Tag Archives: disabled

Transcript: Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech

The text of Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, according to a transcript provided by Hollywood Foreign Press Association:

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. This town, thank you. I love you all, but you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend, and I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year. So I have to read. Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press, just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we? And what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in — no — in Ireland, I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a small-town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this. So an actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like, and there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work. But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good. It was — there was nothing good about it, but it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart, and I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence insights violence. When the powerful use definition to bully others, we all lose. Ok. Go on with that thing. OK. This brings me to the press. We need the principal press to hold power to account to call them on the carpet for every outrage.

That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedom in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists because we are going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something, you know, we were going to work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight. As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, “Take your broken heart. Make it into art.” Thank you, friend.

Activists halt GOP scheme to exploit state’s disabled, elderly

Disability rights activists won a big victory in Wisconsin last week. On June 9, the Department of Health Services withdrew its plan to turn over programs for medical and long-term care for people with disabilities and the elderly to private, for-profit insurance companies.

While activists celebrated the victory, Tom Frazier, who led the coalition opposed to the changes, said he expects a new proposal to come next year.

Over the last 15 years, Wisconsin has become a leader in creating two innovative programs for helping people with disabilities receive care in their homes. Those two programs are called Family Care and IRIS, which stands for Include, Respect, I Self-Direct. At year’s end, there were about 40,000 people in Family Care and 13,000 in IRIS.

Although the programs are extremely popular and revenue neutral, meaning they cost taxpayers nothing, lobbyists representing for-private insurance companies persuaded Republican leaders to force recipients of such services into their care.

The switch to private, for-profit care, which was approved in April, would “not save money, but (would) disrupt the lives of people using IRIS and Family Care by forcing them into for-profit insurance companies,” said a May 16 press release from a group called Save IRIS, Wisconsin’s Self Direction Advocates.

Other disability rights groups also opposed the change, including Disability Rights Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Long-Term Care Coalition. Both of them urged the Health Services Department to scrap its plan.

On June 9, Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades did just that. She sent a letter to the heads of the Joint Finance Committee, Senator Alberta Darling and Representative John Nygren.

“We have received comments, feedback and questions from providers, advocates, legislators, and most importantly consumers,” she wrote. “Therefore, I am writing to withdraw the concept plan.”

One of the legislators she had heard from was Rep. Melissa Sargent, who wrote a commentary in the Capital Times on May 9, calling the plan “an attempt to make a profit off of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens.” Sargent said that UnitedHealthcare was one company angling for such a state contract.

“Eric Schutt, Walker’s former chief of staff, is the vice president of external affairs for this company,” she wrote. “They have been aggressively lobbying the Legislature to ensure they receive the contract, and the profits that will come with it. Cronyism at its worst.”

UnitedHealthcare spent $124,000 on lobbying in Wisconsin last year, according to the Government Accountability Board’s website.

From 2009 through 2015, UnitedHealthcare of Wisconsin’s PAC gave $21,000 to candidates and campaign committees. The top two gifts were $6,000 to the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and $2,500 to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate. The PAC also gave $1,500 to the State Senate Democratic Committee.

During the same period, employees of UnitedHealthcare gave $30,035 to candidates for office. Scott Walker received the most, with $6,833. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was next, with $2,800.

Matthew Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Visit www.wisdc.org.

Fight against Walker budget cuts

The state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is vetting Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts to the UW System, environmental protections and services for the elderly and disabled.

It’s not an exaggeration to say our futures are at stake: quality, affordable education for young people and returning students; the beautiful lands and streams we love but often take for granted; and the long-term care needs of our elderly and disabled family members and neighbors. 

I’m dismayed by people accepting Walker’s drastic changes as inevitable. Walker’s cuts are not inevitable and it’s self-defeating to assume that nothing can be done.

Public pressure already has succeeded in getting the Joint Finance Committee to nix the proposal that would have stripped policy-making powers from the Department of Natural Resources and Agriculture boards. Some Republican legislators are now saying they plan to reduce Walker’s $300 million cut to UW campuses and $127 million cut to K-12 schools.

Joint Finance co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling was rattled by UW chancellors using the media to announce huge cuts in personnel. “This is sort of a tactic to get people to lobby us,” she huffed. Yes, and an effective one! 

Corporations pay lobbyists to pursue their profit-making schemes, in many cases writing the laws they benefit from. Those hucksters are ubiquitous and made welcome in our state Capitol. But when average folks speak up to defend their public land and institutions, their opinions are considered an imposition.

I say let’s keep imposing ourselves. Activate your social network. Call, email or send letters to Walker, Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Sen. Darling and Rep. John Nygren and your state senator and representative.

Contact Walker at 115 E. Capitol, Madison, WI 53702 or at 608-266-1212. To find your legislators’ contact info, go to http://legis.wisconsin.gov and type in your address. 

Snail mail is slower but has greater impact. Postcards and letters have a physical presence, especially if politicians get a lot of them.

Written communications can be as short as “I am opposed to budget cuts in the university system so please vote against them” to longer letters that include facts and arguments against specific cuts. Supportive facts can be found on the websites of organizations such as the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and UW Alumni groups.

Never be abusive but be firm and state that you vote in every election.

You can also take a personal approach and describe how the cuts will affect your education or your children’s education, the state parks you enjoy, or the care of your grandparents. If you have kids, nephews or nieces, throw a letter-writing party. Have them drop the letters in the mailbox with you. Doing it together sets an example and teaches them we all need to stand up for what we believe. 

In the longer term, we must prepare for voter ID and make sure everyone we know has proper ID and is registered. We need to support, through volunteer time and donations, the grassroots groups working their hearts out to protect our lands, schools and people. 

The fight to preserve public resources and oversight is the fight for Wisconsin’s future. Budget debate and floor votes only extend through May, so please act today.

Walker dismantles care systems

While Gov. Scott Walker struts around the country campaigning for president, bombshells from his proposed state budget continue to shred the lives and hopes of millions of Wisconsinites.

The latest example of reckless overreach by Walker is his proposal to overhaul the state’s long-term care system for people with disabilities and the elderly. It had the usual elements of “shock and awe.” It forecloses public input, regional control and transparency. It rewards campaign contributors and destroys an effective public service that was decades in the making.

Changes in the long-term care system came as a complete shock to everyone involved. People with disabilities, the elderly and their loved ones, caregivers, health providers, managed care organizations, advisory bodies, the state’s Division of Long Term Care and even Walker’s own Secretary of Health Services Kitty Rhoades were blindsided by the proposed changes.

Rhoades insisted that the changes — which she could not enumerate — were all for the best and that the details would be worked out during negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The feds cover 58 percent of the costs of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.

Meanwhile, Rhoades abruptly canceled meetings of the state’s Long Term Care Advisory Council. The council is made up of consumers, administrators and service providers. Walker is not interested in their input. He is dictating the terms and has the votes in the GOP-controlled Legislature to have his way.

The current long-term care system took years of development and is based on active input from the individuals whose lives are most impacted. The programs are cost-effective, outcomes are good, satisfaction levels are high (an astonishing 95–97 percent), and the regional managed care organizations have won respect for their responsiveness and accountability. 

Among dozens of dastardly deeds, Walker’s budget eliminates IRIS, a program that allows consumers to choose their own caregivers and support services within their allotted budget. Self-determination and independent living have been central goals of the disability rights movement. Just as those values have finally made inroads into changing the traditional top-down, medical model of long- term care, Walker is kicking them to the curb.

A $19 million cut to Personal Services translates to 1 million fewer hours of personal care for our elderly and disabled neighbors.

Leave it to Scott Walker: not only do his policies threaten the welfare and self-determination of our most vulnerable citizens, they also destroy jobs. The budget eliminates the eight long-term care districts and requires Managed Care Organizations to provide services statewide. This opens the door to contracts with big national insurers — no doubt, campaign contributors — displacing the regional MCOs that have built trust with consumers. More than 3,000 local jobs could be lost.

Big insurers will direct care with all their usual restrictions and arbitrary decisions. Changes in doctors and caregivers will be traumatic for elderly and disabled people. The budget also removes legislative oversight of Medicaid programs. Public oversight is being handed over to the state commissioner of insurance. How convenient.

Walker is like the proverbial bull in the china shop, wiping out valuable assets Wisconsinites have built over many years — worker protections, our university system, natural resources and, now, a long-term care system considered a model for the nation. It will take generations to undo the damage.

For a detailed summary of disability-related impacts and information on public hearings on the budget, go to http://www.disabilityrightswi.org/archives/4867

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Disability is also a civil rights issue

LGBT leaders are fond of declaring marriage equality the “civil rights issue of our time.” 

This is rather arrogant, because it ignores a number of ongoing struggles for freedom that are equally compelling and involve the fates of millions of people. Because October is Disability Awareness Month, I will address that struggle. It is really “our” struggle because any of us — due to injury, illness or quirky chromosomes — can develop a disability at any time.

Many people are angry about the government shutdown and budget impasse, but among those  taking direct action have been members of the kick-ass disability rights group ADAPT.

ADAPT is a network of activists who engage in direct action to assert the rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom and independence. It focuses on the de-institutionalization of people with disabilities and is incensed at government policies that hinder that process. Its slogan is “Free Our People!”

On Sept. 30, hundreds of ADAPTers protested at the U.S. Capitol, while 20 stormed the office of House Speaker John Boehner. Their message: Don’t play politics with programs that assist people with disabilities to lead independent lives.

Sixty activists, many in wheelchairs, were arrested at the White House. They had squeezed through barriers, chained themselves at the gates and refused to move. They were protesting Vice President Joe Biden’s broken campaign promise to meet with them about community living issues and a new regulation proposed by the Department of Labor that ADAPT believes will restrict the hours of home-care attendants and people’s rights to choose their own attendants.

The regulation extends overtime pay to home-care workers, a long-overdue pay equity issue, supported by the Service Employees International Union. However, because Medicaid is not increasing reimbursement rates for home care, providers are likely to cut or cap the hours attendants work. This could lead to inadequate home-care services and the shift of some people back to institutional care, which is better covered by Medicaid.

The failure of government to put more money into home care and community support to enable people with disabilities to live independently is the issue that unites all disability rights groups. It’s financially shortsighted, because the cost of community-based living is half that of 24/7 institutionalization. 

ADAPT’s slogan of “Free Our People!” is not just rhetorical. Thousands of people with disabilities feel imprisoned due to their lack of resources and the government’s skewed priorities. This is absolutely a freedom movement.

Senate Bill 1356 (Workforce Investment Act), reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act in ways that will realign the patchwork of disability programs spread throughout federal agencies. Central to this is the creation of an Independent Living Administration. The ultimate goals are to strengthen independent living services and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act needs defending against those who want to weaken its provisions. The ADA forbids employment discrimination based on disability and has made public venues, transportation and workplaces more accessible to elderly, disabled and non-disabled people alike. 

To learn more and get involved, go to www.adapt.org and click on the “Join ADAPT” link for Wisconsin contacts. Or call IndependenceFirst at 414-291-7520 and ask about joining one of its advocacy teams.

Kentucky town refuses to protect gays from discrimination

City officials in Hazard, Ky., have refused to change the anti-gay policy at a public swimming pool that evicted a developmentally disabled gay couple due to their sexual orientation.

A storm of protest had erupted in the small, eastern Kentucky town after a worker at the Hazard Pavilion recreation center cited the Bible as authority that “gay people” weren’t allowed to swim there and forced the two men to leave the property on June 10.

“They left the facility crying,” Jordan Palmer, president of the gay-rights group Kentucky Equality Federation, said June 15. “You don’t treat people that way, especially someone that is developmentally challenged. … I’m so appalled by that I can’t put it into words.”

After more than 2,000 people signed the federation’s Change.org petition demanding that the city apologize to the couple, the city agreed and began to institute reforms to prevent a similar situation from occurring.

But after the media spotlight from the incident diminished, the city’s position changed. City Attorney Paul R. Collins, who is responsible for changing city rules, reversed his stance, demanding that Palmer produce a Kentucky state law saying the pool could not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Unfortunately, Kentucky’s civil rights code provides more protections for smokers than it does for LGBT people,” Palmer said. “It is perfectly legal to fire someone, or deny someone access to public accommodations, because they are gay or lesbian. However, it is not legal to deny someone access to public accommodations because they smoke.”

Collins subsequently backed away from a commitment to create new rules to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at the Pavilion in the future. As a result, it will remain legal for public employees in Hazard, Kentucky to continue to deny gay people access to the Pavilion’s public swimming pool if they so choose.

“The Kentucky Equality Federation hopes the city will change their rules to prevent further discrimination,” said Palmer. “Kentucky used to lead the country by enacting the first civil rights law. Now it is lagging severely behind the rest of the country.”

City employee suspended after ousting disabled gay couple from public pool

An employee at a public swimming pool in eastern Kentucky was suspended for a week without pay after telling two developmentally disabled men to leave because they’re gay, city of Hazard officials said.

In response to the case, the city also intends to submit a letter of apology to the company that cares for the disabled men and install anti-discrimination signage.

The suspended city employee, Kim Haynes, told investigators that the two men were engaged in an excessive display of affection June 10, and that he would have told any other couple to leave had he seen similar behavior. Haynes, however, also acknowledged he said, “We don’t tolerate that kind of activity around here,” and cited the Bible in an argument with Laura Quillen, a member of the social service group Mending Hearts, which was overseeing the group.

Quillen told investigators the men did nothing inappropriate.

According to a report released by city attorney Paul R. Collins, summing up the conflicting accounts, at least one witness saw the men “standing ‘man to man’ or ‘belly to belly’ in the pool, splashing each other with water and pushing each other under the water.” The witness “also said he observed them hug each other on at least one occasion” and give each other a kiss, the report said.

“My clients, who already feel ridiculed and different, left the city-owned facility crying and embarrassed for trying to participate in ‘normal’ activities that everyday ‘normal’ people do,” Mending Hearts executive director Shirlyn Perkins said in her complaint to the city.

 “You don’t treat people that way, especially someone that is developmentally challenged,” Jordan Palmer, president of the gay-rights group Kentucky Equality Federation, said June 15.  “I’m so appalled by that I can’t put it into words.”

Palmer called Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman “a women of integrity and class” for suspending Haynes and reprimanding the manager of the facility.

Dozens of people rallied at the pool Saturday, June 18, in support of the gay men.

Protests erupt over eviction of disabled gay couple from public pool

A storm of protest has erupted in a small, eastern Kentucky city after a complaint that a worker at a city-owned pool cited the Bible as authority that “gay people” weren’t allowed to swim there and forced two intellectually disabled gay men to leave.

“They left the facility crying,” Jordan Palmer, president of the gay-rights group Kentucky Equality Federation, said June 15. “You don’t treat people that way, especially someone that is developmentally challenged. … I’m so appalled by that I can’t put it into words.”

The two men had gone June 10 to the Hazard Pavilion recreation center in Hazard with a group called Mending Hearts Inc., which works with intellectually and developmentally disabled adults, according to a complaint filed with the federation by Mending Hearts.

The group is calling for the pool worker to be transferred to another department and is planning a protest June 18 at the center that has attracted the attention of local churches and liberal websites, Palmer said.

The group’s actions have led to angry e-mails, with at least one threatening that if the protest is held, Palmer “will leave with a bullet in his head,” Palmer said.

The federation said in a news release the men were sitting together beside the pool when one of them apparently sat on the other’s knee and put his arm around him. Mending Hearts executive director Shirlyn Perkins said in its complaint that “the Pavilion staff immediately entered the pool area and asked my clients and their staff to leave the Pavilion. My staff asked The Pavilion staff why … and they were informed that ‘gay people’ weren’t allowed to swim there.”

The complaint went on to say that a male pavilion staff member “stated that what he was doing was in the Bible and he could do it. … My clients, who already feel ridiculed and different, left the city-owned facility crying and embarrassed for trying to participate in ‘normal’ activities that everyday ‘normal’ people do,” the federation quoted the complaint as saying.

A telephone message left for Perkins was not returned.

Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman, 83, said the city is sorry about the incident, an investigation is under way and no decisions have been made about the employee. Gorman says the city has been inundated with protest calls from around the country.