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Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 10

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley

Guest: John Kemp

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter… here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the disabled lives matter podcast with co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Well, hello everyone and welcome to tonight's episode of disabled lives matter, this is not just a podcast, this is a movement. I’m Nadine Vogel your co-host along with.

Norma Stanley: Normal Stanley.

Nadine Vogel: My amazing co-host from Atlanta, we are having so much fun doing this on a weekly basis, and we hope that all of you listeners are having as much fun and learning as much as we are actually doing this, so today's guest is the amazing the wonderful John Kemp, a very dear friend of mine, and someone that I think will illustrate so clearly why disabled lives do matter on so many aspects of life so john welcome to the podcast.

John D. Kemp: Thank you Nadine and Norma it's very nice to be with you as well.

Norma Stanley: Thanks for being here.

Nadine Vogel: So, let's start with just you know, obviously you're President and CEO of Viscardi Center but you're an attorney I mean you've done so much do you want to give us just a little bit about who you are what you do what you've done.

John D. Kemp: I’d be glad to, and I have to say that I was born with my disability, which is a distinguishing feature for the disability movement is really about 17% of people with disabilities started their lives with a disability, and so, most people with disabilities acquired their disabilities along life's path. And that does affect I think how we look at life and how much people have to go through an adjustment if they acquire a disability and it's all sometimes very new in fact disability is usually new to everybody and their family members. I think there are some tremendous parallels to other movements, especially black lives matter and, as well as some very unique pieces to it but when I was a little guy, my mother passed away of ovarian cancer, when I was 15 months old and three months after my little sister was born, so my dad had three of us kids five years old 15 months old three months old and just kind of put his smarts on and decided that he was going to make my life as fulfilling and all three of our lives as fulfilling as possible. I went to regular schools; I had my difficulties in keeping up. And my dad actually distinguished between a disability and handicap for me at that point in time, this is, many years ago. But to really say that if people don't like you for the way, you are the way you were born, then you really don't need to like them. And it was you know they either have to see you as a person eventually get through it, helped them get through it, but they have to see you as a person or if they're never going to get it so anyway grade school high school Catholic schools have a lot of newspaper bumps in the back of my head for not paying attention enough. And then onto Georgetown and then law school out in Kansas and worked as an environmental lawyer and then get into the disability rights movement really early and stayed I’ve always stayed with it, since the 70s and so it's been a great, great part of my life.

Nadine Vogel: So, thank you John, can you share with everyone on what your disabilities are.

John D. Kemp: Certainly, I was born without arms or legs off at the elbows and the knees, so I don't have elbows and I have one of two knees, and so I wear prostheses. And when people look at these, especially when I get on a plane, they say something like you know they make hands now don't you, you know. This is the, this is the power of television and communications, you know, everybody has seen the latest gizmo and gadget that's up, and so they want to tell me that, so it does start the conversation. And I know I could probably get hands, and I could get all these high-tech things and I bumped into a door jamb and it doesn't work and I’m miles away from my technologist who's going to repair it, so I kind of like my good old school stuff that works all the time and can be self-repaired it really doesn't define me.

Nadine Vogel: I get that a lot that although someone's disability maybe a big part of who they are, it never should define them that's I think that people need to really come to understand that and I’ve heard you say John, that life is a series of transitions and a little bit about when you say that because I know that when you said that you've also said it's not about the transition itself, but rather how you navigate those transitions.

John D. Kemp: Right, you know Nadine, having federal law transition planning as a requirement under the IDA for disabled students, so when they turn 14, they're required to school districts are required to offer them transition planning services. Because I as part of the Viscardi Center run a school here for medically fragile kids who have absolutely intense medical needs technology needs in the rest we start transition planning in kindergarten. So if a kindergartener says, I want to be a firefighter, we say, well, what do you think it's going to take to get be a firefighter and they look around, I think I like I don't know you know. But it we start we start them thinking about what it is going to take, and we really work early on, about making sure that they get as good an education, as they possibly can get because for a lot of people with disabilities, especially severe disabilities and education is going to be an important component of the rest of their lives, so, you know, getting as much as they can, as part of it. The transition, I just want to go back to your first moment there and say we're always transitioning we're always transitioning so you know it's funny that IDA says at 14 get a start talking about transition planning well, going I remember my first day of going to kindergarten that was a huge transition, I was crying the whole way I didn't want to go to school, I love being at home playing. What’s the school thing I have no idea what that's all about. And then, it was you know to high school and we moved from one part of the country to another, and people had to get to know me as a disabled kid in school in a Catholic school and then to college at Georgetown and you know just on and on it's always, we're always transitioning.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely and Norma, I mean you know your daughter has significant disabilities So how are you feeling about this.

Norma Stanley: Well, I was just wondering, you know my daughter doesn't talk she was born with cerebral palsy she has um you know challenges in terms of her you know intellectual capacity, I was wondering, she was in she was in special education, she wasn't part of a typical program. How did you handle and how was there a lot of bullying back then as there seems to be today with children with disabilities, especially know the ones that are visible? Kids today, I don’t seem to think that they are very sensitive when my daughter was young, which is 30 years ago, it seemed to be so much less sensitive. What was it like for you and how did you and your father handle that.

John D. Kemp: I think you're right Norma and I’m, sad to say that you know and I’m sure you are today to observe it because we should be evolving into a much more sensitive more accepting more tolerant society and, especially, as people become who they really are and they're out and proud about who they really are and we've just seen a guy that was on one of the TV shows say that you know, he was on a dating show and he ended up admitting that he that he's gay it's like there’s nothing wrong with being gay there's nothing wrong with being different there's nothing wrong at all. But yes, I did get some bullying and it was really hurtful and I come back, and my dad would give me the kind of the pep talk and put things into perspective. But you're I do think you're right and honestly, now that you're going to think this is really weird i'm not i'm outing my own students here. But we have an Anti-bullying program at a school where there are only kids with disabilities really severe medically fragile kids attending here and they will believe each other and I look at it, I go I literally sit down with them, and I say really, you know if they're you know you of all people and me, we should understand what bullying feels like and we should never do this power play on other people. It is unfair and it's unjust, so I give them the web, for they are we have programs, but we, we have lost ground in this area and I couldn't agree more with you it's not good, and hopefully by programs like lives matter all lives matter disabled lives matter Black Lives Matter that we are trying to get back to a point where we're educating people about everybody brings value to this world.

Norma Stanley: Absolutely, one of my challenge and know how much of this is taught, is what I wonder, because it doesn't happen that you just don't pay other people of other ethnicities, they don't they're not born that way you're not enough born with it in have any everyone thought and happen, we can teach it both kinds of things that are keeping us separated from each other, is there a way to teach it do you think.

John D. Kemp: I absolutely think discrimination is taught I think power playing is taught. I think we've gone through an era, please forgive me for being a little political here we've gone through four years of a bully President, who really did not set a good example for this world and all the sudden we've got white supremacists, primarily males who think that they're better in some way and they're threatened in some way by anybody else getting a fair piece of the pie. And it's just nonsense, but we did not get good leadership, and I think it starts with leadership and, second, stating your values clearly. And being very clear about what you will tolerate what you will not tolerate and taking action on it, so we stop it, we stop it where we see it and we take appropriate corrective action you know you praise in public, and you, you talk to people privately about what it means, but it this this has to be managed and stopped and it has to be leaders that represent our value structure.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, because what we're seeing is you know it's permeating into the workplace. And, and you know I always say bullies grow up. They still believe it comes across a little bit different but it's still bullying and harassment and I'm not sure how to stop this other than John, you know with education and doing what you can, and I think that it at Viscardi I mean obviously you're a role model for these children. But, talk about you know your journey to this school because I think if I recall correctly, you told me that you had met Dr Viscardi at some point so can you tell us a little bit about that and the impact.

John D. Kemp: Absolutely, it is it's one of those really wonderful, you know happenings in my life, and I grew up in Bismarck North Dakota right so, we have two seasons in Bismarck it was it was winter in the fourth of July that was it alright so and I’m walking around on artificial legs on snow, like all the time. And I get picked to be the national Easter seal poster child because I went to an Easter seal camp, when I was seven and at nine they wanted me to go around the country and they saw I got picked I go to Chicago go to the bank with the keynote speaker is Dr Henry Viscardi and he's five foot seven wearing artificial legs and he gives this incredible speech about the inequality that people with disabilities face and he's taking his speech and he's ripping in shreds and he's throwing it in the air and he’s 42 years old and my dad puts his arm around me because I’m going to be presented as the next the next national poster child and he goes, you can grow up to be like him someday. And I’m nine years old, looking at this guy and fast forward to 10 and a half years ago and I’ve chosen to be the fourth CEO of the Viscardi Center. It was called abilities then, and we changed the name to honor Dr Viscardi the school is named Henry Viscardi school and you know, he was a man way ahead of his time. And a very fair and very firm guy and a very charming guy so I’m just honored to carry his legacy forward and very, very proud to have known him.

Nadine Vogel: So is that what got you to leave your law firm in DC and take this on was it just so such an amazing opportunity, what else was behind that.

John D. Kemp: Well, there's, there's a little bit more my very good friend, Paul Hern who is very active in the disability rights movement and Grad graduated from the Henry Viscardi school. Went to Hofstra which the scarf Viscardi himself had helped make accessible 40, 50 years ago. And the school was one of the three or four in the country that were really physically accessible to people with who needed physical access, So Paul and I became fast friends, when we were in our 20s and we were traveling around the country giving disability rights speeches and we'd always end up at the same place and then we'd end up in the bar having a beer together and we, and we were always having a lot of fun and we ended up in Washington DC together in 1990 and we're both running organizations and so when this eventually came open this has always been a beautiful position that a lot of people in the disability movement have known about. But it's it was Dr Viscardi than two non-disabled people and then this came calling to me and I said this this place has got to be run by a person with a disability, we have 400 employees three corporations, they have a school, we have an adolescent and adult services, we have an international oral health program, a Center for disability entrepreneurship, we're doing a lot of stuff and it's got to be led by to me it's got to be led by someone with a disability.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely well on that note what we need to do now is just take a short commercial break, but I want people to stay in their seats don't go anywhere, because we have more to share with you from John Kemp, be back in just a minute.

Commercial Break: As the founder and CEO of Springboard Global Enterprises, I want to share a little more about one of my companies Springboard Consulting. Springboard Consulting is a company recognized as an expert in mainstreaming disability in the global workforce, workplace, and marketplace. As the mom of two beautiful women who were born with special needs, I understand firsthand the issues that individuals with disabilities and their families face as candidates, employees, and customers. It is my hope that Springboard Consulting will become a seamless partner with every company organization and government agency around the world. So that everyone with a disability including the families and friends will feel welcome and wanted with every purchase they make trip they take job they get and everyone they meet. Harnessing the power of difference and specifically for individuals with disabilities who impact the bottom line I see our work as not just providing a strategic advantage, I see it as a business imperative. Allow springboard consulting to join you on your company’s disability journey. Visit www.consultspringboard.com to learn more

Nadine Vogel: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to tonight's episode of disabled lives matter. Norma I are here today with John kemp and really talking about real issues for people with disabilities and clearly to illustrate that disabled lives do matter, so Norma take it away.

Norma Stanley: I would just want to and you're just describing you know what the Viscardi Center does and all that it's doing for the disability population and the people that you serve, and I was just wondering, is it true because I’m from New York, and it seems that New York is like miles ahead of other states when it comes to providing services for people with disabilities, a separate issue the subway system seems like they have it together they kind of thought things through and providing services, but a lot of other states do not I’m in Georgia. Oh, my goodness, speak a little bit about that.

John D. Kemp: I will Norma, you know the toughness and the resilience of new Yorkers and you know it's they're never satisfied with the status quo, and I think that's a really big positive and that's what most advocates, especially with disabilities should adopt. You can't just accept where you are because we're still not equal yet and New Yorkers are not afraid to speak up, even though they may not get their way they're fighting for it and they're fighting forcefully. So, they understand politics young disabled people understand the power of politics, and I think we're seeing more young disabled people getting into politics in New York, and I think our leaders without disabilities really respect the Disability Rights vote and the movement this is starting to grow across the country and eventually I know a bunch of great leaders of disabilities in Georgia they're gonna go to leadership spots and you would be one of them. Our voices have to be heard our issues have to be heard.

Norma Stanley: Absolutely, absolutely getting louder and we do have some great leaders here in Georgia, I just happen to notice at New York my daughter was born to be added to nurture and notice it and then move back to New York, but no, I want to learn and share, we can share with the people here.

Nadine Vogel: Right, John I think you're right, I mean the issues, not only have to be heard. They have to be listened, they have to be acted upon you know people can, can’t just listen, you know hear this information, and then, when they walk away it's like they never heard it. And so the things that you're doing that the organization is doing are really illustrating this so can we just touch a little bit on this guardian project for accessible oral health. Because right, this clearly shows that disabled lives matter, but it also shows that there's something missing here that is so important that we touched on, so what you touch on that for us, please.

John D. Kemp: I sure will and I appreciate you, bringing it up and with a daughter that has cerebral palsy and may affect her ability to have to receive good quality care oral health care we've learned that it's there are so many people across the spectrum of disability that have difficulty getting access to good oral health care. Whether it's autism on the spectrum there or people with cerebral palsy just finding and getting a doctor a dentist who will see you. And it's taken a lot of litigation and maybe short of litigation, a lot of advocacy to get the American dental Association and the profession to pay attention to us as patients and way too often people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are bust into in in groups, big buses, I mean I’m literally saying buses bus to a an emergency room of a general hospital waiting in the waiting room all day, to be put under general anesthesia to have their one checkup and there dental care provided once every one and a half to two years, well they've got problems that have built up, they are sick. It affects heart lungs brain it affects your whole body, if your mouth is clean the rest of your body's going to be cleaner. So, it is just entirely irresponsible that this has gone on so long and we said we're going to fix it, and that means changing the reimbursement rates for Medicaid for adults to get services and dentist to get paid appropriately if the financial reason is, I only get one unit of reimbursement. And I might have to see this child with autism five times, and then the natural reaction is I’m going to refer this person away or I’m just going to deny. Now they're under an obligation to refer to a dentist who will see them and they can't just deny the services but it's optional for adults over 21 to get dental services on a state-by-state basis only 17 States require, have adopted a dental health care for adults with disabilities, all children up to 21 gets service dental services.

Nadine Vogel: Unbelievable, what at 21 they suddenly you fall off the cliff.

John D. Kemp: Exactly like what’s so magical about 21. Your teeth are all fine for the rest of your life, no.

Nadine Vogel: Right, I never understood it is so many things that this country says, you know what either 18 or 21 X happens and I’m thinking I don't understand who picked that number out of the air and decide, you know, for instance, you know children with disabilities, you can be on your parents healthcare till age, I think it's 26. What happens in 26 poof you know when Gretchen turned 26, she didn't suddenly become a different person and her disabilities didn't suddenly go away, I just I just don't understand.

Norma Stanley: And to tell you the truth, we have a Center here in the Atlanta area that they're overwhelmed this is a nonprofit and they'll overwhelmed to try and come to try to help people, not just in Georgia South Carolina, they can’t find consistency to take care of their children and like you say after a certain age, you know they don't they just fell off the cliff altogether so it's just really sad that you say only 17 states right now.

John D. Kemp: You know, to the to the title of your program Nadine, this is the devaluation of people with disabilities, when there are policies that are allowed to exist that make it an optional service, oral healthcare under Medicaid for adults with disabilities, that is devaluing in public policy that's just intolerable.

Norma Stanley: You know the same thing goes on for sexual health for people with disabilities, for woman particularly.

John D. Kemp: Absolutely. When these busloads of kids go into the hospital and get their general anesthesia and debt and oral health care needs, they're also dealing with the Ob gyn services for women and giving them haircuts. It's like wait a minute, this is like cattle you're treating people like objects and one. Every year and a half to two years you're going to bring them in put them completely under and then do these things that they should normally get on a regular much more regular basis and on a preventive basis as well because.

Nadine Vogel: It's beyond me that we are in 2021 and these things are still allowed to happen, I mean look how many organizations are still paying people with disabilities below minimum wage significantly below minimum wage, I mean and still getting away with it, no less. And again, I know another whole topic. But the John, another thing I wanted to ask you about is people with disabilities, not as employees of companies, and we can talk about that. But as entrepreneurs as business owners, as people that can provide for themselves and in doing so, actually provide for others, as opposed to the other way around, so can you touch on that a little bit.

John D. Kemp: Oh, I love ya. I love it I love you for phrasing it and Norma, I know this sparked your interest as well. You know this was the gap that some organizations and schools sporadically would address very on a on a very good and basis that was entrepreneurship. by people with disabilities to be a person with a disability, an entrepreneur that was always a consequence of discrimination in the marketplace and the world in the workplace couldn't get a job. I get too much pride I’m going to go back home I’m going to open up my garage or my fourth bedroom or third bedroom and I’m going to fix hearing aids or wheelchairs or I’m going to do something to sell on eBay I don't know what I’m going to do, but I’ve got too much pride and I need to I want to make some money. Well, we've sort of tried to lift that whole area up and create a very dynamic robust curriculum. That is an eight-month long program that's sitting on top of a fully accessible platform, so that, as we deliver this through social through social media through technology to people across the country, and we have said, 12 to 15 people in each year's cohort we're in our second year now. And so, anybody with any kind of disability can participate in this program and we will adapt the Program as much as possible to make sure that it fits their needs, but the idea is believing in yourself believe in your idea. Give them tactics and access to funding or capital and credit and take away some of those barriers and start removing some of those barriers that allows them to flourish, you know, we did a shark tank kind of a thing called a pitch fest at the very end in October August November of last year of 2020 and we had contributions so that every person got something but somebody got $25,000 winner with their idea cooked out another was this and they range from the ideation stage to a business that's maybe making half a million dollars to a million dollars, but they want to replicate it in another part or franchise it and they didn't know how to do that part of it so it's from startup to wherever you are in your journey as a as an entrepreneur it's great I love I love it all.

Nadine Vogel: We need to get you know somehow; we need to get this program to be featured on shark tank how cool would that be.

John D. Kemp: Wouldn’t that be great.

Nadine Vogel: That's my new my new idea, I have a couple people I’m going to call, we need to talk about it.

John D. Kemp: That is great I love the idea, and you know I think they that it would obviously get it to the general masses because that's what people need to realize is that an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur. But if you have a disability and you're denied access to capital and credit which, may I say, is a is a function of policy. Which devalues people with disabilities, so you have to spend down your assets to qualify for Medicaid right and social security.

Nadine Vogel: Yep, two-thousand dollars.

John D. Kemp: So that's all you're allowed to keep so that's only that's all you so from a public policy standpoint, it is devaluing the lives of people with disabilities by making it so difficult and then you're going to start a business with $2,000.

Norma Stanley: Right, and this is another area of intentionality with black people because we don't get the same opportunities for attending and capital as typical businesses and so that's part of, and woman, in general, but again there's another intersectionality moment where it needs to be some change.

John D. Kemp: So right Norma so right, you are so right, you could change out the words and the and the impact is the same public policy is devaluing black lives and women's lives and people with disabilities lives yeah.

Norma Stanley: An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur why can't we all get along.

John D. Kemp: Rodney was right. His question was right.

Nadine Vogel: Well, and the thing is, is that if we enable like you're doing if we enable individuals with disabilities to show their ability. Right, to become successful entrepreneurs to work in not just entry level positions but management and senior level positions and companies. They then can serve as the role models for others coming up. Right, and I think that's one of the challenges that we have and one of the beauties John with you because you are that role model. You know, we need more, we need more and you're working to do that, but I think that's part of the problem is that you know, do we see ourselves. If you're someone with a disability, how do you see yourself in the future, will you look at others like you, in some way, shape or form and when that's absent you start devaluing yourself I, in my opinion.

John D. Kemp: Absolutely right, right and you know this, the Viscardi Center is run as an entrepreneurial business, we are entrepreneurial in every decision we make. Are we going to be able to pay for this, how are we going to generate revenue, how much how much loss, are we going to absorb before we can cross over to making a profit and when do you cut your losses and stop so we do run this as a as a business and entrepreneurial business but it's like a social enterprise.

Nadine Vogel: Well, I happen to know that some of our podcast listeners are in Hollywood and do have connections to shark tank so just putting it out there Shark Tank should come calling or we need to call them The other thing I’m thinking about again, because this is so important is maybe what we do John if you're in agreement is, we have some of your entrepreneurs, some of these individuals that have become successful with their disabilities and we interview them either on this show we put them on my TV program The Nosh again to illustrate to have more of these role models out there, that people can see.

John D. Kemp: We have incredible people I’m telling you I’m blown away by just watching how they progress through the year and then that pitch fest and how well they can present in seven minutes or six minutes, they get with their slide decks and their videos in there and what they're what they're talking about it's it would be they'd be great interviews.

Nadine Vogel: I love that, because then you know I want you, this is a saying that I know that a lot of people have used over the years on, rightly so, nothing about us without us with people with disabilities, so when we talk about disabled lives matter we should be talking to people with disabilities to clearly show, and I think that we have done that on just about every show we've had since it started the podcast. Right Norma, that’s something you and I have been committed to from day one.

Norma Stanley: Absolutely. there are so many great stories out there that have not been told, and we want to help share some of those amazing stories of successful people who are overcoming challenges and making it happen, and nobody’s really talked about it, you know, in the mainstream so we want to bridge that gap.

Nadine Vogel: Because I don't want, I don't want our podcast on to come off as inspirational. I want it to come off as impactful. We want to see change as a result of what people are hearing about and listen so, so in that in that vein, and I know we are running out of time John share with us a few closing comments, you’d like to make relative to how people can impact and influence change whether it's policy it's entrepreneurship any of the things we talked about today.

John D. Kemp: first thing I would say is that people with disabilities need to love themselves and they have to respect themselves and they have to feel that they're righteously worthy of being every in every place and in every activity always and if they take on that, then they can be of service to others, and they should accept the fact that they're going to be role models and that young people especially are desperate for role models to be able to look up to and to talk to, and they need to be accessible and make themselves available to talk to talk to young people and other people, a lot of newly disabled people even seniors who are newly disabled who don't know this world and it's a transformation, it is a transition and that we should be obligated personally I am to help everybody get along. So that's where I would start and I feel like this program does that very, very well and I really appreciate being on and being able to talk to both of you about my thoughts, but to share and listen to what you're saying as well, so thank you.

Nadine Vogel: Well, thank you John. Norma, I think this has been our best interview yet.

Norma Stanley: I’m loving it it's just I mean some extra like you said that was the goal of this whole process, and you know, making that necessary change and that's what we all want to be able to do.

Nadine Vogel: So again, thank you John. Thank you, Norma, you're an amazing co-host and another episode of disabled lives matter, we look forward to talking with all of you next week, on another episode. Remember it's not just a podcast it's a movement, and we need you to all be part of it see you soon bye everybody.

Norma Stanley: Bye-bye.

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the Disabled Lives Matter podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Springboard Global Enterprises, Springboard Productions, and its employees, contractors, subsidiaries, and affiliates. The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter podcast are not responsible and do not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on the Podbean hosting site and/or any other associated hosting entity. The Primary purpose of this series is to educate and inform, and does not constitute disability, medical and/or other professional advise and/or service(s). This podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising incorporated into, in association with, or targeted toward the content of this podcast, without the express approval and knowledge of the Disabled Lives Matter's site developers is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this podcast. The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter site assume no liability for any activities in connection with this podcast or for use of this podcast in connection with any other Website, Computer, and/or Listen Device.

55 episodes