Friday December 1, 2017
Roosevelt Memorial Settles Accessibility Lawsuit
by Phil Beder, Plaintiff
Most of the plaintiffs in the case were put off by the grand, 100 foot wide staircase at the north end of the monument. Not only was it an impediment to the main entrance for users of mobility devices, it seemed to be an incongruous entry point to a place that honors a president who used a wheelchair. Disability activists also disliked the granite paving stone walkways on the east and west sides. Other complaints included non-ADA compliant bathrooms and an inaccessible gift shop and information booth.
As a plaintiff in the case, I am disappointed but not surprised by the Conservancy’s radical decision to close off a section of the park rather than make it accessible. Ramping the sunken seating area could have been easily accomplished. Several ideas were floated but the Conservancy systematically shot every idea down over a five year period. The gift shop was another “no-brainer” to make accessible. There was loads of space for a ramp and the aisles might have simply needed widening.
It is clear that the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, with great influence from the Kahn family, views the park as a monument to the architect, Louis Kahn. This park was one of his last designs and he was even carrying the drawings when he died suddenly in New York’s Pennsylvania Station in 1973. Other than the bust of Roosevelt and the donor plaques, the park is almost devoid of reference to the 32nd president.
It seems that for the Kahn family and Park Conservancy, maintaining the architectural aspects of the park was the primary goal. Access and accommodating people with disabilities seemed to be far down on their list of priorities. It is more that ironic that the Conservancy fought against accessibility, in a memorial to a president who had ramps and hand rails installed throughout and around the White House .
In a legal sense, the park will now be accessible. Modification and remedies will be put in place within the next year. My fellow plaintiffs, Edith Prentiss, newly elected President of Disabled In Action said “we look forward to seeing these important accessibility improvements to the park.” Joseph Rappaport, Executive Director of the BCID said “Just as Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech still reverberates, we hope that this simple message reverberates as well: If you build it, you must make it accessible to all.” Congratulations to Disability Rights Advocates for their hard won settlement in this project.
Prentiss’ objectives for 2018 are simple; find new members, activate the existing base and stimulate engagement. According to her, “DIA members are a diverse group with lots of hidden knowledge.” bringing out the skills and talents that already exist within the organization will be her starting point. Getting member input and “Coming together to identify problems and improving structural deficiencies” will also be her focus.
What issues will be on the DIA agenda in the coming year? Of course ADA access issues and improving transportation services are perennial aching problems that will continue to occupy much of the organization’s time and energy, but Prentiss also wants ideas to bubble up from the membership. Better recognition for service animals has become an issue for quite a few DIA members. The New York State “Single Payer bill, reduced federal monies for health care and Medicaid, cuts to Managed Long Term Care programs and reduced funds of home care workers’ salaries and services round out some of the looming problems facing individuals with disabilities in the City.
Another initiative being discussed is better contact between DIA members and their elected officials. Disabled folks of all stripes must improve their visibility. There are may community and government groups that PWDs must plug into. Community Boards, Police Precinct Community Councils, PTAs, and City Council Participatory Budgeting programs are all places where DIA members can and must get involved.
For more information check out these articles, posted on the Disability Scoop:
Friday November 17, 2017
Trump Tower ProtestProtesters from the New York City disability rights community gathered outside the presidents Manhattan residence to call attention to policies that, they feel, undermine people with disabilities. The demonstration in front to Trump Tower was organized by “Wheeling Forward” and supported by Disabled In Action, United Spinal and the Civics League for Disability Rights of ICS.
The action started at 1:00 pm with participants taking up their position across the street from the front door of Trump Tower, located on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Street in midtown Manhattan. The protest drew lots of attention from passers by and people from out of town. There is a constant police presence in front of Trump Tower and they seem to be well practiced in dealing with demonstrations. As protesters got into position, police quickly setup barricades to separate protesters from pedestrians to keep sidewalk traffic moving. Demonstrators seem to be a regular part of life around Trump Tower.
Most of the several dozen participants were members of “Wheeling Forward,” described by co-founder Yannick Benjamin as a “solutions based nonprofit” serving the disability community with centers in Harlem and Brooklyn. Benjamin emphasized that “health care is a human right” and implied that protests would continue as long as politicians in Washington keep threatening to cut services.
The lawsuit is seeking appropriate back and front pay as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit is also asking that Wal-Mart provide reasonable accommodations for workers with a disability in the future.
To read thee EEOC press release for this case:
While the folks in London can roll into a taxi over a manually deployed, fold down ramp, the BBC is reporting that their neighbors to the west, in Wales, are being “Humiliated by Taxi Refusals.” According to the story posted on October 5, a disability group is claiming “some taxi services in Wales are refusing to pick up passengers who use wheelchairs or assistance dogs.”
The Equality Act 2010 is a British law that makes it illegal for a private for-hire vehicle to refuse to take a person with disabilities, unless they have a medical exemption from the licensing authority. “Disability Wales” is a local civil rights group that wants the Welsh Government to use its new powers over the transport industry, to ensure that people with disabilities are treated fairly by cab drivers.
Wheelchair users and people with sight loss claim they have been refused transport and overcharged. Glyn Furnival-Jones, from Cardiff, claims some drivers do not want to take people with disabilities because they think they will not want to travel far and are too difficult to deal with. Others have claimed that drivers said service dogs could only ride in the car’s trunk. "We would like to see all taxis and private for-hire vehicle drivers take disability equality training. This would give taxi drivers the confidence to be able to support disabled passengers who want to use their taxis," said Ruth Nortey, from “Disability Wales.”
The Welsh Government has recently finished a consultation on the future of taxi licensing and said it plans to introduce new national standards "to drive out poor practice." Even the Taxi Drivers of Cardiff group, said all of its licensed drivers have undertaken disability awareness training, adding: "There is never an excuse for a taxi driver to refuse to take a passenger with any disability."
For more information on this story, go to the
Visit the BBC website
Friday October 27, 2017
DIA ReportAt its monthly meeting to be held on October 29th, Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York will be addressing an initiative to revive New York City’s ADAPT chapter. While Professor Nadina Laspina remains the City’s contact for ADAPT, activists in New York have not organized under its banner for several years.
Joe Floccari is the Coordinator of the Independence Care System’s "Member Civics League." He has asked Anthony Trocchia, President of DIA for time to present his proposal to start an ADAPT chapter. Anyone interested in signing up should make it a point to attend the meeting on Sunday.
Also on the agenda is City Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chairperson of the Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services Committee. He will be talking about the committee’s work and taking politely addressed questions.
As reported in the “DIA Activist” on April 21st, Representative Ted Poe of Texas is sponsoring HR-620, a bill to weaken the ADA. HR-620 is called the ADA Education and Reform Act and it would require up to 6 months before any ADA complaint would be corrected. With a crafty lawyer, fixing violations might take years. Under this proposed bill people requesting ADA compliance would have to write very specific demands with precise locations and descriptions of the modifications to be made. They would also need to cite the exact sections of the ADA that were in violation. Bobby Rush was a sponsor of this bill.
The good news is that on October 20th, Rush’s office posted a letter addressed to disability rights advocates stating he would no longer vote for HR-620. “I understand that this bill needs work and therefore, should it come to a vote, as is, I will oppose it” Rush wrote in his letter.
ADAPT is also confronting Rush about an amendment he made to freeze implementation of the Home and Community-Based Services Rule. HCBS restricts residential facilities from controlling the lives of the people living in nursing homes. It ensures that residents can decide when they eat, when they go to sleep, and who visits them in their homes. An ADAPT spokesperson said, “These are basic rights that all Americans should be able to enjoy.” Rush later withdrew the amendment as well.
If Bobby Rush is not a household name, maybe he should be. In the year 2000, Rush, then a 4 term Congressman had a primary challenge form a young state senator named Barak Obama. He easily beat Obama winning 87% of votes making Bobby Rush the only person to defeat the future president in a political contest.
Our sources for this story are:
It is unclear what effects the rescinding of these documents will have. The Education Department regularly rescinds documents but it is unusual to do 72 at one time. In addition, all of the guidelines were in the domain of special education. This announcement is particularly troubling when we remember that Secretary DeVos had no idea what I.D.E.A. was (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) during her Senate confirmation hearing.
Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia called the elimination of the special education guidance “the latest in a series of disturbing actions taken by the Trump Administration to undermine civil rights for vulnerable Americans.” But he went on to say that the actual regulations of the law stay in place and will be enforced. What the Trump administration has eliminated are the documents that clarify, explain and give guidance to educators and government managers.
For details, read the Washington Post story
Not Dead Yet is "strongly opposed" to the language in this document which supports assisted suicide and euthanasia. Not Dead Yet helps organize and articulate opposition to these practices based on secular social justice arguments. Not Dead Yet demands the equal protection of the law for the targets of so called “mercy killing” whose lives are seen as worth-less.
For information on Not Dead Yet, visit their website.
Tuesday October 17, 2017
DRA Curb Cut Complaint Moving ForwardDisability 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.
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.
For more information on this story, go to:
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.
Tuesday September 26, 2017
DIA AnnouncementsThe 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
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.
Any Twitter experts reading this post who want to lend some advice to a neophyte tweeter will be warmly welcomed at email@example.com. The DIA Twitter handle is DIA_NewYork.
Activist & Advocacy Workshops
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 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:
by Anthony TrocchiaOn 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 DayCerebral 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
Disability Pride 2017
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.
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:
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:
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
Monday June 19, 2017
City Council Speaker Burying Access Bill
(This article corrected June 19, 13:51 EDT)
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.
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:
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
Federal Court Holds Hospitals to High Standard in ASL Interpreting
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:
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:
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 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:
Monday May 8, 2017
DRA Takes on the NYC SubwayOn 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:
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:
Wright's Law Web Site: IDEA Demands More
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
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.
Friday April 21, 2017
Republicans Seek to Disable ADARepresentative 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
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"
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."
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.
Monday April 3, 2017
New York State Continues Mistreatment of Mentally IllIn 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.
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
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
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:
Monday March 20, 2017
Broadway’s Biggest Show Not Accessible to the Blind
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.
Melbourne City Council Targets HomelessThe 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
Disclaimer: The author of this article is a plaintiff in this law suit.
Wednesday March 1, 2017
Ongoing Dispute over FDR MemorialDisabled 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 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
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.
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 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
Friday February 3, 2017
Google Honors Ed Roberts
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.
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.
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:
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:
Saturday January 14, 2017
DIA Expands Its ReachDisabled 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.
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:
Disabled War VeteransThe 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:
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,
Tuesday January 3, 2017
Ecuador Set to Elect Disabled PresidentIn 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.
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
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.