations. Social Security (SSI): Currently over 69 million people are receiving SSI. This includes nearly 14 million individuals with disabilities, their spouses and children. The SSI asset limit hasn’t been updated since 1989 – individuals can’t have assets over $2,000. Work is being done to increase this asset limit so that individuals on SSI will be able to access better quality care and a higher quality of living. To offset the SSI asset limit restrictions, individuals with the onset of a disability by age 26 can open an ABLE account. This will allow them to save up to $235,000. Work is being done to raise the onset age limit so that veterans and older individuals can have an ABLE account as well. Criminal Justice: Individuals with disabilities encounter law enforcement in common situations, such as traffic stops, accidents and crime reporting. There’s no national law enforcement database that keeps track of death or serious injury to individuals with disabilities by law enforcement. The only place these incidents are recorded is the newspaper. There’s a clear need for training for our law enforcement on how to de-escalate, communicate, engage with, and respond to individuals with disabilities. There are available training resources that law enforcement agencies can access for their employees.