Largest Minority
L.M. Logo

[HOME] [Disability Rights Resources] [Writing on the Wall] [The Activist] [DIA Web Site]

the New


Table of Contents
February 15 April 15 June 15
September 15 December 31
2019 News Archive
2018 News Archive
2017 News Archive
2016 News Archive

Thursday December31, 2020
Year End Edition

News Report

Outdoor Restaurants Overrunning Sidewalks
In New York

“The Counter” is a nonprofit, newsroom that covers the restaurant industry. In a recent article they reported on the growing problem that faces wheelchair users and people who use mobility devices as they navigate sidewalks cluttered with the tables, chairs and enclosures of outdoor restaurants.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the food service industry extra hard and according to CBS-2 News, 6,000 small businesses have permanently closed and 1,000 of those were restaurants. One local news source reported that during the initial Corona virus surge, restrictions on indoor dining put more than two thirds of all food service workers out of work.

Outdoor Dining Enclosure
Outdoor Dining Enclosure

In response to the economic crisis facing restaurants, Mayor Di Blasio expanded the “Open Restaurants” program allowing eating establishments to flow onto streets, parking lanes and sidewalks. Permits are required but it seems oversight has been lacking. The Open Restaurants Program requires that outdoor dining facilities meet ADA standards, have 3 foot pathways around tables, 8 feet of sidewalk clearance and ramps where necessary.

Former DIA President, Edith Prentiss was quoted in The Counter article and says that under normal circumstances she “struggles to navigate” city streets in her wheelchair, but with restaurants and bars clogging sidewalks, “a bad situation got worse.” The Counter article also spoke with Susan Dooha, Executive Director of Manhattan’s independent living center. She said that “I’m not against restaurants, and restaurant workers particularly, making money, but it doesn’t need to be at the expense of civil rights.”

While most people agree that eating establishments and their employees are suffering and need relief, it is also clear that the city is not paying attention to the unintended consequences of unregulated construction of outdoor dining enclosures. The situation has gotten to the point that organizations, like New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) are looking into the problem. Staff attorney specializing in disability rights, Chris Schuyler, has been reaching out and asking people who have had issues with blocked sidewalks to contact his office.

If you are a New York City resident and want to report a restaurant that is not respecting pedestrian access, you can contact Alison Abrams at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc. is a non-profit civil rights law firm located in New York City, specializing in the areas of disability rights, access to health care and environmental justice. They are located at 151 West 30th Street, 11th Floor, Phone: 212-244-4664.

Our source for this story is:
The Counter, News from the Restaurant Industry

Wheelchairs Banned!
Then Un-Banned

In an unannounced policy change in the summer of 2020, American Airlines declared that power wheelchairs weighing more than 300 pounds could not be accommodated on certain airplanes. American Airlines imposed its wheelchair ban in response to Canadian regulations that limit the amount of luggage weight allowed on smaller aircraft.

This wheelchair restriction caught John Morris by surprise after he checked in and then wasn’t allowed to board a plane from Gainesville Florida to its destination in Dallas. The policy change by American Airlines forced Morris to cancel and reschedule his trip.

American Airlines inconvenienced the wrong passenger when they threw Mr. Morris off his flight. John Morris is the founder and publisher of Wheelchair Traveler, an online news letter and resource for the disability community. After canceling his flight and then forcing him to disassemble his wheelchair in order to take a rescheduled flight, Morris went into action and takes credit for reversing the American Airline wheelchair ban.

As a frequent flier and long time disability rights advocate, Morris explained that “expressing my displeasure with the airline alone was not going to get the job done. I needed to build a coalition. And so, I sent a tweet to my followers, describing what had happened.” In addition, he published a post on his website, Wheelchair Traveler, about the ban and used his media contacts to call widespread attention to the problem.

John Morris in his motorized wheelchair
John Morris in his motorized wheelchair

National news outlets such as Forbes Magazine, Fox News, and National Public Radio reported on the wheelchair ban and “countless disability organization reached out to [American] airline to raise their opposition” according to Morris.

The end result was that in late November American Airline announced it was ending its ban. An important takeaway from this story is how quickly and easily businesses will adopt practices that are clearly discriminatory and in this case, possibly illegal. It also highlights the necessity of organized activism and the importance of the news media.

Our sources for this story are:
The Wheelchair Traveler Website
NPR Report, "Wheelchair Ban Reversed"
Forbes Magazine Article

Bazelon Center Opposed Barrett Nomination . . .
. . . Here’s Why

Donald Trump started his presidential campaign in 2016 with open hostility toward the disability community when he mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter with a physical disability. That hostility has now played out through to the end of his administration with his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. According to the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, now-confirmed Justice Barrett is a cause of “concern to people with disabilities.”

In a letter to senators, the Bazelon Center and 33 other disability rights groups said that Barrett’s belief that Obamacare is unconstitutional would undermine “crucial protections for people with disabilities.” In addition, as a judge on the US Court of Appeals (7th Circuit) Barrett opposed a decision that the Department of Homeland Security’s “public charge” rule discriminated against immigrants with disabilities. The public charge rule says that people with disabilities are likely to need government services and should be kept out of the country.

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law logo

Disability rights advocates also had questions about Barrett’s record on disability issues and cited a ruling where she agreed that Wisconsin had the right to lump students with learning disabilities into separate, segregated districts based on their service needs.

As demonstrated by these examples, conservative justices like Amy Coney Barrett are inclined to limit government programs and services. All too often, these programs level the playing field for people with disabilities. What we need to remember is that courts only interpret laws, they do not make them. If legislators write clear, unambiguous, laws, courts will have a hard time overturning them. It is our job to make sure legislators do their job.

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law advocates for the civil rights, full inclusion and equality of adults and children with mental disabilities. They were instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and played a key role in the historic case of Olmstead v. L.C. in which the Supreme Court found that needless segregation of people with psychiatric disabilities violates the ADA.

Letter to US Senate from the Bazelon Center

DOT Issues New Rules for Service Animals on Air Flights

On December 2nd The US Department of Transportation (DOT) came out with its final rules for travelers with service animals. The rule defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. People traveling with service animals must fill out DOT forms attesting to the animals health, behavior and training.

Some of the behavior requirements for the service animal include:

  • the service animal’s ability to not relieve itself, or relieve itself in a sanitary manner.
  • for the service animal to remain within the handler’s foot space.
  • The animal to be harnessed, tethered or leashed at all times
The new rules do not consider emotional support animals as service animals. They do seem to allow psychiatric service animals but these animals would require the same health, behavior and training standards. Airlines have the right to limit each passenger to 2 service animals and can still refuse service animals that show “aggressive behavior or that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”

These new regulations were implemented after years of abuse by people transporting their pets as a way to avoid paying a fee and having their pets travel in cargo. Some passengers pushed the envelope by bringing turkeys, pigs, peacocks and even snakes as support animals. An airline trade group estimated that emotional support animals on flights almost doubled to 751,000 between 2016 and 2017.

The Department of Transportation put together its revised service animal rules with input from airlines , flight attendants, airports, other aviation employee groups, the general public and individuals with disabilities. Hopefully, all stakeholders will be better served and enjoy a safe travel environment with these new regulations.

For more information on this story:
Read the DOT Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals
Check out the BBC News Report

Subway Elevators During Financial Crisis

The online news platform “The City” reported that despite its projected $23 billion budget deficit, the MTA will be installing elevators at 8 stations around the city with Brooklyn getting the lion’s share. According to the article, elevators at “more than 50 other” stations were left in “limbo” by “COVID-19 driven” funding cuts. Advocates for subway access were critical about the reduced number of subway stops getting elevators. Former DIA member Edith Prentiss is quoted in the article saying that the added elevators are “a drop in the bucket” in a system where only 25% of stations are accessible to wheelchair users. However when looking at the big financial picture and the questions about aid from the federal government, it is amazing that any access improvements are being made. NYC Subway elevator

For more information, check out the article by Jose Martinez entitled:
Some NYC Subway Stations Getting Elevators While Others Get the Shaft Amid Budget Crunch

Message from the Editor

I joined DIA in 1991 and remained active when work and family obligations didn’t pull me away. I came running back to DIA in August of 2016 when I saw the country heading toward an impending political disaster and did what I felt all responsible citizens should do, I got involved with my community.

There are three essential jobs for an activist, advocacy organization like DIA. The first is to raise awareness of social injustice. The second is to inform its community and the general public about the issues of injustice or inequity that must be challenged and changed and the third is to organize the community into an effective force and provide solutions.

In August of 2016 I saw a void in DIA’s energies in doing these three things. In keeping with the first two principals, informing and raising awareness, I revived the DIA Activist. When I was the producer of the Largest Minority Radio Show on WBAI, between 2002 and 2005, I also worked in the newsroom where I acquired some basic skills in writing and journalism. I used these skills to make the Activist into a news aggregation website pulling together local, national and international stories of concern to people with disabilities. The complete archive of this version of the DIA Activist can be found on this website, (found at the table of contents on the top). I also wrote the DIA Speaks column in Able News as often as I could. The Able News Column is a valuable, additional vehicle in our effort to get out the word and reach the wider community.

In addition to the Activist, I also created a new DIA website; an update to the one created in the mid 1990s. I wrote a proposal and was connected to a probono designer, Brian Whiting, who after a year’s worth of diligent work, presented DIA with a beautiful and fully accessible website that meets WCAG 2.1 standards. This customized site ( was written in Jekyll and Liquid scripts, which are Open Source technologies and copyrighted under the MIT License. The site went live in September 2020.

As for the third principal listed above, organization, I started working with the DIA treasurer in 2016. After properly formatting and updating the DIA membership database, I went to work computerizing the DIA finances. What I discovered was that no one was monitoring or overseeing or even interested in the management or organizational aspects of DIA and the treasurer had embezzled significant DIA funds. With the help of the New York County District Attorney’s office, the problem was corrected.

I am taking this opportunity to let readers know that this will be the last edition of the DIA Activist I will put out. While I am still a member of DIA I have been given a clear message from the DIA Board that my work and contributions are no longer required. I intend to stay connected to this community and the fight for disability rights and a barrier free society. I will also continue to develop The Largest Minority website that is dedicated to the news and views of people with disabilities.

Wednesday September 15, 2020

News Report

Disability Community Joins the Call
for Transportation Funding

In early August, the New York City disability community came together to highlight the multilayer problems with the largest public transportation system in the country. The pressing issue that triggered the demonstration and press conference was the 12 billion dollar MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) budget deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MTA was already in serious debt caused by cost overruns on capital projects, mismanagement, and alleged corruption. But the MTA deficit went through the roof when Mayor de Blasio felt obliged to keep the buses and subways running, virtually full time for essential workers as the city closed down during the pandemic.

14th street L line elevator press conference
Press conference for transit funding

DIA board member Robert Acevedo attended the demonstration on August 6th in front of the newly constructed elevator at the 14th Street subway station on the “L” line. According to Acevedo, “These times have made things more difficult for the MTA; this will in turn adversely affect the disABLED community who rely on MTA transportation to travel and get to work.”

This New York City action was part of a nationwide call for Congress to pass a 32 billion dollar funding package for public transportation. New York Senator Chuck Schumer is a sponsor of this funding bill and said “As a New Yorker, the transit system is the blood, arteries and veins of our system.” He went on to say “investing in mass transit now will ensure that hard working families can keep relying on the train, the bus, the subway, to earn a living.”

While the economic effects of the pandemic on state and local government services are still quite profound, it is clear that the federal government will not offer any help before the election in November. Cities like New York will feel the greatest pain from this legislative inaction.

DIA Has A New Website

After several decades, Disabled In Action has moved into the 21st century with a new and updated website. Our new site was designed and deleloped by Brian Whiting Designs in Aurora Colorado. Brian’s services were secured through Taproot+ a foundation that connects consultant’s and skilled professionals with nonprofit organizations like DIA.

According to Whiting, DIA’s “original site was in need of a change in structure, content flow, and overall design. The colors needed to standout for the sections as they were the primary way of getting attention to key points. I wanted to give them a more modern and functional website this go around so that they can be up with the times.”

screenshot of new dia website
DIA's new website

In this age of social media there are many people who think that web sites are “old school” and platforms like Facebook and Instagram are better and more important. Our answer is that organizations like DIA need all of the above. DIA has been around for 50 years and was the first grassroots, cross disability activist organization in the country. Karin Falcone Krieger’s article in Able News last month clearly laid out who we are, what we’ve done and why our work must continue.

The most important thing an advocacy organization must do is “Get Out the Word.” Calling attention to, and highlighting the importance of our issues is always the primary goal. Our new website is, hopefully, a first step in creating a stronger messaging platform for the work we do.

An organization’s website is it public face. It must clearly explain why the organization exists, what the organization does and where it’s going. The new website format by Whiting Designs covers all the bases.

LIRR Settles Access Lawsuit

Disability rights activists won a fight with the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). In a settlement agreement approved by a federal judge, the LIRR will install elevators in three stations where they did major renovations but neglected to provide access.

SILO (Self-Initiated Living Options) is the Suffolk County independent living center on Long Island. Joseph Delgado is the Executive Director and he said “the intent of our lawsuits against the MTA and the LIRR is to change the culture of the entire organization on how they provide services to people with disabilities.”

According to a press release on the DRA (Disability Rights Advocates) website, a national, nonprofit disability rights legal center that represented plaintiff in this case: “In addition to the installation of elevators at each station, the MTA and LIRR will remediate amenities along the paths of travel within the station, as well as all access barriers at the stations, including parking lots, exterior routes of travel, waiting rooms and bathrooms.

The press release also mentioned DIA member and co-council in the lawsuits “James E. Bahamonde, Esq., a paralyzed wartime veteran who is a wheelchair user himself.” Mr. Bahamonde said “we are pleased the MTA and LIRR have agreed to remedy the inaccessibility of these stations for passengers with physical disabilities.”

a LIRR elevator
a LIRR elevator

This case is considered significant because it could be viewed as a model for future access improvements and remediation.

Our sources for this story are:
The DRA Press Release
Daily News Article On LIRR Settlement

An ADAPT Warrior is Gone!

Our beautiful, spiritual warrior Frank Lozano passed away. Frank was there with ADAPT from very early on, helping to organize the Atlantis ADAPT office in Dallas during the bus days. From day one he brought his uniqueness and many talents to the movement.

He was fearless. When we first met, he did not use a cane or a dog, though he came to use both later, he just snapped his fingers to find his way – and he went everywhere, and he went pretty damn fast. He was totally blind but he just knew he could do it and he did. How many times have we seen cops manhandling him during the arrests? And yet he was always ready to do what needed to be done. It wasn’t that he loved getting arrested or manhandled, he just was ready to do what needed to be done. He never complained.

After leaving Dallas he went to Colorado where he worked in both Denver and Colorado Springs, organizing for ADAPT and for access for all. He once did an action with a group of deaf folks at a TV station because their news wasn’t captioned; he got them all to bring dead TV sets with them, and they won. Upon leaving Colorado he worked with Jim Parker to build up one of the most excellent ADAPT chapters in El Paso, Texas (Desert ADAPT) but he and his compadres would make forays over to New Mexico, where he lived for a time, to help folks there organize and protest as well. He worked with students, people from the barrio, independent living center staff, he didn’t care as long as you were fighting for disability rights. He and Alfredo Juarez became a team to be reckoned with and were inseparable up until Alfredo’s death, years back.

A brown skinned man with a short gray beard and long black and gray hair leans forward speaking into a microphone he's holding. He is bent forward and wearing a purple ADAPT T-shirt. He looks very intense
Frank Lozano

Frank’s youth had not been easy but it gave him the toughness for the fight. It made him creative and resourceful, finding a solution instead of a problem. Yet, he intuitively understood non-violence and practiced it with ease. No matter what the cops did to him, and they would often take out frustrations on him, he would neither fight nor cooperate. He held firm. And he supported his fellow disability activists without hesitation. Frank was someone you could count on.

His spirituality was evident in the magic and the beauty he saw in everything. Who can forget the memorial service he gave for John Hoffman and Brook Ball on the hill in Seattle, sprinkling their ashes to the wind as his long gray hair was also lifted and tossed about? He would go up to the mountains to replenish himself. Hopefully he’s in the mountains now, resting and renewing after a long journey. We will miss him.

Monday June 15th, 2020

News Report

News Update:

Victor Calise Confirmed to MTA Board
In the February edition of the DIA Activist, we announced the nomination of Victor Calise to the MTA board. On Wednesday June 10th, he was confirmed by the New York State Senate. Victor is a wheelchair user and has served as the commissioner of MOPD (the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities) under Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio.

The MTA is a New York State controlled corporation that runs the subways and buses in New York City as well as the suburban commuter trains on Long Island and in Westchester County. The MTA served approximately 11 million riders a day before the outbreak of COVID-19.

Cuomo Must Be Hard of Hearing
In April we reported that Disability Rights New York (DRNY) filed a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo for neglecting to have ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters for his daily press briefings. The community of deaf and hearing impaired people objected to the absence of a sign language interpreter and said they were being left out of the conversation.

After the compliant, the governor provided closed captioning for his press conferences and when advocates said that was insufficient, the administration engaged an ALS interpreter, but broadcast the interpreter on a separate internet streaming service. According to the Buffalo News, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni ruled against Cuomo and ordered him to immediately commence “in-frame” broadcasts of his COVID-19 briefings with a sign language interpreter." Advocacy (and lawsuits) can work.

Google Maps Announce Accessibility Features
(but are they any good)

In honor of “Global Accessibility Awareness Day” Google announced accessibility features for Google Maps on Android cell phones. These features allow users to enter access data to businesses that appear on Google Maps.

Access information has been available for businesses registered with Google but it was hard to find and it was not clear how access information was assesses or who was posting access information. Some businesses and public institutions would display a small arrow in their information window when you clicked on them in Google Maps (see graphic below to the right). Clicking on the small arrow (circled in red) would bring up additional information about the venue including accessibility.

image from google access page
Image from Google website

Google’s new accessibility feature lets users edit existing access information as well as other details about businesses on Google Maps. There are 5 areas of access that can be rated that include: the entrance, restrooms, an elevator, seating and parking. While viewing aspects of accessibility are possible on a computer, tablet or cell phone, Editing or rating is only available on Android cell phones. The edit feature does not seem to exist on iPhones and iPads.

Editing and viewing access information must be enabled on Android devices. That can be done in Google Map settings; click on your image icon in Google Maps and look for the “settings” icon. To edit a location’s access features, go to the “About” button.

Not all the access information is accurate or up to date. Several restaurants with very steep non ADA compliant ramps were rated as having an accessible entrance. The problem seems to be Google’s rating system that has no relation to the ADA regulations. Google describes a “wheelchair accessible entrance” as "3 feet wide and doesn’t have steps.” They make no mention of a ramp’s slope. While describing a ramp’s slope ratio can get complex, they could have, at least included information about how a steep incline can make a wheelchair tip over backwards.

Google’s version of an accessible restroom is also lacking. While they again use door width and the absence of steps, there is no requirement for privacy. Google has no “attribute that the restroom be big enough to accommodate the wheelchair user and being able to close the restroom door. There is also no mention of an accessible sink, the toilet height or the that the restroom is big enough to allow an assistant into the space as well.

google access info button
button for access info

Google should be commended for making a good start but clearly they have a long way to go. It is not necessary for Google to adopt the full ADAAG regulations (ADA Accessibility Guidelines) but they must take a broader view on what disability and accessibility are.

Google's accessibility features announcement
Google's accessibility rating standards

Beware of COVID-19 Scams

In late May, the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) issued a warning to watch out for a crop of new scams looking to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Lorelei Salas said “It is a sad reality that scammers often take advantage of people during times of crisis,” Department of consumer & worker protection logo

There are several types of “rip offs” that are being used. The most common are “phishing” scams. Phishing is when people are contacted by email, text, social media or a phone call and asked for personal information. Scammers are looking for social security numbers, bank account numbers or other forms of information that will help them steal identity and access the finances of their victims. These dishonest individuals will often claim to be from government agencies like the “the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (NYSDOL), or a law enforcement agency.” The DCWP press release said that “legitimate government agencies do not call unexpectedly asking for money.”

Other scams were mentioned as well. “Charity scams” are where donations for nonexistent organizations or personal GoFundMe pages are requested.” Debt relief” scams are where loans and reduced rate settlements are offered to people in debt. The DCWP press release also warned about illegitimate “calls threatening to disconnect gas and electric services unless you pay immediately.” Scammers can have telephone equipment that can show false caller ID information as if the call is coming from the utility company.

For more information and the complete DCWP warning and press release go to the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection website. Information on price gouging during this crisis is illegal. If you are a New York City resident and feel that you have been overcharged for cleaning products, protective equipment and the like, you can call 311 or go the the DCWP price Gouging web page.

DCWP’s full list of COVID-19 scams
Cronkite News story on COVID-19 scams

Nursing Home Madness – Revisited

On Thursday May 21, the Daily News ran an opinion piece by two law professors from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law entitled “Coronavirus or no, why do we have so many people in nursing homes?” In the article, the authors questioned the overuse of nursing homes and residential treatment centers. There are an estimated 1.3 million adults in residential care and this includes the aged and people with disabilities.

The two law professors who authored the Op-Ed, refer to studies that say “home and community-based services are preferable to institutional care” and bring up the age old excuses of how “public policies, funding” and limited Medicare coverage have allowed the problem to languish. COVID-19 has now exposed the disaster of this inaction and allowed nursing homes to become death traps because of “inadequate staffing and lack of enforcement” of regulations. Will this message finally be heard?

The History:
The real story is that disability rights activists have been attacking this problem for decades. In 1983, the national disability rights group ADAPT, turned it’s focus to “free[ing] their members from institutions and nursing homes so they might live in the community with the rest of humanity.” Many people with disabilities are capable of living independently in home based settings with appropriate personal assistance. Instead, far too many are forced into nursing homes. ADAPT and DIA have been fighting this fight for a long time.

ADAPT was formed in 1975, a little after the founding of Disabled In Action of Metro New York. Based in Denver, ADAPT started it’s advocacy by demanding access to public transportation. The name ADAPT is an acronym that grew out of these first protests and stands for “Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit.” Since that time, ADAPT has grown into a nationwide organization, active in 30 states and covering a wide range of national and local issues.

The Story Today:
The authors of the Op-Ed are clinical professors of law and have experience with cases of unsafe nursing home care. While they mention “suitable, affordable housing” as a major factor that forces people into nursing homes, They don’t talk about the political power of the nursing home industry that drives public policy and Medicaid dollars to residential care.

Living at home in a community setting leads to better clinical outcomes and longer life expectancy. Studies also show that care at home can be provided at the same cost and in some cases at lower cost than institutional care. Even though these are known facts, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is currently looking to cut funding to personal assistance programs. While everyone understands that money is tight, we need to be smart in the ways we economize and the Cuomo policies don’t demonstrate much acuity.

It is unfortunate that it takes a pandemic to show the world what the disability community has known for years. Warehousing people in institutions is dangerous, inhuman and deadly. Half of COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey are in nursing homes.

This crisis should make two things abundantly clear: (1) whenever possible, all people should live in community-based settings near family and friends and (2) there is an absolute need for universal health care.

The source for this story is:
The May 21st Daily News Op-Ed:

The Repeal of New York State Law 50-a
(an editorial)

Disabled In Action, is a 50 year old civil rights organization fighting for the rights of all people with disabilities. Documents that date back to our founding say that “DIA supports a society free, not only of ableism, but also of racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and economic exploitation.” it is in this spirit that as a member of DIA, I stand with Black Lives Matter as do many in my organization.

Police work is difficult and hard but the way officers are trained, and supervised must change and so does the culture that tolerates misconduct. New York State took the first meaningful step to reform on Tuesday when it repealed State civil code – 50-a, a law that keeps police personnel records secret including for officers who have "habitually delinquent behavior on the job."

Too often, the police officers who exhibit unreasonable violent acts against civilians have done it before. The Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd had numerous previous misconduct complaints as did Daniel Panteleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner. The repeal of 50-a may anger officials in the police unions but has the full support of Former NYC Police Commissioner James O’Neill, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Oleg Chernyavsky and Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox.

Wednesday April 15, 2020

News Report

People with Disabilities
Hit Hard by COVID-19

Group homes for people with developmental disabilities are being attacked at much higher rates by the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2. A New York Times article on April 8th, by Danny Hakim tells a chilling story of how badly this special needs population is catching and succumbing to this virus.

The article talks about how these residential programs have higher rates of infection, higher death rates and lower testing rates than the general population. An added problem is that the staff at these facilities is getting infected at high rates as well. These group homes are having the same problems and facing the same risks as nursing homes.

New York State has a decentralized system of smaller facilities to care for people with developmental disabilities. This has probably helped slow the spread of the virus. Caring for a high-needs population is a difficult job in the best of times, this article highlights how complicated things can get during a crisis; it is a must read!

NY Times picture of Bayville greoup home

Our source for this story is:
NY Times - Homes for the Disabled See a Surge of Covid-19

Reports on Medical Treatment
Rationing for PWDs

There have been dozens of newspaper, broadcast and online reports about the potential rationing of ventilators and medical treatment for COVID-19. These stories have appeared in major, mainstream publications like: the New York Time, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Hill, ProPublica as well as numerous local and regional media outlets.

These reports have appeared because of the slow national response to a global pandemic that is threatening to exhaust the country’s medical resources. As state and local governments were responding to the absence of leadership from Washington DC, many started to pull out guidelines that were years old or draft plans for how they would use ventilators that were in short supply.

As these emergency plans were being drawn up,earlier this year, the press started reporting on it. While a dozen states were cited as having policies that would put the disabled individuals at the end of the line for ventilators, there were 4 states that were mentioned most often: Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, and Washington State.

Since Washington State had the first confirmed case of COVID-19, they were the first to grapple with how to stretch limited limited medical supplies. The New York Times reported “Washington State’s guidelines include the consideration of a ‘baseline functional status’ for each patient, considering such factors as declines in energy level, physical ability and cognition.”

Tennessee’s 2016 guidelines allowed to hospitals to “exclude people with advanced neuromuscular diseases and those who need daily assistance from accessing intensive care medicine” like ventilators. But a spokesman for Governor Bill Lee said the 2016 guidelines were written by the previous administration and no longer “carry the force of law.”

Of all the state that had rationing guidelines, Alabama had the most egregious. Their Emergency Operations Plan, written in 2010 contained a section called “Criteria for Mechanical Ventilator Triage.” These criteria, contained in appendix-2, clearly stated “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.” Alabama rewrote its guidelines earlier this year.

The takeaway from many hours of reading and online research is that the news media did a great job exposing the problem of rationing guidelines for people with disabilities. The process of making information public and allowing society to weigh-in, allows the system work properly. State guidelines got rewritten and everyone was reminded, there are civil rights laws that protect people with disabilities (PWDs). My apologies for making this into an editorial.

Some of our sources for this story were:
NY Times - How Do Hospitals Decide Who Gets Treatment?
Kansas Public Radio - Ventilator Shortages Loom As States Ponder Rules For Rationing
The Atlantic - Americans With Disabilities Are Terrified
The Boston Globe - Who gets a ventilator?
The Washington Post - Don’t deny ventilators to disabled patients
NY Times - U.S. Civil Rights Office Rejects Rationing Medical Care Based on Disability
ProPublica - - People With Intellectual Disabilities May Be Denied Lifesaving Care
NBC News - Ventilators limited for the disabled?

Cuomo Ignoring Our Community

Disability Rights New York (DRNY) filed a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo for neglecting to have ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters for his daily press briefings. The complaint, filed on April 4th, claimed that “Cuomo’s daily briefings provide critical information about steps taken by the state government to address the health crisis and recommendations on how New Yorkers can stay safe and help limit the spread of the virus” and that deaf and hearing impaired people are being left out of the conversation.

The DRNY complaint also points out that other government officials like New York City Mayor Bill Di Blasio has consistently had sign language interpretors; that New York is the only state that has not provided live televised ASL interpretation and that DRNY has received dozens of complaints from deaf and hard of hearing New Yorkers who are unable to follow Governor Cuomo’s daily briefings.

Press conference without ASL interpreters

States are required to insure that all of their programs are accessible to people with disabilities. Cuomo, in his official capacity as Governor has effectively precluded the deaf and hard of hearing from participation in his press conferences. This is clear violation of Title II of the Americans with disabilities Act.

Timothy A. Clune, is the Executive Director of Disability Rights New York. On their website he stated that “New York State is the COVID-19 crisis epicenter. However, vital life and death information is not reaching our deaf neighbors simply because there are no ASL interpreters at the live briefings. This is such an easy fix, yet it remains broken.” -

DRNY is a not-for-profit corporation that is supported at tax payer expense by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. They run federally mandated programs that protect and advocate for individuals with disabilities. Their Protection and Advocacy System has the authority to investigate abuse and neglect, provide legal representation and engage in advocacy to advance the rights of individuals with disabilities.

DRNY Home page
DRNY Press release
Full Text of Complaint

Setback on Subway Elevators Case

As reported in the Daily News on April 1st, Judge George Daniels ruled that the shoddy maintenance of subway elevators didn’t rise to the level of a “systematic, discriminatory violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” In his opinion, Daniels said that disability rights groups “[did] not, and cannot, describe what more is required of defendants [the MTA] in order to comply with the ADA, other than to say things should be better,”

Daniels went on to say “This Court is not disillusioned to believe that these elevators are spotless or that the class members have not had run ins with elevators that they find to be unacceptable. This, however, is not the standard for finding a violation of the ADA,”

DIA member Robert Acevedo

The Daily News article also quoted Judge Daniels saying “The suit, brought by the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, other advocacy groups and wheelchair users, relied too much on anecdotal evidence rather than statistics.” While the MTA claims that elevators work 96% of the time, disability rights activists say those records are inaccurate.

Our source for this story:
Daily News - article

Welcome to ChartMaker

ChartMaker is a simple and powerful system for producing nicely formatted braille chord charts for musicians that read braille. ChartMaker is a Windows based computer program that can transform files exported from iReal Pro into music charts known as Jam Braille. iReal Pro is an easy-to-use tool to help musicians of all levels. It simulates a real-sounding band that can accompany you as you practice. iReal also lets you access thousands of popular and obscure songs that can be downloaded from online forums for free. ChartMaker can only work with MusicXML files exported from iReal Pro.

Are you interested in having high-quality, low-cost access to braille chord charts for almost any tune you want to learn? Maybe you're an experienced blind musician, or maybe you're taking advantage of your shelter-in-place time to learn a new instrument. Maybe you're already a seasoned Braille Music reader, or maybe you've never quite gotten over the mental gymnastics of having the note C be the letter D, and have found ways other than Braille Music to learn tunes.

Regardless of your skill level with your instrument or with Braille Music, JAM Braille is a great way to get access to the chords for almost any tune you can think of. It uses the songs available in iReal Pro and provides a quick and easy way to turn those tunes into beautifully formatted braille chord charts. JAM Braille also makes a few tweaks to braille chord notation to make these chord charts clear, compact, and a pleasure to read.

There will be a 1-hour workshop to introduce ChartMaker on Thursday, April 16, at 6 PM. The workshop will be lead by Josh Miele and Roberto Gonzalez – the creators of JAM Braille and ChartMaker. This online Zoom workshop will walk you through downloading and setting up ChartMaker, exporting and transcribing songs from iReal Pro, and understanding the notation used in JAM Braille. We will discuss the evolution of the system, and where we plan to take JAM Braille in the future with lots of opportunities for Q&A.

Please note, that this workshop will only focus on ChartMaker in the MS Windows environment. However, the JAM Braille chord chart examples we will be discussing can be viewed using just an iPhone and a braille display. To participate you will need: a browser and a braille display or embosser in order to view the chord chart examples and a computer running Windows (preferably Windows 10).

  • Workshop Information:
  • Who: Josh Miele and Roberto Gonzalez – the creators of JAM Braille and ChartMaker
  • When: Thursday, April 16, 6 PM Eastern
  • Where: At home on Zoom
Please register here to receive a Zoom invitation to the workshop
To keep our Zoom secure, we ask that everyone registers directly:

Saturday February 15, 2020

News Report

Major Win in NYPD Access Case

In 2016, Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York (DIA) signed onto a lawsuit against the NYPD (New York City Police Dept.) over access to their station houses. The suit states that of the 77 precinct stations operated by the police department, the majority “contain one or more architectural barriers to people who use wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility devices.”

The suit also contends that “police stations are not merely centers for issues concerning response to criminal activity, but also act as a hub for a wide range of community affairs.” Ignoring this lack of access to police stations denies the rights of people with disabilities to an important part of their community.

Some of the barriers cited in the complaint include steps at entrances, stairs as the only access to upper floors, unreasonable or unsafe alternate routes, absence of signage for alternative routes, and bathrooms that are not ADA compliant and inaccessible for wheelchair users.

After more than 3 years, Federal Judge Valerie Caproni has ruled in a partial summary judgment that the NYPD has “made little progress eliminating physical barriers to access to NYPD’s police stations.” While the judge praised the NYPD for taking steps toward making its station houses accessible since the lawsuit was filed, she found it “inexplicable” that the NYPD has not sought “input from critical stakeholders” in the disability community.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees people with disabilities the right to state and local government programs. The ADA was passed 30 years ago and there is clearly no reason that a public space, like a police precinct is not accessible to all citizens.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the law firm representing Disabled In Action (DIA), the Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled (BCID) and several individuals in this lawsuit. In a press release on the DRA website, they say “the ruling requires that any remedy to the inaccessibility of precinct stations include the input of the disability community. The plaintiffs and the NYPD must meet and submit a joint letter by March 12, 2020, describing their efforts to reach a solution.”

For more information and case documents visit the:
DRA Website

Victor Calise Nominated to MTA Board

On Monday February 10th Mayor Bill de Blasio nominated MOPD (Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities) Commissioner Victor Calise to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board. The MTA is a New York State controlled corporation that runs the subways and buses in New York City as well as the suburban commuter trains on Long Island and in Westchester County. The MTA serves approximately 11 million riders daily.

The response to Calise’s nomination has been overwhelmingly positive in the disability community. DIA President, Jean Ryan said “Disabled In Action is pleased that Mayor de Blasio appointed a person with a disability to the MTA Board. It is past time our interests are represented,” Victor Calise is a wheelchair user and has served as the commissioner of MOPD for Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio.

The full MTA board has 17 members and there are currently several vacancies. MTA board positions are unpaid. The Mayor can appoint 4 members who must be approved by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Senate. As a member of the MTA Board, Calise will make decisions about bus and subway fares, service changes and capital improvement projects.

Sitting on the MTA board carries enormous responsibility. The MTA currently has an estimated debt of $44 billion and additionally, has several capital projects that are over budget. A New York Times article in 2017 reported the Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access project “has ballooned to $12 billion, or nearly $3.5 billion for each new mile of track — seven times the average elsewhere in the world.”

MOPD Commissioner
Victor Calise

As an MTA board member, Calise will also be responsible for a subway system that is considered by many as the most inaccessible in the U.S. Only a quarter of the New York City subway stations are accessible to people with mobility impairments. Hopefully Calise’s place on the MTA board will sharpen the Authority’s focus on accessibility.

[NOTE – Disabled In Action is currently a plaintiff in three lawsuits against the MTA]

For more information on this story, go to::
The Daily News Article
The NY Post Article
The Gothhamist Article

Disability Statistics Compendium Released

On February 11th, the Institute on Disability at the State University of New Hampshire released it “2019 Disability Statistics Compendium.” The compendium is a “summary of statistics about people with disabilities and about the government programs which serve them.”

There are 15 sections in this report that include statistics on the prevalence of disability, employment among persons with disabilities, educational attainment, rates of poverty, rates of participation in disability income and social insurance programs, as well as other statistics.

The New Hampshire State University’s Institute on Disability created this compendium because it believes that “Statistics are a powerful tool - in research, policymaking, program evaluation, and advocacy. In the United States, disability statistics are often difficult to find. Numerous government agencies generate and publish disability statistics, and as a result, the data are scattered across various federal government documents and websites.” The compendium evaluates this information, puts it in one place and gives it the context that makes it useful and easy to understand.

This year’s findings showed no statistically significant difference in educational attainment, employment levels, earnings or levels of poverty among people with disabilities compared to last year’s numbers. There was however an increase in 2 areas. The number of people with disabilities living in institutions went up by almost 3% and the report’s “Disablement Index” also saw an up tick. The enablement/disablement index is a self defined measurement of an individual’s ability to live independently.

The State University of New Hampshire’s Annual Disability Statistics Compendium and accompanying Statistics Supplement are more than 400 pages of data pulled together from various government agencies. The project is funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). It is a valuable and accurate resource for anyone interested in disability.

For information about the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium visit:
The Institute on Disability at the New Hampshire State University website

Exploiting Disability Stereotypes
(Harvey & His Walker)

In January, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled “The Truth About Harvey Weinstein’s Walker” by Jasmine E. Harris. In the article Ms. Harris asserts that “Whether he needs assistance or not, the image can influence jurors and reinforce harmful stereotypes of people with disabilities.”

Harris is the author of an article in the Columbia Law Review called “The Aesthetics of Disability” that explores the complex nature of attitudes toward disability. She contends that Weinstein’s use of a walker “conveys an image, accurate or not, of physical weakness and dependence.” Painting Weinstein as disabled creates a “visceral” reaction that is aimed at changing public opinion.

Jurors are obliged to objectively judge the facts before them but can we expect them to ignore their “common base of knowledge and experience.” According to the article, “Studies have shown that when jurors perceive a victim in a sexual assault case as a person with a disability, they are more likely to believe the victim and punish the defendant.” In other words disability increases “victimhood.” Additionally, “disability status seems to neutralize or offset juror and public perceptions of danger and risk” making perpetrators appear more innocent.

In recent trials others have used the aesthetics of disability. Both Paul Manafort and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter showed up to court in wheelchairs, apparently to “|manipulate the legal system while also reinforcing stereotypes of what people with disabilities look and sound like, and what they are capable of doing.”

Harvey Weinstein
outside 100 Centre Street

It is clear that criminal trails are performances designed to persuade and influence, and nothing is off limits including the user of stereotypes and prejudice about disability. But Ms. Harris worries that the “effect of this litigation strategy has ripple effects we have not yet wrestled with or connected to broader anti-discrimination efforts.”

Jasmine E. Harris (@Jeharrislaw) is a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Law where she specializes in disability law. Her paper on “the aesthetics of disability.” can be found at:

the source of this story is:
The The New York Times article, "The Truth About Harvey Weinstein’s Walker"

Housing is a Problem for the Disability Community

Affordable housing is virtually non-existent in the City and homelessness is at an all time high, There are 114,085 students in the New York City school system that are homeless. That is almost 10% of the student population. Disabled In Action hears about the City’s housing problem on a steady basis but it is hitting home because one of our own might end up in a homeless shelter with his wife and 2 year old son.

Long time DIA Board member Danny Porro is being evicted from the apartment he has lived in for the past 29 years. It seems that the owner of the apartment sold the unit and the new owner informed Danny that the rent will go up by double.

Danny is a well informed and active member of his community and sits on Bronx Community Board 9. Danny’s tried to resolve his problem by going to HRA (Human Resources Administration) asnd applied for immediate eviction prevention assistance but was told he does not qualify because he is not in arrears.

He was then referred to another program called the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS). Danny didn’t qualify for this because it is only for people already in the shelter system. There used to be Section 8 housing vouchers to help folks like Danny but that money dried-up years ago.

Housing is the pointy tip of the income inequality problem; a problem not only in the United States but worldwide. There are housing shortages in big cities like London, Paris, Sidney, Stockholm as well as virtually every American city. While it is true there is a construction boom in New York, it is almost completely aimed at “market rate” or expensive units.

Danny’s disability prevents him from working and he lives on a fixed income. His story is unfortunately, all too common. The social safety net is currently overwhelmed and unable to do it job. This problem demands both immediate and long term fixes. Our thoughts and actions are with Danny and his family.

Meeting Announcement

Sunday, February 23, 2020 - 1:30-4:00 PM
at Selis Manor, 1st Floor Auditorium
135 West 23rd Street (between 6th and 7th Ave)

[HOME] [Disability Rights Resources] [Writing on the Wall] [The Activist]