Friday, February 24, 2012

What's the White House doing about people with disabilities?

Every month, the White House holds a conversation on current issues facing people living with disabilities and they encourage participation by anyone who is interested. This month’s call is on February 29 at 12 pm Pacific Time.

If you would like to be added to the White House Disability Group email distribution list, please visit and fill out the "contact us" form in the disabilities section, or you can email them at and provide your full name, city, state, and organization.

Additionally, you can check out the White House's website to learn how the President's recent budget proposal impacts people with disabilities.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are you attending a political party caucus in Washington? Is it accessible?

2012 Political Party Caucus Accessibility Survey

Survey purpose:
A number of disability advocacy groups are seeking information about the accessibility of political party caucuses for party members with disabilities. The groups plan to provide the results of this survey to the political parties for their use in identifying and removing barriers to access and improve responses to requests for accommodation.

Survey sponsors: This survey is being conducted by Disability Rights Washington (DRW), Disability Business Technical Assistance Center Northwest (DBTAC Northwest), Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment (GCDE), and the State Independent Living Council (SILC).

Directions: If you wish to participate in this survey, simply attend the caucus for your preferred political party, and return the survey. You can print out this survey, fill it out, and mail it to DRW or you can e-mail it to DRW.

Please e-mail to:

Please mail to: Disability Rights Washington 315 5th Avenue South # 850
Seattle, WA. 98104

Caucus locations and dates:
Saturday, March 3 - Republican Party caucus
For your caucus locations call (425) 460-0570, or visit:

Sunday, April 15 - Democratic Party caucus
For your caucus locations call (206) 583-0664, or visit:

Survey: Please answer the questions below.

1. Information about access -- Were you able to obtain the information you needed about the accessibility of the caucus location or how to get an accommodation? Example: Did the party provide a contact for requesting an accommodation? Was the website announcing the caucus accessible to you?

2. Transportation? Was it difficult to get to the caucus? Example: Was public transportation available to the site? Was assistance available to carpool? Was there sufficient accessible parking available?

3. Accessible route to the caucus? Could you get from parking to the caucus room without difficulty? Example: Were there steps? If you use a wheelchair, was there room to maneuver? Please identify any barriers.

4. Full Participation in caucus? Were you able to fully participate in the caucus? Please indicate any examples of actions that were taken that made the caucus more accessible, as well as barriers to access. Examples: Were accommodations provided so you could hear the discussion? Was written material in a format you could read? Were you able to participate in the delegate selection voting and discussion? If not, why not?

5. Participate in party activities? Are you able to participate in other party activities you heard about at the caucus? Examples: Will you be able to attend the party convention as a delegate?

6. Other concerns or positive comments? Please provide any additional information about the accessibility of the caucus you attended that you think is relevant.

Location and Date
Please identify the location of the caucus you attended:
Date of Caucus:

Optional: The following information will not be disclosed without your permission.

Your name:

If you wish to be provided with the results of this survey, please provide the following:
Your address:

Your email address:

Thank you for completing this survey.

For information about this survey, please contact: David Lord, Disability Rights Washington at

MS Activist testifies on the House budget

Yesterday evening, MS Activist Veronica Chase testified in the House Ways & Means Committee, thanking the committee for saving many services important to the MS community, including Basic Health, Disability Lifeline, Medicaid, and long term care. Her testimony is a powerful reminder of why we need a safety net in Washington state.

For more information on the budget, see my recent post with a preliminary overview of the House proposal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Washington's budget becomes a little more clear...

Down in Olympia, the House Majority released its draft budget this morning. We are still analyzing it to see how it lines up with our priorities, but from a first glance, it's good news. The budget retains Basic Health and Disability Lifeline, and refrains from making major eligibility cuts to long term care. Budget writers have seen good news in recent weeks with an increase in available funding due to increased tax revenue and a decrease in demand for state services.

The Senate will release its draft budget shortly and then the two chambers will negotiate to come up with a final budget. All indicators point towards the legislature getting out on time, finishing up on March 8, though there is still plenty of time for that prediction to change.

If you are curious what an actual state budget looks like, check out the highlights, the agency break down, and the budget bill.

This afternoon, MS Activist Veronica Chase will be traveling to Olympia with me to share her perspective on the House budget. The hearing starts at 3:30pm and can be viewed online. We expect a packed house as other organizations like our own share their thoughts on the budget as well.

On Friday, I mentioned that I'd be testifying in favor of the health insurance exchange bill in the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. Yesterday's hearing saw a packed room and a long list of people wishing to testify. As such, we ran out of time before I could share my testimony, but there were many people in the room who shared our sentiment. Check out the hearing below - there were some very heated exchanges over the course of the hour plus hearing:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another legislative update...

As the legislative session progresses, I want to provide you with another update so you know how the Legislature is dealing with the issues impacting the MS community. The budget remains the most pressing issue but legislators were rewarded this week with a positive revenue forecast, giving more leeway to budget writers as they figure out how to balance the budget while protecting important services like health care and education. We’ll be watching for the draft budget to come out in the next week or so, though it’s too early to say how our priority programs (long term care, Basic Health, Disability Lifeline, and Medicaid) will fare.

Unfortunately, our bill to limit out of pocket costs died in the Ways and Means Committee last week. A fiscal note was placed on it at the last minute (after our Day of Activism) and that made our work much more challenging. Thanks to many of you who reached out to your legislators to move the bill forward. We are looking at an alternative measure to achieve the same result and we are optimistic that in the end, we will find a way to limit prescription drug costs. Your presence at the Day of Activism has helped to remind legislators that they must find a way to deal with the high cost of health care for people with a chronic disease – so thank you for putting a face to the MS community. Our bill received some positive attention in the press – click here and here for those articles. If you look closely at the KIRO 7 segment, you’ll see MS Activists Dr. Eugene May and Lenita Fryxell at the 0:50 mark, waiting their turn to testify in favor of the bill.

On a positive note, legislation to create a health insurance marketplace moved out of the House this past week. We ran an Action Alert encouraging legislators to support the bill and we’ll be continuing to push for its passage through the Senate. On Monday, I’ll be in Olympia testifying in favor of the bill, reminding legislators of the need to promote more affordable and comprehensive health insurance for people living with MS. We are optimistic that the bill will provide protections for people with MS and other chronic diseases, but it’s too early to know for sure so stay tuned. Legislators have until March 8 to pass the bill before the legislative session is scheduled to wrap-up. If you haven’t already, use the Action Alert to send a message to your legislator, reminding them that health insurance exchanges will benefit the MS community.

To continue your advocacy efforts, I encourage you to attend the local “Town Halls” that many (but not all) legislators are hosting this weekend. Ask the offices of your legislators if they are hosting a town hall or look at this list. If you go, be sure to wear your orange scarf and don’t be afraid to ask legislators what they will do to protect services for people with MS and other chronic diseases. Ask them if they believe we should make cuts to long-term care. This is a great opportunity to introduce your friends and self-help group members to advocacy. Let me know how it goes! And share your story – tweet about it, post on Facebook, Facebook, or Facebook or just tell your family over dinner why advocacy is important to you.

And there’s more you can do to help raise awareness of MS. The Greater Northwest Chapter’s MS Ambassador program reaches out into the community to educate, inspire, and build awareness of the MS movement. Local Sam’s Clubs are raising money for us and we need people to run a booth on the following times. If you are interested in helping out or signing up to be an MS Ambassador, please email Lauren Spero, our volunteer manager-extraordinaire.

Friday, February 24
Auburn: 12 – 4pm
Renton: 12 – 4pm
Saturday, February 25
Auburn: 12 – 4pm
Renton: 12 – 4pm
Friday, March 2
Auburn: 12 – 4pm
Renton: 12 – 4pm
Saturday, March 3
Renton: 12 – 4pm

Finally, to stay up to date on our advocacy work, keep checking back here. Members of our state-wide Activism Committee will also be providing updates to the blog so be sure to check back on a regular basis. You can also visit our federal advocacy blog to stay informed of our efforts in Congress.

That’s it for now – thanks for your work in moving the MS community forward.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What a day in Olympia!

For those of you who missed it, the Day of Activism on January 30th was incredibly informative and motivating! Between the excellent guest speakers, the education we received on the legislative agenda, and the surprising dry weather, the group of about sixty activists were ready to tackle the issues with our legislatures.

As you have seen in previous posts from last week, SB6241/HB2435, the bills aimed at Capping Out of Pocket Expenses are gaining traction! The testimony at the public hearing was attended by a coalition of consumers (including representatives of the Greater Northwest Chapter of the National MS Society) sharing their stories and the impact that the costs of chronic illnesses have on their lives. Please share your story with your representatives and let them know that you support these bills.

The National MS Society has also thrown its support (along with Healthy Washington Coalition) behind consumer driven development of the Health Insurance Exchange required by the Affordable Care Act in 2014. It is crucial that the exchanges are developed to serve the consumer and patients’ interests and not hi-jacked by the insurance companies.

As we have for the past few years, we were again begging our legislatures to STOP the CUTS to the state’s safety net programs. With Basic Health, Disability Lifeline, and aspects of Medicaid on the line, NOW is the time to take a stand. Did you know the state is considering ending the prescription benefits for Medicaid? That alone will devastate the MS Community.

Right now is when your legislators need to hear from you! Call 800-562-6000, visit, or email (click here to find your legislators) and let them know that they MUST protect the state safety net programs!

Stay tuned for updates on the current legislative session and what to follow for the upcoming election in November. It’s Time for Action! Washington.

Cheers - Holly

Friday, February 3, 2012

Media coverage continues on our bill to cap out of pocket costs

Building on the momentum from two TV segments earlier this week, local media is continuing to express an interest in our legislation to cap out of pocket costs. NPR's story is being aired this morning on the radio but you can also find it online.

The most recent story mentions that the bill cleared a key hurdle on its way to passage: it was voted out of the Health & Long Term Care Committee yesterday. Unfortunately, we learned late this week that the bill may have a cost to the state -because of this, the bill moves to the Ways & Means Committee. We are trying to learn more about these unexpected costs as we encourage the legislature to move this bill forward.

You can follow the progress of Senate Bill 6241 online.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Contest Seeks Creative Videos That Challenge Perceptions about Disability & Employment

The Campaign for Disability Employment has announced the launch of its second nationwide video contest to promote the talent and skills that people with disabilities bring to America’s workforce and economy. A follow-up to a similar contest held in 2009, this year’s competition seeks videos in several categories to supplement the CDE’s award-winning “What can YOU do?” public education efforts. Submit your entry by March 30, 2012.