Your monthly news & updates
A note from Debbie....
Matt and I took some time off this month, well, actually, we still were working, just in a new location. We left Miami and went to western Georgia. This allowed us to decompress and process all that has happened over the last several months.

It was great, we took long walks, slept late, and played with Lucy. It allowed us to regenerate and get ready for the election and whatever happens.

Don't forget to Vote! Every vote counts!
clip art that is 2020 with the first 0 as a voting button that says your vote counts
"When racism and ableism combine, the result is another tragedy." So, to honor the 30th anniversary of the ADA and to memorialize those persons of color who have disabilities, it is important to stand together because disability rights are civil rights.
Reading in Schools

clip art of an owl wearing glasses reading a book and sitting on a pencil
Did you know that a student can graduate from high school, with a regular high school diploma, and not be able to read at or near grade level? I recently discovered that there are a large number of kids who graduate but cannot read. The basic job of public school is to teach kids how to read. So, I began asking a basic question: why are so many kids graduating who cannot read? Why are these kids allowed to graduate? How long has this been going on? How can we expect kids to be successful if they cannot even read?

I am a strong believer in the public-school system. Horace Mann, a pioneer of American public schools in the 19th century, famously stated that education was the “great equalizer of the conditions of men.” I have always believed that this idea was true. The opposite is also true. Students who receive a poor education, or who drop out of school before graduating, can end up on the wrong side of a lifelong gap in employment, earnings, and even life expectancy. I have spent much of my professional career working to ensure that students get an equal opportunity to succeed in school. 

Out and About with DIG
FIU Embrace
October 31, 2020
Topic: Housing

FIU Embrace
November 10, 2020
Roundtable Discussion

10th Circuit Fairness & Diversity Event
December 4, 2020

CBO Training
January 14, 2021
DIG in the News
October 21, 2020, WFLA, Man shot by Tampa police officers had history of mental issues, family says, 
Watch our Webinar on Coping with Stress
Thank you to our speakers:
Brian Cuban
Kelly Charles-Collins
Brian Tannebaum
DIG in! for Equal Justice.
It is that time of the year when attorneys must strive to satisfy their professional responsibility to provide pro bono service. We are hoping that this year you will DIG in! for Equal Justice and make at least a $350.00 contribution to:

This will satisfy your responsibility and help us continue to: 

Guaranty the rights of all persons with disabilities equal opportunity to live in the community by educating and advocating for their rights.

Fight discrimination in employment against persons with disabilities, and work with employers and governments to ensure that persons with disabilities have adequate job opportunities.

Ensure that persons with disabilities have safe interactions with law enforcement through The WALLET CARD PROJECT .  This is DIG’s signature efforts in conjunction with police departments to heighten the awareness and communication between law enforcement and people with disabilities.  

Your $350.00 or more contribution will satisfy The Florida Bar Rules of Professional Responsibility to provide pro bono legal services.

Please make you tax deductible donation using this link.

or mail a check to: 
Disability Independence Group Inc.
2990 SW 35 Avenue  
Miami, FL 33133   
Miami Inclusion Alliance (MIA)
As we enter month eighth of the pandemic, we are beginning to see the enormous impact it has had on victims of abuse at the same time one of the major funding sources to help victims is in jeopardy. 

That source is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which became law 27 years ago. Unfortunately, VAWA, requires legislative renewal every five years, and that renewal has been stalled in the congress since 2019. For now, there is still money backing VAWA’s signature grant programs, which has awarded more than $8 billion since 1995. Miami- Dade County receives and needs these funds which includes dedicated funding for resources like rape crisis centers and survivor advocates, as well as discretionary funds that support, for instance, efforts to combat dating violence on college campuses or facilitate outreach to underserved communities. But those resources could dry up if the law is not renewed or if money is not authorized through some other funding stream. And that is just as the pandemic is heightening the need.

The coronavirus pandemic has, early data suggests, contributed to a significant increase in domestic violence, including domestic homicide. The research is still preliminary, and domestic violence is chronically underreported, but it appears that domestic violence has grown in both prevalence and severity. There are increased calls to domestic violence hotlines, which are expected to continue through the end of the year, and more emergency calls to police. 
Rape crisis centers have also reported increases in calls. Anecdotal evidence suggests women’s shelters are turning survivors away because they do not have room for more people, said Monica McLaughlin, policy director for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

A study from the Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital found an increase in people visiting because of physical harm sustained through intimate partner violence, including internal organ damage — a sign, the researchers suggested, that people were coming to the hospital later than they otherwise might have after experiencing abuse. 

Much of the data comes from the first few months of the national emergency and is expected to worsen in the fall, researchers worry. “It’s the hidden pandemic at the back of the pandemic,” said Bizu Gelaye, an assistant professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Let your representatives in Congress and the Senate know that these funds are critical to the safety net we have developed in our community and throughout the country and must be renewed. 
Lucy the Dog
Lucy with a sign in her mouth that says all guests must be approved by the dog.
Benefits Information
head shot of Lesly
Ticket to work and WIPA what that means?
Many working aged individuals with disabilities (ages 18-64) are not working. The reasons vary, but for some it’s a fear of “If I start working, will my benefits be taken away from me?” The truth is: No. People with disabilities can work without losing their financial security or health care benefits. There are many programs available that make it possible to still collect benefits while working. Here is a brief overview of a few programs available.

Ticket to Work
Ticket to Work is a program that assists individuals, ages 18 to 64, currently receiving Social Security disability benefits who want to work. Through Ticket to Work, people can receive assistance with finding employment, getting job training, and receiving other support services.
Through the Ticket to Work program, individuals are referred to an Employment Network or Vocational Rehabilitation agency, which are agencies that will accept the “ticket” and assist the person with the job search and training.

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance? What WIPA can do for you?
WIPA projects are community-based organizations that receive grants from SSA to provide all Social Security and SSI disability beneficiaries (including transition-to-work aged youth) with free access to work incentives planning and assistance. Each WIPA project has counselors called Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWIC) who:
Provide work incentives planning and assistance to our beneficiaries with disabilities to assist them in achieving financial independence;
Conduct outreach efforts to those beneficiaries (and their families) who are potentially eligible to participate in Federal or state employment support programs; and
Work in cooperation with Federal, state, private agencies and nonprofit organizations that serve beneficiaries with disabilities.
The goal of the program is to teach about the work incentives from SSA, enhance self-sufficiency, ensure informed choices, and get rid of fear.

Working with a WIPA can help you:
  • Understand the rules of specific Work Incentives and how they apply to you/benefit analysis and advisement.
  • Decide whether the Ticket to Work program is right for you
  • Understand the potential benefits of employment as a person who receives disability benefits from Social Security while dispelling the myths about working
  • Analyze how work and earnings may impact your Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), health care, and other public benefits
  • Understand the services provided by a State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency or an Employment Network (EN), and how they might fit best with your needs
  • Problem solving and advocacy
  • Benefits support and planning/benefits management
  • Information and referral

Once you begin working, WIPA projects can also provide information and support to help you make a successful transition to work and financial independence. Working with a WIPA project is often a first step for beneficiaries who want to go to work. 
WIPA project from South Florida is serving SSA beneficiaries from Broward, Miami Dade, Monroe, Charlotte, Lee, Hendry and Collier counties.

Contact your local WIPA project at the CIL of the Keys 305-453-3491 
The Wallet Card Project
We will be taking applications starting on November 2, 2020.
The wallet card is a tool to be used by a teenager or an adult with a disability. Currently, we have developed cards for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Intellectual Disabilities.
Access The Vote Florida (ATVFL)
Meetings will be every Friday at 11am.

All meets are now with Zoom.

Join our mailing list for the zoom link.
ATVFL Candidate Questionnaires
Learn more about who you're voting for in November. Check out Access The Vote Florida's 2020 Candidate database. Search by Candidate Type, House District, or Senate District.
How to Return you Vote-by-Mail Ballot
voting drop box for the miami dade county elections department
Your ballot can be returned five different ways.

1)     You can mail your ballot back to the supervisor of elections. If you choose this option, the postage will be paid for you during a countywide election and you are not required to put a stamp on the envelope. You must use the USPS (United States Postal Service) and the ballot must be received by 7pm on Election Day.

2)     You can drop off your ballot at any of the early voting locations. You must put the ballot in a secure drop box during the hours of operation.

3)     You can drop off your ballot in person during business hours (9am -5pm, Monday-Friday) at one of two locations.

a.      The Miami-Dade Elections Department at 2700 NW 87th Avenue, Miami, FL 33172

b.      Stephen P. Clark Center Voter Information Center at 111 NW 1st Street, Miami, FL 33128

4)     You can drop off your ballot at one of four designated locations on Election Day (7am – 7pm).

a.      Elections Department (Main Office), 2700 NW 87th Avenue, Miami, FL 33172

b.      Elections Branch Office (Stephen P. Clark Center), 111 NW 1st Street, Lobby, Miami, FL 33128

c.      N. Dade Regional Library, 2455 NW 183rd Street, Miami Gardens, FL 33056

d.      S. Dade Regional Library, 10750 SW 211th Street, Cutler Bay, FL 33189

5)     You can designate someone to drop off you ballot.

a.      This is limited to two ballots per election

b.      Only one of which may be from a voter who is not the spouse, parent, child, grandparent, or sibling of the designee.

REMEMBER: On Election Day, you CAN NOT drop off your ballot at your precinct. Florida law does not allow this. If you wait until Election Day to submit your ballot you MUST either drop it off at one of the four designated locations or you can choose to vote in person at your precinct.

You can track your Vote-by-Mail ballot on the Elections Department website.
Vote 411 logo pink box with the word vote in white letters and below that the number 411 in black ink
VOTE 411 from The League of Women Voters is committed to ensuring voters have the information they need to successfully participate in every election. Whether it's local, state or federal, every election is important to ensuring our laws and policies reflect the values and beliefs of our communities.

Educational Information
head of stephanie langer holding a business file and wearing a black and white polkadot shirt.
How COVID-19 has shined a light on the inequities and gaps in the public-school system: something special education parents have known from a long time.

Anyone who follows me knows that I am a fierce proponent for the public-school system. However, the public-school system is a large, old and slow-moving entity. It takes time to change. Practices that have been in place for a long time, no longer make sense today. Decisions about funding and staffing often have nothing to do with the needs of any individual student. There are also many inequities that exist throughout the public-school system. Parents who have children with disabilities have seen and felt these truths for a long time. Many families are placed in the impossible position of having to give up their rights and protections that only exist in the public-school system for something less comprehensive (and often more expensive) but which offers the family more control and certainty about the environment their child will be educated in. COVID has shined a bright light on these problems like never before. The stories I could tell about what happens to families in the past were hard for most people to believe, but now parents have a new understanding of how hard it can be to navigate conflicts with the public-school system. COVID has also revealed the huge inequities that exist throughout the system. Additionally, COVID has revealed how much families rely on the school system for things other than reading writing and arithmetic and how much teachers are expected to know and do, over and above just teaching.

What COVID has revealed to me is just how much we need to take back our public-schools and reprioritize how students spend their time during the school day and how monies are spent in the school system. I believe schools should be community based and that all students from that neighborhood should go to the same school. I do not believe in center schools or cluster programs for students with disabilities except in the rarest of occasions. I believe funding however should not be community based and that funding across the district should be equitable and that the quality of education should not be dependent upon what neighborhood you grown up in. I believe we should have counselors and art teachers and social workers and even yoga classes rather than armed police officers (and in Florida, armed teachers) on school campus. 

In 2019, Miami Dade County received $330,000 dollars to “harden” its schools. Hardening schools means making school buildings safer including visible security measures like new mental doors or panic buttons and electronic monitoring systems. For the 2020-2021 school year Miami Dade county received over 5 million dollars for school hardening. Imagine how many teachers could be hired for 5 million dollars. The lowest amount allocated for school hardening across the state of Florida was $42,000.00. The state allocated 42 million dollars for the 20-21 school year for hardening schools. The state allocated another 180,000 million on school safety, which is primarily spent on law enforcement officers. If you ever hear from a district that they do not have money to do x, y or z, ask yourself, is it that they do not have the money or is it that the district or State has made the decision to prioritize something else. 

COVID has shown us where all the cracks and gaps are. We have the unprecedented opportunity to make some big and bold changes if only we have the courage to demand the same. Do you know where your taxpayer dollars are going? 

Supper Social Club - We are Virtual
black rectangle box outlined with a yellow line and the words Supper social club in the box in white
Virtual Supper Social Club-- Topic is Cooking with Sharon- Taco Night.
Zoom Link

11/02/20 6:30pm - 11/02/20 8:00pm

Virtual Supper Social Club. We will send the zoom link a few days before the event.
I'll be there!
I can't make it
Your Upward Journey
The cover of the book Your Upward Journey by Patricia Bochi
In a nutshell, Your Upward Journey:

It is Easier Than You Think!, a three-part project (book, self-help seminars and merchandise sale).