AAPD Breaks Agreement with Disability Community; Puts Advocacy Efforts at Risk
March 26, 2015
It is with deep disappointment that we announce the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) has decided to break the agreement reached with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) and ADAPT. AAPD had agreed to withdraw an amicus brief supporting changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act companionship exemption with the recognition that - although well-intended - these changes would seriously hurt people with disabilities and their attendants.
AAPD has privately notified us that it will not abide by its agreement with us and now will not withdraw the brief. AAPD has not released any public statement announcing this decision. The decision was communicated by two AAPD board members who, when asked, agreed that the decision to tell ADAPT and NCIL that the organization was withdrawing the brief was made to avoid a group of ADAPTers protesting at their fundraising gala.
We are deeply disappointed by the actions of AAPD, not only for breaking their agreement, but with the way the organization is making decisions that significantly impact the lives of people with disabilities. A core value of the Disability Community is communicated through the phrase "Nothing about Us without Us!" which means that no policy should be decided without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy. AAPD failed to involve anyone directly impacted by this decision in their decision-making process.
ADAPT and NCIL tried to change that and had secured a meeting with the AAPD board on the afternoon of the AAPD gala to discuss the issue and amicus brief. The ADAPT/NCIL group included a significant number of attendants and attendant service users negatively impacted by the DOL rule changes. The meeting with the board was cancelled when the CEO notified us that AAPD had decided to withdraw the brief. Assuming the AAPD board subsequently met and decided to break the agreement reached by their CEO, it did so without giving any affected individuals the opportunity to participate in the process. This is unacceptable.
The AAPD board is charged with making decisions for the organization, but they have now put themselves in the position to make policy and strategy decisions for the entire Disability Community. It is clear that AAPD will take positions against national, disability-led organizations like NCIL and ADAPT, who have expertise and long track records working on specific issues, extensive national networks, and clear processes to assure their decisions are reflective of their grassroots constituencies. It appears that AAPD is willing to sacrifice the rights of people with disabilities in order to support the Administration, and that the Administration is using AAPD to undercut any criticism leveled against it by our community.
Whether or not you agree with ADAPT and NCIL on this issue, every disability rights organization should carefully consider the implications of AAPD's actions for themselves and their constituencies. The actions of AAPD are inconsistent with our values of integrity, nonpartisan advocacy, and inclusive decision-making. They put all of our advocacy efforts at risk.