Disability Policy News

February 22, 2021



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)
                 February 22, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 7

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically.

COVID-19 Relief 

Last week House lawmakers continued to mark up the $1.9 trillion budget reconciliation proposal based on President Biden's American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Today, the House Budget Committee will combine the pieces from the other Committees into one legislative package. Once the Budget Committee has finished their own markups, the budget package will be brought to the House floor for a vote. It is expected that the Democratic majority House will pass the COVID-19 budget reconciliation within the next week. The legislation will then head to the Senate for consideration with a vote expected before March 14th when enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) is set to end.

COVID-19 relief issues impacting the disability community: 



 Biden Proposal

Budget Reconciliation



Funding for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS)


Budget reconciliation includes 7.35% FMAP increase for HCBS for one year.

$9.7 billion COVID HCBS Relief Act reintroduced (H.R.525, S.151).


Adult dependents included in Economic Impact Payments



Proposal for legislation from Sen. Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Craig (D-MN).


Funding for Developmental Disabilities (DD) Network





Funding tied to individuals with Education in Disabilities Act (IDEA)



Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act (S.240).  


Plain language:

  • Congress is working to pass COVID-19 relief. The goal is to pass it in March.
What it means to you:

  • Right now, there is some funding for the disability community in the COVID-19 relief proposal. However, continued advocacy will be needed to make sure that funding is passed. Now is the time to contact your Members of Congress and tell them what you need, for example your Home- and Community-Based Services, stimulus payments, or education.
Action steps:

a plane, bloat, and car next to a stop sign, black and whiteTransportation

The U.S. Access Board will host a series of virtual meetings on making autonomous vehicles (AVs) accessible to people with disabilities. The four meetings over the course of March and April are open to the public. The Access Board will also offer an online discussion platform for the two weeks following each session to extend the conversation. 

Plain language:

  • The government is thinking about how to make new self-driving vehicles work for people with disabilities. They are hosting meetings and want people in the disability community to participate.
What it means to you:

  • Not having good transportation is a big problem for many people with disabilities because it can make it difficult for them to get to school, work, doctors' appointments, etc. New technology like self-driving cars could help solve this problem.
Action steps:
  • Register for the free meetings on Inclusive Design of Autonomous Vehicles.
  • The online discussion platform will open on February 22nd. You can access it on the ePolicyWorks platform.
  • Learn more about the push for accessible autonomous vehicles from We Will Ride.
  • Learn more about transportation issues in the disability community from the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

hand putting ballot in box
Voting rights

A group of Senators led by Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) sent a letter to President Biden outlining a series of suggested Executive Orders to address faults in our election systems. The proposed Executive Orders include the following suggestions to support voters with disabilities:

  • Instructing federal agencies to guarantee accessible voter registration options. 
  • Ordering the National Institute for Standards and Technology to analyze barriers for voter services and develop recommendations for ensuring accessible registration.
The letter clarifies that any Executive action is supplementary to the election reforms in the For the People Act (H.R.1, S.1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The House is expected to vote on the For the People Act as early as the first week of March.

Plain language:

  • Lawmakers are thinking of ways to make voting more accessible for people with disabilities.
What it means to you:

  • It is important that people with disabilities have the ability to vote so that their voices are heard.
Action steps:

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

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Friday, February 26, 2021, to consider Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is unique as a one-dose shot, as opposed to the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer/BionTech shots. It can also be stored in most standard refrigerators, easing the transportation and distribution needs. If the vaccine is recommended by the Committee for emergency use, then Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Janet Woodcock, will make a final decision.

Plain language:

  • There may be a third COVID-19 vaccine available soon. This vaccine would only need one shot.
What it means to you:

  • If the new vaccine is approved, you may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine sooner. It is important to keep checking with your state's Department of Health to see when you are able to get a COVID vaccine and how.
Action steps:

Seal of the President of the United States, eagle with blue backgroundBiden-Harris Administration

Appointments and confirmations to staff the new administration continue. To date the following Cabinet Level positions have received Senate confirmation:

  • Secretary of the Treasury: Janet Yellen
  • Secretary of Defense: Lloyd Austin
  • Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines
  • Secretary of State: Antony Blinken
  • Secretary of Transportation: Pete Buttigieg
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas
Additional White House appointment announcements include:

  • Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, an experienced health policy staffer, as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • James Kvaal, current president of the Institute for College Access & Success, as Under Secretary of Education.

Plain language:

  • President Biden continues to appoint people who will serve our country during his administration.
What it means to you:

  • The transition creates new leaders in federal agencies. The work of these agencies will create changes in federal policy that impacts the lives of people with disabilities and their families.
Action steps:

  • Continue to follow news from the Biden Administration at whitehouse.gov.

black symbol of building to look like hospitalHealthcare.gov

A 2021 Special Health Insurance Enrollment began on February 15th and will continue until May 15, 2021. President Joe Biden ordered this special enrollment period to get more people signed up for health care during the pandemic, especially people who have lost jobs and health insurance.

Plain language:

  • People who need health insurance can now sign up on Healthcare.gov
Action steps:

  • If you need health insurance, go to Healthcare.gov before May 15th. If you already have coverage, help your family and friends sign up and enroll.

AUCD logo AUCD Disability Policy Fellowship

The application is now open for the AUCD 2021-2022 Disability Policy Fellowship. The purpose of the Fellowship is to provide significant experiences in national level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and AUCD administration. This is a paid full-time, one-year position beginning June 2021. The position offers a competitive salary and has the option to be located either in-person at the AUCD Silver Spring office or remote.

Applicants should submit a letter of interest explaining their reasons for wanting to become a Fellow, what they hope to get out of the fellowship, and how they plan to use the knowledge and skills gained. Please include a current resume and at least three letters of reference. A recent writing sample will be accepted but is not required. Please send all documents as attachments via e-mail only to: Rylin Rodgers, Director of Public Policy, at [email protected].

Plain language:

  • The application for the AUCD 2021-2022 Disability Policy Fellowship is now open. You need to apply by March 30th. 
Action steps:

outline of U.S. Capitol Building in blueDisability Policy Seminar

The Disability Policy Seminar and the pre-DPS events for the AUCD network will be entirely virtual this year.

  • The AUCD events will be virtual on March 19 and April 16. You may register for those free events now. 
  • Disability Policy Seminar will be April 19, 2021 to April 22, 2021. The cost to students and self-advocates is $135, and $225 for all others. Stay tuned for a full schedule and registration!
The Disability Policy Seminar offers the opportunity for passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field to come together and learn about key federal issues that affect them most. After a wide range of sessions offering training and learning, participants will learn how best to engage with their Members of Congress and be given opportunities to do so. You are welcome to register for both the AUCD events and the Disability Policy Seminar or for either.

Plain language:

  • The Disability Policy Seminar will be a virtual event from April 19, 2021 - April 22, 2021. You will be able to register for it soon.
  • The AUCD Prevents will be virtual on March 19 and April 16. You may register for those free events now.
Action steps:

logo of AUCD Policy TalkAUCD Policy Talk

"Advocacy and education are needed to improve both policy and practice in ending discrimination on the basis of disability throughout the organ transplantation process."

This week on AUCD Policy Talk, Tracy Waller, an attorney with the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities, looks into the current legal protections for discrimination in organ transplantation against people with disabilities, and the state advocacy efforts still needed.

Action steps:

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz Weintraub
Tuesdays with Liz

This week on vintage #TWL, Liz talks to Mark Crenshaw of the Georgia LEND about mentoring and preparing leaders for the future.