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Table of Contents
February 1 March 15
2018 News Archive
2017 News Archive
2016 News Archive

Friday The Ides of March 2019

News Report

A Big Win for DIA & Subway Accessibility

On Monday March 5th, Federal Judge Edgardo Ramos said that the the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it renovated The Middletown Road train station and did not make it accessible to the community of people with a disability. The MTA must now go back and finish the job, starting with a feasibility study to provide access.

Disabled In Action and one of our board members, Robert Hardy, were two of the plaintiffs against the MTA and they were represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a New York and California based civil rights law firm.

This case is really important for a bunch of reasons. The ADA has a lot of complicated language about providing access when renovations are made to public facilities but the language is general. It is lawsuits like this that set specific standards for where, when and how access must be provided. And because this is a federal case, these standards will apply to the entire country.

The ruling talked about what kind of renovations “trigger accessibility obligations” and in this case it was alterations that “affect the usability of the station.” The renovations at the Middletown Road station on the number 6 line in the Bronx were large in scope, costing more than 20 million dollars and closing the station for seven months. The work included replacing and reconstructing floors, platforms, staircases, the mezzanine and lighting.

Because the reconstruction was major, it was clear that installing elevators should have been considered and they were not. The judge’s opinion has many references to the work replacing the staircases and it seems this was an important trigger for mandating accessibility. There is even a footnote that mentions a Federal Transportation Administration guideline “that specifically addresses what accessibility obligations a public entity triggers by replacing a staircase.”

What is clear in Judge Ramos’ order was how the MTA did everything in it power to wiggle out of providing access. Middletown Road was part of a bigger plan that started in 2003 to renovate the last 10 stations on the 6 line. Over the years, the “rehabilitation” was redefined as a “renewal” in order to make the project seem smaller and avoid ADA compliance. Grassroots activism and help from DRA prevented that from happening.

The most striking example of the MTA’s poor understanding of its obligation to provide access was reported in the DIA Activist in March of last year. The U.S. Department of Justice agreed with DIA, Bronx Independent Living Services and grassroots activists, and signed onto the DRA lawsuit against the MTA. So Judge Ramos’ partial summary judgment on March 5th of this year should not really be a surprise.

Hopefully the MTA’s past behavior toward ADA compliance is history and the agency will start moving in the right direction. Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit Authority has expressed a strong commitment to providing access and has even hired Alex Elegudin as the first Senior Advisor for System wide Accessibility. The real question is whether the governor and mayor can find the money.

Our sources for this story are:
DRA Press Release on Middletown Road
Article from AM New York
DIA Activist News Letter from March 2018

What Do Beyonce and Domino’s Pizza
Have In Common?

The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law newsletter reported that both Beyonce Knowles and Domino’s Pizza have inaccessible web sites. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that “public accommodations” – defined by Wikipedia as: retail stores, rental & service establishments as well as educational institutions, recreational facilities, and service centers” – must be accessible to people with disabilities.

So do websites have to be accessible? It seems that in July of last year (2018), the 11th federal circuit court said
YES!

If you Google “website ada compliance” that search will yield several dozen ads for services that will help make your website accssible to people with disabilities. After the ads, comes a long list of articles about companies being sued over website compliance. There is even an article in Forbes Magazine that blames both Trump and Obama for the problem. Maybe the problem is big corporations with legal departments not doing their job.

Domino’s Pizza is being sued because it has an online ordering “app” that people with vision problems can't use. It seems that Domino’s didn’t tag or label the pictures on its site. Screen reading software uses these labels to describe pictures to blind and vision impaired people. Since the Domino's app used untagged images for making menu selections, customers with vision impairments were excluded from full access to the website.

Beyonce.com has a similar problem according to court papers filed on January 3rd in Brooklyn. The case was filed on behalf of a New York City woman as a class action. The complaint claimed that in addition to pictures without alternative text descriptions there were “other issues with the site including a lack of accessible drop-down menus and navigation links and the inability to use a keyboard instead of a mouse.” Since the case against Beyonce is based in New York City, her website is also violating city and state human rights law.

Our sources for this story are:
Beyonce.com in the Guardian
Beyonce.com in the Hollywood Reporter
Article on 11th circuit court ruling
BBC Article on Domino’s Pizza

DIA Lawsuit For NYPD
Precinct Access Advances

Since 2016 DIA, represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a leading non-profit disability rights legal center, has been demanding equal access to all of the city’s police precincts. Too many station houses have steps, broken wheelchair lifts, unsafe alternative routes and other barriers that block access. The city’s response has basically been that disabled folks should just go to another precinct.

According to DRA, progress has been in the case because the court ruled that the city’s "expert witness" was anything but an expert. It seems this person was excluded for using “unreliable methods.” Meanwhile, DRA’s expert will be allowed to testify and show the city’s noncompliance with ADA Standards at its police precincts.

For more information on this story, go to:
The DRA Police Precinct Access Press Release

Amputee Breaks Atlantic Crossing Record

As reported on the BBC website, a former British Royal Marine broke the record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. In what was described as an “unsupported, solo crossing,” Lee Spencer rowed his boat from Portugal to French Guiana in 60 days; and oh, by the way, Mr. Spencer is a single leg amputee.

Spencer broke the previous record held by a non-disabled person, by more than 36 days. In the process, the 49 year old ex-marine raised more than £55,000 for charity. To read more about this extraordinary endeavor, visit the BBC website at the link below.

BBC Story on Lee Spencer


Friday February 1, 2019

News Report

DIA Meeting Report

Disabled In Action (DIA) resolved to get 2019 off to a great start at its first meeting on January 13th. The Board met before the general membership meeting and the new board members were introduced. The board discussed improved ways of conducting business to correct the unfortunate and hurtful accounting done by the former DIA treasurer. The new treasurer, Phil Beder, kicked things off by submitting the improved financial report to the board. This report showed how truthful and transparent DIA will be this year. This is a sign of good things to come as DIA endeavors to engage in issues of concern to all people with a disability.
The general membership meeting began with Jean Ryan, the DIA president, reminding all that there needs to be respect given to every opinion. This began with introductions of every person present. She also reminded us that there is no meeting space after our meeting on February 10th. There was an update on the various court cases that DIA will participate in, and are beneficial to everyone in the disability community. Other reports were given by members; reports dealing with emergency management, a petition for ADA inclusive living regarding small business access, and the reintroduction of the “Disability Integration Act.” Another improvement instituted in DIA meetings aimed at bringing the disability community together began with the 15-minute break where the members were able to communicate with each other. During the break, the “50/50 raffle” was held, another new feature of DIA meetings to raise funds.

After the break, the disability community was informed of the current situation involving the Independence Care System by Danny Perry, our guest speaker. This was the first chance for many in our community to hear about the idea of a “Health Home” which ICS will offer to its members. We were also informed of the difference between this program and the transition of ICS to VNS health plan at the end of March.


The next DIA meeting will be held on Sunday February 10th from 1:30 to 4:00 pm at Selis Manor; 135 West 23rd Street. Items that will be discussed include the current issues DIA is involved with and other "topics of DIA activism." Please come with questions and issues of concern to you and the community at large.

Cuomo's Attack on
Consumer Directed Home Care

On Tuesday January 22, Brian O’Malley of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State (CDPAANYS) blasted out an email announcing that “Governor Cuomo is looking to end the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA) program as we know it.”

According to the email, the Governor’s budget will repeal the law that allowed the creation of self directed personal services. The new bill will greatly reduce the number of agencies that provide self directed services with the eventual goal of creating one statewide agency to provide CDPA services. The Governor’s plan is contingent on federal approval and if Washington doesn’t approve, the New York State commissioner of health could end self directed personal assistance services completely.

Brian O’Malley of CDPAANYS is calling on consumers of CDPA services to do three things:

  1. Call Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 and express your views
  2. Participate in the CDPAANYS legislative action day on February 11, 2019.
  3. Contact your NY State representatives to express your views about the Governor’s budget proposal.
For more information about the CDPAANYS lobby day:
Visit the CDPAANYS website

ICS Members Need to Stay Informed

Independence Care System is a Medicaid managed long-term care plan (MLTC) that serves many people with a high level of health care needs. Of the nearly 6000 ICS consumers, a high percentage use 12 to 24 hours of personal services and use power wheelchairs. Many DIA members get their services through ICS and those services will end on March 30th.

Officials at ICS have announced that its consumers will “automatically be enrolled in VNSNY Choice, the MLTC plan of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Members who join VNSNY Choice will be guaranteed the same level of services they currently receive for one year. Members who pick a different plan will be eligible to maintain their same level of service for 120 days.”

Because of the large number of high needs ICS members, the NYS Department of Health (DOH) said it could not sustain the ICS reimbursement rates. By “scattering” ICS members into many different and larger MLTCs the DOH thought it could lower its per capita costs. The bottom line is that the health department is looking to cut costs, but for the moment, the impending services cuts have been kicked down the road for 120 days to a year!

Another temporary fix is allowing ICS to become a “Health Home;” an integrated form of care management created under the ACA, better known as Obamacare. It seems that a health home serves as an individual’s case manager and arranges needed services. One problem is that the “ICS Health Home” will be the first of its kind in the state and its not clear that all the details have been worked out with regard to the scope of its authority.

The other problem is that ICS as been granted a contract to be a Health Home for only 2 years. This means that ICS members who enroll the the newly created Health Home might have their current level of services maintained for the contract period but there is no guarantee beyond that. A lot depends on federal funding and dependability is not a hallmark of the Trump administration.

People effected by the ICS closure and other “high needs” MLTC consumers have to sharpen their advocacy skills because service cuts seem to be the top priority of DOH and health care providers. Saving the social safety net is becoming a very high priority in the fight for disability rights.

The ICS Civics League will hold a meeting on Friday, February 15, from 2 to 4 PM at ICS Brooklyn. Representatives of Visiting Nurse Services will attend to answer questions. ICS members are encouraged to take this opportunity to hear directly from VNS and, most importantly, to ask questions and express concerns about the future of our care and services.

Help Wanted
(to fight for access)

Too many stores in New York City are not accessible to people who use mobility devices and a new and re-energized “OneStep Campaign” aims to tackle that problem. Many stores that change hands are required to provide access but they don’t! The Activist is asking people to report stores that have recently changed hands and have not provided access so we can find out why. We will use this data to ask the Buildings Department why they are not enforcing existing law as a first step in reviving the OneStep Campaign.

OneStep is possible because of New York City local law 58; a law that requires access in many commercial and residential spaces and makes it really easy to build a sidewalk ramp. A provision of local law 58 says that a ramp can be built on a city sidewalk without a permit, as long as the ramp extends 44 inches or less from the side of the building. Removing the need for a Buildings Department permit significantly reduces the cost of ramp construction.

Another part of local law 58 states that when an existing store closes and a new store opens in that space, the new store must be accessible. In other words, if a shoe store closes and a restaurant opens in that same space, that restaurant has to provide access. But too often new store owners don’t obey the law and the Buildings Department does not do its job of enforcement.

If you know of any stores that have changed hands and not been made accessible then please join the OneStep Campaign by telling us where it is. We would need the location, what the store was, and what it became. You can send your information by email to Treasurer@DisabledInAction.org or by telephone at (718) 853.8171. Be sure to leave your contact information on the answering machine.

BBC Video Celebrating Individuality & Self Image

In the words of the 20th century, American, philosopher, Kermit-the-Frog, “It ain’t easy being green.” People with disabilities are often, made to feel different because of the way they speak, the way they move or the way they look. The BBC website featured a video of one young woman who decided to reaffirm her self image, both to herself and to the world.

Fatima Timbo received an incredible response to her Instagram post and her participation in a “Body Positive” campaign, an event held in London celebrating people of "all body types." The BBC website has a “disability” page that posts interesting short videos of people and their views on life. Fatima’s video, titled “I can't change my height but I won't be defined by it” caught our eye and we hope you find it interesting.

BBC Website Video on Fatima Timbo
produced by David Faye



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