People Pusher Beliefs

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. - Martin Luther King

Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. - John F. Kennedy

Our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake. - Henry David Thoreau

The Mission of the People Pusher

It's about the people, stupid.

That's a campaign slogan I wish someone had adopted. In our world today, so much is focused on "platforms" and ideology that is not about the people. The People Pusher wants you to think about that.

At the end of everyone's life, what are they thinking about? Some are seeking redemption for the things they know they did that were "bad." Others are thinking "did I leave my mark on the world?" Still others haven't figured out yet that you can't take the bank account, high profile career, McMansion, or any of that with you.

In the end, the hope is that we are all thinking about who was loved, who we helped, and how we behaved in the community of humanity.

This blog is focused on people issues. And the mission of the People Pusher is that you will think about the people, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

End Waiting Lists-Fuel the Economy

I have posted a link to vote on the issue of ending waiting lists for people with developmental disabilities to the blog today. Please take a moment to cast a yes vote on this issue and change the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Cruelest People on Earth

It has taken some time for me to be able to post this message. The reason is because I am the parent of a person with a developmental disability and, because of that, I frequently experience bouts of grief and pain. It may be difficult for parents of typical people to understand this, but when you have a child/adult with a disability, much of the pain they feel from not being accepted is felt by we parents as well.

Recently, Colorado's Amendment 51 failed by a landslide. Amendment 51 would have provided all of the funding necessary to provide important service for people with developmental disabilities. Throughout this process, I have learned more about exactly how cruel people are than I ever really wanted to learn.

Throughout the campaign, many articles were written about the Amendment to which many people responded. The worst of these responses were people who said that people have no business giving birth to children with genetic disorders that can be detected prenatally and then expect taxpayers to foot the bill for their children. Others kept referring to these individuals as a "special interest group," and many of them said that "charities" should be providing the services, not taxpayers.

I guess I was ill-prepared for these cruel people. I'm not sure why. But it was, indeed, personal and it is taking a great deal of time to get over it. I look at my son and I wonder why people would want to deny him any kind of meaningful life. They would say "we're not denying him anything, he just needs to pull himself up by his bootstraps," but of course I don't even have to say why that theory doesn't hold water.

My question to the world is this: what's the point of life on earth if it isn't for one another?

Our country has a very long way to go before we reach equality or the high goals of our forefathers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Disability Advocates Respond to Palin's Disability Plan

Breaking news...

As advocates for, and parents of, children with disabilities, we appreciate the visibility that Governor Sarah Palin has brought to our community. We understand that it will take strong leadership to build a world free of unnecessary barriers and discrimination for people with disabilities.

However, falsely attacking Senator Barack Obama's policies and unfairly suggesting that they will hurt families who have children with disabilitiesis not leadership. It is nothing more than an attempt to divide people and exploit a serious issue for political purposes. Senator Obama has a comprehensive plan to support people with disabilitiesand their families. His plan will provide all Americans with disabilities the educational opportunities they need to succeed, end discrimination andpromote equal opportunity, increase the employment rate of workers withdisabilities and support independent, community-based living for people withdisabilities. And Obama has a strong record of support for policies and programs that support families who have children with disabilities, including full funding and enforcement for the Individuals with DisabilitiesEducation Act, early intervention and developmental programs and expanded college opportunities for students with disabilities. He has also championed legislation that would allow individuals to make their own choices for living arrangements, and supports strengthening our health caresystem, lowering costs and shoring up the solvency of the Medicaid program. Whether it's his work to pass a bill providing mental health parity in the state of Illinois or his advocacy on behalf of veterans with disabilities inthe U.S. Senate, Senator Obama has demonstrated a commitment throughout his career to ensuring that people with disabilities live lives free of barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination.

This commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities has been on display from the beginning of this campaign. Over the course of this 22-month campaign, Senator Obama has laid out his comprehensive Plan to Empower Americans with Disabilities: (a plan thatdevoted substantial attention to children with disabilities), established an interactive website on disability policy issues and another to fostergrassroots organization among people with disabilities:,
held a national conference call with members of Congress and disability advocates:,
and recorded a video message outlining his plans for the community:
to ensure that all Americans with disabilities have full and equal access to the American dream. He took these steps precisely because empowering Americans with disabilities - particularly children - will be a priority in an Obama-Biden administration. And that's why leading disability rights advocates, both Republicans and Democrats, like Tony Coelho, Ollie Cantos, Marca Bristo, and Bob Kafka have endorsed his campaign. We must come together in order to make progress on these critical issues and we must not be distracted by untrue political attacks. We are heartened that Governor Palin has committed to be a leader for families who havechildren with disabilities if elected, but believe these false, divisiveattacks do little to support people with disabilities.

Polly Arango, Co-Founder, Family Voices
Hon. Loranne Ausley, Florida House of Representatives
Marca Bristo, Executive Director, Access Living
Ollie Cantos
David F. Chermol, Former Special Assistant United States Attorney for SSA
Tony Coelho, Former Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives
David Ferleger, Disability Rights Attorney
Bob Kafka
Paul K. Longmore, Professor of History and Director of the Institute onDisability at San Francisco State University
John G. Pari, Jr., Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives, NationalFederation of the Blind
Harold Pollack, Faculty Chair, Center for Health Administration Studies and Associate Professor of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
Jeff Rosen, General Counsel
Marcie Roth, Executive Director, National Coalition for Disability Rights
Sue Swenson
Katherine D. Seelman, Ph.D., former U.S. Director, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
Lucy C. Spruill
Dr. Ann Turnbull, Co-Director of the Beach Center on Disability at theUniversity of Kansas
Dr. Rud Turnbull, Co-Director of the Beach Center on Disability at theUniversity of Kansas
Jonathan Young

Palin Disability Plan Update

Almost as if she read my mind, Sarah Palin today announced her new plan for children with disabilities. Here are two articles about her 4 point plan:
Palin outlines plans for special needs children

The problem is this: 3 out of 4 of her plan points are already in the 8-page Obama plan:
Obama's Plan
and have been since he put out his plan months and months ago.

Here's the big problem with her school choice proposal, as noted in the MSNBC article:
"McCain senior policy advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin said the plan would not mandate private or parochial schools to accommodate children with special needs."

Private schools do not have to accept kids with disabilities - and many don't. So even with a voucher in hand, parents will get turned away. How do I know that? Because I tried to get my own son into several private schools - some of them were parochial schools - and I was willing to pay out of pocket. They said they couldn't handle him. So this is just another case of "that sounds pretty."

Obama's plan covers so much more than Palin's plan including mental health parity, Medicaid Waivers, and more. I particularly like the concept of the government hiring more people with disabilities-which brings them stable jobs with great benefits.

It is clear that Obama was thinking about people with disabilities long before Sarah Palin ever came on the scene to claim her "special" place on this issue. The playing field is not leveled by Palin's new plan - a plan which is coming just days before the election.

Sarah Palin: What the Puck?

Sarah Palin swept into Colorado recently and decided to weigh in against Colorado's solution to ending decade-long waiting lists in Colorado for kids like her son, Trigg through Amendment 51.

Read the story

I just have to say to this hockey mom: what the puck?

Well, the truth is Sarah Palin, because of her wealth, will never need to use Medicaid waiver services for her son - so why should anyone else? Right? If it can be done in Alaska (where, by the way they DO have a waiting list!), why not Colorado? After all, who on earth would have thought of trying to find that funding some other way in Colorado when we didn't have Sarah Palin, "the knower of all things disability," and the "expert" on balancing state budgets?

Somehow, even without her highness, people actually thought of that before she ever arrived. Parents and advocates went to the legislature. All last summer the legislature worked in an Interim committee to figure this out. They tried hard, and some bills that improved the lives of people with disabilities went through - but not the funding to end the waiting lists because there is NO MONEY.

You have to understand that Colorado has the Taxpayers Bill of Rights - which prevents the state from keeping excess revenue. You have to understand that our state budget has extremely limited discretionary funds. People who do this work know this.

The question remains: exactly what is Sarah Palin proposing to do for people with disabilities anyway? Or is it enough for her to say she is our "friend?" Readers, you need to know I have dug into this issue very far. I have actively sought information from the McCain campaign about their disability policy and what Sarah Palin is proposing.

It does not exist.

I am personally insulted that she gets to wave her son around as a flag representing all of us parents of kids with disabilities. She is no friend to us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

McCain Between the Lines: No Funding for Programs for People with Disabilities?

Tonight, John McCain made a point several times to point a finger at Barack Obama for speaking eloquently to hide other things.

Well, I've got news for John McCain: what you said "between the lines" - not so eloquently by the way - was that under your administration you would not fund federal programs for people with disabilities.

What? You say... you didn't hear that?

Let me translate for you. First, you need to know that in the world of disabilities, where we as a group are targeted by the "no tax" right, are often told that tax money should not pay for services. Instead, people should be able to donate to the charities of their choice. Now that you know that, I will tell you what John McCain said tonight that means no federal funding for programs.

He said (and for the moment I have to loosely quote until I can get a transcript) that the government has to invest in research for autism and that we need to "take care of these families...and everyone in America will reach into their pockets to do that."

He did not say, "we need to increase funding to the Medicaid waiver program." He said "reach into their pockets." This implies that people will donate money, not pay taxes for this purpose.

Be careful what you wish for, all you parents of children with "special needs."

Sarah Palin: What's Your Plan?

The People Pusher is pleased to post this open letter to Sarah Palin from a special needs mom that is being distributed throughout the Internet. This mom wants to know what Sarah Palin means by "advocacy for special needs parents." We have permission to post this here:


I am an expert at raising a child with special needs. My son is an adult, 26 years of age.

Governor Palin, you have said repeatedly that you will be an advocate for parents of special needs children. It is now time for you to tell us what you mean by that statement. It is not enough that you chose to have a baby with special needs. There are thousands of us who made the same choice - and others like me who did not know until our children were born (or later even) that they had special needs. There are also hundreds of thousands of people with developmental disabilities on decades-long waiting lists for services across the country - and others who are completely unable to access services for their children because they don't fit some arbitrary criteria.

Specifically, I want to know the following:
1. Do you support increased funding to and the expansion of Medicaid Waiver programs to ensure that people with special needs can live and work in the community?
2. Do you support making certain that all services are portable, across the states and counties - that people don't have to get at the "end of the line" when they move to another state?
3. Will you increase funding to special education, and improve special education programs so that less parents have to "opt out" of sending their special needs children to public school because "homeschooling" is better than "no schooling?"
4. If John McCain were President, and he were to propose drastic cuts in Medicaid, what kind of advocacy would you do for special needs parents to prevent funding cuts that would put us back to the 1960's?
5. What did you do in Alaska to improve the lives of people with special needs? Did you increase services? Did you increase funding to special education? Did you end waiting lists? Have you served on nonprofit boards that serve children with special needs? How often did the local papers in Alaska write about your advocacy for the families of Alaska who have special needs children? Do all families in Alaska have access to local, community-based programs and treatment regardless of their income because of your advocacy efforts?
6. Are you in favor of spending more time, money and attention on the horrific status of mental health treatment and services across the nation?
7. Would you be in favor of ensuring that services are provided to people with disabilities who need them, in spite of their IQ's not being in the right "range"? Specifically, how would you address this problem?
8. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, what special programs might you institute to support the high influx new parents of special needs children who might not have otherwise given birth to those children because they felt they could not manage for whatever reason?

Governor Palin, the media has had the opportunity to ask you these questions but have not done so. You have seized that opportunity with photo ops and heartstrings to simply say that you will be an advocate for us, without being questioned. You complain that the media is against you and yet you have not taken the time to explain to the hundreds of thousands of we special needs parents who need a champion for our cause so much, exactly what your record is on special needs advocacy and what we can expect in the future if you were Vice President. It's time now to answer the question: What is your plan?

Monday, October 13, 2008


I receieved an extraordinarily disturbing email from an acquaintance today asking me to answer a poll about whether or not Sarah Palin is qualified to be vice-president. The poll itself is not what disturbs me.

Take the poll yourself

In the email from this person, he said that "the enemy is causing great confusion in our nation about this election."

My friend says the enemy is Satan. But in his email, Satan equates with the left.

Does this disturb you at all? That we are now "enemies?" I wrote to my friend and advised him that I am, indeed, no enemy of his.

This country is in great trouble if the parties are going to see one another as enemies.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Amendment 51 Supporters Hold Rally

Yesterday, Amendment 51 supporters held a rally on the steps of the state capitol. It was an extraordinary event with speeches by former first lady Frances Owens, several former news anchors from KCNC - CBS 4 of Denver, two members of the Colorado legislature, and advocates from several ARC's.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Amendment 50 - Colorado's Community Colleges on the Slippery Slope

Colorado's Amendment 50, a ballot initiative that ties casinos to community colleges, is making me call into question the level of education of community college leaders in this state. They have tied their buggy to the casino industry - a very dangerous and slippery slope.

Amendment 50 would allow our casino towns to make changes in limited stakes betting so that people can bet more money. The increases in profits the casinos receive is supposed to go, in part, to community colleges. Community colleges apparantly don't know that raising the gambling stakes also raises the incidence of problem and compulsive gambling.

Is this what we want our educational system tied to?

Vote No on Amendment 50. Colorado does not need to create more problem gambling.

"The Socialists are Taking Over"

Today I saw the clip of the man at the McCain rally who is very angry because, as he says, "the socialists are taking over."

Phew, am I glad to hear that! It's about time!

We know where we have gotten in the last 8 years. Free market - tanked. Remember the old plan to "privatize social security" by having people invest their own money? Hmmm, isn't it a good thing today that this did not happen? Did you benefit greatly from the "trickle down" method of economics?

So what does a country look like when we are all in it together? Ideally, it is a country where no child or person is hungry or uneducated. It is a place where people with disabilities have the care they need. It is a place where grandma can live in an assisted living facility instead of a nursing home. It is a place where education is fully funded and we create the best scholars in the world. It is a place where everyone who is able is working. It is a place where those in the upper 1% of the income bracket don't have all the power. A place where everyone has healthcare. And yes, it is a place where people from other countries are treated with respect and dignity rather than being vilified as "aliens."

Socialism is taking over? Bring it on!

Fuzzy Math

I have been having a recent exchange of words with a mother of a child with a disability who believes with all her heart that the government should not be supporting people with disabilities. She believes, bless her heart, that every family should raise their own money to support the needs of their children.

This, however, is fuzzy math and an extremely naive approach.

The cost of caring for an adult with a disability who needs 24 hour care is somewhere in the range of $50-$75,000 annually. Not only is this more than some families make in a year, if we had to rely on each family doing fundraisers to the tune of $75K a year, our friends and family would get extremely tired of us asking them for money every year. It just cannot be done by an individual this way. It is a full-time job to be a fundraiser. Furthermore, without a system in place to oversee and recruit service providers, the cost would go up for care because providers would have to develop complicated mechanisms to serve each family.

It is beyond naive to think that families are able to take on this monumental task. Those who think otherwise are not in this situation and do not understand how difficult this is. While some families are able to band together to create solutions for their children, so many cannot.

This kind of thinking is going to put us back in the dark ages... when people with disabilities were supported by sitting on street corners begging for money. At some point, I hope people are going to figure this out and stop this endless debate about whether or not our country is about equality for everyone - including economic equality - or not.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Providing Services for People Makes Common Sense

Today I had a conversation with a community leader about the value to the community in providing services to the disabled.

While there are many people who are "anti-taxes," and I do understand why, it is very important to consider that if services are not provided to people who need them the most, the cost to the community may actually be much more than paying taxes.

Parents caring for children with disabilities who do not receive services have to stay home to care for their children rather than work. This decreases their family income (and in fact many have to be on public assistance to survive), and also decreases their spending ability which means loss of income for the state. People with disabilities who don't work because they need services in order to get jobs, also lose the ability to get employer-based medical insurance. They must rely on Medicaid or, in some cases, hospital indigent care. Parents who are unable to save money for their retirement, will end up themselves needing Medicaid to pay for nursing care.

These are just a few examples but it is important for people to understand that we all pay higher costs in insurance, products, medical care, taxes, services, transportation and more when we do not support programs that serve our most vulnerable citizens.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Disabilities

In case anyone has forgotten, "saying" you support people and their problems, is not the same as actually supporting. I know, it is hard to believe that pretty words and a wink or pat on the back don't mean action.

So let's examine where the action is:

First, here is a side by side comparison of McCain vs. Obama's positions on disability issues:
Click here

What I see when I read this is that McCain opposes several extremely important bills like the Community Choices Act and the CLASS Act to support people with disabilities or has no plan for some.

Second, I checked as deeply as I could into Sarah Palin's record on supporting issues affecting people with disabilities. What I learned is that she cut special ed funding in Alaska and that people with disabilities who live in Alaska have to go out of state for services. They are literally flown out of state. How is that advocacy for people with disabilities?

Here's an article about some advocates reactions to her pretty words:
Medical News Today

Third, I learned that Republicans in Colorado are opposing Amendment 51, a bill to fund desperately-needed, life-saving services for people with disabilities.

If this is all about how the government should not provide money to provide services because that is not what the government is supposed to do (that's how I understand their position), what exactly is the alternative? Currently, government funding from taxes goes to nonprofits (in Colorado anyway) that provide the services. It isn't the government providing the services like we often hear. (And that isn't what would happen with a national heathcare plan either).

Where do Repulican families go to get services? How do they pay for them out of pocket (at a rate of between about $25-70K per year?) Is that what we are all supposed to be able to do? How can I do that?

I want to hear about real solutions to these issues that are in the works NOW. Not an "idea" or statement that says "parents, communities and churches should step up to the plate." (A quote from a local Republican). Where are these community organizations and churches that are providing these free services?

Be informed before you vote. And, as always...
Vote Yes on 51

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Health Care for All

If you haven't seen the PBS program called Critical Condition, it is definitely a must see.

They provided a statistic in the film that all people who do have health insurance are paying nearly $1,000 a year more in costs due to the lack of medical insurance for all. Doesn't a national plan make sense, considering this?

Check out the program Critical Condition.

That's Just Not Neighborly!

It strikes me that we now have a layer of government and law enforcement in our lives that is taking away our need to be neighborly - it's called a homeowner's association.

Case in point: my dead barking dog.

Yup, my dog is dead. And yup, somebody complained that it barks too much.

Did anyone ask me if I still had a dog? Nope. That's because we don't really live in a "neighborhood." We live in a system of rows of houses where people don't talk to one another. No longer do people have to just walk over to my house and ask "was that your dead dog barking last night?"

So the People Pusher wants to know... why do we want homeowner's associations? I'm starting to think that pink houses are a great idea. Since the reason we have homeowner's associations is supposedly to keep the neighbor from painting their house pink, I am really starting to like pink houses. As John Mellencamp said, "little pink houses, for you and me!"

But seriously - I'd like the idea of a "neighborhood" to come back.

Amendment 51 Colorado: Helping People Who Need it Most

Amendment 51 provides thousands of children and adults with Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Mental Retardation and other conditions with critically needed care, through a modest, phased-in sales tax of 2/10 of 1%. It is expected to raise enough funding to end decades-long waiting lists for important services for people with developmental disabilities in Colorado.

Prior to going to the voters to support this increase to end the waiting list in Colorado, advocates and parents of people with developmental disabilities worked last summer with the Colorado legislature to try to find ways to end the waiting list. While some funding was designated, the amount needed to fully end the wait list far exceeded what was allocated.

To be somewhat cliche, there never really is a "perfect time" to bite the bullet to provide the financial support necessary to ensure that people with developmental disabilities have their needs met. Sometimes, taxation is necessary to solve major problems. This amendment is only asking for .02 cents on every $10.

People with developmental disabilities are not a "special interest group." They are wonderful people who have so much to contribute to the community. The community also loses the tremendous skills and talents of the parents of these individuals when their needs are not met because parents must stop working in their careers or even have to move to other states where they can get services. Their struggles "trickle out" to the community. In other words, everyone is impacted.

There are times like these when people are worried and don't want to support a social cause. What I hope readers will realize is that one day, it could be you or your family who has this need. If that should happen, I'm certain it will be government support you will turn to for help because frankly, there is no other way unless you are wealthy.

The People Pusher asks you to Vote Yes on 51.