The Largest Minority
|2016 Table of Contents|
|December 20||November 21|
|November 1||October 7||September 19|
The Access-A-Ride program has drawn criticism for years for both its poor quality of service to disabled riders and its high cost to tax payers. According to Crain’s NY Business, the MTA spent close to a half billion dollars for the program in 2015 which averages to more than $70 per ride. The problem of Access-A-Ride’s high cost is compounded by its lateness, missed appointments and general bad service.
The idea of using Uber, Lyft and other online ride booking services came up in the Spring of 2016 as a way to cut cost. The proposal would allow Access-A-Ride to skim off ambulatory customers and give them to Uber, a company criticized for ignoring the need to offer accessible transportation. The disability community has several problems with this solution.
By separating riders who can use black cars and sedans from those that need accessible vehicles, an unequal two tiered system will be created with no guaranteed service improvements for users who use mobility devices like wheelchairs and walkers. There are also issues with Uber’s history of being unable to verify the character and quality of its drivers.
The better solution, advocated by the disability community and many public officials is to outsource Access-A-Ride service to the existing Yellow and Green cabs, that are better regulated by the "Taxi and Limousine Commission" and can also provide accessible vehicles. Wheelchair users have been fighting for accessible taxi service for nearly two decades. Now that these vehicles are finally on New York City streets, they should be used to serve all Access-A-Ride passengers and avoid a two tiered system. Advocates for the disabled are also irate over the MTA idea to use a company like Uber that has fought long and hard to avoid serving disabled riders.
The press conference hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer on December 15th. It was attended by James Weissman of the United Spinal Association, State Senator Marty Golden, State Assembly Members Richard Gottfreid, Joanne Simon and David Weprin and many members of Disabled In Action and the disability community.
Consumer Directed Home Care Workers WIN!
Disabled individuals who use Consumer directed home care services were put in a bind by Governor Cuomo’s minimum wage law this holiday season. While the new state minimum will rise to $15 by 2018, it was unclear that the governor and state legislators had allocated enough money to pay Consumer directed home care workers the required minimum wage through the state funded Medicaid program.
It seems that Medicaid funding to home care agencies had received sufficient funds to cover the new minimum wage but Consumer directed home care workers were left out in the cold. Consumer directed home care is a concept developed in 1980. It allows disabled individuals and people who use personal assistance for washing, feeding, bathing and general housework, to employ friends, family and the people of their choice to perform these tasks. There are now 17,000 New Yorkers using Consumer directed personal assistance services.
On Tuesday December 13th , the governor was confronted by demonstrations across the state, demanding to know if Consumer directed home care programs would receive adequate funding to cover his new mandated wage minimum; and the answer was yes. There are issues that are still outstanding.
While the governor committed to sharing an additional 70 million dollars in funding between Consumer directed and traditional home care programs, one question remains; is the minimum wage a living wage?
The big question for people in the disability community is, what does a Trump administration mean for us? The nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General is an indication that a Trump Justice Department will abandon the Obama administration's focus on civil rights and criminal justice reform. There are those that say that Sessions will turn the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department toward “less controversial” issues like disability rights and away from its current path of LGBT rights and the improper use of deadly force by law enforcement officers.
The community of people with a disability must remember the incredible diversity of our membership. Disabled people are every skin color, age, gender, sexual orientation, belief system and political affiliation. We come from every ethnic background, income class and region of this country. Our diversity puts us and our platform at the center of the political spectrum. This country needs to heal and this healing can start here?
Two groups have issued statements about the election and its effects on our community. We encourage you to read and consider them as we move forward.
NDLA Post-Election Letter
The National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) is a coalition of 15 grassroots, service and activist organizations representing people with disabilities. In a carefully worded letter issued on November 10th, 2 days after the election, the NDLA stated its intention to work with the newly elected “Republican White House and Congress,”
The letter also strongly emphasized the Alliance's commitment to not "abandon [its] core values including recognition of the diverse and intersectional nature of [the disability] community." They specifically sited the need to not ignore and exclude "the voices of disabled people who belong to multiple communities." The letter said "Disabled people of color and Disabled LGBTQIA people are not tangential parts of our community; they are us."
As the new administration and Congress gets ready to take the steering wheel, the disability community will be watching and preparing to engage as the country's largest, multi ethnic, multi racial and diverse interest group.
For the complete NDLA Statement on the 2016 Election, visit their website
"DREDF Says “We Are With You"
The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund published a statement on the home page of their web site entitled "We Are With You." This statement published on November 11, is a more direct call to action and refers to the tone of the language used during the Presidential campaign. DREDF has a decidedly fearful view of the coming political climate and makes a call for unity. The DREDF statement is called "We Are With You" and can be found on their web site
This lawsuit is interesting because it involved two different, and in this case competing federal laws on disability. The Napoleon School District in Jackson County Michigan argued that the school was meeting the needs of Ehlena Fry because she was given a school aide to assisted her with any and all of her physical needs while in school and that the service dog was unnecessary. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, know as IDEA, The school is required to provide necessary services but not obligated to any particular method.
|Fry's parents made the point that while the aide was able to assist their daughter, The service dog, a hypoallergenic Goldendoodle named Wonder, supported and fostered greater independence and was better suited for the child's development. The dog was specially trained to perform tasks such as picking up items, opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, helping Fry remove her coat and transfer from her walker to a seat.|
In 2012 the Frys sued the Jackson County school district for emotional damages by disrupting Ehlena life and wrongly forcing her to change schools. The law suit however, was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This was the first time a disability discrimination case was filed using one law, the ADA while being defended using another, IDEA.
While the Frys are suing for monetary damages, they indicate that they are not in it or the money. They say the case is about helping students meet their individual needs, using service animals. The court's decision will have consequences for years to come and is expected in June. For more information on this story, go to:
The NPR website or
the U.S. News& World Report article on line.
The Federal Government Exceeds Its Disability Hiring Goal
According to the Disability Scoop Website, The Obama administration set an ambitious goal six years ago, to increase the hiring of people with disabilities. Now, it seems that theses goals have been surpassed.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced in the last week of October 2016, that the federal government added more than 154,000 employees with disabilities between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, including 109,575 permanent part-time or full-time hires.
With these gains, the total number of people with disabilities, employed by the federal government is at 264,844, a figure that accounts for 14.41 percent of the government’s workforce, according to an annual report produced by the Office of Personnel Management.
That means there are now more people with disabilities working for the federal government — kthe nation’s largest employer — than at any other time in the last 35 years.
DOT Now Requires Airlines to Report Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a final rule that requires U.S. airlines to report data on incidents of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters in addition to other types of checked baggage. Airlines will be required to file monthly reports on the total number of wheelchairs and scooters stored in cargo holds and the amount that have been mishandled, damaged, lost, delayed, or pilfered. This information will be included in DOT's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.
The new rule takes effect on January 1, 2018. According to DOT, the rule will enable air travelers with disabilities to compare carrier performance and make informed travel decisions. For further information, visit DOT's website.
NYPD Ignores Equal Access for Wheelchair Users
According to a press release on the DRA website, a class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court alleging that New York City’s police precincts are largely inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit was filed on Thursday October 27, 2016 by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) on behalf of four individual plaintiffs who were unable to access their local police precincts to make crime reports, attend community safety meetings, or otherwise make use of the services provided at stations throughout the five boroughs. Two disability rights organizations, Disabled in Action and Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, are also represented in the suit.
The Plaintiffs say they are regularly confronted with insurmountable steps at entrances and no reasonable alternatives for entry. They tell of lifts that are regularly broken or inoperable, unmarked and unsafe alternate routes, front desks that they cannot see over and bathrooms that are too small for a wheelchair.
Jean Ryan, Vice President of Disabled in Action, cannot independently access the police station closest to her home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. According to Ryan, “People without disabilities can walk right in the door of any police station, but I have to wait until a police officer comes to get me, if I can get in at all. That is not equal access. I complained many times, but nobody seemed to care. "Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York says, “This interferes with our right to live equally and independently in the community."
Rebecca Rodgers, a staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said, "It is unreasonable—not to mention illegal—for the NYPD and the City of New York to ignore the requirements of the ADA on this front for over 26 years." The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
For more information and to view the entire DRA press release and legal filings, visit the DRA website.
Disabled Person Assaulted in an Indian Cinema
The BBC website reported, a disability activist who uses a wheelchair was assaulted in India for not standing up during the national anthem at a cinema. The incident triggered outrage over what many say is the rise of aggressive nationalism in India.
For Salil Chaturvedi, going to the movies is a major undertaking. As wheelchair user since 1984 just rolling down the street generates stares and comments in the city of Panjim where the movie theater is located. Reservations are needed at the theater and Salil must arrive early so he can be carried up the narrow aisles to his seat because there are no wheelchair places.
It seems that the National Anthem is played before movies in India and this particular movie outing caused a major incident when Salil didn't stand while it was played. A man standing behind Salil and singing loudly smacked him on the back of his head and gestured that he should stand. After the playing of the Anthem, there was great tension in the theater as heated words and attempts at explanation were exchanged between Salil, his wife, the individual who assaulted him. There seems to be strong prejudice and misunderstanding about disability in India but clearly there are other forces in play.
This incident has been attributed to a rise in aggressive nationalism in India. It can be pointed out that nationalism is also mounting in countries around the world. The Middle East cauldron is bubbling over with religious and ethnic animosity between groups like the Sunni's, Shiites and Kurds. Russian nationals are creating problems in neighboring countries like Ukraine and Georgia. And European countries like France, Germany, Austria and Hungry are experiencing a rise in far right, anti-immigrant political parties, fueled by the refuge crisis.
These tensions are now quite evident in the current U.S. Presidential election. It is fair to say that the level of anti immigrant rhetoric and pointed comments against religious minorities have not been seen in American political campaigns in recent times. There is no indication that this proliferation of national and sectarian strife will subside anytime soon.
For details on this story, visit the BBC website.
The second law suit filed by DRA alleges that the new “LinkNYC” program violates Federal and State law by not being accessible to citizens with vision impairments and blindness. LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will replace obsolete pay phones across the five boroughs with new structures called Links. Each Link will provide “superfast,” free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, device charging and a tablet for access to city services, maps, directions and emergency services.
The problem is that the Link tablet device is equipped with only a visual interface and there is no software that allows users without visual ability to use the device without assistance. Mindy Jacobsen is a plaintiff in the case and a computer instructor to individuals with vision impairments. She said that the Link tablet is equipped with an audio jack that could be used to make the Link accessible, but there is no built in software or instructions to allow users to access these features. According to Jacobsen, a blind person cannot even use the 911 emergency buttons.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and seeks an immediate end to the installation of inaccessible Links and for existing Links to be fixed.
The full text of the announcement can be found at the
Ford Foundation Apologizes to PWDs
Carol Glazer is the President of the National Organization on Disability (NOD). In her September 12th blog on the Huffington Post she shines the spotlight on a statement made by the President of the Ford Foundation. In his “Annual Letter,” Darren Walker publicly apologizes for the Ford Foundation's neglect of people with disabilities and the issues that effect them.
Mr Walker in his statement said “the Ford Foundation does not have a person with visible disabilities on our leadership team, takes no affirmative effort to hire people with disabilities, does not consider them in our strategy, or even provide those with physical disabilities with adequate access to our website, events, social media, or building. It should go without saying: All of this is at odds with our mission.”
According to the Carol Glazer blog post, Darren Walker, who is a gay black man, has often asked his white friends to walk a mile in his shoes to better understand white privilege. He admitted in his Annual Letter that “I was being held accountable to do the same thing for a group of people I had not fully considered,” In other words, he needed to take his own advice.
According to the NOD website there are 57 million Americans with disabilities. 80 percent of working age people with a disability in this country are unemployed.
To read the full Carol Glazer blog post visit the Huffington Post website.
Hulu to "Closed Caption" Entire Library
A press release from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) announced that a settlement has been reached between Hulu, the popular video streaming web site and then National Association of the Deaf. In the agreement, Hulu has promised to make 100 percent of its English and Spanish language content available with closed captioning by September 2017.
Closed captioning is different from sub titles in that it contextualizes the sound track of a movie or TV show. It describes background music, lyrics and sound effects, such as a phone ringing or an alarm going off. Closed captioning greatly improves the video viewing experience for deaf and hard of hearing people.
According to the DREDF press release, Hulu is an industry leader in offering its “extensive library” of offerings with digital closed captioning. The release went on to praise the Hulu agreement and expressed optimism that other content streaming companies would follow suit.
You can view the DREDF press release titled “The National Association of the Deaf and Hulu Reach Agreement” at the DREDF website.
New National Nursing Home Rule
According to a September 28th article in the New York Times, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finally made it easier to sue nursing homes for elder abuse, sexual harassment and even wrongful death.
For many years, nursing homes had the right to force claims of mistreatment and abuse into a private system of justice called arbitration. Health and Human Services announced a new rule that says, any facility receiving federal funding can no longer require legal disputes be settled in arbitration.
The rule change was enacted after 16 states and the District Of Columbia asked that federal funding be cut to nursing homes that use the arbitration clause in their patient contracts. According to officials, elderly patients are literally being murdered and these cases are being swept under the rug by nursing home administrators. The Times printed a front page story about a 100 year old woman killed by her roommate and the facility was able to block the case from court.
According to New York Times article, other federal agencies are now trying to limit the use of arbitration. It said “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced a proposed rule that would prevent credit card companies and other financial firms from using arbitration clauses that bar consumers from banding together in a class-action lawsuit.”
It seems that many companies are now protecting themselves and their profits by using arbitration clauses. The article sites cell phone contracts, employment agreements and even student loans are using this tool as a “less expensive alternative to court, without the headaches and delays”
To read the full New York Times article visit their web site
These numbers come from a report published last month by 2 Rutgers University professors. Lisa Schur, one of the report authors describes people with disabilities as the “sleeping giant or the sleeping tiger” in the American electorate.
But according to the report authors, The largest minority within the population (people with disabilities) will not swing the election for the Democrats or the Republicans. It seems party affiliation among disabled folks, is very similar to that of the general population. The Rutgers report did find that people with disabilities pay attention to issues and that they tend to vote for candidates who address their needs. The report referenced research that found that people with disabilities believe that government should play a larger role in job creation and health care.
Times Union Article
Rutgers University Report
Brexit Seen as Threat to PWDs In UK
From the Disability News Service, campaigners and experts say they fear that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) could have serious consequences for disabled people, although it is too early for an accurate assessment of the likely impact. Among the concerns raised are that the referendum result could trigger another recession, an increase in unemployment and a fresh round of spending cuts.
But there are also fears that disabled people could lose some of the legal protection from discrimination that they receive through European Union membership, although it is far from clear what would happen to those rights when Britain leaves.
Experts have suggested that the impact on disabled people will depend on the departure terms the UK agrees with the rest of the EU.
Full article at the Disability News Service
Blind Photographer in Rio
From the BBC website we find that as the Paralympics close in Brasil, a story behind that story was made by blind photographer Joao Maia who received praise for his graphic record of the games in Rio. Maia's field of vision allows him to see about a meter in front of him and he uses this limited visual ability to to sense movement and color to capture images. He also uses his hearing to follow the action of soccer games and reactions from the crowd.
Maia started taking picture when he was 14 but lost his sight at age 28. Special classes and lots of hard work allowed Maia to reclaim his photography career and you can see some of his work and a video of him at the Rio Paralympics at the BBC website – www.bbc.com/news/disability-37385665
According to Joao Maia, “Photography is about all the senses”
|[HOME] [News Page] [Disability Rights Resources] [Writing on the Wall]|