Disability Policy News

November 23, 2020


Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
                 November 23, 2020   |   Vol. MMXX, Issue 46

*Note: there will be no Disability Policy News on Monday, November 30th due to the Thanksgiving holiday*

Seal of the President of the United States, eagle with blue background

Presidential Transition

Presidential transitions are traditionally the process where outgoing administration and career government officials try to convey years of intelligence, know-how, planning and work to the incoming administration, at the same time the incoming administration is in the process of identifying and hiring thousands of staffers. The current delay from the outgoing Trump Administration has changed the process. Currently, President-Elect Biden’s team is moving forward, launching a COVID-19 Advisory Board, appointing Ron Klain as White House Chief of Staff, and establishing agency review teams in an effort to hit the ground running on Day One. The Electoral College delegates in each state will officially cast their votes on December 14, 2020. 

Plain language:

  • President-Elect Biden and his staff are working to be ready to start work on January 20, 2020.

What it means to you:

  • A transition creates change in federal policy that impacts the lives of people with disabilities and their families, following the transition and learning about who is working on issues you care about can help prepare us to share our expertise and voices.

Action steps:

black and white image of capitol dome

U.S. Congress

Both the House of Representatives and Senate have begun their internal leadership elections ahead of the new 117th Congress that begins on January 3rd. In the Democratic-majority House:

  • Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to retain the top leadership position of Speaker of the House, although the formal vote will not be until January. 
  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) are also running unopposed and expected to win. 
  • Last week, House Democrats elected Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) to serve as Assistant Speaker of the House, which is the fourth-highest ranked position of House leadership. 
  • House Republicans reelected House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to his position for the 117th Congress. 
  • House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) also retained their posts.

In the Senate, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-NY) maintained their leadership positions for the 117th Congress. However, with the two Georgia Senate seats still unfilled, we do not yet know which party will hold the majority. Republicans need only one of the Georgia seats to hold the majority; Democrats need both seats to assume the majority through a 50-50 split with Vice President-elect Harris as the tie-breaker. 

Plain language:

  • Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are deciding on their leaders for the new Congress in January. Democrats are in charge of the House. We do not know which party will be in charge of the Senate until January.

What this means to you:



  • Which party is in charge of the House and the Senate is important for understanding which bills will and will not become a law. Members of Congress in leadership positions have greater influence on which bills are considered; knowing if your members are in leadership can help you as you build relationships with them.


Action Steps:


medical injection needle and calendar, black and whiteCOVID-19 Vaccine

Last Wednesday, drug developers Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer had previously announced that clinical trials showed their vaccine to by 95% effective against COVID-19 beginning 28 days after the first of two doses. Moderna has also announced that the COVID-19 vaccine they developed in partnership with the National Institutes of Health is 94.5% effective against COVID-19 in clinical studies. Federal, state, and local public health administrations continue to make vaccine allocation and distribution plans as the reality of a COVID-19 vaccine materializes. The first wave of COVID-19 vaccines will go to frontline healthcare workers and high-risk populations. 

Plain language:

  • There is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, but scientists and governments are working on it.
What it means to you:
  • Federal, state, and local governments are working on plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. You may be helpful in identifying issues unique to the disability community and working to plan to address all needs.
Action steps:

RX bottleDrug Pricing Rule
On Saturday, November 21st, the Trump Administration released an Interim Final Rule that would allow for the government to reference prescription drug prices established internationally, regardless of the metrics used by those countries or implications for access to care in those countries, for drugs covered under Part B of Medicare. AUCD and other members of the disability community have expressed strong opposition to this.
Plain language:

The Trump administration made a rule that allows for discrimination against people with disabilities to be a part of how decisions are made about the cost of medications.


What it means to you:


The use of quality adjusted life years which are often part of the decision process around medication access and pricing can hurt the access to needed medications for people with disabilities.


Action steps:


graduation cap, pencil, and ruler

Keeping All Students Safe Act

Last week, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act (H.R.8782(KASSA) to prevent the use of seclusion and dangerous restraints in schools. Data from the Civil Rights Data Collection shows that of the almost 11,000 students subjected to seclusion and restraint in the 2017-18 school year, 78% were students with disabilities, of whom a disproportionate amount identified as Black/African American boys. The legislation would ban the use of seclusion and dangerous restraint practices (e.g. physical restraints that affect breathing, chemical restraints) in any school receiving federal taxpayer money. Additionally, KASSA would provide schools with training on evidence-based positive behavior supports and require states to monitor the law's implementation. Given the little time left in the current Congress, the legislation will most likely need to be introduced again in the 117th Congress that begins on January 3, 2021. 
Plain language: 
  • Congress is working on a bill that would protect students from being punished in a way that can hurt them.
What it means to you:
  • Most students that are punished in a harmful way are students with disabilities. AUCD supports this bill because it would help protect students with disabilities.

Action steps:

Seal of the United States Department of Justice; an eagle flying with an American flag on a yellow backgroundU.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) in a case of discrimination against parents with disabilities in the state's child welfare program. The agreement requires that the Massachusetts DCF take steps to ensure that the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act extend to parents with disabilities. The DCF will need to create a new Parents with Disabilities Policy that includes plans for processing disability-based accommodations requests and complaints. Both statewide and regional coordinators will be appointed to oversee the new Policy and to periodically report back progress to the DOJ and HHS.

Plain language:

  • Parents with disabilities in Massachusetts were not getting the services they needed from the state child welfare program. A new agreement with the federal government will mean parents with disabilities will be treated better in the program.
Action steps:

black and white image of capitol domeNational Apprenticeship Act of 2020
The House of Representatives is considering the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 (H.R.8294) legislation that would reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA) for the first time since its enactment in 1937. The legislation would authorize $3.5 billion in new spending over the next five years toward registered apprenticeships managed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the states.
The National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 proposes to authorize funding for:
  • The expansion of registered apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships.
  • Supporting more apprenticeships in nontraditional apprenticeship occupations, such as health care and information technology.
  • Supporting more participation in apprenticeship from women, minorities, veterans and people who were formerly incarcerated.
  • Encouraging small and midsize employers to take advantage of the national apprenticeship system.
  • Codify and streamline standards for registered apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs.

Plain language:
  • Apprenticeships are a way to learn skills for jobs. Congress is thinking about making rules and spending money so more people can have apprenticeships. 
What it means to you:
  • Ensuring that apprenticeship opportunities are accessible to people with disabilities is an important part of the effort to address continued barriers to work force participation.
Action steps:
  • Read the NAA bill (H.R.8294) to learn more about what is being considered.
  • Email or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (voice) or (202) 224-3091(tty) and ask to be connected to your Senators and Representatives to share your priorities for work for participation for people with disabilities.
    • You can use this easy tool to find your members of Congress.

AUCD Conference logo - outline of two people standing and one person in wheelchair holding up blue ball, all rainbow #AUCD2020 Conference Policy Events

We are excited to share that AUCD is offering several ways to engage with federal policy efforts as part of this year's virtual #AUCD2020 Conference:

  • Closing Hill Plenary: Join us for a pre-recorded Closing Plenary on the final day of the Conference to hear from an array of congressional leaders and legislative champions about their disability-related priorities and policies. This year's speakers include Senator Bob Casey (Pennsylvania), Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Representative Clark (Massachusetts), and more!
    • Date and time: Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12:00 - 1:15 pm EST
    • Location: Virtual
    • ASL interpretation and captions will be provided.
  • #AUCD2020 Virtual Hill Visits: We are pleased to share the #AUCD2020 Virtual Hill Visit Toolkit, which includes all the information you need to plan and conduct virtual Hill meetings with your representatives in Congress.
    • Note: Due to the virtual format, we will not have a single Hill Day, but rather recommend that you schedule a meeting with your representatives between November 4th, 2020 and January 3rd, 2020.
Action steps:

logo of AUCD Policy TalkAUCD Policy Talk
"For some people, the results of the election are life and death, and some of those people can be people with disabilities, for whom the policies of the government directly influence whether they get support or not. It affects their quality of life and even their health, sometimes."
This week on AUCD Policy Talk, we share an interview with Kate and Andy Meredith, a pair of siblings from Georgia who voted in their first Presidential Elections this November. Andy, who has Down syndrome, and his sister Kate discuss the impact of disability on how and why they voted.
Action steps:

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz Weintraub

Tuesdays With Liz

On this week's Vintage #TWL, Liz shares information about Congress, reminding viewers that they work for you. She also highlights some useful tips and tools for contacting your congressional representatives for your #AUCD2020 Conference virtual Hill visits!


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For definitions of terms, please see AUCD's List of Policy Definitions