Joyce welcomes Maria Town and Kelly Buckland
December 29, 2020 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes back two disability leaders, Maria Town, president and CEO of American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living to the show. The guests will discuss issues, accomplishments, and trends in the community to keep Joyce's listeners apprised of what is happening on a national basis in the area of disability. They will reflect on the past COVID-19 year of 2020 and what to look forward to in 2021.

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Transcript

FINISHED FILE

 

Bender Consulting Servcies

disability matters

DECEMBER 29, 2020

1:00 p.m. CT

 

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>> ANNOUNCER: Do you know that over 70% of Americans with severe disabilities are unemployed? If you have epilepsy or know someone struggling with these issues, tune into Disability Matters with Joyce Bender. On the show, Joyce will discuss these issues as well as others. She will have on nationally known guests that will offer insight on disability matters and let you call in with your questions. If you struggle with a disability or know someone who does, listen to Disability Matters with Joyce Bender, heard every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time here on voiceamerica.com.

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>> ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Disability Matters with your host, Joyce Bender.    All comments, views, and opinions expressed on the show are solely those of the hosts, guests, and callers. Now the host of Disability Matters, here's Joyce Bender.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Hey, happy new year soon to be, everyone. I'm hoping it's a happy, hopeful, healthful new year. Yoshiko Dart, I've got to give you a special shoutout. And I know you've been hearing me say this for years. Why do I say that? I'm going to tell you why. If you ask most people, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, they're going to say, of course I know who that is. Of course. But if you say Justin Dart, Judy Heumann, and now Maria Town and Kelly Buckland, they'll say no, I've never heard of them.

And that is because we do not have our own history that is prominent in schools. Therefore, I will always have a special shoutout to Yoshiko Dart, because her late husband, Justin, and she were really behind pushing through the ADA. Hey, you know Justin Dart's famous when he's a jeopardy question. Too bad, he's a Jeopardy question. I don't know if they got it right. And yet, most people I talk to they'll say, who is that?

So, Yoshiko, I'm going to make sure every show I'm reminding everyone who Justin Dart was. And let me tell you, this is the 30th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. So, how important is that this year, as always. But you know, I just want to highlight that. Hey, a special shoutout to all of my friends in all of the countries that listen to the show. Largest audience right there in China. And some countries, only one listener ‑‑ well, one listener, thank you.

You are making a difference. What you've got to do is tell everyone in your country about this show. And China, thank you so much. Keep it going. I just want to say to everyone in China that we're thinking about you and every other country when it comes to COVID. So we are together in all of this. I want to have a shoutout to Richard Roberts in Japan, Gung Young Cho in South Korea, Cheryl Harris in Tunisia, and Vinyamin in Kazakhstan. He's a disability rights leader in Kazakhstan. Everyone else I mentioned is with the State Department.

They are the diplomats at the embassies. And I want to tell you about those people. They are really fighting the fight for people with disabilities in their country. I love all of you. I want to thank Highmark who once again, this year, as in all the other years, was the lead sponsor of the radio show. Every year. And this past year, Wells Fargo, and People's, and the Employment Options. Thank all of you for being a sponsor of the show.

It means so much to me. But right now, guess what? Our two guests, national civil rights leaders, probably known internationally. They were on last December, 2019, to talk about what had happened that year and their hopes for 2020. Of course, not knowing we would have COVID. But do you know that's one of the top ten most listened‑to shows? So, tell everyone. They want to hear this show, you know. You can go on demand, you can subscribe to the show on Spotify or Apple.

But tell everyone about this show. So, my two favorite people, Maria Town and Kelly Buckland from AAPD and NCIL, welcome to the show.

>> Thanks, Joyce.

>> Hi, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: So, Maria and Kelly, being that we have a listening audience around the world, how about if you tell people ‑‑ and we'll start with you, Maria ‑‑ about what is the American Association of People with Disabilities, and what is your role there?

>> MARIA TOWN: Sure. The American Association of People with Disabilities, or AAPD, is a national in the United States cross‑disability civil rights organization that works to increase the economic and political power of disabled people. So, when I say cross‑disability, we don't focus on a specific disability diagnosis or experience. We are really focused on making sure that all 61 million Americans with disabilities can come together and organize for our rights and the rights of those around us.

In my role at AAPD, I am the President and Chief Executive Officer. So I am responsible for the day‑to‑day operations of the organization, as well as setting the vision and strategic goals for AAPD throughout the year. And I love working with two of the leaders on our board, Joyce Bender and Kelly Buckland.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well, we love you. And Maria, who has quite the background, from working at the White House during the Obama administration, and before that, the Department of Labor, is really rocking it at AAPD. Maria Town, a name not to forget. And then we have my radio guest who I have on frequently, because I love him so much, Kelly Buckland. Welcome to the show.

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: Thank you, Joyce. It's always a pleasure to be on your show, and particularly it's a pleasure to be back with Maria. I had a great time doing this show with her last year, so I'm really happy to be back on with her again. So, I'm the Executive Director of the National Council of Independent Living, or we go by NCIL. NCIL is also a cross‑disability organization. And we are a membership organization for centers for independent living, which there are about 715 of across the country, which are nonprofit, nonresidential organizations run by and staffed by people with disabilities, serving people with disabilities, and statewide independent living councils, which are gubernatorially appointed, 56 of those, one for each state and territory.

They act as the planning bodies for the centers for independent living in their individual states. NCIL advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities, and we envision a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. Let me tell you about Kelly. He's so well‑known that if you say Kelly, everyone knows who you're talking about. And he has been fighting the fight for people with disabilities for years. Kelly, I just want to mention that when I went to Japan, I went to their independent living center. And the first thing I saw when I walked in was lead on, Justin Dart. Of course, Yoshiko knows a lot of those people. But you know no matter where you are in the world, when I have people say to me how do we get started, there's a good way.

Independent living center. Just go to NCIL.org and you can read more about it to give you ideas. And I want to mention also, Maria also has a disability. And gee, Maria, most of the board as a disability.

>> MARIA TOWN: That's right, Joyce. I think 76% of our board members are people with disabilities at AAPD.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And, of course, as my listeners know, I'm living with epilepsy and I'm hard of hearing. And as I always tell you, just like Kelly and Maria, I'm living with disabilities and I'm not ashamed. I am living with disabilities. So, Maria, starting with you. As I said before, we had no idea that COVID was coming. As a matter of fact, the AAPD gala was like weeks before the shutdown. It was amazing how that happened.

But not only did we not know it was coming, we didn't know the impact it would have. And I have several things I would like to talk about. But first, let's talk about the impact of healthcare and really, Kelly, as Maria is talking, feel free to jump in if you have something else you want to add. And then Kelly and Maria, you can have a conversation about this the way you did before. So, Maria, how about it you kick it off, and then Kelly can join in. What was the impact of healthcare disparity, whatever, on the disability community from COVID?

>> MARIA TOWN: Thank you for that question, Joyce. You're right. The AAPD gala was literally, like, hours before the shutdown in Washington, D.C. became official. I think it was, you know, the next morning the mayor of Washington, D.C. basically put the city on lockdown. So that was really the last event that I attended, was more than, you know, two to five people. COVID impacted ‑‑ impacts every aspect of our lives as disabled people, and particularly when we're looking at healthcare.

There are quite a few ways that COVID has impacted the disability community. And I want to clarify something that you said, Joyce. Unfortunately, the way that COVID has impacted our community, they are ways that we could have predicted and we did predict. Even before COVID, you know, hit the U.S., disability advocates were already speaking with our elected officials saying, you know, we need to be prepared and we need to make sure that these systems can be responsive when this virus comes to the U.S., because it is coming.

So, I'll start ‑‑ I'll hit a couple of points. And I know Kelly will have a lot to add. But one of the first things that we saw when COVID hit, and when these lockdowns started happening, was the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, said that individuals with disabilities or chronic health conditions should have a 90‑day supply of medication so that they could remain in their homes and not risk exposure going to a pharmacy.

Well, some medications and some insurance providers do not allow individuals to have such a large supply of certain medications. And so one of the things that we did at AAPD was create letters ‑‑ a form letter that individuals could send to their governors, other elected officials in their states to encourage states to adopt policies that allowed more flexible prescription refills so that individuals could actually follow CDC guidance and get extra supplies of their medication.

Another thing that we saw when lockdown started happening was that individuals who work with direct support professionals, like personal care attendants, those attendants were not able to travel to work with consumers because of lockdown restrictions. Further, many states do not consider direct support workers healthcare workers. So these workers who are working with people with disabilities living in the community were not prioritized for personal protective equipment and were not prioritized for other necessary supplies to keep themselves safe and protected, as well as the consumers that they were working with.

One of the other things that we are still seeing, and that thankfully has gotten a lot of attention, is discriminatory medical rationing. So, once COVID hit, we saw states across the U.S. establish crisis standards of care policies that basically said that disabled people and older adults should not be prioritized for life‑saving care. We saw states say, you know, if someone is not expected to live very long, they shouldn't get a ventilator. And AAPD, NCIL, and so many other disability rights organizations, as well as individual advocates have fought back against these policies.

And so we have seen some states change their policies. But unfortunately, even without COVID, disabled people experience discrimination in medical settings that leads to these kinds of rationing decisions. So we saw Michael Hixson, a disabled Black man in Texas, who was denied live‑saving care simply because he was disabled. And now, as the U.S. is seeing another big COVID spike and hospital resources are getting more and more strained, you know, we are all very worried about what will happen to people with disabilities who seek medical attention, who may not get the support they need. And there's so much more to say. And so I'll let Kelly jump in.

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: Yeah, well, I think those are all really good examples of how people have been affected, but basically, every aspect of everyone's life has been affected by COVID. And that certainly included people with disabilities. And a lot of the things that we knew prior to COVID as being issues for people with disabilities were just exacerbated by COVID. So, for instance, like Maria is talking about the lockdowns. You know, a lot of transportation systems were locked down, which means people with disabilities couldn't get to appointments that they had, medical or otherwise.

And that certainly cut people off from services. And then I think initially a lot of the media messages just really kind of devalued the lives of people with disabilities. Like, you know, when they were talking about COVID and who it affected, they were talking about it affecting the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, or other underlying conditions, which was a message of ‑‑ that's people with disabilities, essentially.

And they said it in a way as though they were almost expendable, or not as valuable as people who weren't elderly or had underlying conditions. So, even the way it was put. And so I think that message changed over time, but initially it really was devaluing. And then as Maria mentioned, there were people with disabilities who couldn't get their workers to come in because they couldn't get around because of the lockdowns.

But we also saw a lot of people with disabilities actually move back in with family and other measures so that they didn't have to have workers come into their home, because they were concerned about them bringing the virus into their own homes. So, we saw that. And the CDC guidance that came out was really centered around institutional places that people live, and not people's homes. It took a long time for the CDC to even get guidance out around workers that come into people's homes versus people who worked in nursing homes or hospital settings.

And I mean, a lot of the guidance that was out there by the CDC, people just simply couldn't follow, because one of the main things was like not being around people, and keep distance, like at least six feet away. Well, you can't do that when you have a personal care attendant. You can't stay six feet away. So a lot of that stuff ‑‑ they simply couldn't follow it. So, anyway, those are some other examples, I think adding to what Maria had said.

>> MARIA TOWN: And this is Maria. I think ‑‑ I don't want to say the biggest, but, you know, the thing that we have to mention when talking about COVID and our healthcare system is the number of deaths of disabled people that have occurred within institutional facilities, congregate care facilities, you know, in the United States. More than 40% of all COVID deaths have been people with disabilities who are in congregate settings.

And the percentage of people who live in congregate settings as compared to the percentage ‑‑ the U.S. population is very, very small. And yet, this small percentage of the population has contributed to, you know, almost half of all COVID deaths in the U.S. And, you know, organizations like NCIL and like AAPD have been fighting for years to ‑‑ (clearing throat) ‑‑ change what's called the institutional bias in the United States.

And what we've needed during COVID is funding and support to make sure that people can continue living in their homes, and not go into a nursing home. We've also needed support to get people out of congregate settings. And unfortunately, you know, that really has not happened.      And when we think about how that connects to healthcare, you know, when folks go into the hospitals seeking medical attention, part of that process is actually recommending folks become admitted, you know, into a nursing home facility.

And I know Kelly, you just went through this. And so I think one of the hopes that I have for 2021 is actually that everyone ‑‑ our elected leaders, our healthcare providers, our friends and family ‑‑ take a critical look at what's actually happening in these congregate settings and we all work together to build systems, to build a country where folks can continue living and aging in their home.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, Kelly, I was going to ‑‑ you know, I know NCIL has been an advocate forever of getting people out of nursing homes. I remember I heard you talking about it once as a prison. And my friend, and your friend, Marcy Ross, the CEO of WIND, she was saying to me one day, they are slaughtering people with disabilities. And I said what do you mean? She said, Joyce, what do you think people in nursing homes are? How did they get in there? They have some type of disability. So, what do you think about that, Kelly?

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: Yeah. What Maria said is absolutely true. In fact, I think some of the numbers that we've seen are actually underreporting the number of deaths in congregate settings, because I don't think we keep very good track of people in other settings than nursing homes. We have pretty good numbers for nursing homes, even though I think the number of deaths have still been undercounted. But other settings a lot of times aren't even required to track this stuff.

So I think there's been an undercount, for one thing. Secondly, we've always known that people were sent there to die. There's plenty of studies that show that people's lives are shortened when they go into congregate settings. You compare the lives of people who live in their own homes, and then those who live in congregate settings, and those who live in congregate settings definitely die earlier. Well, COVID just made that so much more apparent that we now know that home is the safe place.

A lot of people ‑‑ the institutional bias really is a lot of people believe that you go into these institutional settings, you get 24/7 care and you're somehow safer and better off when actually, the opposite is true. I mean, people go there and they die sooner. And they're not well taken care of. In fact, the studies also show that the average number of hours that people get in a facility are less than they actually get in their own home.

So, I mean, I think COVID really has just really exemplified that to a point where it really is a tragedy. Marcy is right. And the problem is, it's still happening. I mean, people are still being sent in huge numbers to congregate settings, including nursing homes, straight from the hospital. And so we haven't learned. In fact, the medical profession just keeps sending more people. And Marcy is right about that. And Maria mentioned ‑‑ this happened to me when my sister was sent into a nursing home, because she had fallen off a ladder and broke her pelvis.

That's the way they discharge people. There's still this belief that people get 24/7 care and they're better cared for, when actually, exactly the opposite is true. And hopefully one of the lessons that we will learn from this pandemic and COVID is that that is the result of sending people to institutional types of care. So, we really do have to continue our advocacy. Maria is exactly right, to get the resources put in place that keep people home and safe.

And we have to learn from this experience of centers for independent living are still moving people out of congregate settings, including nursing homes. But what we're finding is a lot of our efforts are being slowed down because of the lockdowns in nursing homes and other congregate settings. They won't let us in. And then secondly, the housing is really hard to find at this point because of COVID as well, to move people into.

And then, thirdly, we're moving people out, but we can't move them out as quickly as they're moving new people in. We can't keep pace. They're moving more people into nursing homes and other congregate settings quicker than we can get them out. So, we're fighting this battle. But we're losing ground, because we don't have the resources necessary to do this kind of stuff. Billions and billions of dollars have been sent to nursing homes. And nothing, so far, has been appropriated by Congress to address specifically home and community‑based services.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, I know that, you know, you and Maria both ‑‑ I know for years have been fighting this fight. You know, money follows the person. I mean, why the heck ‑‑ you know, we can't have those dollars diverted for people to live at home. Well, people listening, you've got to really advocate for this, because nursing homes have a real big lobbying. And you've really got to be advocates in this area.

But before we go further ‑‑ oh, my goodness. This show goes so fast when I have these two dynamic people on. But we have another dynamic person. Every week, as you've known for several years now, we have a news break on the half hour. And the reason we do that is once again, where can people go? Where can they go to hear what's happening to people with disabilities across the board. And who does an outstanding job of advocacy matters, is Peri. Peri, are you with us?

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: I am, and it's good to hear the show, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, I know you know these people very well.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: They do terrific jobs.

>> JOYCE BENDER: So what do you have for us today, Peri?

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Well, the 116th Congress is wrapping up its work this week, just in time to swear in the 117th Congress. So, really, the seating of the new Congress is only five days away. And that takes place on Sunday, this Sunday, January 3rd. So, this new Congress is sworn in every two years following the federal election, which we just had. And that elects U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the U.S. Senate.

So the House schedule is out for 2021. And we don't have our Advocacy Matters posted yet on our website, but when we do, go to disabilityrightspa.org and you can check out the House schedule for 2021. The U.S. Senate has not yet released their schedule for 2021. But like I said, go to disabilityrightspa.org, give us another day or two, and we will have all of these links available for you. Just find our Advocacy Matters segment.

So, members are still working. They're still producing legislation. They're trying to figure out what to do with Presidential vetoes. And they're trying to finish important matters like COVID relief still here in the last few Congressional voting days left. So, until the 116th Congress ends, we can't really preview any new legislation yet. But we still know that there are important issues to come, issues like hate crimes, and voting reform, and fighting back efforts that are going to reduce the scope and application of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and education, and racial inequality, and more COVID relief.

So we know these are coming. Now, one important matter still outstanding that's of interest to people with disabilities is really how much COVID economic impact relief are individuals going to receive. It's a little confusing. There's some confusion out there, Joyce. Congress had passed that legislation last week. The President had just signed the bill, the COVID relief passage. And that would provide $600 per individual and child, up to certain income levels.

Now, Democratic members and the President wanted to see those relief checks go up to $2,000 per individual. And the distribution of the $600 would start this week. But there have been delays ‑‑ delays over how much should be in the check. Now, the $600 is the law. It's been signed by the President. So as we wait to see if Congress is going to do more than $600, people just have to wait for that economic stimulus check out of that COVID package.

Now, yesterday the House passed HR 9051. The vote to pass that legislation to increase the amount to $2,000 was 275 yeas and 134 nays, bipartisan, now over in the Senate. And it's so unclear what Mitch McConnell is going to do. Late reports today say he may combine a larger stimulus check with some other issues. So we'll wait and see. But a few important dates for next week, January 3rd, members of the U.S. House will be sworn in and seated.

There'll be a vote for the Speaker of the House on January 3rd, this Sunday. And, of course, January 6th, the House meets to ratify the votes taken by the electoral college. So, still so many exciting things to happen. And advocacy matters. If you want to weigh in on the stimulus payment, there's still time. Go to senate.gov, find your U.S. senators, call or email them and let them know how important this economic impact payment will be to so many people with disabilities.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well, Peri, I want to thank you for once again this year doing an outstanding job keeping everyone apprized of what's going on, and CEO of Disability Rights Pennsylvania. You are a great disability rights leader. I can't tell you enough what a great job you have done. So, thank you very much. And have a happy, safe new year.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Happy New Year to all. Thanks, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You know what, Maria, there's something going on right now that you have been reaching out to the community and to the board as it relates to the COVID bill. Do you want to take about that?

>> MARIA TOWN: Yes. And Peri did a fantastic job summarizing a lot of what's happening. And so as Peri mentioned, the House and the Senate did pass a COVID relief bill recently that was signed by President Trump that provides a $600 stimulus payment to adults. And part of the calculation for how much individuals receive is based on if they have children. And one of the things that the disability community has really been pushing for throughout the duration of the pandemic is for stimulus payments to incorporate what are called adult dependents in the calculations.

So, if you are someone like my mother, for example ‑‑ my 30‑year‑old brother, who has a mental health disability and an intellectual disability lives at home with my mom. But, because he is an adult, my mother would receive no additional stimulus funding based on the current law. The same is true if you are someone who has elderly parents at home that you are helping to support. And so the exclusion of adult dependents in the stimulus payment not only harms people with disabilities, but also multigenerational families in general.

The cash act, which was passed by the House, currently in the Senate, we don't know what Mitch McConnell is going to do, does include adult depends in the calculation of the $2,000 stimulus payment checks. That's really exciting. I hope the Senate passes this. Not only do people need more relief, but we need the relief to actually reflect everyone in the country. The other thing that did not happen with the recent COVID relief bill that was passed was that as Kelly mentioned, it didn't include any funding to get people out of nursing homes, or to prevent further congregate care admission.

Once again, direct support workers were not prioritized for personal protective equipment. The bill did do some good things. It authorized the money follows the person program, for I think it's three years. And if I'm wrong, Kelly will certainly correct me. But there's not a lot of clarity around how that funding will be used by states. The COVID bill also included funding for broadband, for people who currently cannot afford high‑speed internet.

And that is much‑needed. So, the pandemic has created a number of opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in things like telework. And this is an accommodation that many in the disability community have been fighting for decades. How often were people told, this job is not eligible for telework. And now so many of us have to work from home. But before the pandemic, people with disabilities experienced a significant digital divide.

That is in part because ‑‑ and Joyce, you know this ‑‑ people with disabilities also experience very high rates of poverty. And so this bill does include funding for more people to have access to broadband to help keep people connected. And for a lot of folks who have not had regular access to the internet, the pandemic has been so incredibly isolating because of the ways that many of us are able to connect now virtually. They have not been tribal utilize them. Kelly, I'm sure you have a ton to add to this.

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: Well, actually, not to the current bill, except, I mean, the info I'm getting is that McConnell has blocked attempts to pass the bill in the Senate.

>> MARIA TOWN: Yeah.

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: So, I mean, the dependent adult child thing also affects college students. So, that just kind of adds to the whole dilemma that college students have with mounting debt, which includes people with disabilities who are going to school as well. So, just to add that in there. But, no, I think that was a really good overview, Maria.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well, I want to move, if we can, to 2021, because I'm sure that you both have goals and things you want to see happen. And I was talking to my friend Becka this morning about one thing you have heard almost zero about. And that is the CRPD, the Convention on Rights on Persons with Disabilities. So, Maria, before we talk about your other goals for the disability community, what do you think about that? What do you think we need to do to see that a reality?

>> MARIA TOWN: Well, not to be partisan, but I think the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff will tell us a lot about the potential for the U.S. to finally ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights on Persons with Disabilities. You know, years ago President Obama signed the convention. And then it became up to the U.S. Senate to ratify it. And I believe we missed ratification by two votes in the Senate. It was so close. It was genuinely painfully close.

And so I'm not getting my hopes up until the January ‑‑ the outcome of the January 5th Senate runoff election in the state of Georgia. Right now, both Senate seats in Georgia are in a runoff. So early voting, if you are in Georgia or have friends who are in the state of Georgia, early voting has started. Please vote. The election day is January 5th. And looking at the turnout numbers that we have, already more than 1.5 million people have already voted in this election.

And so the outcome of that election will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. And that will help us have a better sense of whether or not the U.S. will finally ratify the CRPD.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Right. And I was there, by the way, when people walked past Senator Dole and changed their vote. That was horrible, horrible. Maria, while we have you talking here, what are some of your goals for the disability community in 2021?

>> MARIA TOWN: Well, we have a lot of work to do. (Clearing throat) The pandemic will continue through 2021. We are going to, you know, continue to advocate for equitable and inclusive COVID relief. And in addition to COVID relief, I want to make sure that states are prioritizing people with disabilities in the distribution of the COVID vaccine. And that's really tricky. There are a lot of people who are concerned about taking the vaccine.

And we have to honor that concern while also making sure that people with disabilities are not left behind. You know, the COVID vaccine is tricky. Right now it requires multiple doses. It has to be kept very cold. And so there are a lot of questions around, like, in‑home vaccination capacity, and what does that mean for people for whom it's still not safe to leave their homes. So, you know, I want to see ‑‑ and am already seeing the disability community engage in advocacy around vaccine distribution.

In 2021, we will have a new administration, a new president in the United States. And I want to see the Biden‑Harris administration take what we saw in the campaign, which is making disability very visible ‑‑ I want to see that continue happening in the Biden‑Harris administration once they're in the White House. There's all kinds of things that I want to see President Biden pursue, and fixing some of the mistakes that have been made by the Trump administration.

But I want to see people with disabilities appointed to key roles in the administration. And I'm thrilled to say that the Biden‑Harris team is now actually tracking appointees with disabilities, which has never happened before, in a formal way. Coming into next year, we will actually be able to know how many people with disabilities are serving in the administration. And that's a powerful organizing opportunity.

I also, in 2021, you know, want to see us invest in more opportunities for disability employment. You know, that's another thing, Joyce, that you don't hear a lot of people talking about in relation to COVID. But I know you especially talk about all the time, people with disabilities have lost their job due to COVID. And yet we're not seeing the disability community being prioritized in the economic recovery from this pandemic. And so that is one of the things that I want to see in 2021.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, Maria, I agree with everything you've said. Those are big things. Kelly, what about you?

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: Yeah, well Maria's done a really good job. On top of that, you know, I guess I would just start off by saying I'm very hopeful about this new year, for really good reasons, I think. First of all, with the vaccine on the horizon, I really think that hopefully the beginning of the end of this pandemic has started and we can start to see a healing. And then with a new administration, hopefully we will see a healing in the country as well.

We have certainly been, over the past few years, been a really much divided country. And I'd like to see us start to unite and heal, and begin to love one another, and really care for each other instead of being so divided and having so much hate. I also just really am hopeful we'll see a much more inclusive America in all kinds of ways, including disability and race. So I'm really hopeful about all of those things. And what Maria mentioned about this new administration, and appointing people with disabilities in key roles.

I really hope that's true, and that we see that in this administration. And really, we have ‑‑ this incoming administration actually has a plan for addressing issues around disability. And we haven't had that in this past administration. There was no plan for people with disabilities. And that plan really, as I have read it, is really good, and includes a lot of issues we've been fighting for.

And hopefully we can combine our advocacy with the plan that this administration has and see a lot of progress in the areas that we've been fighting on for so long, including the issues that we've talked about over this past hour or so around how the pandemic has affected people with disabilities. And certainly that includes a lot of the things that we've been fighting for on home and community‑based services, increasing the number and amount of that assistance so that people can live in the community safely.

And then I really am hoping that we somehow start to shut the front door to these institutions so that we can stop sending people here in the first place, so we don't have to move them out. We shouldn't have to move them out. They shouldn't go there in the first place. We should shut the front door so they're not admitted. I'm really hoping we can make some progress toward that.

>> JOYCE BENDER: I'm sorry, go ahead, Kelly.

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: I just wanted to reemphasize how hopeful I am for the new year. I really am hopeful for this year.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Me, too. That is really great. And I want to say before we close the show today, I want to say how much the disability community values both of you. Sometimes people forget that, you know, there's a whole lot of people that look at you, and look to what you say and do. And you know what, we couldn't have two better people than Maria and Kelly, who by the way could be a great appointee. Just want to mention that. Two great people, two wonderful people. We're so thankful for everything that you've done. And I know you want to take, in this last minute, time to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

>> KELLY BUCKLAND: Absolutely.

>> MARIA TOWN: Yes, Happy New Year, everyone.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes. I wish you all a very Happy new year. We end every show with a quote and you know what it has to be, right? "Lead on, lead on no matter what," said the late, great Justin Dart. Hey, make sure you're here next week, when we start off January. Yes, with CEO David Holmberg, CEO of Highmark. Happy New Year, stay safe, be careful. Love you all, talk to you all as we kick off 2021.

>> ANNOUNCER: VoiceAmerica would like to thank you for tuning in. Please join us next Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time and 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time for another installment of Disability Matters right here on the VoiceAmerica Variety Channel. We are the leader in internet talk radio, VoiceAmerica.com.

>> ANNOUNCER: Thanks again for listening to the proceeding program, brought to you on the VoiceAmerica Variety Channel. For more information about our network and to check out additional show hosts and topics of interest, please visit VoiceAmericaVariety.com. The VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network is the worldwide leader in live internet talk radio. Visit VoiceAmerica.com.

The views and ideas expressed on the proceeding program are strictly those of the host or guests and do not necessarily reflect the views and ideas held by the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network, its staff, and management.

 

(Session concluded at 1:58 p.m. CT)

 

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