Tuesday April 17th, 2018
UBER and Friends Sue Taxi & Limo Commission
The online ride hail services Uber, Lyft and Via are suing the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) over the new rule to mandate 25% of all dispatched rides use accessible vehicles. The logic of the TLC’s 25% mandate is to increase the number of accessible cars on the road. More cars would create greater availability and better service for wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments.
The original proposal supported by Disabled In Action (DIA) and the disability community was to provide 50% of all rides in accessible vehicles. The TLC lowered the number to 25% as a compromise to the “For Hire Vehicle” (FHV) industry. But the Internet based ride dispatchers could not accept that concession. According to their court filing, Uber, Lyft and Via view their current service as largely accessible because they can “accommodate riders using walkers, canes, folding wheelchairs or other assistive devices.”
Instead of the “25% Mandate,” the online ride-hail juggernauts are proposing an “alternative Central Dispatch” that would eventually impose heavy fines if cars did not arrive within 15 minutes. No details were provided for how many, or what type of vehicles would serve in this alternative dispatch.
DIA President Edith Prentiss said “Once again, Uber, Lyft and Via are doing their best to reject their legal and moral obligation to provide service to people with disabilities. These companies have repeatedly tried to bully and sue their way out of giving a ride to wheelchair users, and this lawsuit is just another example.”
New York is not the only major American city to have problems with these ride reservation technology companies. Disability rights advocates in San Francisco filed suit against Lyft for operating too few cars in their "central dispatch style" parallel service called “Access.” San Francisco activists call it a sham, and an "inadequate substitute for actual accessible transportation."
Many New York activists view the alternative Central Dispatch as another version of “Separate but Equal” and are aiming for a 100% FHV fleet. Edith Prentiss went on to say that the disability community’s message to Uber, Lyft and Via is that “If you don’t want to follow the rules in New York City, then leave. And if you don’t want to provide service to everyone, with a disability or not, what kind of company are you?”
Our reference to the San Francisco lawsuit comes from a story by:
Megan Rose Dickey at TechCrunch
Airlines Update Service Animal Policies
In a story from the Southeast ADA Center, an online news letter, Delta Airlines has changed its policies for service and support animals. It seems that the new policies will make it easier for some passengers with trained service animals to submit documents while clarifying the requirements for emotional support animals.
The story behind the recent policy changes at Delta and other airlines is the incredible increase in incidents involving people boarding airplanes with animals with questionable credentials. United Airlines has seen a 75% increase in “customers bringing emotional support animals onboard” and Delta claims a 84% increase in “incidents” involving animals.
A story posted on the NPR website reported a woman trying to bring her pet peacock onto a flight and a man who managed to get on with a 300 pound pig. The pig owner said his pig was a “therapeutic companion pet and claimed to have a doctor’s note.” The pig story happened on US Airways and ended with the pig “running loose in first class.” The support peacock story had a better ending because the airline refused to let it onboard even though the owner bought a seat for it.
According to several news agencies including the Chicago Tribune, the problem of people misrepresenting their pets as emotional support animals is out of hand. In an article in the Washington Post, the author said that “well-meaning legislation that was intended to make sure that people who have disabilities and their trained service animals would be able to get around without hassles. But many pet owners, not to mention a bunch of [unscrupulous] online registration companies, have taken advantage of the law."
In addition to Delta, United Airlines has also updated its policies for service and emotional support animals. In general airlines now require passengers to submit health and vaccination papers for uncaged animals as well as documentation that the animal has been trained. Emotional support also require a letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional.
Apple Computers has proposed a series of new emojis to better represent the diverse nature of the community of people with a disability. The new emojis show people in wheelchairs, service dogs, prosthesis, people with canes, an ear with a hearing aid and others to symbolize the various types of disability. There are also male and female versions of the emojis depicting people.
There are disability 13 emojis being proposed to the Unicode Consortium, the organization responsible for developing international standards for data encoding and software. Back in the day, when computers were invented, the encoding of numbers, the alphabet and other symbols was set up, but only for the European languages. As the use of computers spread around the world the need to encode all languages and alphabets became necessary and the Unicode Consortium was established. Since emojis are so widely used as a form of communication, they have been placed in the basket of Unicode symbols.
Apple worked with several disability specific organizations to come up with the new designs. They said that the proposed emojis are a “stating point” and implied additions could be coming. With the popularity of emojis there are many who want to include a wider range of skin tones, ethnicities, occupations and national flags in their design.
This decision shows that employees with disabilities are assets to the workplace and should be appropriately paid for their labor. Alaska previously showed a commitment to paying those with disabilities fair wages in 2014 with the Alaska Employment First Act. The act required that Vocational Rehabilitation services help people with disabilities find at least minimum wage jobs.
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
the source for this story is:
State of Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development
|On March 13, of this year, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joined the lawsuit filed by DRA (Disability Rights Advocates) against the New York City Subway system. The dispute stems from the fact that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) – the state agency that runs the subway system – just spent $27 million to completely renovate the Middletown Road station in the Bronx. The station was closed for 7 months while the staircases, structural steel framing, ceilings, walls, and track structure were all replaced. It seems that the MTA just sorta-kinda forgot to make the station accessible for folks who can’t climb stairs.|
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the MTA did not adequately prove that building elevators was “infeasible.” The DOJ asserted the the MTA feasibility study was “insufficient” and the MTA must now go back and finish the work of making the Middletown station on the "6" line accessible. We will keep you filled in, while we follow this ongoing story.
For more information on this story, go to:
The New York Times Artcle by Sara Maslin Nir
The DOJ press release
The DRA press release
Trump on Mental Illness:
In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting at a school, President Trump rattled off the following inflammatory statement:
|"Part of the problem is, we used to have mental institutions, and I said this yesterday, we had a mental institution where you take a sicko, like this guy, he was a sick guy, so many signs, and you bring him to a mental health institution," he said. "We've got to get them out of our communities."|
The disability community’s reaction was swift and indignant! The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement on February 22 that said “These comments reinforce inaccurate and negative stereotypes and create barriers to having real conversations about how to improve the mental health services that lead to recovery and participation in American society by people experiencing mental health conditions.”
CNN also covered the president's remarks and posted some interesting facts. They quote a World Health Organization report that says “only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents get the needed treatment.” The report goes on to say that stigma is the primary reason. Representatives from the National Consortium on Stigma and Empowerment say that when words like “crazy” and “sicko” get thrown around, this is the “height of disrespect and the height of ignorance” for our fellow citizens.
The NAMI press release focused on the president’s call for the use of psychiatric institutions and countered with logical insightful arguments for better community based mental health services and mental health services integrated into primary care. They also called on President Trump to open a dialogue and work “on steps for improving mental health services in America.”
Our source for this story is:
CNN Online report
NAMI’s Statement Regarding President Trump on Mental Health Care
DRNY Sues New York State
|Disability Rights New York (DRNY) is a non-profit organization that acts as a watchdog for 8 federally funded programs that provide services to people with disabilities in New York State. These programs oversee access to voting and assistive technology, insure proper distribution of Social Security benefits and provide advocacy for several groups of disabled individuals.|
According to a DRNY press release, New York State has refused to give reports of abuse to DRNY and has been withholding this information for approximately 2 years. “The Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs” is the state agency that is responsible for preventing and investigating abuse against people with disabilities. And, DRNY believes they have not done a good job.
In 2015, the Justice Center reported more than 1100 cases of severe abuse against people with a disabilty, including 28 where the victim died. Of these 1100 abuse cases, only 89 ended in an arrest or prosecution. "Bussfeed" reported on one of these incidents where a patient at Bellevue Hospital was severely beaten at least twice and these assaults were captured on video. At the time, the Justice Center claimed they did not have jurisdiction at Bellevue; a claim that was false. DRNY contends that the Justice Center has blocked investigations, failed to remove incompetent medical personnel and does not properly regulate facilities under their jurisdiction.
On February 28th, DRNY won a judgment in federal court that says that the Justice Center knowingly violated federal law by redacting information and withholding records from DRNY. Disability Rights New York (DRNY) is now calling on the state to do 3 things:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Loews, the hardware and house ware box store, for discriminating against an employee with a disability. Loews will pay $55,00 “and provide other relief” to the unnamed employee who worked in the store in Cleburne Texas, outside of Fort Worth.
The employee was a man and was hired in 2006 as a customer service associate. Loews was aware of the employee’s disability in 2008 when he was promoted and became a department manager. One account of this story says that managers at Loews are required “to operate power equipment that” requires the use of two hands. The employee in this lawsuit had a spinal cord injury that substantially limited the use of his right arm. His solution was to delegate the operation of the power equipment to an associate under his supervision and this “reasonable accommodation” worked well for 6 years.
In 2015, Loews informed this supervisor with a disability that they would no longer provide his reasonable accommodation, he was demoted back to associate and his hourly salary was reduced by more than 4 dollars. The EEOC lawsuit said “that the company's refusal to accommodate the department manager, a qualified individual with a disability, and subsequent decision to demote him to a lower-paying position violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”
The EEOC press release stated "It is important for companies like Lowe's to carefully make decisions regarding reasonable accommodations to ensure its employees with disabilities can perform their work successfully," said Suzanne Anderson, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office. "The early settlement of this litigation assures that this employee will continue serving as a productive member of the Lowe's team."
This newly designed technology will enable blind customers to enjoy the full range of inflight entertainment via specially adapted iPads. The platform includes audio descriptions, large type and consistent layout and controls.
According to executive vice president Mark Anderson, Virgin Atlantic Airlines is “the first to ensure our entertainment is fully accessible across all flights, we’ve been able to create a world first, that ensures customers with sight loss can experience the full range of onboard entertainment including the latest blockbusters, TV shows and albums.”
To read the online press release, visit:
the Virgin Atlantic website
New Wave of Activism
| Time Magazine ran a story entitled “ ‘Our Lives Are at Stake.' How Donald Trump Inadvertently Sparked a New Disability Rights Movement.” author Abigail Abrams describes disability rights activists giving their reaction to involvement in demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol. The article focuses on ADAPT and their efforts to counter the continuing Republican campaign to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare).
The article is another interesting read that recognizes the the growing activism and involvement caused by the reaction to the 2016 election. Will this surge in activism effect this year’s election?
To read the full article, visit the:
Time Magazine website
|For months, disability rights activists and this publication have been talking about a bill being sponsored by Republicans in the House of Represenatives that would roll back a person’s ability to report ADA violations (Americans with Disabilities Act). The ADA is a piece of civil rights law that guarantees people with disabilities access to public accommodations as well as equal rights in many aspects of social life.|
On Thursday February 15th, The House passed this bill, called the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017” with 213 Republican and 12 Democratic votes. Important to New York City and Long Island residents is that 4 local House Representatives voted for this undermining of the ADA. Peter King, Lee Zeldin and Kathleen Rice of long Island, as well an Dan Donovan of Staten Island cast their votes against disability rights.
There are lawyers who file ADA suits and don’t require access remediation in their settlements and this is a problem. However, there is no evidence that shows this happens in large numbers. A few news shows, like 60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper have reported on ADA lawsuit sweeps that have hit small businesses, but where are the numbers that say this is a wide spread problem? To make drastic changes to one of the most important civil rights laws of the country because a few lawyers are misusing it, seems to be a strange solution.
Political gridlock and and partisan animosity are the rule in Washington DC. So in a town where nothing gets done, MSNBC News commentator Rachel Maddow asked the question; how does a stand alone bill that hurts people with disabilities get put on the floor and passed? The Senate will not address this bill this year, so it cannot become law. Why did House Republicans expend the energy?
Click the link below to watch Maddow’s coverage of the ADAPT action as this bill came to the floor.
Youtube clip of Rachel Maddow Show:
Is Health Care for PWDs
A Victim of Trump’s Tax Plan?
One reason given for the state cuts to health care programs is reduced funds coming from the federal government. State officials say the President’s Tax plan is taking money away from states like New York, forcing them to spread the limited dollars available over a wider range of programs. Governor Cuomo and other sate politicians are making the decision to reduce spending on MLTCs and people with higher needs in order to cover more people.
There are others that say that the Medicaid program in New York has been underfunded for years and the current, federal administration is simply continuing bad policy. These informed sources point to long term systemic problems with Medicaid that have gone unaddressed, and lead to the current crisis.
ICS has a stated primary goal of meeting the needs of its consumers. While it is the most expensive, per-capita MLTC in the state, it claims independent auditors can verify there are no over expenditures. New York State now has some hard decisions to make with regard to the people with disabilities they care for.
The Most Popular Phys. Ed. Class
The Minneapolis StarTribune carried a story about an innovative high school physical education class that has become the most popular “Phys. Ed.” elective. The class is called unified physical education and it pairs students with special needs with non-disabled students, on a one to one basis. The demand for this class is so high, the school has created a waiting list.
A teacher at Wayzanta high school in Plymouth Minnesota came up with the idea when he was teaching basketball to a class of special education students. He thought that his basketball team could be a great way to reach his special ed. students; and it worked. Unified physical education is now taught in nearly 50 schools throughout Minnesota.
|Wayzanta high school unified PE class|
Not only is the class wildly popular, it is also changing the atmosphere in the school. Special ed. kids used to often sit alone in the lunchroom. Now partners from the Unified Phys. Ed. classes will have lunch together, creating an organic integration.
The article is an interesting eye opener that shows how a simple idea can change a school and potentially society as well.
Cooper Hewitt Exhibition
On Adaptive Design
|On January 11th, Shaun Heasley of The Disability Scoop reported on a new exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum at Fifth Avenue and 91st Street in Manhattan. Entitled “Access + Ability” the installation highlights more than 70 functional, life enhancing objects designed for people with disabilities.
The show displays a wide array of “low tech” items like canes, adaptive clothing and utensils as well as the latest “high tech” eye controlled computers and wearable navigation systems. The Cooper Hewitt website has a wonderful description of the exhibition that does not use the word disability.
The Disability Scoop article describes the exhibit as including “items that are traditionally associated with physical disabilities like a racing wheelchair and customized prosthetic leg covers” while also offering “examples of how design is improving the lives of people with sensory and cognitive issues. For example, an app called LOLA is designed to help youth with autism learn about and collaborate through technology while the Match Cooking Prep System helps individuals learn to prepare food.”
In 1999, the Supreme Court said that people with disabilities have the right to live in their communities and not be forced to live in nursing homes or institutions, against their will. This was called the Olmstead decision. This case was filed by two women with intellectual disabilities who found themselves bouncing in and out of mental hospitals.
Medical professionals agreed that these women were capable of living in community base settings if they had the appropriate home based services. Tommy Olmstead, was the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, and he said the state was only willing to provide hospitalization.
The Olmstead decision established that people can live outside of institutions when their health care professionals determine community based situations are appropriate; individuals want to live at home and the costs of home based services is reasonable and appropriate.
Today, Disability Rights Activists across the country want to codify the Olmstead decision and make it law. The Disability Integration Act, also known as DIA (not to be confused with Disabled In Action) is a bill being proposed in Washington that would prohibit states or local governments from denying community-based services to people who want them.
This laws would prevent states, local governments, or insurance companies from imposing restrictions on eligibility or setting cost limits on community based services. It doesn’t allow individuals to be forced into disability-specific settings. And, in general, it says that community-based services must be provided. It would also insist that these services be offered to individuals prior to institutionalization.
The DIA bill is strongly supported by National ADAPT and requires home based services and housing be offered and available. The proposed bill also includes a time line for implementation and enforcement. ADAPT is asking it’s members to contact their elected representatives and voice their support; Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York is calling on its members to do the same.
For information on The Disability Integration Act, go to:
The Disability Integration Act website
Government Inaction Stopping ADA Settlements
According to a story on Lexology.com, there was “a wave of American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) litigation against online retailers” in 2017. Visually impaired plaintiffs charged that they could not access websites and demanded that companies recode their sites to accommodate the screen reader software on mobile devices.
Three large companies settled late last year: Kmart, Grubhub and the flooring company Empire Today, but it seems that many other “suits remain pending against other companies nationwide, with uncertainty high after the Department of Justice halted plans to provide compliance guidance.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its intentions to make rules for web access in 2010 and put out a notice of “Proposed Rulemaking” in 2015. But in August of last year (2017) the DOJ took web access for people with disabilities, off the list of items on its regulatory agenda.
Companies that want to make their websites and online shopping platforms accessible, have no guidelines for how to do it. Without clear government standards, companies can not be certain that improvements they make will prevent a lawsuit. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are quoted in the article as saying “Since guidance from the government on the scope of such compliance is lacking, companies continue to face the threat of litigation under the ADA.”
Our source for this story is:
ADA Litigation Continues With Recent Settlements
New Mobility’s 2017
New Mobility is a glossy, four color magazine published by The United Spinal Association. While its audience is mainly people with spinal cord injury, it features articles of interest to most folks with mobility disabilities. The January issue named two New Yorkers as their “People of the Year,” Yannick Benjamin and Alex Elegudin.
People of the Year
|The 4500 word article by Seth McBride details how these two men met, as roommates in the rehab ward and resumed their lives and careers in the wake of injury. And it’s not just a getting back to life story, the article presents an in depth time line of how Benjamin and Elegudin are seeking to help their fellow disabled travelers on the path to productive lives by founding two nonprofit organizations.|
For an interesting read, check out the Article:
the New Mobility 2017 People of the Year
NPR Series on Abuse of Disabled
Joseph Shapiro is a senior investigative correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) and the author of a definitive book on the disability rights movement called, “No Pity.” Shapiro’s reporting has included topics like poverty, the criminal justice system and health care, but he seems to always return to to the theme of disability.
In his latest series, he has produced three broadcast pieces on the wide spread abuse of people with intellectual disabilities. Shapiro has won appreciation from many in the disability community because of his ability to present us as as we see ourselves; As people first, and without the clichés, stereotypes or predefined categories.
This series is called "Abused and Betrayed" and can be found on
the NPR news site
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