Skip to Main Content

Skip to Sidebar / Section Navigation

Skip to Main Navigation

The Independent – Summer 2008

Volume 15, Number 2
Summer 2008
A Vermont publication for elders and people with disabilities

Table of contents:

  1. Introduction from Deborah-Lisi-Baker: Your Vote and Your Voice Matter
  2. Letters to the Editor: Shut Out Of Society
  3. Editorials: Person-Centered Care: A Moral Imperative
  4. COVE 2008 Legislative Summary
  5. VCDR’s 2008 Legislative Update
  6. Your Vote, Your Voice
    Who Votes, Who Doesn’t And Why We All Should
    Voting Facts
  7. Be Ready For Disasters And Be Safe
  8. Fuel Assistance Applications Due August 31st
  9. Legislative Action on Health Care
  10. Funds for Children on Autism Spectrum
  11. Living With An Autism Spectrum Disorder
  12. Disability Happens
  13. Bulletin Board
    ADA Celebration Set for July 26
    VTrans to Hold Public Transit Forums

Your Vote And Your Voice Matter

A colorful parade float with a  sign on the back that reads: Surgeon General's Warning: Exclusion of  People with Disabilities could be hazardous to your community

In this issue we present the first of two special inserts on our voting rights and options. It seems a good way to celebrate America’s Independence Day and the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In this country 35 percent – just over a third – of eligible adults regularly vote in elections. Research shows that people’s most frequently cited reasons for not voting in the 2004 presidential election were “too busy, conflicting demands, and the inconvenience of polling place.”

We are busy and life seems to be getting more challenging than ever. Fortunately, the Secretary of State’s Office, local officials and concerned Vermonters are working to make voting less difficult and more accessible to seniors, individuals and low-income Vermonters. Voting by phone or by mail is easier than ever: Check out the voting insert in this issue to learn more. This issue also includes COVE and VCDR reviews of the legislative session along with our News and Views updates on Vermont programs and services.

Thank you for your support and enthusiasm for The Independent. It helps keep us independent – and in print! In order to help keep us in print, please take a moment to look at your mailing label and send in any necessary corrections. The U.S. Postal Service charges small publications like The Independent a lot of money when we have errors in our mailing list. We need to make all changes by the end of August. Your help is much appreciated.

Deborah Lisi-Baker, Editor

Letters to the Editor

Shut Out Of Society

Last night I watched a PBS program about two men who escaped from Auschwitz-Birkenau to warn the Jews of Hungary what they were in for. The film stressed the Nazi policy of secrecy, which is hard to grasp how they kept so many murders a secret for any length of time. But that was the claim in this piece – that in the 1940s people couldn’t conceive of industrial-scale “efficiently” organized murder that the bureaucrats in all the social institutions – the medical, legal, infrastructure, transport – could sign off on without dissent.

But how do you permanently remove millions of citizens from the population without resorting to gas-filled “showers,” mass crematoria, or deep trenches layered with corpses? And with nobody batting an eye?

First, you declare them different utilizing the highest authorities in the land. Then you drug them with powerful, brain-cell-killing, health-undermining psychiatric drugs. Ét voila! People are left walking around in broad daylight in the community, but they are not part of the communities in which they exist. They are outside of the community in every genuinely meaningful way. They are transformed by “diagnoses” and by the effects of powerful drugs into the “living dead.” By doctrinal definition, by stereotyping, by catchwords or merely by shrugs, by the “symptoms” they take on and act out as per the suggestions of authorities as well as the all too real symptoms from the effects of the drugs, they are justifiably excluded from everything in the social order (except ongoing “treatment”). But even the drugs are not necessary where a person has been marked as mentally ill. Merely by defining someone in mental health/mental illness terms (the secularized version of the good-evil dichotomy), that person is shut out from everything in society. Just as the Nazis had excluded the Jews by deeming them threats to the health and safety of the body of the Volk, the justification today is protecting the health and safety of the community that is threatened by the presence of mentally ill persons, especially those who remain “untreated” (undrugged).

So it has been my experience, and I am very aware of it. Perhaps if I were drugged, I wouldn’t be so aware, or even if I had some awareness of being socially excluded, I wouldn’t care. No matter that there are yet some decent things about our social order. Where someone is shut out, they have no access to whatever good society offers to the majority. So it was with the Jews of Europe under the Nazis; so it is with anyone marked as mentally ill in the United States today.

Barb Sliger


Person-Centered Care: A Moral Imperative

Editor’s Note: The following reflections were shared by Dolly Fleming, executive director of the Community of Vermont Elders, at the May 13 MyCare Vermont Project’s conference, “Real People, Real Choices: Person-Centered Care and You.”

by Dolly Fleming

The standard procedure is to approach health care or services in general in this manner: problem/assessment/tests and subsequently treatment. Person-centered care (PCC) is not about NOT testing and treating, but its philosophy is broader and deeper to ensure that it includes and incorporates: strengths/assets/hopes/dreams/aspirations. Person-centered care is not about being politically correct, nor mere quality management compliance, nor tearing down institutional care settings or those who chose to work within those settings. Rather, person-centered care is a collection of philosophy, attitude, practices, policies and approaches that move us from: surviving to thriving; existing to living; resignation to joy; settling to aspiring; insignificance to significance; diminishment and humiliation to dignity.

I do not recall the particular author but she had the wisdom to challenge us: “What is so important that we have time to read all the books on love and relationships, but we do not have the time to listen to the heart of our lover?”

What is so important that we have the time to read all the books and articles on PCC, attend conferences, acquire continuing education units, but we do not have/make the time to listen to the heart of our client/patient/ family member? (You fill in the blank of the name of the person receiving/sharing the care and support for independence and well-being.) When we do actually listen, it is all too often to the doctors, professionals, family members but not genuinely or inquisitively to the actual elder or person.

Person-centered care is not simply a clinical or individual approach or response. We cannot ignore systemic or policy matters that impact care. PCC is not about: Falling into complacency as a state with a Choices For Care high needs category wait list. Settling for moderate needs group-categorized clients living without necessary services. Allowing poor seniors to choose between eat/heat or meds. Settling for policies, budgets and reimbursements that leave services and programs and organizations under funded and under resourced.

Person-centered care is about policy and practice. It is not just a philosophy we aspire to but a foundation of state policy that promotes, supports and ensures a culture. We need to help foster and promote the will and confidence of legislators and government officials to adequately resource the very foundation and infrastructures of long-term care.

Thomas Merton cautioned: “The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his or her work for peace.” We are all activists of sorts and know how easy it is to confuse a flurry of activities with accomplishing something meaningful. These words also apply to the frenzy of the caregivers. The frenzy of the pace and routine of care neutralizes our very purpose – that of affirming the person’s dignity and well-being. We all surrender to too many demands and projects and lose the moments of being awake and attentive to that which is actually before us now. I find that whenever I cannot bring my entire being – I am not fully there and therefore not present to the fullness of another. “Do one thing at a time and do it entirely and it will lead you to the next moment of love.” Dare I suggest that love has a place in person-centered care? There, I said it.

Person-centered care is not just about focusing on the beneficiary – to do so requires the full presence of the caregiver, or perhaps better stated, the care inquirer. In our culture we say “Thank you” and the response is “You are welcome.” One up – one down. One giving – one receiving. All gracious and acceptable. But there is a lesson in the Hawaii culture where when one gives and shares, they say “Mahola” and then respond in turn “Mahola.” Little distinction is made from giving and receiving, but simply acknowledging the sharing and exchanges – that which is between and flows with good intentions, honoring one another.

In the Australian bush, when folks greet one another they say: “I see you.” And the response is “I am here.” Do we take enough time to really see and simply be … as policy-makers, administrators, caregivers, care inquirers? When we see someone on a waiting list can we truly say: “I am here.” Can we stop referring to nursing home beds and start seeing the person who is residing in the home?

The people in our lives who have validated our personhood by seeing us are the foundation of our self worth. Being seen allows us to claim our lives.

My sister thought she was practicing the best of person-centered care when she took my 93-year-old mother shopping to the store of her choice on the day she wanted to go. It would have been so much easier to simply pick up the items she wanted, but she wanted to support her independence and participation in the “outside world.” Jeannie in her efficiency scurried along rapidly ahead of my mother gathering all the desired items off the grocery isles into the carriage in lickety-split time. They were back home in no time. When it was my turn, I followed suit and did likewise, until my mother set me straight. “Dolly,” she sighed, “I just want to mosey. Slow down and enjoy the journey.” My mother wanted and deserved to mosey and stroll down the isles, checking out prices and brands, tasting food samples, greeting neighbors at a pace that avoided the frenzy and invited the fullness of the experience and the outing. My sister and I had unintentionally neutralized, even ruined that experience, that activity of daily living until she put us back on track to person-centered care.

So perhaps if we start thinking about someone we love and move outward with that spirit of intent and grace, we may find ourselves closer to policies and practices that are truly person-centered.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Mary Oliver so beautifully encourages us:

“Pay attention- then patch a few words together
and don’t try and make them elaborate
This isn’t a contest but a doorway
Into thanks and a silence in which
Another voice may speak.”

Person-centered care is not a contest – it is an invitation and a moral imperative.

Join the Conversation, Share Your Stories, Hopes and Concerns

The Independent would like to hear your response to Dolly’s essay and your thoughts on what person-centered care means and how Vermont can make it happen. E-mail your comments to, or mail your letters to The Independent, c/o VCIL, 11 East State St., Montpelier, VT 05602.

For more information on the MyCare Project visit the Web site

COVE 2008 Legislative Summary

by Michael Sirotkin, Esq.

Given the budgetary challenges facing the 2008 session of the Vermont Legislature, COVE and the aging network once again fared fairly well. What follows is a brief summary of the most significant budgetary and substantive issues COVE worked on this past session.

Proposed Pharmacy Co-Payments (H.891) – We were very active this year in protecting against suggestions that our state pharmacy programs be eliminated or new co-pays of $3-7 be instituted. After we successfully defeated those proposals with press stories and TV and radio appearances and mailings to legislators, we then had to fight off an attempt to impose $1-3 co-pays. In the end, we stopped all cuts to these programs other than the new slightly modified monthly premiums suggested by the governor and the House of $17, $23 and $50, for VPharm 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Many seniors and persons with disabilities fill five or more prescriptions per month. Co-pays of any sort could have easily created hardships for those with multiple chronic conditions.

Long-Term Care Insurance (S.284 343) – This bill called the “Long-Term Care Partnership” would have encouraged the purchase of LTC insurance, by allowing these policyholders (after exhausting their insurance) to qualify for Medicaid without spending down their assets. There have been long-standing concerns regarding the coverage, marketing and appropriateness of long-term care insurance in general. The same reservations would apply to these “partnership” policies.

COVE felt that any legislation in this area must spell out in detail, and in advance, the strong consumer protections appropriate to these policies. While the administration agreed that this new product should have the strongest of consumer protections, they and the insurance industry suggested that the protections need not be in the law, but could be deferred to future rulemaking.

Despite their strenuous efforts to rush the bill through in somewhat general form, the Legislature wisely rejected going forward without more detail. We and other consumer groups will be working with the banking department this summer to see if we can specify upfront all the consumer protections that will make this a worthwhile product.

Electric Affordability Initiative (S.209) – Vermont is the only state in New England without a program that assists low-income residents with their electric bills. We worked closely with AARP to make sure that this year’s omnibus energy bill would authorize the Public Service Board to lower rates to low-income households on a utility-by-utility basis. This low-income affordability authorization provision did indeed become an important part of the energy bill signed by the governor in April.

It is hoped that this provision will lead to new utility-by-utility assistance programs for seniors and others under 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. We hope to be working with AARP this fall in approaching several utilities to file petitions with the Public Service Board to allow them to charge their low-income customers lower rates – something that would have been impermissible without the enactment of S.209.

Guardianship Revisions (H.617) – This supposedly noncontroversial bill wound up having almost three months of off and on testimony. In the end our guardianship laws were modernized with numerous technical amendments, many of which will prove more protective of the interests of those in need of guardianship.

COVE’s main concern with this bill was to make sure that the Legislature, probate courts and stakeholders continue in their study and improvements of monitoring, compliance, reporting, accounting, etc. of the guardian’s work and duties.

The study did get enacted and COVE has a designated seat on the task force. It reads, in pertinent part:

a) The general assembly finds that: (1) Individuals under guardianship are among the state’s most vulnerable citizens. (2) Guardianship provides legal and human rights protections but may also be used to deprive vulnerable people of resources and fundamental rights. (3) Guardianship is increasing in Vermont. (4) Private guardians usually have no training or support in carrying out their guardianship responsibilities. (5) Probate judges and court registers who once were able to provide a measure of support for and monitoring of guardians are less able to do so as the volume of new guardianships and other court work increases their workload. (6) A comprehensive guardianship monitoring program would likely require significant additional staffing and resources and, as such, is not currently a cost effective or viable approach.

(b) The guardianship education, improvement, and accountability task force is established. Consistent with the findings in subsection (a) of this section and in recognition of the vulnerability of individuals under guardianship, the task force shall study ways, other than a staff-intensive monitoring model, for improving guardian accountability, assuring the protection of the rights and well-being of individuals under guardianship, and training and supporting guardians in the execution of their guardianship duties.

Choices for Care (H.891) – Frustration with this program grows as we all now understand that the waiting list for the high needs group is essentially “frozen.” This means that folks will not be taken off the waiting list even as people currently receiving services under high needs pass on.

We met with the commissioner and others to better understand how this came to pass and testified before the Legislature several times about our concerns.

While we would have liked to have been able to add funds so that at least some could come off the waiting list in 2008, that proved impossible given the budget climate. The best we were able to do was try to get more transparency in DAIL and OVHA budgeting, and to form a working group that includes consumer and provider interests in how savings are reinvested and if Vermont should even seek renewal for the CFC waiver: “The Department shall convene a working group from its advisory council for the purpose of providing input on the advisability of seeking renewal of the waiver and how any new waiver can timely report to providers and consumers on reinvested savings.” During the session we also started to hear concerns about spending for the moderate needs group, which will also be a topic of ongoing discussions.

Pain Management Study Committee (S.281) – Probably as a result of last year’s debate on end-of-life choices, numerous bills on chronic and end-of-life care were introduced in 2008. In the end, a summer study by legislators with input of named stakeholders (including COVE) was enacted. This is significant as very few legislative studies get established and funded in election years.

This study could be a major springboard to EOL initiatives next year. Among topics likely to be reviewed are how to improve pain education and training of providers and what, if any, resources can be devoted to more hospice care and consumer protections (e.g. a palliative care ombudsman office).

Other DAIL budget items – Agencies on Aging received a 2.5 percent increase ($384,000) as recommended by the governor. Nursing homes fell victim to the infamous $24.5 million last-minute general fund shortfall and had their statutory inflation increase cut in half – losing approximately $1.5 million. Home Health received a $1 million increase, although $800,000 is contingent on there being a surplus in revenues in the current fiscal year. Adult Day saw their Medicaid rate increased to $15 an hour. Cathedral Square will receive $100,000 from the DAIL budget for a supportive housing project in accordance with the following language:

“It is the intent of the general assembly that these funds be used as matching funds for grants to conduct research on cost-efficient and quality services in senior housing. Cathedral Square, in conjunction with the department of disabilities, aging, and independent living shall develop measurable outcomes of success, including savings from services not needed because of the demonstration project services or improvements in participants’ physical and mental well-being.”

Also in the “waterfall,” which again assumes a surplus in Medicaid in FY 2008, are $660,000 (or a $2 per day increase) to assisted community care services (ACCS) providers and $2 million for Choices for Care. This latter line item might hopefully be used to help take people off the CFC waiting list.

Strong Living – COVE was instrumental in strategizing on continuation of this threatened program. When we learned that the Health Department was considering ending support (due to lack of continued federal funding) for this weight program, we were able to suggest tacking on funds to the health care bill which had miscellaneous provisions dealing with healthy living (mostly for younger individuals). The aging network provided excellent testimony and the price tag was manageable enough so that we were able to build momentum. Ultimately, we believe, the health department changed its mind and agreed to continue funding for at least another year. However, developments after the session adjourned may once again have placed the strong living program in jeopardy.

Direct Care Worker Study – This comprehensive study, which was undertaken pursuant to legislative mandate at the behest of COVE and others, missed its January filing date by several months. As a result, it was quite difficult to procure appropriate hearing time before the substantive legislative committees. COVE has been in touch with legislative leaders to assure the study’s important care gap findings and recommendations are taken up either early next January or possibly this fall through the Legislature’s Health Access Oversight Committee.

Fuel Assistance – COVE worked throughout the session, both with legislative leaders and the executive branch to maximize state and federal support for this program. In the end the state continued its precedent of adding millions of dollars to what has historically been a federally funded program. Unfortunately, the president blocked any congressional efforts to significantly increase federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

With the skyrocketing cost of fuels we will need the feds to step up to augment their block grant to the states and for Vermont to continue to add to their level of support. It is estimated that overall we will need to find $19 million more next year just to have this essential program continue to cover 60 percent of the average heating bill. However, even that will not be enough to keep all low-income Vermonters warm, as the remaining 40 percent could more than double – costing many seniors upwards of $1,000 more out of pocket, out-of-household incomes frequently less than $10,000.

VCDR’s 2008 Legislative Update

This was a challenging year at the Statehouse. VCDR is pleased to have achieved some important successes despite major budget woes. Many individuals and organizations helped bring disability issues to the attention of the Vermont Legislature.

Our thanks to the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council, to individual donors and our member organizations for their funding support this year and to the many individuals and organizations who shared their stories and helped us work on these issues throughout the 2008 legislative session.

Thank you to all the Vermonters who joined us on April 15 for Disability Awareness Day and to the many members of the House and Senate who worked so hard on our issues. It was a difficult year and we owe a great deal to the legislators and citizens who worked with us to achieve some important successes.

The following is a brief summary of some of the bills and budget issues VCDR worked on this year. We will be back next year working on these and other issues with a new Legislature. Please share your stories and concerns with us and with the candidates in your district.

H.617 updates Vermont’s guardianship statutes. The bill states that it is designed to “encourage the development and maintenance of maximum self-reliance and independence in the individual and only the least restrictive form of guardianship shall be ordered.” The major intent was to clarify that guardianship should only be granted for those activities where it is necessary. For instance, if a person only needed help with handling money, the probate court should only grant a financial guardianship, not a total guardianship. The bill as passed retains the jurisdiction of the family court under Title 18. It changes the decision-making process guardians must follow in extreme medical circumstances. The new language clarifies important rights and protections but it also gives guardians a greater authority in order to lessen the time it takes to make medical decisions: If a person has an advanced directive in place, the advanced directive takes precedence over the guardian. When there is no advanced directive the new language defines an expanded role for guardians in medical decision-making. A guardian can withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment without prior probate court approval if obtaining such approval would be “impracticable due to the need for a decision before court approval can be obtained.” The bill also allows for a guardian to consent to a do-not-resuscitate order without probate court approval if they obtain a clinician’s certification that the person under guardianship is “likely” to experience cardio-pulmonary arrest before probate court approval can be obtained. These changes can speed medical decisions but also create some challenges in safeguarding the rights and interests of individuals under guardianship. The bill also creates a “guardianship education, improvement and accountability task force” to study ways to improve guardian accountability and protect the rights of individuals under guardianship and to provide training and support to guardians.

S.281, legislation that creates a legislative study committee to prepare a report on the state of palliative and end-of-life care, and pain management in Vermont. Three senators and three representatives will serve on the committee as well as representatives of a broad range of state agencies, health care organizations and senior and disability organizations. The committee is charged with looking at Vermont’s capacity to provide quality end-of-life care (including children’s hospice care), consumer protections, and pain management across the lifespan (not just at the end of life). The legislative committee must provide a written report of its findings and recommendations by Jan. 15, 2009.

H.615 and H.635 update the juvenile delinquency statutes and the child abuse and neglect statutes. It was the goal of VCDR to insert language in both bills that recognized the needs of parents with disabilities to have the proper supports to reduce the risk of losing their children into state custody and also address the needs of children with disabilities who may come into state custody. H.635 creates a new “tiered” system of looking at accusations of child abuse or neglect and gives the Department of Children and Families options for responding to these accusations. The bill as passed by the House and Senate contains language that instructs DCF during the rule-making process to make rules that “strike an appropriate balance between protecting children and respecting the rights of parents, including a parent or guardian with disabilities and shall recognize that persons with a disability can be successful parents. The rules shall include the possible use of adaptive equipment and supports.” H.615 passed with language requiring, in a temporary care order, that DCF is required to “refer a parent for appropriate assessments and services, including a consideration of the needs of parents and children with disabilities, provided the child’s needs are given primary consideration,” that same language is also in the bill in the sections regarding disposition case plans. The bill also requires a report about how DCF and the courts are meeting the needs of parents with disabilities.

S. 271, an act relating to child support for children with disabilities was introduced by Sen. Virginia Lyons of Chittenden County. The bill as introduced proposed to allow the family court to extend child support for an individual with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities beyond the age of 18 if the cessation of support would place the individual at risk of losing housing, health, or community services. The legislation as passed by both the House and the Senate includes a sunset date of 1012 and limits the court’s authority to extend child support. It reads: “Upon motion, the court may extend child support up to the age of 22 for an individual found by the court to have significant physical, mental, or developmental disabilities. The court shall consider the factors identified in section 659 of this title in making its decision. The parent seeking the order shall provide the court with documentation of the child’s disability.” The Governor signed the legislation on May 6, 2008.

H.629, legislation assessing serious functional impairment of prisoners, was not passed. This was a bill that would have changed a designation that the Corrections Department uses to determine what evaluations and services a prisoner with disabilities would receive. The bill offered statutory protections from certain disciplinary procedures for prisoners diagnosed with a “serious functional impairment” – this included persons with developmental disabilities and mental illness. The bill made it through House Institutions, House Human Services and the House Appropriations Committee but never had enough time to make it through the Senate. The Department of Corrections has verbally assured legislators that they will be instituting these changes through their rules process in the department. Alice Emmons, chairwoman of House Institutions, assured VCDR that if the Department of Corrections fails to implement these important protections for prisoners with disabilities on their own, her committee would address this issue again in the next biennium.

H. 273, The Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund. After the House refused to take the bill up in committee, Sen. Ed Flanagan attempted to attach the TBI fee increase to the Fee bill in Senate Finance. When the bill went to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the increase was removed from the bill. The Senate, however, added language to the Fee bill to create the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund that will be administered by the Treasurer’s Office under rules developed by the Agency of Human Services. Instead of raising funds for this fund by increasing auto registration fees, the Senate appropriated an initial $140,000 from the Vermont Campaign Fund. Other than this initial amount, there is no currently established source of ongoing money for this fund.

Senate Finance also put language in the Fee bill (H.691) to institute co-pay for prisoners’ health care. VCDR opposed this proposal. In the conference committee for the Fee bill these fees were taken out of the bill so we have made it through another biennium without prisoner co-pays for health care. Expect this issue to come up again in the next biennium.

Other Issues: VCDR worked with COVE and other organizations to highlight the importance of the Direct Care Workforce Study and will continue to advocate for administrative and legislative action on the recommendations and findings in this report. VCDR also testified in support of S.281, which will help some individuals access needed insurance coverage for prosthetics. We also worked with sponsors of legislation to create a work incentive task force, charged with developing recommendations to expand Vermont work incentives. The Secretary of the Agency of Human Services (AHS) testified in favor of this legislation and said that they would institute such a task force without a legislative mandate. Other VCDR legislative issues were not taken up by committees or became part of the broader budget and health care debates.

The Budget

A significant revenue shortfall made this session a very difficult one for any appropriation issues. Many of our budget requests were included in the final budget. At the end of the session the Joint Fiscal Committee and the administration had made the following decisions on VCDR budget priorities:

Medicaid Benefits: The Legislature looked at adding major cost sharing requirements to Vermont’s Medicaid programs and cutting Vermont pharmacy programs. Ultimately the Legislature decided not to make drastic cuts but did make some increases in beneficiary premiums for pharmacy programs from 10 percent to 20 percent. SCHIP premiums were raised from $40 to $60 for families in the 225 – 300 FPL range. This also affects the Medicaid expanded population.

Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT): There is language in the budget regarding EPSDT and case management appropriating $2,000,000 for Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) services for children and adolescents between the ages of 0-22 who have been diagnosed with developmental disabilities and who are Medicaid-eligible. The services to be provided under this appropriation are those required under federal Medicaid law and include case management, and rehabilitative and behavioral therapies.

Children with Special Health Needs Respite Program received a significant cut: Last year’s hard-won $100,000 increase in children’s respite funding was unexpectedly taken out of the CSHN budget. This leaves many families with significant respite needs facing service reductions. This is an issue that VCDR is very concerned about and which we will be addressing in the next legislative session.

Home Accessibility Program: After proposals to make major cuts to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the Joint Fiscal Committee added back $5.2 million. The restoration of VHCB funds means that the Home Access Program at VCIL is unlikely to lose funds but the requested increase in HAP funding though the Department of Disabilities, Aging & Independent Living was not funded. The budget also includes $700,000 for VHCB for affordable housing in the Economic Recovery and Opportunity Act.

Developmental Services Funds for High School Graduates: The budget passed by the Legislature adds $1.12 million to fund about 45 Vermonters with developmental disabilities transitioning from high school to work.

This is a significant increase over the administration’s original budget proposal. Many individuals and families worked hard for this increase and VCDR members will be monitoring the implementation closely. The Legislature also added language in the budget bill requiring DAIL and the Department of Education to track the number of anticipated June grads for the next four years and to look at the length, scope, and cost of services June grads receive and “if and how” June grads transition to self-sufficiency or alternate support programs.

VCDR member organizations are considering priorities for the next legislative session. These include continuing work on the issues and funding needs presented in this summary, improving access to needed assistive technology, and working with others to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities and families in the legislative process.

For more information about particular bills and other VCDR advocacy activities, or to share your recommendations and concerns, contact us:

11 East State St., Suite 2
Montpelier, VT 05602
Phone: 802-223-6140

Who Votes, Who Doesn’t And Why We All Should

By Deborah Lisi-Baker

The United States led the way in giving citizens the vote but many Americans don’t exercise that right. A lot of things get in the way: The time it takes, getting to a polling place, feeling like your vote doesn’t matter, forgetting to register in time, and uncertainty about who to vote for all play a part. Pollsters don’t talk about the old car that won’t start or the cost of gas or the loss of a driver’s license but we all know transportation and the weather also play a big role in the Vermont vote.

Pollsters say that the Americans least likely to vote are 18-to 35-year-olds, minorities, blue-collar workers, those with fewer years of schooling, renters, unemployed Americans, those with the lowest income. It has taken a long time but women are finally voting as much as men and among some groups, more women vote than men. Sadly, many of the citizens who most need political, economic and social representation are less likely to vote.

Seniors: A History of Speaking Up Through the Vote

Older Americans keep a proud tradition: They vote. In the 2004 elections 19 percent of the total votes cast were cast by individuals who were age 65 or older: Seventy-nine percent of seniors who were registered to vote did so. Unfortunately as these traditional voters grow older, they sometimes find their ability to vote stopped by very real transportation or community barriers or by myths:

“People in nursing homes are not allowed to vote.” False!

“If you have become disabled you are not allowed to vote.” False!

“If you can’t get to the polling place, you can’t vote.” False!

You don’t lose your right to vote as a result of growing older, going into a nursing home or having a disability. As the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office makes clear, “Equal access to voting is the law in Vermont.” Your right to vote does not go away because of either age or disability and you don’t have to leave your home to vote for the candidate of your choice.

Waking the Sleeping Giant, the Disability Rights Movement and the Vote

Americans with disabilities are among those Americans less likely to vote. Misinformation, lack of transportation and personal assistance, and inaccessible voting places and services all limit the voting participation of citizens with disabilities. Disability rights laws are changing things for the better but change is slow: For example, individuals with developmental and mental health conditions are still often told they do not have the right to vote. (Not true!) It has also taken a lot of legislative and local advocacy to increase the accessibility of polling places and voting equipment, a struggle that is still under way. State and federal initiatives and local action help make more voting places and equipment accessible and more citizens with disabilities understand and use their voting rights and choices.

Change is not easy. Michigan’s Disability Rights Coalition Web site highlights a recent Harris Survey that found 21 percent of U.S. adults with disabilities say they have been unable to vote in presidential or congressional elections due to barriers faced either at, or in getting to, the polls (Harris/N.O.D. 10/19/04).

In 2000 the percentage of registered voters with disabilities who marked a ballot rose from 33 percent to 41 percent. This equals 16.4 million individual votes: enough to change an election but less than half the eligible voters. Grass-roots “get out the vote” campaigns, improvements in accessibility at local polling places and greater choice in how Americans can “place their ballot” means that voters with disabilities and seniors who were being left behind due to inaccessible polling places, transportation barriers and other obstacles can vote and are making themselves heard in local state and national elections. That’s good because candidates and elected officials pay closer attention to neighbors whose votes will affect their political future.

2008 is a historic and important election year. Learn about the candidates, educate them on senior and disability issues and vote for the candidates and the issues that matter to you. Your vote is your voice. It matters!

Deborah Lisi-Baker is editor of The Independent and executive director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living.

Voting Facts: Who Can Vote, Registering to Vote and Casting Your Vote on (or before) Election Day

Information on voting rights and options was provided by the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office. Additional information is available on their Web site or by calling any of the organizations listed at the end of these pages. Our thanks for this opportunity to share the many rights and options available in Vermont.

The First Step: Registering to Vote

What is true: You must register to vote and to be eligible to register to vote you must:

  1. Have U.S. citizenship.
  2. Be a Vermont resident.
  3. Be 18 or older by Election Day.
  4. Take the voter’s oath.

You must register to vote in the town where you live. If you own more than one home, the town you live in is generally considered to be the place where your main home is located.

Not Home? You Can Still Vote

If you are temporarily absent because you are in a hospital, nursing home or other health care facility or if you are temporarily away from home for some other reason, you can still both register to vote and continue to vote in the town where you last lived. If you moved into and plan to stay in a nursing home or other facility such as an assisted living facility or other senior housing or housing with services for individuals with disabilities, you may register to vote in the town where you now live.

No “Special” Rules Apply

That’s it and that’s all: Vermont does not allow use of special rules, tests or extra eligibility requirements for Vermonters with disabilities.

Don’t Wait Till the Last Minute

Registration Deadlines: Anyone can register to vote until 5 p.m. on the Wednesday preceding the election. If you want to, you can ask for an early voter absentee ballot at the same time you register to vote.

To get a voter registration form, contact your town clerk, VCIL or go to the Secretary of State’s Web site. You will also be given an opportunity to register to vote when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or non-driver’s ID or from social service agencies that provide services to you or your family.

Three Simple Steps to Register: That’s all it takes

  1. Get a voter registration form.
  2. Fill out the form. You can ask for assistance from VCIL, the Secretary of State’s Office, or a governmental or social service agency. The form must be signed you unless you are physically unable to do this. If you can’t sign, you can mark an X on the form or take an oath swearing that the information on the form is accurate. This mark or oath must be witnessed by someone with legal authority to do so such as the town clerk, a notary of the public or a justice of the peace.
  3. Return the form to the town clerk in the town where you live. It can be delivered by mail or hand delivered by you or by the person or organization helping you fill out the form.

Questions? Many Vermont Organizations Can Help

If you are thinking about registering to vote you may have questions or concerns or feel like you would like some help. Many organizations that serve individuals with disabilities, Vermont seniors, and other Vermonters serve as voter registration agencies.

Choose the Way to Vote That Works for You</p>

Just as you have a right to choose who and what you vote for, you also have the right to choose how you place your vote. These choices include absentee ballot, curbside voting, voting by phone and going into your local voting place.

All Polling Places Must Be Accessible

Polling places (locations where voting in elections is done) must allow all voters to conveniently and privately cast their votes. This means that polling places should be accessible to all voters, including people with physical and mental disabilities, as well as the elderly. All polling places in Vermont should be physically accessible. If you find a polling place that is not, you should notify the Secretary of State’s Office who will work with the town to ensure that steps are taken to make it accessible. If you have a unique accessibility need, you should give the town reasonable advance notice so that the town can take steps to accommodate your needs.

Here’s some more information on different voting options that are available to you in Vermont:

Eligible Voters May Choose Curbside Voting

Voters who are sick or have disabilities can ask that election officials bring a ballot to their car, as long as the car is next to the polling place.

Voters May Have Help

All voters have the right to have someone assist them in voting and voters may bring in devices, such as a magnifying glass, to help them vote. A voter may bring a person in to help him or her or ask election workers for help.

Vote-by-Phone (at the polls)

Every polling place has a telephone voting system available for voters who wish to use it in the primary or general election. The Vote-by-Phone (at the polls) system was created so that voters with disabilities can vote privately and independently. When you vote-by-phone you listen to the choices using the handset or a headset, and then you mark your ballot by pressing a telephone key pad. The system reads back the paper ballot for you before it is cast so you can be sure that it marked your choices correctly.

Want to try voting by phone? The Secretary of State’s Office has scheduled days for voters to practice the vote by phone option. Call I-800-439-VOTE (1-800-439-8683) for more information.

Early Voter Absentee Voting
Any Voter May Vote By Early Voter Absentee Ballot

All Vermont voters have the option of casting their votes without having to go to an official polling place. This is known as early voter absentee voting. This can be a very helpful option for people with disabilities and for the elderly.

How To Ask For An Early Voter Absentee Ballot

A voter, a family member or health care provider can apply for an early voter absentee ballot by asking for it by telephone, in person at their town clerk’s office, or in writing. A non-family member authorized by the voter may only request a ballot in person or in writing.

There Are Four Ways To Cast An Early Voter Absentee Ballot

Vote in person at the town clerk’s office. Pick up a ballot at the clerk’s office. Get a ballot mailed to you. Ballots can be hand-delivered to the voter.

Don’t Let a Question or Concern Keep You From Voting

More information is available on all of these voting options. Ask for assistance from a state agency or local organization or someone you trust or call any of these organizations for more information about accessible ways to vote, registering to vote or getting involved on Election Day:

Vermont Secretary of State’s Office
Elections & Campaign Finance Division

Missy Siner Shea, Voter Outreach Coordinator

Vermont Protection & Advocacy

Vermont Center for Independent Living

Vermont Statewide Election Calendar 2008
Event Date/Day Additional Info
First day to practice at home using the Vote-by-Phone at the polls for the Primary Election
August 11, 2008
Call 1-800-439-VOTE
Early or Absentee Voting
First day that early or absentee
ballots are available for the Primary Election
August 11, 2008
30 days before the Primary Election
Register to Vote
Last day to register to vote for the Primary Election
Sept. 3, 2008
Must be received in town clerk’s office by 5:00 p.m.
Early or Absentee Voting
Last day to request an early or
absentee ballot (by 5:00 p.m. or close of town clerk’s office)
Sept. 8, 2008
Ballots must be returned to the clerk’s office by the end of the business day or they need to be delivered to the polling place by
7 p.m. on Election Day
Vermont Primary Election Sept. 9, 2008
Polls open between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. as determined by the local board of civil authority. All polls must close at 7 p.m.
First day to practice at home using the Vote-by-Phone at the polls for the General Election
Sept. 25, 2008
Call 1-800-439-VOTE
Early or Absentee Voting
First day that early or absentee
ballots are available for the General Election
October 6, 2008
30 days before the General Election
Register to Vote
Last day to register to vote for the General Election
October 29, 2008
Must be received in town clerk’s office by 5:00 p.m.
Early or Absentee Voting
Last day to request an early or
absentee ballot (by 5:00 p.m. or close of town clerk’s office)
November 3, 2008
Ballots must be returned to the clerk’s office by the end of the business day or they need to be delivered to the polling place by 7 p.m. on Election Day
General Election November 4, 2008
Polls open between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. as determined by the local board of civil authority. All polls must close at 7 p.m.

Be Ready For Disasters And Be Safe

by Mark Bosma

Disasters can happen at any time in Vermont; whether it’s a snowstorm, flood, or chemical spill. Even a simple power outage can cause serious problems for those with special needs, the elderly and people with disabilities. You can’t always avoid disasters, but being prepared can help lessen the effects of these events on you, your family and your neighbors.

Disaster preparedness can take many forms; one of the simplest is calling your power company to pass on special needs information. Those who depend on life-sustaining equipment that requires power need to assure they will receive immediate attention in the event of a power outage or other incident that may interrupt their normal routine.

Those with special needs should also contact their town fire and rescue. If evacuations are ever ordered in your community, you may need assistance to do so; your first responders will assist you if they know of those needs.

A more detailed way of preparing includes creating an evacuation plan and disaster kit. Putting together a disaster kit can be done slowly simply by buying extra water, canned goods, batteries and other items during your regular grocery shopping and storing these items away to be used in the event of a disaster.

The following steps are suggested by the Department of Homeland Security as part of its campaign:

  1. Get a Kit – Get a kit of emergency supplies that will allow you and your family to survive for at least three days in the event an emergency happens. The kit should include basic items like a three-day supply of water and food, a battery-powered radio and flashlight and extra batteries. It could also include items such as: a whistle for emergency signaling, a first aid kit and manual, a non-electric can opener, essential medicines for at least seven days, and cash and credit cards. Keep this kit somewhere in your home where it will be easily accessible and take it with you if need to evacuate.
  2. Make a Plan – Plan in advance what you and your family will do in an emergency. Your plan should include a communications plan – a way to contact each other during an emergency. The most common method is to designate a relative out of state who can coordinate your meeting place (if it hasn’t been established ahead of time, which would be preferable). During a disaster phone circuits could be jammed or out of service where you live. At the same time someone out of state would likely not be in the heat of the disaster, and could more easily help you coordinate your family plan. Your plan should also include the location of your local emergency shelter, and sheltering-in-place and evacuation instructions.
  3. Be Informed – Learn more about different threats that could affect your community and appropriate responses to them.
  4. Get Involved – After preparing yourself and your family for possible emergencies, take the next step: get training in first aid and emergency response and get involved in preparing your community.

For more preparedness tips, go to, or

Mark Bosma is the public information officer for Vermont Emergency Management.

Fuel Assistance Applications Due August 31

The state of Vermont recently began mailing fuel assistance applications to the 32,790 households that applied for the aid between July 2007 and February 2008. In addition, the state will mail over 4,000 application packets to folks who did not apply for fuel last season but who did apply for food stamps in March, April, May and June. A supply of application packets will also be mailed to community action agencies and all of the Area Agency on Aging offices. In addition, several hundred packets will be distributed to advocacy groups, fuel suppliers and visiting nurses.

You may also request an application directly by calling 1-800-479-6151. More information is available on the Web site

If you apply by Aug. 31 and are eligible for fuel assistance, your benefit will be paid directly to your fuel dealer in November. If you apply later, your benefit will be paid directly to your fuel dealer later.

Legislative Action on Health Care

by Peter Sterling

The 2008 legislative session saw multimillion dollar revenue shortfalls and the insistence of Gov. Douglas and legislative leaders to not raise revenue so drastic cuts were proposed to dozens of programs helping the most vulnerable Vermonters.

Catamount Health, which is the state’s newest health care program for Vermonters with income over the eligibility limits for VHAP and Medicaid, unfortunately has a pre-existing conditions clause requiring anyone who has had a gap in insurance coverage to pay out of pocket for all treatment related to their pre-existing condition for one year once they enroll. Though our goal was to permanently eliminate the pre-existing conditions clause, advocates ran head on into the budget crisis and had to settle for an “amnesty period” whereby anyone who applies for, or is enrolled in, Catamount Health before Nov. 1 will have their pre-existing covered.

In a victory, the governor’s proposed increases in premiums and co-pays for Dr. Dynasaur, VHAP and Medicaid were stopped. However, all of Catamount Health’s monthly premiums were increased so for example, now a Vermonter earning about $20,000 a year pays $65 per month and a Vermonter earning about $32,000 a year or about $63,000 a year total for a family of four pays $185 per month. There is no doubt that these new higher premiums will discourage many Vermonters from enrolling and cause others to drop Catamount Health.

Fortunately, the Legislature recognized that people with high deductibles are essentially uninsured and expanded the eligibility for Catamount Health so now any Vermonter who has been in a plan with a deductible greater than $10,000 for at least six months can enroll without a waiting period.

What’s next? Even with Catamount Health, there are still tens of thousands of uninsured Vermonters and many, many more who are paying too much for inadequate health care. An important next step to getting everyone in Vermont affordable health care is to allow businesses to buy Catamount Health for their employees. In addition, the next Legislature must allow those in high-deductible plans of $3,000 or more to buy Catamount Health without a waiting period, lower Catamount Health’s premiums back to their original levels, and eliminate the 12-month waiting period for Catamount Health and VHAP for those who voluntarily choose to drop their private insurance. (Important: For those who have been uninsured for more than 12 months or lose their insurance involuntarily, e.g. they lose or quit their job, retire, get divorced, leave college, choose to end COBRA and some other reasons, there is no waiting period).

Peter Sterling is coordinator of the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security, an 18-member group coalition working to make health care affordable for every Vermonter. For more information about enrolling in Catamount Health, VHAP or Medicaid go to or call 1-866-482-4723.

Funds Available To Parents Who Have Children On Autism Spectrum

Do you wish you could provide something for your child who has autism? The Autism Puzzle Foundation may be able to help you purchase services, equipment and toys. There are no income guidelines but the equipment or services may only be purchased for children on the Autism Spectrum who are 18 years old or younger and who live in Vermont.

Contact the Vermont Assistive Technology Program for an application for Autism Puzzle Foundation funding, assistance with selecting toys, devices or services, and for information and referral to other resources. Call 802-241-2620 (voice) and 802-241-1464 (TTY).

The Autism Puzzle Foundation began in 2006 and is dedicated to holding yearly Autism fund-raising events. The foundation seeks to change the way society views individuals with disabilities, create a comfortable place for those on the Autism Spectrum, and support Autism research efforts.

Nominations Sought For Healthy Aging Awards

Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie are requesting nominations for Vermont’s 3rd Annual Healthy Aging Awards Program. They, along with the Governor’s Commission on Healthy Aging, wish to recognize individuals and organizations demonstrating the ideals of Healthy Aging. The deadline for submitting nominations is August 1st.

Nominations will be accepted in eight different categories.

For more information and nomination forms, please go to or contact the Lieutenant Governor’s office by phone at 802-828-2226 or by e-mail,

TV Show About Mental Health Issues Seeks To Spread Message Of Hope

A television show on CATV, the local cable access station serving the Upper Valley communities of Vermont and New Hampshire, tells the stories of people coping with mental health issues and other life struggles. The show, “Walking Through Life” is hosted by Linda Carbino and can be seen on CATV’s Channel 10 Sundays at 7 p.m., Mondays and Fridays at 7 a.m., and Mondays at 8 p.m.

Speaking of her idea for the show, Carbino said, “I wanted to tell my story of recovery from both mental illness and addiction and share my message that we all have a voice and a story with a message that can help those that are still struggling.”

Carbino recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of doing the show, an occasion marked by Gov. Douglas appearing on the program.

If you would like to tell your story on “Walking Through Life” or know of a resource that you think might help others, please give Carbino a call at 802-295-0997 or e-mail her at

Living With An Autism Spectrum Disorder

by Nicole LeBlanc

Nicole LeBlanc

My name is Nicole LeBlanc. I am a 22-year-old disability educator/consultant for Green Mountain Self-Advocates (GMSA), a statewide self-advocacy organization that is run and operated by people with developmental disabilities.

I was 21 when I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) while attending Grafton Job Corps Career Academy in Grafton, Mass., where I took classes in data entry, medical billing and peer facilitation. While I was there I ended up getting hooked up with a psychotherapist named Kristin Helin and we started meeting once a week to discuss how things were going in regard to my roommate, diet, money, hygiene and transition issues after Job Corps. We also talked about getting more in-depth personality/psychological testing done to see what types of adult Residential Support Services I might be eligible for.

After going through all that testing it was determined that I had PDD-NOS which is on the Autism Spectrum. After getting the diagnosis I immediately began to research the disorder and started wondering, “Is this what I’ve had all these years?”

I got involved in self-advocacy/GMSA through my developmental home care provider, Barbara Bruno, who I met last summer through an Emergency Respite Placement while going through the developmental services process.

Green Mountain Self-Advocates helps people become strong self advocates by: speaking up on issues that affect their lives; going to self advocacy conferences; providing peer sexuality training; voter training; providing a welcoming environment where everyone can feel supported by their peers; and teaching workshops at conferences.

Since I moved out of my parents’ house and into a developmental home I have been able to make friends with people my own age for the first time outside of Camp Horizon and feel accepted by my peer group. Before I moved in with Barbara I never had any friends my own age. All through high school and elementary school I basically hung out with just adults because I was always getting made fun of!

My advocacy priorities include inclusion – no separate schools! Putting people in separate schools does not prepare them for independent living and the challenges and social demands that come with the real world. Other advocacy priorities include funding for high school graduates; more doctors that take Medicaid; more Ticket to Ride funding; more emphasis on alternatives to guardianships; and schools making social skills a priority in teaching kids with Autism.

I also believe that the state of Vermont needs to offer some kind of incentive to physicians so that they will be more willing to accept patients with Medicaid health insurance, and that insurance companies should cover Autism services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc.

All doctors should have basic-intermediate level training in recognizing the early signs and symptoms of Autism. On one occasion my doctor mistook PDD-NOS for mild mental retardation, which is inaccurate!

Disability Happens

By K.K. Wilder

Remembering Gwen

“Vermont Center for Independent Living, Rosie speaking.” The voice was business-like yet gentle on the other end of the phone, but I was still nervous. It had taken me two years to make this call to VCIL.

“Hello. I’d like to speak to someone about getting some help with, well, with coming to terms with being, ah, well, disabled,” I stammered.

“I can refer you to someone about that,” she said. “Just a moment.”

I was still trying to come to grips with thinking about myself in such terms. “Disabled.” That’s what the people who had lived upstairs over me in my previous apartment called themselves, yet they went to work every day, riding bicycles, no less. They stayed up partying at night, keeping me awake, making so much noise and having so much boisterous company they bothered the whole house. We all eventually discovered that their “disabilities” were fictitious and their work was “under the table” so they could collect Social Security Disability Insurance. Consequently, I associated being disabled with fakes and frauds. I didn’t want to be thought of as one of them, as disabled.

Rosie was back on the line quickly, telling me the person who could help me, someone called a PAC (Peer Advocate Counselor) was tied up in an appointment and would call me back. I gave her my information and hung up.

What was I going to say to this so-called PAC, anyway? What did I want from her? My friend, whose husband had undergone open heart surgery some time ago had a PAC, so two years back, when I developed heart failure, got put on oxygen 24/7 and had to give up my college classroom teaching, she suggested I call VCIL and ask for a PAC myself. Finally at a point where I realized I had to get help with my situation, I’d made the call. But what was I going to do when the PAC called back?

“Hi! My name is Gwen Evans and I’m going to be your Peer Advocate Counselor, otherwise known as your PAC.” I could practically feel the sunshine in her smile over the phone. She had a friendly voice and expressed her eagerness to meet me right away. “You write, don’t you! I’m a fan. When can we get together?”

I was delighted that I didn’t even need to tell her what I wanted or needed from her. She already wanted to meet me. Gee! Great start.

“The sooner, the better,” I said.

“OK, how do things look for this Thursday?”

We made plans and I gave her directions to my place. Once off the phone, I became jittery all over again. Yeah, sure, she was psyched because I was a writer, but so what? Now that I was disabled, my writing didn’t matter to me anymore. I had no more idea of who I was than if someone had taken my keyboard away from me.

I won’t kid you. That first meeting with Gwen was a shocker for me. First of all, my PAC brought her dog. I was thunderstruck. When the knock came at my door, and I opened it, there was Gwen, chestnut hair to her waist, with a beautiful yellow Lab by her side. Gwen stuck her hand straight out, introduced herself, then said, “… and this is Pilar. She’s my guide dog. Please don’t pet her whenever she’s in harness as that indicates she is working and not at leisure. May I come in?” Gwen was blind.

Next thing I knew, Gwen was sitting in a chair, Pilar on the floor at her side, and we were in a conversation about my life. And I was crying. I was crying two years’ worth of tears that had been backed up about holding feelings inside about being disabled, about thinking of myself as one of “those” people, about needing help, about not knowing how to come to terms with who I was now. Gwen spoke softly throughout the flowing of my tears, a simple, “yes, yes” or “I see” now and then. Somehow, from somewhere, she passed me tissues and just let me let it out.

Finally, I stopped. “Feel better?” she asked.


“Ah. I see. An honest answer. We’re going to do just fine.”

And we did. Week after week. Month after month. Gwen and Pilar traipsed up the stairs to my apartment. Gwen listened to me, helped me fill out forms, told me her own tales of coming to terms, calmed me down when I was angry, laughed with me when I began to see the humor in my own stubbornness, cried with me when I suffered setbacks, and gave me tough love when I got wimpy.

That amazing woman, that terrific PAC, gave me help when I needed it most and for that I’ve always been grateful to her … and to the Vermont Center for Independent Living.

K.K. Wilder is a columnist and educator who lives in Burlington, Vermont. Contact her through this paper or at

Bulletin Board

ADA Celebration Set for July 26

Celebrate the 18th year of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Join us rain or shine under the big tent on the Statehouse lawn in Montpelier, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 26. Ten Harwood Union High School students will be honored for the documentary they produced called “Speak Out for Understanding.”

The students also appear in the documentary, which looks at what life is like for people with disabilities. The documentary seeks to promote communication, awareness and equity for people with disabilities.

The Vermont Center for Independent Living is sponsoring the Americans with Disabilities Act celebration. Co-sponsors include the Human Rights Commission and VocRehab Vermont.

Please call Ericka at 1-802-229-0501 for more information and to RSVP. ASL interpreters will be provided and a barbecue lunch will be served.

Trans to Hold Public Transit Forums

The Vermont Agency of Transportation, in conjunction with local public transit providers, is hosting a series of public forums on the future of public transportation. VTrans has asked that individuals requiring ASL interpreters or other accommodations to request these services at least seven days prior to the hearing.

The hearings include:

July 21 – 5:15 p.m., Ilsley Library, public meeting room, Middlebury (Addison County Transit Resources.)

July 22 – 5 p.m., Martin Memorial Hall, Town of Weathersfield (Connecticut River Transit).

July 23 – 5 p.m., Leahy Education Center, conference room C, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland. (Marble Valley Regional Transit District).

For more information on the forums, contact Krista Chadwick at 802-878-5790 (e-mail Written comments will be due in September.

To find out about other disability or senior programs, activities, and services, contact the Senior Helpline (1-800-642-5119) or the I-Line at the Vermont Center for Independent Living (1-800-639-1522)

Submissions for the next issue must be received by September 15, 2008