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Table of Contents
October 17
Sept. 26 July 10 June 19
June 1 May 8 April 21
April 3 March 20 March 1
February 3 January 14 January 3
2016 News Archive
Announcements

Tuesday October 17, 2017

News Report

DRA Curb Cut Complaint Moving Forward

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a nonprofit, disability rights legal center, based in California and New York, was in court on Tuesday October 10th pushing forward with their complaint about the poor state of New York City’s sidewalks. In June of this year, Judge George Daniels cleared the way for this complaint to proceed in Federal Court against objections by the City. Among other things, the complaint alleges that curb ramps are often poorly designed, don’t meet ADA standards (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990), and are poorly maintained.

A “Special Master” was assigned by Judge Daniel to come up with recommendations and on August 10th, Special Master Robert L. Burgdorf, Jr., one of the nation’s leading experts on disability rights submitted a 285 page report finding that at the current rate, it could take another 20 years or more to bring New York City street corners into compliance. Special Master Burgdorf’s report said that it would be “unconscionable” for the current situation to go on and recommended that changes be made to speed up the progress.

Court proceedings on Tuesday October 10th started with prosecution lawyers jockeying for procedural advantage. But when The City was asked to present its response to the Special Master’s 14 point report, a litany of reasons were give to support the status quo. As the lawyers for The City explained the slow pace of curb cut remediation, Judge Daniels started calculating the time frame being proposed. When the Judge’s estimates got to 32 years before The City would have its sidewalks fully accessible for people with mobility impairments, he seemed to have heard enough.


Federal Court House, 200 Worth Street

Judge George Daniels instructed New York City come up with a firm “timetable” to address the recommendations in the Special Masters report. Those recommendations include: completing a survey of all pedestrian crossings within 90 days; installing pedestrian ramps where there are none, within the next 5 years; and bringing all non-compliant ramps into compliance within the next 8 years. The next court date is set for December 19th at 10:30 am, stay tuned for progress.

Chicago Police Brutality "Magnified" for PWDs

The Chicago Tribune printed a story on October 4th, titled "Lawsuit alleges Chicago police brutality 'magnified for people with disabilities." The article states that "the brutality was magnified for people with disabilities. Nationally, an estimated 33 to 50 percent of those killed by police have a disability, with approximately 25 percent of people killed having a mental illness."

If this sounds familiar thats because there is other pending litigation against the Chicago police force that alleges a decades-long record of mistreating minority citizens, with blacks and Hispanics disproportionately affected by shootings and other police violence. Despite Chicago’s police reform efforts there are still deep-seated issues on how officers are trained to handle people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities.

For more information on this story, go to:
the Chicago Tribune website.

Ontario Residents with Disabilities See Changes in Provincial Programs

Disabled residents of Ontario, Canada will be seeing major changes to provincial programs that offer financial support and medical coverage. Effective September 1st of this year, the government is loosening some of the stringent rules governing the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW). The two programs are the primary social support systems for disabled residents, although Ontario Works assists non-disabled residents as well.

One of the most notable changes significantly relaxes the rules concerning how much money recipients are allowed to have as assets or savings before having their benefits clawed back. Singles receiving ODSP will see their asset limits jump from $5,000 to $40,000, while limits for couples will climb from $7,500 to $50,000.

These rule changes by the government in Ontario seem similar to the A.B.L.E. accounts setup by the U.S.Congress in 2014. A.B.L.E., accounts allow people with a disability the right to have a saving account with up to $100,000, without giving up government benefits such as Medicaid or Social Security.

For more details on this story check the CP24 TV station website.
For Information about ABLE accounts check out our story in our May 8th Report.

Indonesian Photographer

The English language edition of Al-Jazeera recently profiled a 25-year-old Indonesian professional photographer who was was born without hands or feet. His name is Achmad Zulkarnain and he travels to photography gigs using a homemade motorbike.

The Largest Minority website is aware that there are people who might find this video cliché, patronizing or even demeaning but we think it's simply a great story about a guy who just "figures things out". Learn more about Zulkarian by watching this 4-minute video by Al-Jazeera.

YouTube Video on Achma Zulkarnain
Our source for this story is:
National Center on Disability and Journalism


Tuesday September 26, 2017

News Report

DIA Announcements

The Disabled In Action (DIA) Telephone Tree, that was started last year has had an impact. While the initial response was a bit tepid, improvements in its implementation late in the year helped turn out a sizable roll call at the nominations meeting on September 17th. DIA Treasurer, Todd Kreisler has reported an up-tick in membership enrollment as well. Elizabeth Ramos and Phil Bennett were the staff handling the phones and deserve a lot of recognition. Don’t be fooled, old school technologies still work.

Contested DIA Election
The nominations meeting on September 17, also produced the first contested election in recent memory. Edith Prentiss will be challenging the current President, Anthony Trocchia for DIA’s top spot. Ballots will be sent out this year on October 15th and must be mailed in by November 12th to be counted. Paid-up current members can also hand deliver their ballots to the meeting on November 19th where they will be counted and results announced.

Candidates for all Offices and Board of Directors positions must have their recent platform statements submitted by October 1st. Platform statements will be printed and sent out with the ballots to all current paid-up members. We will try to post candidates’ platform statements on line, either here at Largest Minority or at the DIA website; stay tuned.

Twitter
DIA is trying to move into the 21st century by developing it’s social media presence. Phil Beder (the writer of this publication) has taken over the Twitter account and has started to Tweet out the word, starting with the upcoming TLC hearings on Thursday September 28 at 9:30 am. This hearing is important because the Taxi and Limousine Commission is proposing new rules that would force car services to dispatch at least 25% of their calls to wheelchair accessible vehicles. This rule is intended to increase the number of accessible vehicles available and on the road.

Any Twitter experts reading this post who want to lend some advice to a neophyte tweeter will be warmly welcomed at phil@kermitplace.us. The DIA Twitter handle is DIA_NewYork.

Activist & Advocacy Workshops
Finally, DIA wants to share its 47 years of experience and knowledge with organizations and groups around the City. Several DIA members are in the process of putting together an “Activist & Advocacy” curriculum which will hopefully be presented at high schools, colleges, Independent Living Centers and Senior Centers. The goal is to show people that sticking up for their rights is not just a possibility, its a responsibility. DIA is hoping to spawn local advocacy groups throughout the City, because there is power in numbers.

DOJ Backsliding Under Trump

In a story from The Daily Beast, that we found on the University of Iowa Disability Law & Policy eNewsletter; The Trump Justice Department has dropped its appeal of a key disability rights lawsuit and advocates fear this might become a trend of this administration.

Emily Hall, who was a deputy for the Richmond, Virginia, Sheriff's Department, had to temporarily leave her job to get surgery for a heart condition. After her surgery, she couldn't return to her previous duties because of her new physical limitations. The sheriff’s department told her she could apply for a less strenuous job and when she did, she was refused that position.

Hall sued the sheriff’s department, charging it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to accommodate her disability and the Obama Justice Department joined her effort in 2012. When a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the sheriff hadn’t violated Hall’s rights, Hall and the Justice Department appealed the ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of appeals. But on July 28 of this year, the Justice Department moved to dismiss its own appeal, and the court granted the dismissal.

Top officials who worked in the Civil Rights Division under Obama say this may be an ominous sign, that Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions may be far less aggressive in defending the rights of people with disabilities than the Obama administration. They fear the dismissal could be the beginning of a shift away from the prior administration’s energetic stance.

The original source for this story is:
The Daily Beast
Our source was the e-Newsletter of:
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law

Discrimination Against Group Homes in Louisiana

In 2015 and 2016, Dionna Richardson and Cathy Moore converted houses, located in the parish of St. Bernard, into group homes for children with disabilities. At that time, no group homes were located in the parish, and children with disabilities would need to either leave their community to enter nursing homes or move out of the parish to find the care they needed. However, as a recently filed lawsuit alleges, St. Bernard Parish prevented any children with disabilities from moving into the newly converted homes and amended its zoning code to ban group homes for people with disabilities in the low density residential neighborhoods where the houses were located.

The lawsuit, brought by Richardson and Moore, alleges that the ban on group homes violates not only the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, but it also violates the Fair Housing Act and Louisiana state laws on the basis of disability. The suit seeks an injunction to allow the homes to open immediately.

This story was published in the e-Newsletter of:
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law
For more information on this story, go to:
The New Orleans Advocate

The Need for Accessible Taxis

by Anthony Trocchia

On the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I took my first ever ride in a yellow taxi!  Considering I was born (1969) and raised in Brooklyn, this is a big deal.

I was with my Personal Care Attendant and my mom in Manhattan at 2 Avenue and 22 Street.  I tried hailing, but that proved useless.  I called 311 and within 10-15 minutes a wheelchair accessible taxi appeared.  We went to Williamsburg (Brooklyn), and it cost $20 plus tip.

As people with disabilities, we're told at an early age that much of what people without disabilities take for granted is unavailable to us. 

I want to thank the Taxis for All Campaign and Edith Prentiss for her tireless work keeping the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission on notice that we expect them to stop ignoring us and take us seriously.  Robert Levine (R.I.P.) first brought this issue to DIA's attention in 1996 when he saw wheelchair accessible taxis in Boston and kept asking, "Why not in NYC?"  It all starts with an idea and persistence.

Anthony Trocchia is the President of Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York.


World CP Day

Cerebral palsy Day will be celebrated this year on Friday October 6. According to Robyn Cummins, World CP Day Manager, "Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood and is also one of the least understood." There are over 17 million people living with CP and 350 million family, friends and supporters who care about them."

In a statement, Cummins explains that people with CP and their families are reporting some wonderful success stories – there are individuals and organizations who are creating positive change in their communities but there are still incredibly frustrating stories regarding quality of life. World Cerebral Palsy Day will be observed in more than 60 countries.


Monday July 10, 2017

News Report

Disability Pride 2017

The New York City Disability Pride Parade is now an established part of the city’s social calendar. With an estimated 8000 marching and rolling participants this year, the parade is becoming a galvanizing event for the disability community in New York City. According to Kleo King of MOPD (the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities) more than 50 groups of diverse organizations, ranging from sports clubs to service institutions and activist groups paraded with a united sense of common cause.
Before the event stepped off at 11:25 am, the participants and spectators who gathered at the northwest corner of Union Square heard speeches and statements from MOPD Commissioner Victor Calise as well as Micah Fowler, star of the ABC TV series “Speechless.” In addition there were statements made, both from the stage as well as from the crowd, about the political climate regarding health care. Disabled In Action members carried placards about pending threats to Medicaid and a potential “Single Payer” bill that almost cleared the NYS Senate.

While this years festivities were called the Third Annual Disability Pride Parade, the event was originally created in 1992 as a celebration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This new edition of the Disability Pride Parade can take credit for creating spin-off events in Naples Italy and Brighton England. All three of these celebrations of disability pride were coordinated to happen on July 9th .

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities did a great job organizing the many details of this event. New this year was a “Children’s and Family” area inside Madison Square Park. Games and activities were provided in conjunction with the Park’s Department. After all the work was done on Sunday July 9th , everyone at MOPD was behind their desk on Monday July 10th to give us the numbers and details for this report; thank you MOPD.

Our sources for this story include:
NY 1 Spectrum T.V.
BBC News

AirBNB Supports discrimination against PWDs

In a story reported in the Guardian on June 2, Airbnb, the online home sharing service, routinely allows its hosts to discriminate against people with disabilities. While federal laws forbid commercial lodging companies like hotels and motels from discrimination, Airbnb hosts seem to feel free to reject reservations from guests with a wide range of disabilities.
A Rutgers University study that was used as the basis for the story “found that guests with blindness, cerebral palsy, dwarfism and spinal cord injury were refused at rates higher than people without disabilities.” In many cases, hosts that advertise their home as accessible were more likely to accept lodgers without disabilities. In the case where hosts specifically advertised their living space as wheelchair accessible, they accepted 80% of requests from non-disabled guests while only renting to 60% of guests with a spinal cord injury.

The Rutgers study, lead by Mason Ameri and Lisa Schur found that the host approval rate for people without a disability was 75% while the average approval rate for people with a disability was 45%.

According to the researchers, These numbers should raise concerns that these tech companies, overtaking traditional industries, could override existing anti-discrimination regulations, ultimately leading to more exclusion for people with disabilities. Airbnb is not alone in its discriminatory practices toward people with disabilities. UBER has shown a complete unwillingness to provide accessible vehicles in New York City despite laws that mandate accessibility in yellow cabs.

While the Guardian article stated that Airbnb has a nondiscrimination policy and stated “Discrimination of any kind on the Airbnb platform, including on the basis of ability, is abhorrent, a violation of our anti-discrimination policy, and will result in permanent removal from our platform.” However, online business platforms like Airbnb and UBER seem very willing to aggressively circumvent local regulation and labor laws.

Our source for this story the e-Newsletter of:
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law
For more information on this story, go to: The Guardian of London

Jordan Adopts New Anti-Discrimination Law for PWDs

New legislation was endorsed by the Lower House in Jordan last month, giving individuals with disabilities greatly expanded civil rights. Social Development Ministry Spokesperson Fawaz Ratrout believes the new law is the most progressive in the region and could help address the various physical needs of individuals with disabilities as well as integrate individuals with disabilities into the society.

Until the passage of this new legislation, the rights of people with disability were largely based on a medical model approach – what are the physical limitations of the individual and what services, devices or medical interventions are needed to normalize the individual’s physical condition.

Ministry Spokesperson Fawaz Ratrout says this new legislation offers a broader definition of disability that acknowledges society’s obligation to eliminate physical barriers that make everyday life more challenging. The law also expands the legal rights of individuals with disabilities by including informed consent, which allows citizens to exercise their legal right to make decisions for themselves after receiving enough information to understand the potential consequences.

In addition, this law enforces harsher punishments on persons who abuse or prevent individuals with disabilities from enjoying their rights and aims to provide a new era of anti-discrimination for individuals with disabilities living in Jordan.

Jordan was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2008, but according to Mr. Ratrout a “gap has been evident between principles and practices when it comes to the rights of citizens with disabilities” in Jordan. The United States still has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the rights of People with a Disability.

Our source for this story the e-Newsletter of:
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law
For more information on this story, visit: The Jordan Times

Ted Finklelstein Retires

Ted Finkelstein has been a disability rights activist’s best friend for many years. He has been the muscle behind convincing New York City business and landlords to do the right thing and make their public accommodations accessible. When Disabled In Action (DIA) created the OneStep program in the early 1990s, Ted was the “go to guy” at the City’s Human Right Commission that waived his badge at business owners and said “you’ve gotta comply!”

Ted did not start out with a focus on disability. Housing and tenant’s rights were the mainstay of his work at the beginning of his career. According to the City & State New York online magazine, Ted “found that there was one group in New York City that was primarily underserved in many areas, but in particular in the rights to equal access to housing, and that was people with disabilities.” The article goes on to describe Ted’s intense satisfaction changing the quality of people’s lives by providing accessibility in housing and simply making New York City accessible in General.

After 37 year of badge waving, arm twisting, convincing and charming business people into ADA compliance, Ted is hanging up his badge. “I will always be a fighter for social justice, whether it’s the disabled community, for the trans rights community, for human rights in general for New York City. So, I’m not stepping back from that. I’m just stepping back from waking up every morning and going to work every day. But I’ll continue to fight.”

At the May general meeting of Disabled In Action, Ted reiterated his commitment to serving the underserved and sharing his experience and advice with DIA. His council will be appreciated and well used.

Our sources for this story were Ted and
City & State New York Online Magazine


Monday June 19, 2017

News Report

City Council Speaker Burying Access Bill

(This article corrected June 19, 13:51 EDT)
On Thursday June 15, dozens of wheelchair users and their supporters protested outside New York City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office. The rally was a reaction to the Speaker’s failure to allow a bill to advance that would mandate accessibility for taxi and car service vehicles. While the bill is largely symbolic, it is the result of the city’s inability or lack of desire to correct long standing problems with the least accessible subway system in the U.S., and a half billion dollar a year paratransit system (Access-a-Ride) that is a complete failure.

Protester Iris Jimenez
City Council member Corey Johnson introduced legislation that would demand online ride services like UBER, Lyft and Curb, make their services accessible to disabled riders. Currently, these online companies do not operate even one vehicle that a wheelchair user can roll into. Council member Johnson’s legislation is being blocked by a very unusual adversary; the Speaker.
For more than 20 years disability rights activists have been fighting for accessible taxi service in New York City. There are currently 13,000 yellow taxis and at least some of them can now accommodate a wheelchair because of that fight. The disability community should pat itself on the back for this incredible progress, but they can not! The truth is that New York City’s iconic yellow taxis might be put out of business by online ride booking services like UBER, Lyft and SideCar. While some people might think this is a good idea, they should be careful what they wish for. These online services might seem convenient but they exploit and manipulate their employees, operate outside local regulations and most of all they don’t operate any wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Taxis and car services are closely regulated in New York City. There are many people who think that government regulations on business are bad, but those people should remember that regulations protect workers, make sure vehicles are safe, demand proper insurance coverage, insist on appropriate record keeping and now, mandate access for people with mobility devices. Because of their online status, UBER and Lyft can get around many of these regulations.

New York’s yellow taxis must be saved from the unfair onslaught from UBER and the like. The taxi industry finally did the right thing by yielding to pressure to become accessible. Now that they have, we should use them to improve the crippled Access-a-Ride system. The City Council must do their job of protecting a home grown industry that employs loads of new Americans and serves this community, from an Internet juggernaut that tramples on local regulations.

American Embarrassment

Disabled World reported that a major intergovernmental meeting was held at the United Nations on June 13th to ensure the full implementation of the landmark treaty on the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Georgi Panayotov, is the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the U.N. and the President of the U.N. meeting. He said that "The Convention, on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD, is one of the most progressive human rights treaties . . . " he went on to say that "This is the beginning of the second decade of the CRPD, in the first decade it saw nearly universal ratification [and now] we will have to achieve universal ratification. The embarrassing fact is that the United States is one of the few holdout countries who have not signed onto the convention.

The irony is that the CRPD is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed with bipartisan support on July 26, 1990. The United States signed the CRPD in 2009 but on December 4, 2012 the U.S. Senate considered ratification and failed. They fell 5 votes short of the super majority required to pass it.

In the past 5 months the Federal government has humiliated itself internationally by having our President praise dictators, question the 70 year old NATO alliance, try to impose a religious travel ban and withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. America’s inability to ratify the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is now on a long list of mistakes the country must correct.

For more information on this story, go to:
Conference on Rights of Persons with Disabilities at UN

New Documentary on Birth of a Movement

“Defiant Lives” is a documentary film about the birth of the modern disability rights movement in the English speaking world. The film was written, produced and directed by Sarah Barton. Using both current interviews and archival footage, Barton tells the story “of the disability rights movement in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. This film looks at how activists around the world helped to free their people from incarceration in institutions and came to a new understanding of disability by reframing it as a problem of society rather than a problem existing within individuals.”

Sarah Barton is an award winning documentarian, educated and trained in Melbourne Australia. Many of her films are on the the subject of disability and women’s issues. Among her achievements was a 70 episode series that ran on Australian television and a film that featured Muslim women living in Melbourne. The film was called “A Wing and a Prayer” and it aired internationally including on the Oxygen channel in the U.S.A.

Ms. Barton’s latest documentary feature is called Defiant Lives and is currently in final production. It is scheduled to be released in July. The Largest Minority will keep you posted about news on this film; stay tuned.


Thursday June 1, 2017

News Report

Federal Court Holds Hospitals to High Standard in ASL Interpreting

In early May, The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University and The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law, reported an important Federal court ruling. The Eleventh Circuit Court said that two plaintiffs who are deaf can sue a Florida hospital for failure to provide in-person American Sign Language interpreters under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This overruled the trial court's decision that the couple lacked standing to sue because they were unlikely to return to the hospital and that they failed to show where communication difficulties resulted in "actual adverse medical consequences."

The Circuit Court agreed with the plaintiffs and found that they did have the right to sue the hospital, noting that simply allowing people with disabilities to communicate in the most basic manner did not fulfill the requirements of the ADA. The court also questioned if the hospital's failure to provide an in-person interpreter "impaired the patient's ability to exchange medically relevant information with hospital staff." Using a poor internet connection to stream remote interpreters, rather than providing an in-person interpreter, could be considered a violation of the ADA if it was difficult for the patients to communicate with hospital staff.

Additional sources for this story are:
The Daily Report, a law newsletter based in Georgia
CBS Miami

Taxis For All -- in Kansas?

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority partnered with a private transportation company, to develop an on-demand transportation service geared towards people with disabilities, called RideKC Freedom On-Demand. People in the Kansas City Metropolitan area can use a phone app or call to schedule rides on the day they want their ride.

With the old paratransit services offered in Kansas City, people had to schedule rides a day in advance and could only pay with cash. With this new service, RideKC Freedom On-Demand, customers can schedule their rides in advance or "on demand." Customers can now pay for rides with credit cards, or through the online app. This public-private partnership is subsidized with government funds to keep down the cost for disabled and elderly riders. It's too bad New York City can't come up with some creative solutions to solve the problems with Access-A-Ride.

Sources for this story are:
Disability Scoop, Ride Service Designed for Riders with Disabilities
RideKC Freedom On-Demand

New TV Show With Disabled Character

The ABC television network has announced another prime-time series featuring a disabled character. The “Good Doctor” is drama featuring “Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome who has left his quiet life in the country to work at a prestigious hospital.” ABC describes the young doctor as “Alone in the world and unable to personally connect with those around him, Shaun uses his extraordinary medical gifts to save lives and challenge the skepticism of his colleagues.”

As reported in the March 1 edition of the Largest Minority, “Speechless” is the other ABC show that has a character with a disability in a featured role. It is important to note that the actor in the Speechless series not only plays a disabled character, he has a disability as well.

An irksome worry about the new Good Doctor TV show is the over played scenario of the autistic savant. While the occurrence of a person with a mental disability having extraordinary mental ability at the same time is rare, it seems a favorite story line for the entertainment industry. The Dustin Hoffman character in "Rain Man" is the most notable example but "Mercury Rising" with Bruce Willis and "Mozart and the Whale," are both movies that revolve around characters with savant syndrome. Lets hope this new series doesn’t work this overplayed story line to death.

Our sources for this story are:
The Disability Scoop, Autism At Center Of New Prime-Time TV Drama
ABC, The Good Doctor TV Show

Zappos Introduces Adaptive Clothing Line

According to the Disability Scoop and the Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter at the University of Iowa College of law, Zappos, the online footwear and clothing retailer is now offering adaptive clothing. It started with laceless shoes and has expanded to clothing without hard to manipulate closures such as buttons or zippers.

The most interesting option (at least for this reporter) is 4 way reversible items. These are pants and tops that are reversible, back to front as well as inside out. People with developmental disabilities as well as those with limited range of movement, do not have to wrestle with pulling on their shirts in the correct sense.

The Zappos Adaptive collection also includes: diabetic footwear, orthotic-friendly shoes, slip-on shoes, bump-toe shoes, and footwear with cords and bungee fasteners.

Our source for this story is:
Zappos.com


Monday May 8, 2017

News Report

DRA Takes on the NYC Subway

On March 25, The Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) has took on the New York City subway system with a lawsuit for its slow pace in making its stations accessible to people who use wheelchairs and others who have difficulty negotiating stairs. In the 27 years since the passage of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), only about 100 of the 472 stations have been equipped with elevators. According to Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled in Action (DIA) of Metropolitan New York, "At the MTA’s current rate of elevator installation, it would take the MTA more than 100 years before 100% accessibility would be achieved."

This current legal action has the very ambitious goal of forcing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), The New York State run parent organization of the subway, to make a concentrated effort to install elevators in every station over a "reasonable period of time." According to the MTA, it costs, on average, 30 million dollars to make one station accessible. Outfitting the approximately 360 remaining stations with elevators would cost about 11 billion dollars.

While the financial costs are high, DRA argues that the MTA has no excuse for the sloth-like pace of access improvement. Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago have old train systems yet they all have station accessibility around 70%. The New York system’s station accessibility rate hovers around 24%, the worst in the nation.

The case against the MTA was greatly strengthened on May 1 by City Comptroller Scott Stringer. In an audit conducted by his office, Stringer revealed that 80% of the elevators and escalators sampled did not receive necessary preventative maintenance in a timely manner. In addition, the report found “the MTA does not systematically track whether and how quickly all of the defects found in its elevators and escalators are corrected.”

There are a number of plaintiffs in the case. DIA Board member Dustin Jones along with Chris Pangilinan and Sasha Blair-Goldenshon are the individuals who use wheelchairs and have signed on. But most notable is that four of the six New York City Independent Living Centers (ILC) are also plaintiffs. New York ILCs have traditionally been service oriented organizations but have recently been returning to their roots as agents of advocacy. Lets hope this trend continues.

This story was widely covered. For more information on this important and developing story read these sources:

Citylab: The Lawsuits Over NYC's Subway Inaccessibility Are Long Overdue

Time Warner NY1: Lawsuits Call for Subway System to be More Accessible for People with Disabilities

The Gothamist: Disabled NYers File Class Action Lawsuit Against MTA Over Inaccessible Subway Stations

The New York Times: New York City’s Subway System Violates Local and Federal Laws, Disability Groups Say

Comptroller’s Audit:

Supreme Court Disagrees with Gorsuch

On March 22 of this year, while the Senate was preparing to debate Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a decision unanimously endorsed by the court. In that decision, Roberts and the court rejected the “de minimus” standard for student progress in special education programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Judge Gorsuch has received a lot of criticism from the disability community for his consistent decisions against parents who demanded better instruction for their children with special needs. In his rulings, Gorsuch virtually always sided with school districts saying that if students had shown some minimum annual improvements, that is all that is required by law.

The Supreme Court decision earlier this year completely rejected this minimum standard. The federal IDEA law requires "free appropriate public education" for all children. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a unanimous court. "When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing 'merely more than de minimis' progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all," he continued. "The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances."

This Supreme Court ruling is important. The future will tell us if Mr. Gorsuch will be shaped by his new colleagues or will the court be pulled to the right by its newest member.

Sources for this story include:

The New York Times: Supreme Court Rejects Education Minimum Applied by Gorsuch

Wright's Law Web Site: IDEA Demands More

ABLE Accounts Could Be Improved

The Disability Scoop reported that, the law known as ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) might be expanded. This federal law, passed in 2014 allows people with a disability the right to have savings accounts with up to $100,000, without giving up government benefits such as Medicaid or Social Security. A bipartisan group in Congress is now considering three proposals to expand options for holders of these accounts.

One proposal, that is intended to incentivize work, would increase the amount that can be deposited in these accounts each year to $25,770; the current limit is $14,000. Another proposal would allow families who created a "529 college savings plan" for an individual with a disability, to transfer those funds into an ABLE account. The final proposal would increase the eligibility age for ABLE accounts to 46. At present, individuals must have a disability that onsets before the age of 26 in order to qualify.

Sponsors in the House of Representatives are calling these improvements "ABLE 2.0" and expect them to come up for a vote later this year. For details, check out the article in the Disability Scoop called "Congress Weighs Expanding ABLE Act"

Click here for the Disabiity Scoop article

Getting Around Mexico City
In A Wheelchair

On Friday May 4, National Public Radio (NPR) aired a great human interest story about the difficulty of navigating the streets of Mexico City in a wheelchair. Broken sidewalk pavement, pothole ridden streets, overwhelming traffic congestion and cars blocking pedestrian crossings are just some of the obstacles challenging wheelchair users.

One solution to the problem is offered by an organization called "Vide Independiente" (Independent Life). They have rigorous classes given by experienced wheelchair users, in how to maneuver a wheelchair in the most demanding circumstances. Mounting 6 inch curbs, descending staircases and traversing metal gratings are just some of the skills that students master in this grueling training program.

The complete text and audio of this NPR report is posted online, just click the link below.

NPR Website: Helping Wheelchair Users Navigate Mexico City's Hectic Streets And Sidewalks


Friday April 21, 2017

News Report

Republicans Seek to Disable ADA

Representative Ted Poe of Texas is introducing a law that would slash rights under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and make it very difficult to remove access barriers. The law called H.R. 620 would force people who want to report an ADA violation into a paperwork boondoggle that would take months or years to sort out.

Anyone who would want to make a complaint about a store without a ramp or missing braille signage would have to submit a detailed written notice to the owner or operator of the establishment. The notice would have to contain, not only, the exact location and description "specific enough to identify" the barrier but the "specific ADA sections" that are being violated. Then, the person reporting the violation would be required to wait for a response from the owner that would describe how they intend to fix the problem. According to an article in "The Progressive" (link below) the owner / operator would have 2 months to respond to the complaint and 4 months to remedy the problem.

DREDF (the Disability Rights and Education Fund) has issued an "Urgent Action" notice to all those interested in access issues, to contact their congressional representatives. Special attention is advised to contact representatives on the House Judiciary committee. Jerrold Nadler (212) 367-7350 and Hakeem Jeffries (718) 237-2211 are both New York City, House members on the Judiciary Committee. DREDF also encourages people to attend the town hall meetings of their local representatives.

Click here for a description of House of Representatives Bill 620
Click here to read the DREDF Notice
Click here to check out an atricle in "The Progressive"

Text to 911 Lawsuit Advances In Arizona

In February of 2016, three Arizona residents filed a lawsuit against the State and local governments for not providing a way for deaf and hearing impaired people to contact emergency services through 911. It seems that people with hearing disabilities can only access 911 through obsolete TTY devices or the telephone relay service which requires a high speed internet connection. The plaintiffs want Arizona to setup a system that would allow people to contact 911 through text over a smart phone; an easy and convenient way to solve the problem.

A U.S, District Court agreed with the deaf plaintiffs and is allowing the case against Arizona and the cities of Phoenix and Tempe to proceed. The plaintiffs are being represented by the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the National Association for the Deaf.

CLICK HERE For details on the "Text to 911 Lawsuit Advances"

Ecuadorian President on Wheels

Lenin Moreno, who uses a wheelchair, is now the President Elect of Ecuador. His status as front runner in the April 3rd election was reported in the Largest Minority in our January edition of this year. Moreno won a narrow victory in the runoff to succeed Rafael Correa, the former President who stepped down because of term limits.
The "Economist" magazine reported that Mr. Moreno will have a difficult time maintaining the socialist policies of the PAIS political party of which he and Correa are members. The poor economic climate will make it difficult to continue the heavy government spending currently in place. The Economist said Moreno has a "reputation as a pragmatist" and has made vows to curb corruption.

Moreno will also have to deal with Julian Assange who has been hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past 4 years. Assange is trying to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is facing charges of rape and sexual assault.

Lenin Moreno has been a wheelchair user since 1998 when he suffered a spinal cord injury as a crime victim. According to the Economist, he has "setup a foundation to promote Humor and Happiness and has published a book called The World’s Best Jokes."

Editor's Note
I guess it could be said that Ecuadorians have us beat because it’s better to have a President who writes books on jokes than having a President who is a joke (sorry, I should keep opinion on the editorial page).

Blind Korean Baseball Fans

Public Radio International (PRI) aired a story on April 3, about blind Korean podcasters who adore baseball. They say that the slow pace of baseball is perfect for blind listeners. Kwan Soon-chul, one of the poddcasters says, “As a totally blind person, I can’t enjoy the game visually, so I concentrate on the sounds of the game — the catcher catching the ball, the batter hitting the ball. I like the energetic sound of the game,”

The trio of totally blind podcasters produce a weekly wrap-up of baseball happenings in both the Korean and U.S. Major Leagues. The story is posted on the PRI website (link below) and includes the audio of the radio report. It is a great human interest story and is a good "listen." Please check it out.

The pace of baseball makes it perfect for its blind fans in Korea


Monday April 3, 2017

News Report

New York State Continues Mistreatment of Mentally Ill

In a complicated legal case reported by Cindy Rodriguez of WNYC radio, New York State was discharging thousands of patients from psychiatric hospitals and warehousing them in substandard “Adult Home” facilities. These practices violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and in 2002, the U.S. Justice Departments (DOJ) filed suit to end this practice. New York State settled with the DOJ in 2014.

In the settlement, New York State agreed to provide more humane treatment including providing more community based housing where possible and using nursing homes with lower proportions of mentally ill patients.

In this report filed by WNYC, it is alleged that lawyers for the New York State Department of Health colluded with lawyers for the adult homes to undermine the DOJ settlement and continue funneling patients with mental disabilities into the unsuitable adult homes.

Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis lashed out at the possibility of collusion between the State and the adult homes in undermining the settlement and said, if it was true, he would consider it “a fraud” on the courts. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman denied knowledge of the affair but it was lawyers from his office that seem to be involved.

For the full story and detailed audio report visit the WNYC website.

The New York Times Exposed Trove of Disability News.

On March 24, Neil Genzlinger wrote a theater piece that talks about the new production of Tennessee Williams production of “The Glass Menagerie” at the Balasco theater. In it, the part of Laura, the daughter, is played by an actor with muscular dystrophy. It seems there has be significant criticism because the young artist, Madison Ferris uses a wheelchair on stage, while the original Williams text describes the character as, having a slight limp.

Genzlinger’s article goes on to compare and discuss the coverage of disability on Broadway in recent years as well as revealing his own opinions on the subject as the father of a disabled child. Please use the link at the bottom to see the full text of his article.

In addition, the March 29th edition of the Times published a video about Sasha Blair-Goldensohn. The video shows the trials and tribulations of wheelchair users in the New York City subway system. Mr. Blair-Goldensohn is a Google software engineer and wheelchair user. He seems to be new to disability and in the article, praises the work of the disability activists who have laid the ground work of barrier elimination and accessibility.

Most notable was the fact that the Times seems to have started a regular Opinion Column on disability featuring articles by and about people with a disability. This hidden trove of articles, started in August of 2016 and can be found at the link that follows.

Click here for trove of articles on the Times Disability Opinion page
Click here for Wheelchairs on Broadway

Iowa Bill Allowing Landlords to Turn Down
Tenants on Disability Benefits

The following story was taken from the e-Newsletter of:
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law

This story was originally published in the Des Moines Register on February 26. The article states that Iowa local statutes prevent landlords from discriminating against clients based on their source of income, including disability benefits, Social Security, child support, or people who qualify for Section 8 housing. However, a bill in the Iowa House of Repressentatives, authored by Republican Jake Highfill, would remove these protections and allow landlords to turn down tenants who receive any of these benefits.

The bill was purportedly written to avoid forcing private landlords to do business with the government. However, critics of the bill are concerned it will allow landlords to discriminate on the basis of disability. The wording of this Republican initiative would also strip local government authority in many areas such as stopping cities and counties from setting minimum wages, requiring paid family leave, implementing a soda tax or banning the use of plastic bags. The bill is currently being debated.

Click here To read the full story from the Des Moines Register

Disability Awareness Day in Vermont

The following story was taken from the e-Newsletter of:
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law

Four hundred people attended Disability Awareness Day at the Vermont state capitol on March 2, 2017. The day was organized by the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights. The goal of the event was to highlight issues that people with disabilities in Vermont face and some of the recent improvements in law, such as ABLE savings plans. Stephanie Woodward, from the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, New York, gave the keynote speech. The message to lawmakers in Vermont and everywhere was "Break Barriers; Build Bridges."

The original story can be found at:
The The March 10 edition of the VT Digger


Monday March 20, 2017

News Report

Broadway’s Biggest Show Not Accessible to the Blind

As reported by KQED, the San Francisco based, Public Radio Station, “Hamilton” the Broadway MegaHit musical at the Richard Rodgers Theater, does not offer audio description services to audience members who are blind or have vision impairments. A visitor to New York from Denver wanted to fully enjoy this hip-hop musical about America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, but was disappointed when accommodations for the blind were not available.
Since many Broadway shows open and then quickly close, it is understandable that a new show might not be prepared to lay out the expense to have audio description on opening night. But Hamilton has been sold out since its opening, a year and a half ago, so there is no excuse! According to the KQED article, it costs about $25,000 to setup an automatically run audio description system. That includes the mechanism to tie into the automated stage direction system, the computer system and the wireless broadcast system for audience members.

A New York Times article from June of 2016 clearly stated that Hamilton the musical is not exactly going broke. In fact, the title of the article said that Hamilton is on a path to becoming a “Billion Dollar Broadway Show.” It made back the 12.5 million dollar underwriting cost within months and currently makes 1.9 million dollars in gross ticket sales per week and an estimated $600,000 of that is pure profit.

Hamilton is not the only culprit to ignore offering audio description. The KQED article says there are only 4 shows on Broadway that accommodate the vision impaired and blind; that includes Book of Mormon and The Lion King. For information on accessibility accommodations to Broadway shows, you can visit the Theater Development Fund (TDF) website.

The sources used or this article were:
NPR, KQED A Blind Theatergoer’s Lawsuit
New York Times Path to a Billion-Dollar Show

Character with Autism Comes to Sesame Street

With great fanfare the Sesame Workshop, creators of the long running kid’s TV show, announced the addition of a new character with autism. Julia is the name of the Muppet with autism and she was created by the Jim Henson workshop that is now owned by The Disney Company.

Sesame Street was created in 1969 as an experiment in educational television. Over the years the show has created and introduced many characters with unique and diverse traits and personalities.

This addition of another company member with a disability is an example of the importance of Sesame Street and its reputation as an American Institution.

Melbourne City Council Targets Homeless

The City Council in Melbourne, Australia, wants to amend a law that would outlaw homelessness. The proposed measures include a ban on camping and the potential for monetary penalties for anyone who leaves items unattended in public. The city council is due to vote on the proposed changes on March 17th.

The UN Special Reporter on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, said that "While homeless people are not specifically referenced, it is clear they are the target; the amendment was put forward following the forcible removal of a homeless camp in the city center last month."

Under international human rights law, which applies to national as well as local governments, homelessness is a gross violation of the right to adequate housing. Discrimination against and social exclusion of people who are homeless is strictly prohibited. Governments are required to take immediate steps to ensure the right to housing is enjoyed on a short and long-term basis.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is a Washington D.C. based coalition of advocates, activists, community organizations and service providers for the homeless. According to statistics from their web site, 20% to 25% of homeless people suffer from some sort of mental or psychological disability. While some might consider homelessness an economic or social issue, the numbers from the Coalition for the Homeless clearly indicate this is a disability issue as well.

Our source for this story is a story posted on Disability World

Law Suit Filed Against Four Freedoms Park

On Thursday, March 16th Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit legal center, posted a press release on their website that announced they had “filed a class action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of individuals with mobility disabilities alleging that the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy are blatantly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiffs, including the Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled (BCID) and several New York City residents who use wheelchairs, allege they are unable to access the Memorial in violation of long established law.”
As previously reported in our March 1st edition, DRA is moving forward with their efforts to remedy the physical barriers at the park on Roosevelt Island. The story was picked up and reported by the New York Times that evening and was also announced by WNYC, the New York City based NPR station on Friday. WINS, the New York 24 hour news station reported this ADA violation law suit on Saturday morning. We will continue to follow this ongoing story

Disclaimer: The author of this article is a plaintiff in this law suit.

Our soures for this story are:
DRA Press release
New York Times article from March 16th 2017


Wednesday March 1, 2017

News Report

Ongoing Dispute over FDR Memorial

Disabled activists continue their fight over access at a memorial to the nation’s 32 President. The Four Freedoms Park on New York City’s Roosevelt Island has areas that cannot be reached by people who use wheelchairs or who have mobility impairments. According to the New York Times, the non-profit Conservancy that runs the memorial park says “that the memorial as a whole is A.D.A. compliant.”

The dispute is over an area at the southern tip of the park known as “The Room.” This space has high granite walls on the east and west and offers a clear open view of the East River and skyline to the south. Architect Louis Kahn designed the memorial in 1974 and placed a pit consisting of 2 steps at the southern end. This pit supposedly creates a natural barrier to prevent visitors from falling over, into the river while maintaining a vista, uninterrupted by a railing or other visual impediment. According to individuals interpreting Kahn’s design, the pit, also referred to as a sunken terrace, is not meant to be entered, it’s sole purpose is to limit people from approaching the southern most wall, but this explanation doesn’t seem to hold water.

If the sunken terrace’s only purpose is as a barrier, then why are there 2 sets of steps leading down to it on either side of the area. The terrace also consists of 2 levels or steps that are 17" 1/2 inches high, an appropriate height for a bench or sitting area. Clearly the area was meant for people to access and use and is a beautiful example of pre-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) architecture.

The FDR Memorial on Roosevelt Island was opened on October 24th 2012 but has not received a “Certificate of Occupancy” from New York City. The City is also withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding because of the disagreement over access. As this fight continues, supporters of access have gained an ally. DRA (Disability Rights Advocates) is looking into a law suit demanding the Four Freedoms Memorial Park be 100% accessible. We will keep you posted as this story develops. For more information on the Four Freedoms Park and the controversy over its design, visit:

The Four Freedoms Park Wikipedia page
The Curbed Magazine article
Paralyzed Veterans of America web site
The last New York times article

Prime Time Network TV Show Featuring Disability

Speechless is a prime time television show that features a disabled character, played by an actor with a disability. Micah Fowler plays JJ Di Meo, a high school student with cerebral palsy and the eldest son in a family of interesting, sharp witted characters. Fowler, who plays the main character, has C.P. and according to IMDB, already has a major film credit in his young and developing acting career.

Wikipedia describes Speechless as a show where the family “moves frequently in an attempt to find a good educational environment for JJ. They believe they have found an optimal choice when they discover a school that prides itself on being inclusive and where JJ will have an aide to speak for him.”
Phil Bennett is a disability rights activist and media critic for the Largest Minority. He touts the show’s importance as a ground breaker for putting both disability themes and a disabled character at the center of a prime time TV show. Bennett describes JJ as the “disabled everyman, or perhaps everyperson.” The one we see everyday, but don’t really know. The show opens a door into the life of a family with a disabled teenager and presents stories, relationships and narratives that everyone can relate to.

According to Bennett, the JJ character is just another teenager experiencing many of the same insecurities, aspirations and romance woes as every other teenager; with a bunch of extra twists. It is clear that the people who produce this show have a firsthand understanding of the world of disability. Bennett hopes this show, and more like it, can teach society to welcome “us” into the mainstream.

Academy award nominated actor Minnie Driver plays the mother in this family oriented, half hour, sitcom that airs on Wednesday nights at 8:30 PM on ABC (channel 7 in New York City). The show has some great reviews and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 98% on their Tomatometer.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Wonder the Service Dog

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday February 22, that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider the case of a family who wanted to have a service dog assist their daughter while at school. The Circuit Court originally ruled that the Federal IDEA law (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), should have been the primary regulation to govern the suit. The family used the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) to sue the school district for damages caused by the district’s bad judgment.
In our November 1st edition, we reported this story when it was argued at the Supreme Court. The lower court ruled that the family of Elhena Fry did not have the right to sue the school district because they did not exhaust the "administrative remedies" under the IDEA law before they could sue using the ADA. The Fry family did not pursue the appeals process because they found a school in a neighboring school district that welcomed Elhena and her dog with open arms. According to the Fry’s, they did not sue for the money, but because they did not want other families to have the same problems they had.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision set a new standard. If Elhena Fry had been denied a service mandated by IDEA, then the family would have had to go through a full, "due process hearing." But because this was a disagreement between the family and the school district over the best method of accommodating Elhena, the Supreme Court completely agreed that the Fry family had the right to bring a suit against the school district. This Supreme Court decision helps clarify the purpose of IDEA and strengthen the ability of the ADA in school related issues.

Our sources for this story were:
The Wrightslaw Special Education Advocacy Website
The Disability Scoop

ReelAbilities Film Festival, New York

The Ninth Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. The festival presents award-winning films in various locations throughout the NYC metropolitan area. Discussions and other engaging programs bring the community together to explore, discuss, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.

The ReelAbilities Film Festival runs events in fourteen cities nation wide and in Canada. The festival will be in New York March 2nd through March 8th. Tickets are available online starting February 2. All films are captioned, and all venues are wheelchair accessible. For information you can call (646) 505-5708 or

visit their website at: ny.reelabilities.org


Friday February 3, 2017

News Report

Google Honors Ed Roberts

On Monday January 23, the Google search page featured an image of Ed Roberts, disability rights advocate, activist, legend and icon. Roberts was a ventilator dependent quadriplegic who became the first person with a severe disability to attend the University of California at Berkely. His lead opened the door for other disabled students at UC Berkeley and the creation of a dormitory to accommodate disabled students.

Roberts is credited as being the father of the “Independent Living Movement.” There are currently Independent Living Centers in all 50 states and in the 5 US territories. Ed Roberts became the Director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Co-founded the World Institute on Disability with Judy Heumann and received a McArthur Genius Grant in 1984. The Google Doodle of Ed Roberts appeared on his birthday, proclaimed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a day of special significance in 2010. Roberts died in 1995, he would have been 78 this year.

Governor Cuomo Seeking Cuts to Long Term Care

On January 20th, Crain’s New York Business reported that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to slow the growth of managed long term health care programs in the State. The trend to managed care health programs has been a solution to reduce medical spending by giving health care providers a flat rate of payment for each person to cover all their medical expenses instead of paying for each doctor visit or x-ray individually. In theory, managed care systems seek to improve health and prevent illness while bringing costs down.

Long term managed care systems are specifically designed for disabled people and the aged who have greater medical needs and usually require home care assistance as well. There are approximately 40 “Managed Long Term Care” (MLTC) providers in New York State and almost all of them are funded by Medicaid. The problem Cuomo is trying to control is the increasing number of people who are entering MTLC programs. In 2015 there were 133,032 participants in New York State MLTC programs. Today there are 178,260. That is an increase of 45,220 people and a 34% increase in two years.

The Governor’s plan is to limit enrollment into long term care. According to Crain’s, only people who are “nursing home eligible” would be allowed into MLTC programs. All others would be "re-routed" into less costly mainstream managed care plans saving the State more than $25 million. Governor Cuomo’s proposal would "reduce the bonuses MLTC plans can receive for meeting certain quality measures" saving the State an additional $30 million. In addition, the State would take over transportation services for MLTC programs and limit funding for marketing.

Independent Care Systems is a MLTC based in New York City. They have been operating on razor thin budgets in recent years and any cuts to funding could be disastrous. While the Governors plan does not seem unreasonable, disability rights advocates are concerned about overall funding for these important managed long term Care programs. They are calling on the Governor to maintain adequate "capitation rates" that are the flat fees these programs receive per person for their medical care.

New Parking Regulations for the Press
Could Effect PWD's

The New York City Council is currently considering a bill that would expand parking privileges for members of the press, while slightly reducing the parking spaces available to holders of a New York City “Parking Permit for People with Disabilities” (PPPD). Disabled In Action of Greater New York (DIA) understands the importance of news organizations and supports their work. DIA would also accept the small restrictions for people who have PPPD placards in this proposed law. But DIA opposes these new parking regulations because this poorly worded bill lacks oversight for granting these expanded parking rights and opens the door to abuse and misuse.

City Council initiative 779 allows anyone with a NYP (New York Press) license plate, to park in all “No Parking” zones, designated “No Standing” zones and all parking meters, without paying. These privileges are basically the same as those given to people who have a NYC PPPD parking permit. The disability permit has 2 additional restrictions: they can not be used in “Taxi Stands” and this new bill would take away the right to park in NYP zones.

There are several problems with this new law. The first is that these expanded press privileges are granted to anyone with an NYP plate. These plates can be requested by more than 400 news organizations in New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut. There is no limit on how many plates each news organization can request and these plates are issued to a vehicle, for the life of the vehicle. If the owner leaves his or her job as a reporter, the plate can remain on the vehicle. In contrast, people with a PPPD placards must file a renewal with the Department of Transportation each year.

News reporters and photographers used to be able to apply for parking placards that were issued by the NYPD, but they stopped being issued in 2009. The New York City Department of Transportation controls and regulates PPPD placards. DIA feels that It is important that local agencies have oversight of parking in the City. It seems improper that the DMV of three different states be allowed to decide who get parking privileges in New York City without local oversight or an annual renewal process.

Finally, the new proposed law stipulates that these new expanded parking privileges are given while a news reporter or photographer is covering a "news event" but does not define what a news event is. Could a news event be a reporter taking his wife to dinner to write a restaurant review? Who would be responsible for associating tickets issued at a particular time and place with a news event and how would that be done? This law simply leaves too many details unaddressed.

This law allows incredible parking rights with no way to verify if reporters were actually covering a story. At this time, there are very few privileges associated with an NYP license plate. However with the high cost of parking in New York City and the large number of people eligible for NYP plates, this bill could create a great potential for abuse. If the City Council wants to make parking easier for the people who report the news, put that responsibility back in the hands of the NYPD where it will hopefully be well regulated.

A version of this story will appear in the March edition of:
Able News

Trump's Choice for Education Secretary Has "NO IDEA"

Donald Trump has offered many of his Cabinet level jobs to people who have, through their words or actions, publicly displayed animosity toward the agencies they will lead. Betsy DeVos has been nominated to be Secretary of Education and her only work in the area of education has been in the privatization of public schools. Ms. DeVos, a billionaire, never attended a public school, nor have her children or grand children. She has never taught, administrated or held any job in the field of education and she has no academic background in education. In fact, she has only attained a bachelors degree in business administration when most states require a Masters degree just to get a teaching license. The focus of DeVos's work in education has been on the promotion and funding of religious and private charter schools in Michigan.

At her Senate hearings, when asked about the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act," (IDEA) she did not know that it was a federal law or what it did. IDEA has been on the books since 1975 and insures Special Education services for children in America. DeVos’s incompetence for this job is so evident that 2 Republican Senators have publicly stated their opposition to her confirmation: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

For details on this developing story, click the following links:
Washington Post – Two Republican Senators say NO!
Washington Post – DeVos Confused About IDEA
Washington Post – Six Astonishing Things Said by DeVos
Disability Scoop – Trump Education Pick Seemingly "Confused" About IDEA


Saturday January 14, 2017

News Report

DIA Expands Its Reach

Disabled In Action (DIA), the venerable cross disability rights activist organization is expanding its communication and advocacy capability by creating a member telephone tree. The phone tree will be a system that will allow information from DIA’s leadership to be broadcast throughout the participating membership, by members calling other members. Information about demonstrations, actions and outreach to political representatives, will be quickly and effectively passed between DIA members through systematic telephone contacts.

The idea for the creation of a DIA telephone tree came from Edith Prentis, Vice President for Legislative Affairs and this initiative comes at an important time. In the past, disability rights was not a politically partisan issue. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was passed as a bipartisan effort and signed by a Republican President. But with the new President and unified congress, there are clear signals that radical changes are coming to federal agencies and great threats seem eminent to the social safety net.

Activist and film maker Michael Moore is a vocal critic of the new President and offered a 5 point plan to resist the unwanted changes implied by Mr. Trumps Cabinet nominations. One part of Moore’s plan is to establish a “Rapid Response Team” with friends and family members. This team could then quickly send emails or call elected officials. The DIA phone tree is larger more powerful version of Moore’s rapid response team.

Advocacy organizations like DIA are preparing for a new age of activism. Abrupt and rapid periods of political change can cause disruption in the lives of people who depend on government programs and social service agencies. DIA is preparing to meet these challenges by bolstering its lines of communications both within the organization and to the community at large. The telephone tree is, hopefully, a first step toward meeting these problems, head on.

DREDF Alert on ObamaCare Repeal

On Monday January 9th, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), Issued an Alert to the disability community about the new congress and its actions to repeal the patient protections under ObamaCare. While the House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obama's ACA (Afordable Care Act) more than 60 times, the Senate and a Presidential veto blocked that from happening. With Donald Trump in the White House as of January 20th and a unified congress, ObamaCare is set to be dismantled.

According to DREDF, "the ACA is so important to everyone, but especially to people with disabilities." the alert goes on to list provisions in the ACA that are key to disabled people, such as:

  • insurers can't deny you health insurance if you have a disability or a chronic condition.
  • there are no arbitrary financial limits on how much health care you can get in a year or in your
  • lifetime.
  • young adults have been able to stay on their parents' health insurance.
  • health insurance subsidies that allow individuals with low income pay their premiums.
  • Guarantees to mental health and rehabilitation services and devices
Congress has already taken several steps to start the repeal and Mr. Trump has stated his desire to expedite the process, but neither Congress nor Trump have offered clear plans for a replacement. The DREDF Alert encourages its members to contact their elected representative and provides phone numbers and Twitter messages to post.

Disabled War Veterans

The New York Times had an emotional, human interest story, penned by Katie Foley and posted on the "T-Brand Studio," section of their website. The article featured three wounded war veterans and brief descriptions of their lives in the wake of disabling injuries. Scott Smiley was an Army Major who became the first, blind, active duty soldier. The article links to a video that highlights Smiley’s use of some new and interesting technology. Mike Schlitz and Anthony Ameen are the two other veterans featured in the article. They have turned their time and energies to mentoring and helping wounded veterans rebuild their lives. While the "great, humble, heros, surmounting incredible odds" theme of the article is fairly standard and cliché, it does a good job presenting examples of the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

The article points out, there are 40,000 veteran specific non-profit organizations that support men and women after their time in the military. When combined with the government support from the Veterans Administration, Medicaid and Social Security, Disabled vets have a decent array of resources available to them. While no one would question the need to care for and support disabled veterans, The article subtly raises the question; why isn’t there a more uniform standard of treatment for all citizens with a disability?

"T Brand Studio" is the brand marketing unit of the New York Times and produced the flashy, high tech web page and included video. The author, Katie Foley, is a military veteran and freelance writer. The article is an interesting and quick read, and reminder that disabled veterans are an important part of the greater disability community. The article is entitled:
"A Warrior Spirit, turning defining moments of sacrifice into exceptional generosity”
and can be found by clicking this link.

DOJ Requires Closed Captioning and
Audio Description in Movie Theaters

The following story was circulated by Luda Demikhovskaya on the CPANYS ListServ:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has released a final rule that requires movie theaters to provide means of delivering closed movie captioning and audio description to patrons. The rule, which supplements provisions in DOJ's ADA regulations on auxiliary aids and services, applies only to those theaters that show digital movies equipped with closed captions and audio description. Covered theater operators must acquire and maintain equipment for displaying captions and transmitting audio description through supplementary narration.

Closed captions are displayed individually to patrons with hearing impairments at their seats. Open captioning displayed on the movie screen is not required. Audio description provides additional narration of a movie's visual elements to patrons with vision impairments and is typically transmitted by infrared or FM systems to wireless headsets. The rule specifies the minimum number of closed captioning and audio description devices that must be provided based on the number of auditoriums in a theater. These requirements take effect in 18 months.

The rule does not apply to theaters showing analog movies only, nor does it require such theaters to convert to digital projection systems. In addition, movie theaters must provide notice to the public on the availability of these assistive technologies and have staff available to assist patrons with this equipment. For further information,
visit DOJ's website
or contact its ADA hotline at (800) 514-0301 (v) or (800) 514-3083 (TTY).


Tuesday January 3, 2017

News Report

Ecuador Set to Elect Disabled President

In the latest edition of the United Spinal Association’s magazine, New Mobility, they reported that the ruling political party in Ecuador was set to nominate a wheelchair user as their Presidential candidate. Lenin Moreno Garces, who was the Ecuadorean Vice President from 2007 to 2013 is ramping up his campaign for the presidency this year.

While it is always great to see our guy in the driver’s seat, it is even better that this story almost seems common place. While Lenin Moreno, a paraplegic, is now the front runner for the Ecuadorean presidency, Gabriela Michetti, a wheelchair user, is the current Vice President of Argentina and Floyd Emerson Morris, who is blind, is the president of the Senate in Jamaica,

Back in the U.S.A., there are quite a few disabled politicians. Tammy Duckworth just won Barack Obama’s old seat in the U.S. Senate representing Illinois. She moved from the House to the Senate by defeating Republican, incumbent, Senator Mark Kirk. In this bitter election Duckworth had to endure insults from Kirk that questioned her family’s heritage. Tammy Duckworth, is a decorated Iraq War helicopter pilot who lost both legs in battle.

Greg Abbott is a wheelchair using paraplegic resulting from a spinal cord injury. He is also the Governor of Texas. and lets not forget Senator John McCain from Arizona to round out the current array of high profile disabled American politicians.

While we are at it, lets mention disabled politicians of the past: Thomas Gore was one of the two first Senators to represent Oklahoma serving from 1907 to 1921; he was blind from childhood. Max Cleland and John Kerrey were Vietnam War veterans. Kerrey lost a leg and Cleland was a triple amputee. Rounding out our disabled, Senate Alumni are Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye; both of whom lost the use of an arm in World War II. New Yorkers should remember David Patterson who lost his sight as a child and served as New York State Governor from 2008 to 2010. And who can forget the 32nd President of the United States, Franklyn D. Roosevelt, who was a paraplegic due to polio.

We present this litany of disabled public servants to point out that this is nothing new. There is a rich history of people with physical limitations who achieved positions of political power. We wish Lenin Moreno good luck in his bid for the Ecuadorean Presidency, but the most heartening aspect of this political leader is his resume. As Vice President, he is known for his work elevating the social and economic status of PWDs in Ecuador, In 2013 he was appointed Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility at the United Nations and in 2012, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Chalk up another reason for disability pride.

NAD Lawsuit Against Harvard and MIT Moves Forward

the Massachusetts Federal District Court denied motions from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, to dismiss the National Association of the Deaf’s (NAD) complaint, that these Prestigious, educational institutions discriminate against deaf and hard of hearing people. NAD’s claim is that by failing to caption the vast and varied array of online content they make available to the general public, it becomes inaccessible to deaf and hearing impaired individuals. These materials include "Massive Open Online Courses known as MOOCs. This decision means that plaintiffs’ case will be going forward.

this is a huge blow to MIT and Harvard, who claim that the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not require them to provide closed captions in their online videos. Arlene Mayerson, DREDF Directing Attorney, said, "I am thrilled that we have made this important inroad into ensuring that 21st century online education is accessible to all." The court also rejected the universities’ claims that NAD and the other plaintiffs’ request for closed captioned videos deprives it "of the flexibility to choose an appropriate auxiliary aid [to access the aural content on the videos] “

The cases, filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, asserts that Harvard and MIT each, deny deaf and hard of hearing people access to thousands of videos and audio tracks that both universities make publicly available, for free, on broad-ranging topics of general interest. These include campus talks by luminaries such as President Barack Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

MIT also offers a wide range of online educational videos made by MIT students for use by K-12 students. The Universities’ purported claim that their content is available free to anyone with an Internet connection is legitimately in question if people who are deaf or have hearing impairments can’t access them. Millions of people have visited these websites every year.

For the entire press release, visit the DREDF web site

DeafBlind Triathlete Sues Ironman

The National Association of the Deaf posted this story on their website about Kathleen Borrone, a DeafBlind trialthlete, filed suit today against World Triathlon Corporation and USA Triathlon. These two organizations own and operate iconic triathlons around the world including the Ironman Lake Placid. In 2015 and 2016, Borrone successfully completed the Ironman Lake Placid, which consists of a grueling 2.4 mile open water swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile marathon. Although World Triathlon Corporation and USA Triathlon policies permit blind triathletes to compete with sighted guides, the triathlon operators have now prohibited Borrone from using her sighted guide because of his gender. It seems that the Triathlon organizations prohibit a woman from using a male guide which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York Human Rights Law.

Borrone, a Fifty-two year old woman, has competed in many triathlons. To help her navigate the Triathlon course, Borrone uses a sighted male, guide. Borrone’s sighted guide must not only be able to complete the triathlon, but must also be able to communicate with Borrone in tactile sign language which requires the DeafBlind person to place her hands on the hands of the other person who is signing. The DeafBlind person also relies on touch to understand the other person. Borrone has long trained and competed with sighted guide James Armstrong, but Ironman now refuses to allow her to compete him. Borrone is not aware of any other sighted guide who is both able to meet the rigorous physical demands of the competition and communicate with her in tactile sign language. As a result, Ironman’s policy excludes Borrone from participating in any of its future events.

The National Association of the Deaf wrote to Ironman twice asking them to modify the discriminatory policy, but received no response to either communication.

“I’m just asking for the opportunity to compete,” said Borrone who has never allowed challenges to defeat her. “I’ve trained hard and I’m ready to prove myself.”

“This country has long cheered those who train and compete in difficult sports, yet Ironman is denying a DeafBlind triathlete the opportunity to compete,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. “Kathleen Borrone is a role model for all of us, and no one should put false barriers in front of her or anyone else.”

For more complete details on this story visit The National Association of the Deaf website.


Local Announcements:

Join NYC Parks for Goalball, a Paralympic sport for athletes with visual impairments. This sport is played by two teams of three using a ball with bells inside. The ball is the size of a basketball but has twice the weight!

Goalball is held every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. at the Chelsea Recreation Center (430 West 25th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, Manhattan)

NYC PARKS PRESENTS WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL
Join NYC Parks Wheelchair Basketball, participants must have a NYC Parks Recreation Center Membership. For more information about this event, please contact Rodolfo Guevara at (212) 360-3341 or at Rodolfo.Guevara@parks.nyc.gov. For general information regarding Parks Department program accessibility contact 212-360-1430 or accessibility@parks.nyc.gov

Sessions are held every Sunday at:
Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center
232 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
(212) 397-3159
Cross Streets: West End and Amsterdam Aves.

Youth Wheelchair Basketball
Sundays: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Adult Wheelchair Basketball
Sundays: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Free Drawing Classes for Vision Impaired
Art Beyond Sight is working in collaboration with Teachers College, Columbia University's multi-institution research project to study drawing's impact on learning, funded by The National Science Foundation. They are offering a series of workshops open to students with no formal art training and all levels of visual function. They are especially seeking people with low vision and partial visual field deficits. Participants will be given $80 in Amazon gift cards for completed participation as well as needed art supplies. Snacks, and transportation for participants with low vision will be provided by TC's Office of The Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs.

The course includes seven, 2-hour classes including testing will be run by artist and Instructor in the Art & Art Education program, Tara Geer, starting March 18 or 26, 2017, for approximately 4-5 weeks (Monday evenings 7-9:00 and Saturdays 11-1:00) 445 Macy Hall studio, 525 West 120th Street.

If you are interested in participating, or know someone who might be, or would like further information, please email administrator@artbeyondsight.org or call 212-334-8720.


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