Supporting Denna Laing, Supporting Your Community

This Sunday, the Boston Pride will face the Connecticut Whale for their final home game this season at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Center. Past Pride home games have recognized veterans, breast cancer survivors, and an organization raising awareness for youth mental health (DIFD). In the same vein, the Pride are now rallying around teammate Denna Laing, who experienced a severe spinal cord injury during the inaugural Women’s Winter Classic on December 31st. Sunday’s game has been declared “Denna Day,” during which proceeds from a silent auction, chuck-a-puck, 50/50 raffle, Denna Laing player t-shirts, and bracelets will go to benefit Laing. Denna Day will be focused on Laing, but a league representative has said that the NWHL has been in communication with national organizations that support people with spinal injuries. Hopefully, we’ll see more information about community involvement from the league in the longterm.

While direct assistance is important, people with injuries like Laing’s rely on accommodations mandated by the government so that they can continue to participate fully in their communities and live independently. These accommodations include things like curb cuts, wheelchair ramps, prioritized parking spaces, as well as services like transportation and acute medical care. You can help Laing today by contributing to The Denna Laing Fund; by advocating for people with disabilities in your community, you can help her for the rest of her life.

Here are some ways you can get involved if you’re in the United States (and in Massachusetts)!

1) Find your senators and representatives [GovTrack]

2) Keep an eye on upcoming federal legislation, including these important bills:

S. 2427: Disability Integration Act of 2015

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) asserted the right of individuals with disabilities to participate fully in community life and live independently. The Disability Integration Act of 2015 seeks to enforce and expand the reach of the ADA, focusing on community support and services for individuals with disabilities. States need to consider the ADA as a civil rights mandate. This includes prioritizing services for individuals with disabilities within their budgets, focusing on integrated living solutions, and minimizing institutional placement.

S. 2001: TIME Act

Did you know that businesses which have been certified by the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division can legally pay individuals with mental and physical disabilities below the minimum wage? Yes, even in Massachusetts. The TIME Act seeks to abolish subminimum wages, allowing a three-year period for businesses to transition to paying workers a fair wage.

S. 1604: Transition to Independence Act
Many individuals with disabilities do not receive support in sustaining or achieving independent living; instead, they are steered toward subminimum wage work, day programs, and institutional residency. The Transition to Independence Act seeks to provide incentive for states which are Medicaid buy-in states to find employment opportunities in integrated settings for individuals with disabilities who receive Medicaid-funded services.

3) As well as this problematic bill:

H.R.2646 – Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015
This bill is a sweeping action that defunds community services, limits HIPAA protections and the protection and advocacy agencies, and would substantially increase institutionalization and forced outpatient treatment. The National Council on Independent Living’s ADA/Civil Rights Committee explains more here (under “The Murphy Bill”).

4) If you’re in Massachusetts, now is a great time to learn about the state budget for fiscal year 2017, which is under construction right now.

Read more about FY 2017 funding for services for people with disabilities at the Arc of Massachusetts.