Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Action Alert: Anderson Cooper's ADA Attack on 60 Minutes was dismissive of the disability community

The National Council on Independent Living is alarmed and appalled by the December 4th segment on 60 Minutes addressing the Americans with Disabilities Act and "drive-by lawsuits." The segment, hosted by Anderson Cooper, was one-sided, rife with inaccuracies, and glaringly dismissive of the disability community. 

Take Action

Contact Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes and ask that they air another segment that gives equal airtime to the struggle of the millions of Americans with disabilities who still lack basic access to our communities. 

Instead of addressing the fact that 26 years after the passage of the ADA there are still so many businesses not complying with the law, Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes chose to focus on the largely overblown issue of "drive-by lawsuits." To be clear, NCIL condemns the actions of those attorneys who are abusing the ADA and making profits off of the civil rights of people with disabilities. While small in number, the actions of these attorneys are harmful to the nearly 57 million Americans with disabilities, and the repercussions of their actions risk increasing the access barriers that we already face. That is unacceptable, and we cannot stand for it.

That said, NCIL supports the right of people with disabilities who have faced discrimination to file complaints and lawsuits. Twenty-six years after the passage of the ADA, people with disabilities are still discriminated against by businesses that either don't take our needs into account or openly exclude us. With no oversight mechanism, we have seen businesses around the country wait to comply with the law until they receive a complaint, meaning that not only is the onus on the disability community to 'monitor' compliance, but also that until we complain we are excluded from their places of business. We are appalled that Anderson Cooper used his platform to shine a light on an undeniably small problem while paying no attention to the access issues millions of us face every day in our own communities.

On top of that, the segment was full of inaccuracies. First, Anderson Cooper stated that most states and the District of Columbia allow for monetary damages for accessibility violations under the ADA. This is false. The reality is that monetary damages are based on state laws in only a handful of states, and several of these states - including California where some examples in the segment were based - have recently passed legislation disallowing damages in addition to making it harder to file a claim under the ADA in the first place. Second, the segment presented compliance with the ADA as overly burdensome and bordering on unnecessary. In reality, the ADA is just one of a multitude of laws, requirements, and codes that businesses have to comply with, and implying that it is unnecessary is wrong and offensive. The segment implied that ADA compliance should only be necessary if people with disabilities patronize a business, while the fact of the matter is the people with disabilities often don't patronize businesses precisely because they aren't accessible to us! People with disabilities are full-fledged members of our communities, and the intent of the ADA was to ensure that all public spaces are accessible to all people.

Lastly, NCIL has grave concerns with the fact that Anderson Cooper did not include any disability activists in the segment. The only people with disabilities shown in the segment were portrayed as pawns being used by the unethical attorneys, and this is incredibly offensive. Twenty-six years ago, the ADA was passed because of the hard work and dedication of disabled activists all over the country. Now, 26 years later, we continue to fight for our civil and human rights to be recognized. The 60 Minutes segment's portrayal of people with disabilities was patronizing and inaccurate, and we demand better.

We strongly urge Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes to air another segment that gives equal airtime to the struggle of the millions of Americans with disabilities who still lack basic access to our communities. 

2016’s States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections - WalletHub Study

With the share of U.S. adults aged 65 and older expected to comprise more than a fifth of the entire population by 2029 and 23 out of 24 elder-abuse cases going unreported every year, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis that identifies 2016’s States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections.

To determine which states fight the hardest against elder abuse, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 key metrics. The data set ranges from “share of elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints” to “total expenditures on elder-abuse prevention per resident aged 65 and older” to “financial elder-abuse laws.”
 
 States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections States with the Worst Elder-Abuse Protections
 1District of Columbia 42Alabama
 2Nevada 43Kentucky
 3Massachusetts 44Idaho
 4Wisconsin 45North Dakota
 5Missouri 46New Jersey
 6Tennessee 47South Dakota
 7Iowa 48Rhode Island
 8Louisiana 49California
 9Vermont 50Wyoming
 10 Hawaii 51South Carolina
 
Key Stats
  • Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming have no legislation that protects the elderly from financial crimes.
     
  • Alaska has the highest total long-term care Ombudsman program funding per resident aged 65 and older, $11.18, which is 16 times higher than in Nebraska, the state with the lowest at $0.68. 
     
  • The District of Columbia has the highest number of certified volunteer Ombudsmen per 100,000 residents aged 65+ years, 82.26, whereas both South Dakota and Wyoming have none. 
     
  • Missouri has the highest frequency of assisted-living facilities inspections, twice per year, which is 10 times higher than in both California and Nebraska, the states with the lowest at once every five years. 
     
  • North Dakota has the highest nursing-homes quality (share of certified nursing-home beds rated 4 or 5 stars), 62.9 percent, which is two times higher than in Louisiana, the state with the lowest at 27.2 percent.

To view the full report and your state’s or the District’s rank, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-best-elder-abuse-protection/28754/

SOURCE: WalletHub

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

November 2016 Election: Voters with Disabilities Experience Online Survey

The national Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) organization has requested individuals, advocates, and organizations across the country to assist with getting individuals with disabilities who voted in the November 8, 2016 General Election to respond to a national survey they are conducting, by January 1, 2017

The survey is seeking responses from all voters with disabilities who participated in this year's General Election either by vote by mail, early voting, or at the polls on Election Day.

The survey only takes a few minutes and the responses will be very helpful in addressing voters with disabilities' concerns on a national level. The survey covers issues regarding access to the polls, poll workers' friendliness towards individuals with disabilities, poll workers' knowledge of accessibility tools (for example, ballot marking devices) and other issues and also provides voters an opportunity to respond candidly. Please take a moment to complete the survey at the link below. Also, think about others who might be willing to take the following survey and please forward to them as well:

"Asperger's Are Us" Documentary about the professional comedy troup

“Asperger’s Are Us” rarely stretches to be funny or poignant or touching, and that makes this documentary all the more of each. There’s plenty of emotion in this story of four young men who sometimes have trouble expressing their feelings.

New York Times review by KEN JAWOROWSKINOV. 10, 2016   
The film focuses on the sketch troupe of the title, comedians who are on the autism spectrum and have been performing in and around Boston for years after meeting at a summer camp for those with Asperger’s syndrome. Alex Lehmann, the film’s director, gently delves into their back stories and sits in on rehearsals.

“The best way to be funny is to always explain your jokes, right after you tell them,” says Ethan Finlan, one of the members. “You need to be like: Get it?” It’s tough to know if he’s kidding, and that kind of smart, perplexing humor pervades the routines. Jack Hanke, another member, will soon be leaving to study at Oxford, and in the film there’s some anxiety as the four prepare for what could be their final show together.

Their dismay at breaking up (they’ve since reunited) is sometimes aggravated by their conditions. Asperger’s can heighten frustrations, and New Michael Ingemi — a name he’s given himself, and he isn’t shy about correcting those who still use his birth name — occasionally has difficulty coping. His interactions with Noah Britton, the eldest member, are complex. Short interviews with the men’s parents, particularly New Mike’s mother and father, are honest and bittersweet.

Mr. Lehmann doesn’t encourage false drama or accentuate the triumph of their final show (he even catches sight of audience members who walked out, mid-performance). His understated approach is ideal for this film, and for these very funny men.

YouTube published by Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Film

From Duplass Brothers Productions and Director Alex Lehmann comes ASPERGER'S ARE US. In this coming of age documentary, four friends on the autism spectrum whom have bonded through humor and performed as the comedy troupe "Asperger's Are Us" will prepare for one final, ambitious show before going their separate ways.
Starring: Ethan Finlan, New Michael Ingemi, Noah Britton, Jack Hanke
Directed By: Alex Lehmann (Blue Jay)
Produced By: Chris Dowling, Sean Bradley
Exec. Produced By: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass
Associate Producer: Sydney Fleischmann
Co-Producers: Michael J. Urann, Omar J. Cruz Rubio
Original Score By: Crystal Grooms Mangano

City of Denver Sued Over Concert Accessibility for Disabled

DENVER -Dec 5, 2016 - AP - A coalition of groups that advocate for the rights of the disabled is suing the city of Denver claiming it’s discriminating against people who use wheelchairs by failing to provide necessary access for them at concerts at Red Rocks.

Disability Law ColoradoCivil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition represent six plaintiffs in the federal class-action lawsuit.

KUSA-TV in Denver reports that Red Rocks only has two wheelchair-accessible rows, one in the front and one in the back.

photo: Red rocks Amphitheater 
The lawsuit alleges the city is failing to prevent people who aren’t disabled from getting space in the front row at Red Rocks. It demands the city clearly mark the accessible rows as being for disabled customers to discourage others from occupying them. It also seeks to require city staff to ask people occupying space in the front row about their disability needs and to move them elsewhere if they’re not disabled.

Frank Mango is one of the plaintiffs. He said he’s been going to Red Rocks for 30 years. Accessibility became an issue for him three years ago after a fall in a home-improvement accident. He’s now in a wheelchair.

“It’s just frustrating, because I’m a big, huge, monster concert fan and I’ve always been even before my accident,” Mango said. “Now being in a wheelchair, a lot of my passions are out of my reach. That’s the least I can do (go to concerts), one of the easy things I can do now. It should be fairly easy. It’s just frustrating that it’s almost impossible to get front row here.”

Mango said he doesn’t like sitting all the way in the back. He said seats in the first row are almost always sold out for face value and available only at inflated prices on third party sites.

Mango said that ticket sites may warn customers when they’re buying front-row tickets that they’re buying accessible seating. However, he said that hasn’t stopped people who aren’t disabled from buying them.

Alison Butler Daniels, director of legal services at Disability Law Colorado, said the city is allowed to ask people who buy front-row seats if they have a disability that requires them to be in the seats. “They can’t further inquire about their disability, but they can ask that simple question,” she said. “And if the answer is no, then they can be re-seated to one of the other 9,000 plus seats within Red Rocks and people who actually needs those seats can be reseated to those accessible seats.”

Butler Daniels said the plaintiffs aren’t asking for money. “We’re asking them to make the necessary changes so that people who use wheelchairs can enjoy this amazing Colorado treasure,” she said.

“We think a lot of self-policing would happen if everybody understood that was in fact the accessible section,” Butler Daniels said.

Brian Kitts, spokesman for Red Rocks, said the city does what it can to provide access for people with disabilities, including those with hearing and vision impairments. “What the real problem is that people knowingly buy those tickets knowing that they are for accessible patrons,” he said.

However, Kitts said that tickets will be more clearly marked starting with the 2017 season. “When you buy those tickets you know whether you’re about to take someone’s accessible seat and whether you’re willing to do that,” he said.

The Five Best Apps For Wheelchair Users

article by Helen Campbell, contributor for Ability Chicago Info | Dec 06, 2016

We now live in a world where almost everybody has technology at the end of their fingertips. Whether you are using a smart phone or a tablet, the device that you carry with you every day has the potential to enrich your life; this is particularly true if you are a wheelchair user. Mobile technology is revolutionising our lives, and helping wheelchair users and other disabled people to continue to live as independently as possible. Here is our list of the best five apps that can improve and enhance the lives of wheelchair users:

AXS Maps (Free)
One of the most practical apps available for smart phone users in wheelchairs, AXS maps works well because it is so popular amongst the wheelchair using community. AXS maps allows users to quickly and simply use their GPS to look at their location and  find the most accessible places that are closest to them. Users can then rate and share these locations (be their restaurants, libraries or sports facilities),  helping users to choose the right hang out for them. This is the one app that every wheelchair user should have on their phone.

Wheelchair Calorimeter ($0.99)
Want to improve your fitness levels and increase your strength, or have you made getting fit and healthy (and maybe losing a few pounds in the process) one of your New Year’s Resolutions? Then the Wheelchair Calorimeter is the perfect app for you. This clever app tells you how many calories you are burning when you are exercising, or simply going about your daily life, in a manual wheelchair.  This clever app is customisable with both your weight and the weight of your chair, to ensure your readings are as accurate as possible. It will also track your climb, and is powered by GPS. Suitable for both smart phones and appropriately secured and protected tablets, this app is ideal for motivating you to get out, get fit, and get active.

Wheelmate  (Free)
Although people don’t really like to talk about it, one of the most difficult challenges faced by wheelchair users when they go out in the world is finding somewhere clean and appropriate that they can use the bathroom. Wheelmate is an app that helps to solve that problem: it allows wheelchair users all over the world to quickly locate accessible bathrooms, as well as wheelchair accessible parking spaces. With more than 3,000 locations listed already, this rapidly growing app is only going to get better with age.

Myotomes ($0.99)
Want to test your mobility and complete your daily physiotherapy exercises then log them straight into your phone? This is the perfect app for you. Myotomes is an app that tests neurological motor skills by allowing its users to administer self-examinations that relate to the movement associated with each individual vertebrae. The app is divided into sub categories such as upper limbs, lowers limbs and reflexes, meaning that the entire nervous system is covered by the app. Whilst it isn’t an app most people would use every day, this clever app lists the muscle movement and nerves that are controlled by each vertebra, and quickly and easily allows uses to test, examine, and log their field of movement without the support of a physician. 
                       
Access Earth (Free)
Access Earth is a new app that was released earlier this year to critical acclaim, with the intention of becoming the ‘accessible trip advisor’. Much like the popular review site, the aim of the app is to provide a comprehensive user-driven overview of hotels, restaurants, and other leisure arenas, enabling users to quickly ascertain how wheelchair accessible they really are. App users will answer “yes” or “no” questions about key areas of accessibility such as the bathrooms, elevators, stairs. They will also have the option to leave a review of the location based on their experience. The app is growing rapidly, and by downloading it to your phone you will be able to not only find accessibility information fast, you will also be able to share your own experiences in order to enrich the lives of other wheelchair users. A great app, and one we predict will only grow in both popularity and usefulness.

Ty to Helen Campbell for article!

Friday, December 2, 2016

International Day of Persons with Disabilities - December 3rd - Theme for 2016: Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want

Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the world.

The theme for this year’s International Day is Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want. This theme notes the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.                                                                                                               
This year’s objectives include assessing the current status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and SDGs and laying the foundation for a future of greater inclusion for persons with disabilities.
The observance of the 2016 IDPD coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the adoption of the CRPD – one of the most quickly and widely ratified international treaties put forth by the United Nations to date.
"Let us work together for the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in an inclusive and sustainable world that embraces humanity in all its diversity."
                                                                                      U,N, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Video Celebrating 10 years of the CRPD
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities turns 10 in 2016. Members of the Committee talk about how impact of the convention and the challenges that still remain.

YouTube Published by UN Human Rights on Apr 18, 2016

For the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities website :

Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium resources for diverse programs/performances for people with disabilities

A new online calendar created by Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) that pulls together about 200 upcoming programs/performances for people with disabilities, hosted by about 30 different cultural institutions from across Chicago.  We hope this first-of-its-kind resource will establish an easy and convenient way for patrons to learn about upcoming Access events in one online location.  

 In case you’re unfamiliar, Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) is a volunteer-run group

Through monthly professional development workshops, this Access Calendar, and an active list-serv, CCAC facilitates a dynamic community of cultural administrators and visitors with disabilities striving to advance accessibility and inclusion across the Chicago region's vast cultural spaces.

The calendar can be found at chicagoculturalaccess.org/calendar
·         One helpful feature is that when you click on an event, it gives you several options: to share on facebook, to send info in an email to any friends you want to join you, to add directly to your calendar, to add the event to twitter, etc.   
·         You can also search by specific type of access, venue, and date. 

The Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium also has a YouTube channel in which their public meetings are available to view - CLICK HERE.





Webinar Dec. 8th: Perspectives of Building Occupants with Mobility Impairments on Fire Evacuation and Elevators


                                                      ADA National Network Learning Session

December 8th, 2016


Webinars begin at 2.30pm ET/1.30pm CT/12.30 pm MT/11.30am PT/9.30am Hawaii.
Registration: Free on-line at http://www.adapresentations.org/registration.php

Safe and effective evacuation during a fire or other catastrophic event requires planning, practice, and available options to exit the building. Building occupants with mobility impairments face additional difficulties during fire evacuations, which may limit their evacuation options. This webinar presents a study that was conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop guidance for building designers, facility managers, safety officers and emergency personnel on how occupants, particularly those with mobility impairments, can most effectively evacuate buildings during fire emergencies.
NIST researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with 51 people with mobility impairments located in five major metropolitan areas who work in multistory buildings. They were asked about their everyday mobility at work, their experiences with fire drills or fire emergencies at work, and their opinions about using elevators to leave a building during a fire evacuation. Of particular interest were their responses to a description of occupant evacuation elevators (OEEs), egress systems with the potential to get people with mobility impairments out of a building safely and quickly, without the assistance of others, and without having to leave their mobility devices behind.
The study identified a wide range of issues surrounding the evacuation of occupants with mobility impairments. Key to all of these issues is the need to include those with mobility impairments in the planning and execution of fire evacuations and to facilitate their ability for self-evacuation as much as is practicable.

Learning objectives:
  • Understand the variety of experiences, both positive and negative, that occupants with mobility impairments have with fire evacuations.
  • Identify the evacuation methods that occupants with mobility impairments may use in response to a fire emergency, along with the reported benefits and concerns with each.
  • Describe the concept of Occupant Evacuation Elevators (OEEs).
  • Name the key factors that improve the fire evacuation experience of occupants with mobility impairments.
Presenters:
Kathryn Butler is a Physicist in the Fire Research Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). She has studied a wide range of fire-related topics, including emergency communication, respirator fit, fire spread in wildland-urban interface fires, and fire behavior of materials.
Erica Kuligowski is the Group Leader of the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Group in the Fire Research Division at NIST, with a background in fire protection engineering and sociology. Her research interests include evacuation and response behavior, people movement and behavioral data collection and analysis from fires and other emergencies, emergency communications, and evacuation modeling.
Susanne Furman is a cognitive scientist in the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Visualization and Usability Group, where she works on and investigates user's mental models in cybersecurity and usability of biometric devices for the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Furman has a PhD in applied experimental psychology human factors from George Mason University.
These 90 minute webinars are delivered using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Collaborate downloads files to your machine in order to run. We recommend that you prepare your technology prior to the start of the session. You may need the assistance of your IT Staff if firewalls prevent you from downloading files.

To view all of the sessions for the coming year, or to see previous sessions, go to http://www.adapresentations.org/schedule.php

ADA National Network

The information presented in this webinar is intended solely as informal guidance, and is neither a determination of legal rights or responsibilities by NIDILRR or FEMA.

Report Nov. 2016: Employment picture remains bright for Americans with Disabilities

Kessler Foundation & University of New Hampshire release nTIDE Report for November – Monthly Update
DURHAM, NH – While the employment picture brightens in the United States, more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide continue to face challenges as they strive for inclusion in their communities, according to today’s National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). We are reminded of global efforts to support their dignity, rights, and well-being on December 3, the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
National Trends in Disability Employment: Comparison of People with & without Disabilities (November 2015 & November 2016)
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report released Friday, December 2, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 26.0 percent in November 2015 to 27.7 percent in November 2016 (up 6.5 percent; 1.7 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 72.6 percent in November 2015 to 73.1 percent in November 2016 (up 0.7 percent; 0.5 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio, a key indicator, reflects the percentage of people who are working relative to the total population (the number of people working divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).
“The improvement in the proportion of people with disabilities working continues its upward trend and once again outpaces improvements made by people without disabilities,” noted John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “In addition, the relative magnitude of this month’s gain is larger than the average monthly gain over the previous seven months. So this is a pretty good month.”

SOURCE: Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability

Stevens Transport Sued By EEOC For Disability Discrimination, Refused to Hire Air Force Vet as Truck Driver

DALLAS - Stevens Transport, the largest refrigerated trucking company in Texas and one of the top four largest temperature-controlled carriers in the United States, violated federal law when it failed or refused to hire a U.S. Air Force veteran as a truck driver because of his bipolar disorder, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Bill Brown was told that he could not be hired as a truck driver for Stevens "per company policy" because of the medication he takes to control his bipolar disorder. Brown presented a report from his medical provider indicating that he was safe to drive, but the physician with whom the company contracted to do medical examinations told him he could not be hired while on those medications. There are no U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations prohibiting people on these medications from commercial truck driving, and Brown had completed an advanced truck driver training course and passed the DOT physical that is required to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL). However, despite Brown's qualifications to perform the job safely, Stevens refused to hire him, EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Stevens Transport, Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-03325-N) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief.
"The trucking company unlawfully refused to hire this qualified candidate, disregarding his physical exam results, his completion of training, his CDL and the positive report from his medical provider," said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino. "The company put up an unnecessary roadblock to Mr. Brown's employment by discounting his skills and abilities as a driver when it turned him away."
EEOC Trial Attorney Meaghan L. Shepard, Sr. added, "Neither Stevens Transport nor the physician it contracted with made an individual assessment of Mr. Brown. In addition to violating the ADA, Stevens lost an opportunity to add a valuable employee to its team. Mr. Brown is a veteran who gave years of his life for his country and who has gone on to become a successful truck driver with another company - which should demonstrate his professional fitness."
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
SOURCE: Press Release, EEOC Nov. 30, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Statement from Access Living and SEIU Healthcare Illinois on SB 261 HomeCare OT Rule

Springfield, IL. Nov. 30, 2016
"We applaud passage of Senate Bill 261, which defends the right of people with disabilities to decide who cares for them in their homes. Passage of SB 261 sends a strong message to the state to do better and work more closely with stakeholders in improving the vastly successful Home Service Program. And it provides an opportunity for the Illinois Department of Human Services to end a year-long abuse of a Federal overtime rule that was intended to strengthen services, not cut care for people with disabilities.

"We have learned that the administration at the 11th Hour is proposing a new overhaul of its overtime rules, only weeks after proclaiming its existing rules nearly "perfect." Any new proposal needs to be carefully vetted by the people who utilize the program, as well as the community of advocates and caregivers who have helped build it into such a success over the years.

"In the meantime, we urge the governor to sign SB 261 and help mend a program sent into total disarray with a confusing, unnecessary and unlawful use of the administrative process.

"Finally, we are grateful to the advocates in the General Assembly who have voted to protect the thousands of women and men who are able to stay in their homes and communities with dignity directly as a result of a program that has been built up over the years, in bipartisan fashion and with input from the people it's intended to serve."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"We Can't Breathe": The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality

Nov. 30, 2016 -- The National Council on Independent Living’s Diversity Committee releases “We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project.” This project includes a video and toolkit that can be utilized for educational training for disability organizations and agencies. The video discusses the narratives of 5 people with disabilities on the margins that have been victimized by police brutality and other forms of systemic violence. The We Can’t Breathe Toolkit was designed to equip disability organizations, agencies, and community members with the tools to process the video and build policies, programming, and advocacy that center intersectional organizing. The project addresses how state violence affects people with disabilities who are also women, people of color, and LGBTQ+. This training intentionally utilizes an intersectional framework to combat the racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia that pervade disability organizations and agencies.

In conjunction with the release of the We Can’t Breathe Project, there will also be a Facebook and Twitter chat the evening of November 30th from 7pm – 8pm EST. Anyone can participate in these conversations through the Facebook event page and/or NCIL’s Twitter page
SOURCE: Press Release











World AIDS Day - Dec. 1st 2016

World AIDS Day, designated on 1 December every year since 1988, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.
World AIDS Day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health DayWorld Blood Donor DayWorld Immunization WeekWorld Tuberculosis DayWorld No Tobacco DayWorld Malaria Day and World Hepatitis Day. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day.
As of 2013, AIDS has killed more than 36 million people worldwide (1981-2012), and an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claims an estimated 2 million lives each year, of which about 270,000 are children. 
(Info From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The HIV Testing Sites & Care Services USA Locator - AIDS.gov


In the United States of America, we have HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator is a first-of-its-kind, location-based search tool that allows you to search for testing services, housing providers, health centers and other service providers near your current location.
Check in the part of country you live in, on Dec.1st there are many free testing sites available.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Illinois Group Home Provider for Disabled Residents License Pulled For 'Imminent Risk' To Residents

Thee Illinois Department of Human Services has revoked the license of a group home provider that was spotlighted in a Chicago Tribune "Suffering in Secret" investigation series earlier month, citing the state-funded business for safety problems and "willfully violating the rights of individuals" with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Illinois Dept. of Human Services is revoking the license for eight group homes and daytime training program, all of which have operated under the name Disability Services of Illinois since earlier this year. The 45 adults with disabilities are being located to other community-living options, including group homes operated by different providers,

Equip for Equality, Illinois' federally empowered disability-rights watchdog, excoriated Goodwin's businesses in the early 2000s for hazardous conditions and financial mismanagement. The group, which advocates for the type of community living that group homes offer, titled its scathing report, "Why Does an Agency that Profited from Exploiting Persons with Disabilities Remain Taxpayer Funded?"

Please take some time and read the Chicago Tribune "Suffering in Secret" investigation series, it's a honest and tough look into the State of Illinois system that is suppose to serve and protect those with disabilities that rely on such programs.
###

Associated Press article Nov. 30, 2016


Illinois agency revokes group home provider's license


CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Department of Human Services has revoked a group home provider's license and cited the state-funded business for safety issues and rights violations of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

On Monday, the department's chief licensing official, Felicia Stanton Gray, told Reuben Goodwin Sr. she was revoking the license for his eight group homes and daytime training program, all under the name Disability Services of Illinois, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2fLA7zI ) reported.

"I think we do a good job to make sure people are safe and that the staff is trained," said Goodwin in an interview last month.

Goodwin can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing before Dec. 23, but the department will still move 45 adults to other community-living options in the next two weeks.

Human Services spokeswoman Meredith Krantz said the state agency will work toward changing the way group homes "are held accountable in order to ensure individuals with disabilities receive high levels of care."

The move comes after Disability Services was spotlighted in an investigation by the newspaper this month that revealed the inspector general's office mishandled a 2012 investigation into neglect allegations at Goodwin's business.

The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show.

The probe also identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois' Department of Human Services.

Results from Chicago Tribune's investigation have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations.

"My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on," Dimas said previously.

The newspaper's attempts to reach Goodwin for comment were unsuccessful.

Minnesota Nonprofit Agrees To Allow Sheltered "Clients" with Disabilities To Apply For Regular Employment.

Minn. nonprofit to reform hiring practices in major disability rights settlement

Adults with disabilities at nonprofit Opportunity Partners in Minnetonka worked on 100,000+ Super Bowl cake decorations in 2013.

article by Chris Serres for the Star Tribune | Nov. 21, 2016
In a case that could open doors for thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities, a large disability services provider has settled a state human rights charge and agreed to give its workers a shot at regular jobs.

Opportunity Partners, a Minnetonka-based nonprofit, has for years classified individuals with disabilities who labor in its facilities as “clients” or “persons served,” even though they perform actual work for pay and may aspire to be considered regular employees.

Many of these individuals are paid less than the minimum wage.

In a settlement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Opportunity Partners has agreed to change its hiring practices so that the roughly 2,000 individuals it serves will have the chance for regular work at a competitive wage. The nonprofit did not admit wrongdoing, but said it will make it clear that anyone who receives job supports or other services will be considered for employment, regardless of their disability or status as a recipient of disability services.

“This changes the paradigm,” state Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said in an interview. “The more people say it out loud, that all people should have the opportunity for gainful employment ... the more individuals who make the decisions on hiring will be open to actually hiring individuals with disabilities.”

Armando Camacho, president and chief executive of Opportunity Partners, said he does not expect the agreement to result in major changes in the way his organization provides services. It has been “extremely rare,” he said, for individuals served by the agency to seek regular employment at the agency. Of the 2,000 people served by Opportunity Partners, only one person applied for a staff position in 2015, he noted.

“Nonetheless, we are pleased to be able to now make clear that anyone is eligible to apply and be considered for employment, including individuals we serve or have served in the past,” Camacho said.

National advocates praised the settlement, saying it resolves one of the first legal challenges to a system of disability employment that has long been decried as discriminatory.

Across Minnesota and the nation, disability services providers such as Opportunity Partners bring in individuals to package products and do other light assembly work on contract for large companies. In Minnesota, more than 100 of these agencies hold special certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor that allow them to pay workers based on their productivity instead of a fixed hourly wage. Pay through this system, known as “piecework,” often amounts to just pennies on the dollar.

A recent analysis by Minnesota’s workforce agency found that 15,400 Minnesotans with disabilities work for agencies that hold these special certificates to pay subminimum wages.

Many individuals also receive job coaching, transportation and other services funded through Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. The line between worker and service recipient has long been blurry, with many agencies referring to workers as “consumers,” “clients” or “participants,” instead of employees.

“This is a milestone,’’ said Cheryl Bates-Harris, of the National Disability Rights Network in Washington, D.C.

Bates-Harris said the settlement finally makes it clear that people who receive employment supports, regardless of their disabilities, should be treated on an equal basis with all other workers. “It doesn’t solve the problem of segregation,’’ she said, “but if people have the confidence to say, ‘I can move up,’ that gets to be contagious. This will embolden others."
http://www.startribune.com/minn-nonprofit-to-reform-hiring-practices-in-major-disability-rights-settlement/402340595/

Illinois Lawmakers Move To Block OT Restrictions For Home Care Workers

SPRINGFIELD , IL.— Feeling ignored by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration, people with disabilities who receive state-funded in-home care are turning to the General Assembly in an effort to block proposed overtime restrictions for their caregivers.

article by Dan Petrella for The PANTAGRAPH | Nov. 22, 2016
The Rauner administration is seeking to prohibit personal assistants who provide care through the state’s home services program from working more than 40 hours per week under most circumstances.

The state implemented the rule earlier this year in response to U.S. Department of Labor ruling that said home care workers must earn time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Facing a lawsuit from a union representing 25,000 home care workers, the state Department of Human Services put the rule on hold in August to seek approval from a bipartisan House and Senate committee charged with signing off on such rules.

While a final draft of the rules has yet to be submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, the Senate last week approved a bill that would prohibit the department from making its proposed changes.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said the administration’s proposal “fundamentally undermines the vastly successful home services program.”

The restriction on overtime “needlessly penalizes workers” and “sows confusion overall,” Lightford said.

The measure, which the Senate approved on a veto-proof 38-18 vote, now goes to the House, where Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, has signed on as the chief sponsor.

Spokeswoman Meghan Powers wrote in an email that the department sought “to create a rule that protects residents who depend on the Home Services program, individual providers and the taxpayers of Illinois.”

“This legislation allows for unlimited overtime hours without any oversight, leaving our most vulnerable without backup providers, less job creation in Illinois and additional costs of at least $14 million annually,” Powers wrote.However, advocates and people in the program say the changes would deny them their choice of caregivers.

K.L. Cleeton, a 27-year-old Effingham resident who’s paralyzed from the neck down because of spinal muscular atrophy, testified about the issue at a public hearing last month and spoke last week at a Statehouse news conference in support of Lightford’s bill.

“We deserve to be heard, and we won’t be ignored,” said Cleeton, adding that he was speaking on behalf of tens of thousands of Illinoisans with disabilities.
http://www.pantagraph.com/news/state-and-regional/illinois/government-and-politics/lawmakers-move-to-block-ot-restrictions-for-home-care-workers/article_befdee98-796f-5e46-8d79-4707809b9c6c.html

Chicago Toy Store Caters to Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Chicago -- A quick Google search can pull up hundreds of sensory-friendly toys designed for children on the autism spectrum, but just because it’s billed as appropriate for children with special needs, doesn’t guarantee your child will like it. That’s where Spectrum Toy Store comes in. Based in Chicago, Spectrum Toy Store is the first toy store in Illinois, and one of several in the U.S., designed for children with developmental disabilities.



article By Jordan Davidson for The Mighty | Nov. 17, 2016
Behind Spectrum Toy Store is Jamilah Rahim, who decided to open the store based on her experience as a behavioral therapist. “[I] noticed that so many parents ordered their toys and sensory products from major online sites like Amazon and Ebay because they had no where locally to buy their products,” Rahim told The Mighty. “Then when they would receive their items the children were either uninterested in them or they were dissatisfied with the quality. I wanted to give parents somewhere local they could go and find toys and products that fit their child’s needs.”

Unlike web-based stores, Spectrum Toy Store lets children try its toys before their parents buy them. “Every child with a disability is different and their needs are different,” Rahim said. “Being able to come feel and see the product before purchasing it gives the comfort of knowing you have purchased the right product for your child.”

In addition to providing toys for children on the spectrum, Spectrum Toy Store also features individual and small group skill building activities – focusing on communication, cognitive, gross motor, fine motor, life skills, social skills and sensory activities – through its partner nonprofit organization, Children’s Advanced Recreation and Education. During the activity sessions, children use the toys sold in the stores, giving Spectrum Toy Store employees the ability to recommend toys to parents based on their child’s interaction with them. For those outside of Chicago, Spectrum’s toys are also available for purchase online.

So far, Rahim said, the response has been amazing, with people contacting her from outside of Illinois and even internationally. Her advice to people looking to provide similar services: “Consider all individuals when providing products and services. [Don’t] focus on the financial aspect, but on providing for a population that is underserved. [K]eep your passion as an advocate first and a business owner second.”
https://themighty.com/2016/11/spectrum-toy-store-opens-in-chicago-for-kids-on-the-autism-spectrum/

For more on the Spectrum Toy Store, visit spectrumtoystore.com.

Monday, November 28, 2016

National Trends in Disability Employment December 2nd Webinar

On the first Friday of every month, corresponding with the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, the nTIDE Lunch & Learn Webinar will take place as a live broadcast via Zoom Webinar to share the results of the latest nTIDE findings. In addition, we will provide news and updates from the field of Disability Employment, as well as host an invited panelist who will discuss current disability related findings and events. The archived webinar will be available as a video as well as an audio-only download the following week.


Register for the nTIDE Lunch & Learn Webinar on Friday, December 2, 2016 at 12 Noon EST.
Join the monthly webinar to get detailed findings of the latest Jobs Report release and announcements from the Disability Employment field. Retired Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa will present during the webinar.

Agenda: December 2, 2016
  • 12:00 pm: Overview of National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) Jobs Report Release
    Andrew Houtenville, UNH-IOD & John O'Neill, Kessler Foundation
  • 12:10 pm: nTIDE open Question & Answer period for attendees
  • 12:20 pm: Announcements from the field of Disability Employment
    Michael Gamel-McCormick, AUCD
  • 12:30 pm: Open Question & Answer period for attendees
  • 12:40 pm: International Disability Employment
    Senator Tom Harkin, Retired, Democrat - Iowa
  • 12:50 pm: Open Question & Answer period for attendees


Dept of Veterans Affairs and National Disability Rights Network Sign Agreement to Enhance Services to Veterans with Disabilities

WASHINGTON – Oct. 28, 2016 - Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), signed a Memorandum of Understanding with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service (VR&E). This agreement signifies a formal relationship between NDRN and VR&E to better enable Veterans with service-related disabilities to successfully transition into civilian life.

Signing on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs were Curtis Coy, Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity and Jack Kammerer, Director, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service.

The VR&E program provides individualized employment solutions and rehabilitation services to Veterans with disabilities that affect employment opportunities. NDRN is the non-profit membership organization for the nationwide Protection and Advocacy Systems and Client Assistance Programs (P&A/CAP). Collectively, the network is the largest provider of legally-based advocacy services to people with disabilities.

Under the agreement, NDRN and VR&E will collaborate to improve outreach to Veterans with disabilities, and increase awareness of and access to services that will enable them to better adjust to the civilian community. It will also improve communication and information sharing between the two organizations.

Additionally, NDRN and VR&E have agreed to determine when P&A/CAP agencies can support VR&E counselors to enhance services to Veterans; will exchange Fact Sheets on P&A/CAP and VR&E programs, services, statutes, and regulations to educate staff and clients; will conduct topical trainings on a variety of information important to Veterans such as benefits, disability rights under the law, employment, education and housing.

“Having sacrificed so much for our country, Veterans with service-related disabilities deserve every opportunity to find rewarding careers when they return to civilian life,” said Curt Decker. “This agreement is an important first step in a partnership that will improve employment services for our nation’s veterans.”

# # #

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

SOURCE: Press Release