Friday The Ides of March 2019
A Big Win for DIA & Subway Accessibility
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.
So do websites have to be accessible? It seems that in July of last year (2018), the 11th federal circuit court said
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:
The DRA Police Precinct Access Press Release
Amputee Breaks Atlantic Crossing Record
Friday February 1, 2019
DIA Meeting Report
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
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.”
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 ImageIn 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.
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