Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Children just diagnosed with autism, Advice for parents from those who've been there.

By Mari-Jane Williams, Staff writer, Local Living | The Washington Post | July 30th
I was talking to a friend last week about her son, who was recently diagnosed with autism. He’s 8, and she is feeling frustrated and overwhelmed — not by her son, but by the challenge of figuring out what to do next.
Once you have that diagnosis in hand, the questions start piling up. What services does he need, and what will insurance cover? What really works, and what is just a hopeful shot in the dark? How can she get the most out of the public school system? Who coordinates all of this? Do you need a small army of specialists or just one really good behavioral or occupational therapist? And what is ABA, anyway?
I didn’t have all of the answers for my friend’s questions about therapies and billing and case managers. That all varies by kid, by insurance provider and by where you live. I pointed her to a few Web sites, includingmyautismteam.comParents of Autistic Children of Northern Virginia and the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.
I also told her it gets easier. And that she should build a community of people she can get advice and support from. In other words, don’t rely just on specialists and professionals, but on other parents of kids with autism, and adults on the autism spectrum, who can help her better understand her son. Jason Katims, the executive producer of NBC’s “Parenthood,” and the father of a son with autism, once told me he thought finding that community was the first thing any parent should do after their child is diagnosed. I agree, because for me, that network of people is what has made things easier with my son, who has an autism spectrum disorder.
That network of new friends might recommend a therapist or a social skills group or a place for a haircut, and that’s incredibly valuable. But even more important, they get it. Whatever we are going through or struggling with or celebrating, many of them have been there and they can relate. A little empathy can help a lot on a difficult day.
So with that in mind, I reached out to a few of the people I’ve encountered along the way, and asked them to share their best advice for parents of children recently diagnosed with autism. Here’s what they had to say:
Sharon Fuentes, author of “The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s,” blogs about her experience raising her son Jay, 13, atMama’s Turn Now. Her advice:
“Your son or daughter is still the same person they were before they got the diagnosis. I know this may not have been the path you would have chosen to have traveled down, but some of the best journeys in life are ones that happened when we unexpectedly took a left turn. Yes the road can get bumpy, but that is when you need to reach out to all those that have been there before you who do whatever they can to smooth the path for your child. Remember that you are not alone, trust your own instincts, breathe, laugh often, believe in yourself and more importantly believe in your child and never ever lose hope! ”
Bernie DeLeo is the drama teacher at West Springfield High School in Fairfax and has a 20-year-old son, Charlie, with autism. This spring, the school staged a play DeLeo wrote, “Nerdicus (My Brother with Autism),”about his daughter’s experience growing up with a sibling with autism. His advice:
“My biggest advice to parents is, first, don’t panic.
Second, after the initial freak-out and panic (you will, even though I told you not to), educate yourselves and know your rights and options.
Third and most important, don’t let people tell you what they think your child is capable of. They will immediately see the disability, and NOT your child’s capabilities! Every child will be different. At my son’s high school, they recommended that he not take languages or aim for the Advanced Diploma. ‘Special Ed children tend not to do well with languages,’ they said.  We ignored that advice, he took 5 years of Spanish — and now he’s living away from home and majoring in languages at Marshall University.”
Shannon Des Roches Rosa is one of the editors of the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, a book and Web site devoted to providing information information from autism parents, autistics and autism professionals. She also has a personal blog at Squidalicious, where she writes about her adventures parenting 13-year-old Leo, who has autism. Her advice:
“I wish — more than anything — I’d tried harder to understand my son instead of trying to ‘fix’ him. He was the same sweet, capable boy both before and after his autism diagnosis; the only change was my awareness of his needs. And he needs me to love him, respect him and champion him. He needs me to make sure he has time to play. He needs me to fight for appropriate communication and learning resources. He needs me to get him supports to navigate an autism-unfriendly world. Understanding instead of fighting Leo’s autism makes us both much happier people.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/30/advice-for-parents-of-children-just diagnosed-with-autism-from-those-whove-been-there/
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Chicago area Volunteers Needed for MuckFest MS - Mud and Fun Run on Aug. 23 in Lockport, IL.

as shared...

 Chicago, July 31, 2014 — The Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is looking for volunteers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty at the inaugural MuckFest MS mud and fun run on Saturday, August 23, at Legacy Paintball & Airsoft Park (2807 Canal St.) in Lockport, Illinois. MuckFest participants will slip, slide, slosh, climb, crawl and jump their way through over 15 muck and fun-filled obstacles to raise funds for critical MS research, programs and services.

The Lockport event, one of 10 MuckFests nationwide, will send runners of varying athletic ability on a messy, obstacle packed 5k jaunt designed specifically to cover them in mud and keep them laughing from start to finish.

MuckFest MS is a unique opportunity for volunteers to experience the MS Society’s newest fundraising event with a front-row seat for all the spills and thrills of the day. Several MuckFest MS volunteer opportunities are available, including positions at check-in, along the course and in the Muck Festival area for the post-event celebration.

Volunteer hours run from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Volunteers must be 12 years of age and older (if the volunteer is a youth, they must be accompanied by a parent/guardian at all times). Individuals and groups are welcome to sign up to volunteer. Those who volunteer will receive an awesome volunteer T-shirt, event pin and food voucher.

The MS Society depends on the commitment of its volunteers to ensure the success of its events. Opportunities are available throughout the year for volunteers interested in dedicating their time and talents to the movement to end to MS.

For more information or to register as a volunteer for MuckFest MS, visit muckfestms.com or contact Jocelyn Cheng, Manager of Volunteer Development, at jocelyn.cheng@nmss.org or 312.423.1139.

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease that interrupts the flow of information in the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve. The Greater Illinois Chapter mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of more than 20,000 individuals in Illinois and 2.3 million worldwide affected by MS.

The Greater Illinois Chapter mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. Envisioning a world free of MS, the Chapter moves toward that end by driving change through advocacy, facilitating education, collaborating with others and by providing helpful programs and services. Visit MSillinois.org for the latest Chapter news and information.


 For previous post on 2014 MuckFest MS; CLICK HERE 

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In USA it’s illegal to torture prisoners and animals, BUT not People with Disabilities!

Disability rights advocates protest outside the FDA in 2013. (Taylor C. Hall)

 | The Washington Post | July 22
(wonderful article in Washington Post, yes this abuse has continued in US)

In February 2000, Cheryl McCollins sent her son Andre, an 18-year-old autistic student, to the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center for help with his behavioral and developmental difficulties. Andre had already tried  two other residential schools, including one where another student sexually assaulted him, to overcome his tendency to break things or hit people in rage attacks. Twenty months later, in October 2002, Cheryl received a terrifying call from a center employee, who told her, “Andre had a bad day.” Earlier in the day, a staffer told Andre to take off his jacket. When he said no, another staff member pressed a button to activate the electric-shock machine attached to Andre’s body with taped electrodes. Andre screamed and threw himself under a table. Four adults dragged him out, and strapped him, facedown, into four-point restraints. Over the next seven hours, Andre was shocked 31 times with a device that emits 45.5 milliamps of electricity — a shock more than 15 times as powerful as the stun beltsdesigned to incapacitate violent adult prisoners. Staff members recorded the reason for each shock — all but two entries on his recording sheet list tensing up or screaming. In the surveillance video, Andre can be heard pleading for staff members to stop. At the Rotenberg center, in Canton, Mass., this is called treatment.

The center’s founder, Matthew Israel, invented the shock device in the early 1990s, under a theory of behaviorism drawn from work by B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov. Israel’s theory was that exposure to painful stimuli — “aversives” — reduces or eliminates undesirable behavior. Known as the graduated electronic decelerator (GED), the device emits a shock stronger than the stun guns used by police. The center’s own staff frequently claims that the GED is mild. In an interview with ABC News, Rotenberg spokesman Ernest Corrigan said, “The skin shock that we’re talking about is two seconds, and people who have experienced it say it feels like a bee sting.” The center (and its defenders) claim that it is a treatment of last resort used for those with the most severely dangerous, self-injurious and aggressive behavior. They claim that it is effective, despite no evidence of long-term efficacy, something even Israel acknowledges. They claim that it is supported by a robust array of research, despite no independent peer-reviewed research in decades. (What looks at first glance like an impressive array of articles on Rotenberg’s Web site is, upon close examination, mostly internal case studies or data analyses, or items written by Israel or people associated with him.)
My friends and colleagues know otherwise. At a recent hearing in April convened by the Food and Drug Administration, former Rotenberg resident Jennifer Msumba testified that she has nightmares about the center at least once a week. “In these nightmares, I’m getting shocked,” she said. “If I hear certain noises, like the Velcro they use to keep [the remote controls for the device] closed, I freeze. I feel like it’s about to happen to me.” Rather than teaching adaptive functioning skills to change dangerous behaviors, aversive electric shock causes only great suffering, pain and trauma. At best, the shocks temporarily repress behaviors by using fear to control residents. That is not treatment. That is torture, as Disability Rights International argued in its damning investigative report on Rotenberg’s practices.
Another former resident, Ian Cook, testified at the same hearing that he was forced to undergo a procedure that the center calls “behavioral rehearsal lessons,” in which staff members pressure a resident to perform a behavior targeted for elimination. If the resident refuses to comply — to act in a way that gets him shocked — he will be shocked. Ian described this frightening experience like this:
“While I was sitting in a restraint chair, a staff [member] would burst into my conference room — I was one-on-one alone with staff — and screamed at me to hurt him, holding a knife. Even though I did absolutely nothing and sat there in shock, not having any idea what was going on, I would receive a shock from the GED device. This happened a couple of times a week, at first, and left me in a constant state of fear, never knowing when I’d be hurt for no reason.”
Former staff member Gregory Miller testified that, at times, he had to shock six or seven residents simultaneously. This is because crying, screaming or tensing up in fear — perfectly natural and understandable reactions to witnessing other students being shocked and wondering whether you will be next — also are targeted behaviors. Sometimes students began to panic if a staff member so much as reached for her pockets, where the GED’s remote-control devices are kept. (Residents can be shocked for panic, too.) By the center’s own admissions, residents can be shocked for closing their eyes while walking, getting out of their seats without permission or swearing. These are hardly the extremely dangerous behaviors that the center claims are the sole targets of the shocks.
Yet even for people who exhibit the worst violent and life-threatening behaviors, the center is operating with science as its adversary. In 1990, a group of the leading behaviorists, clinicians and researchers specializing in the severe behavioral challenges of people with disabilities published a joint statement rejecting all forms of painful and dehumanizing treatment, including electric shock. Three years later, Ole Ivar Lovaas, the behavioral expert who pioneered the use of electric shock as a treatment for autistic people, repudiated his prior work and criticized the use of painful stimuli as punishment. This was more than 20 years ago. The center is the only holdout that still uses this archaic treatment method.
The center is legally permitted to use electric shock as a behavior-modification tool on some of the most vulnerable children and adults with disabilities. But its executive director eventually admitted at April’s hearing that staff members had not complied with user-manual requirements that the device can be used only by or under the direct supervision of a licensed medical professional such as a psychiatrist. If agencies such as the FDA do not ban aversive electric shocks, disabled people at the center will continue to be shocked in the name of “treatment.” Even worse, while the Rotenberg Center is the only program currently using aversive electric shock, the continued legality of this treatment leaves the door open to future abuse by other providers. This would be considered inhumane for convicts, detained terrorists  or animals, but it apparently is acceptable if it is done to people who are disabled.
Perhaps there is no better argument against the use of such barbaric practices than Ian’s experiences after leaving the center. “I was in an abusive relationship two years ago,” he said, “and part of why I fell prey to it is that JRC instilled a lesson in me that it is okay for people to hurt me so long as they are trying to correct me.” As an autistic person myself, it is terrifying to know that others can abuse me with impunity so long as they claim that what they are doing is for my own good.
Lydia Brown
Lydia Brown is the president of the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective, former staffer at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and past Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership.

Twitter Chat on ADA and CRA - Fri Aug. 1st - hosted by National Organization on Disability (NOD)

Disability Today: 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act & 24 Years After ADA
Friday Aug. 1st | #NODCivilRights50 
Featuring Panelists Robert David Hall &
John Hockenberry

Join the dialogue as NOD President Carol Glazer, CSI actor and disability advocate Robert David Hall, and distinguished journalist John Hockenberry discuss where the disability community stands today 50 years after the Civil Rights Act and 24 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Participants will have the opportunity to engage with panelists and submit questions using the hashtag #NODCivilRights50.  

To participate follow us on Twitter @NOD_ItsAbility

For the National Organization on Disability (NOD), visit: http://nod.org/

Advocates Rally for Disability Treaty CRPD Ratification in D.C

as shared by U.S. International Council on Disabilities ...

Advocates rally for ratification of the disability treaty in the annual NCIL march onto Capitol Hill. 
(Photo courtesy of Virginia Knowlton Marcus - a USICD member!)
On July 29th, advocates from around the country, including hundreds visiting Washington, DC for the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) conference and annual march onto Capitol Hill, gathered to rally for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  USICD extends an extra special thanks to NCIL for their loud and visible support for ratification!
American Paralympic athletes join other CRPD advocates, including Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island (center), outside the U.S. Capitol.
(Photo courtesy of Candace Cable)
Throughout the day, disability advocates were addressed by members of Congress and nationally recognized disability community leaders, all calling for the U.S. Senate to finish the job of ratifying CRPD.  In collaboration with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, USICD welcomed American Paralympians to the CRPD rally. Cheri Blauwet, Candace Cable, Muffy Davis and Keith Gabel brought home the gold!

Advocates gather in Hart Senate Office building in support of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
(Photo courtesy of Access Living)

Following the NCIL rally near the Reflecting Pool of the United States Capitol, advocates proceeded to the Hart Senate Office Building, where we circled together to honor those individuals around the world who have faced discrimination, violence, and violation of their human rights because of their disabilities. We then called in unison for ratification of the CRPD before dispersing to visit Senators' offices and advocate for this important treaty.     
Michael Gamel-McCormick, from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's staff, speaks to advocates on CRPD in Hart Senate Office Building.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Olin)

CRPD Successfully Voted Out of Foreign Relations Committee
On July 22nd, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took a crucial step toward ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international treaty designed to promote the rights and dignity of people with disabilities worldwide. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with representatives from the broad and diverse coalition of business, veterans, disability and civil rights organizations supporting the treaty reacted to the passage from committee with enthusiasm:

Marca Bristo, President, U.S. International Council on Disabilities: "We are here today to send a clear message: it is time to ratify the Disability Treaty. Failure by our Senators to ratify this treaty would be a betrayal of the American disability community, who, as recent polling tells us, vote in higher numbers than almost any other group. It is a betrayal that will not be forgotten by these millions of voters, and by our allies in the veterans, business, faith, and civil rights communities who are united in support of the treaty."

Randy Johnson, Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "There are plenty of reasons to support the Disability Treaty -the most obvious and important one being that it's the right thing to do for people across the globe who are living and working with disabilities. But there are economic and competitiveness benefits for the United States as well. It would create a level playing field for American businesses, leverage the leadership and innovation of American business in setting accessibility standards, and make us more able to do business abroad.  Further, the treaty does not impose new requirements on U.S. employers and entities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  We urge our leaders to seize the opportunity to boost the U.S. economy and help people with disabilities worldwide by ratifying this treaty."

Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and John McCain of Arizona speak at a press conference promoting ratification of the CRPD.  The Senators were joined by representatives of numerous veteran organizations including the American Legion and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and special attendee, Senator Bob Dole, himself a veteran and advocate for ratification.
(Photo courtesy of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)

Tom Tarantino, Chief Policy Officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: "This treaty embodies the values supported by the United States Military - the importance of promoting human rights and dignity around the world, and the power of the United States to be a leader in the fight for these ideals. The United States has an obligation not to be a bystander in the fight for rights and dignity for people with disabilities, but to embrace our role as a global leader and extend the rights we've fought for here to the rest of world."

Frances West, Chief Accessibility Officer at IBM and Worldwide Director of the IBM Human Ability & Accessibility Center: "IBM is confident that US ratification of the CRPD will generate new opportunities for businesses across many different industries. It will also create a global marketplace "pull" for accessible information and communications technologies, and we believe, reinforce the United States' legacy leadership position as a champion for full societal inclusion of people with disabilities. We believe failure to act, will produce quite the opposite effect over the long term: stifling the ambition and dreams of people with disabilities, choking marketplace opportunities, and jeopardizing the United States' ability to influence the global accessibility community."  

Wade Henderson, President/CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: "The United States benefits from a rich history of disability rights legislation that has inspired nations around the world to honor the dignity of people with disabilities, but it is shameful that we still lag behind the global community in ratifying the CRPD. U.S. ratification of the treaty will allow us to once again be a global leader in disability rights, and to amplify the message both here and abroad that disability rights are, indeed, human rights."

Visit  U.S. International Council on Disabilities for more information on there mission!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Disability Visibility Project, collects the diverse voices of people in the disability community and preserve their history for all

Chicago DisVis FINALStarting July 2014 to July 2015, people with disabilities are encouraged to go to StoryCorps (San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and Mobile Tour) to contribute their story in celebration of the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Having these stories recorded and available to the public will preserve disability history, making them accessible to all.

As a community partnership with StoryCorps San Francisco, the Disability Visibility Project aims to collect the diverse voices of people in the disability community and preserve their history for all.

Please go to our How to Participate page for more information.

Note: Any images, quotes or content submitted to the Disability Visibility Project may be used for our own purposes.

***The usage of the word ‘Visibility’ in the project name is metaphorical. It is not meant to privilege one sensory experience over others.
For The Disability Visibility Project, visit: http://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/
The Disability Visibility Project is merely a community partnership with StoryCorps.
On the left half of the image is a photo of the Golden Gate Bride with the following text superimposed over the image: CITY BY THE BAY CITY THAT KNOWS HOW EVERYBODY’S FAVORITE CITY FOG CITY FRISCO GOLDEN CITY GOLD GATE CITY SAN FRAN SHAKY TOWN. On the right half of the image, text behind a black background. The text reads: BEHIND EVERY NAME IS A STORY…WHAT'S YOURS? Disability Visibility Project & StoryCorps invites you to record your story about the disability experience in America. http://disabilityvisibilityproject.com @DisVisibility #DisabilityVisibility Stories will be included in the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress

Medicare and Medicaid 49th Anniversary, July 30th

as shared by...
By: Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services | July 30, 2014
 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare Bill. President Harry S. Truman is seated next to him. Others looking on include Lady Bird Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bess Truman. July 30, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, U.S. National Archives)President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare Bill. President Harry S. Truman is seated next to him. Others looking on include Lady Bird Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bess Truman. July 30, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, U.S. National Archives)
Today marks the 49th anniversary of the signing of Medicare and Medicaid into law.  More than 52 million people are now covered by Medicare and more than 60 million people by Medicaid.  These programs have improved the length as well as the quality of life for countless Americans over the years, providing health and economic security to the most vulnerable in our nation.
And thanks to hard work, Medicare is stronger today than it was when the President took office.  According to the Medicare Trustees report released this past Monday, thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act, we’ve extended the life of the fund through 2030, four more years than last year’s projection. Just a few years ago, the Medicare Trust Fund was projected to run out of money by 2017.  In addition, a new report has found that Medicare spending per beneficiary is growing at one-third of the rate from 2000-2008.
Medicare is also more affordable for beneficiaries today thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  Since its enactment, out-of-pocket savings on medications for people with Medicare prescription drug coverage continues to grow.  More than 8.2 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare have saved over $11.5 billion on prescription drugs since 2010 as a result of discounts to mitigate the donut hole coverage gap and rebates in 2010, for an average of $1,407.  These figures are higher than last year when over 6.6 million seniors and people with disabilities had saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs, averaging $1,061 per beneficiary in donut hole discounts.
Medicaid has been strengthened as well.  The Affordable Care Act provides states with new opportunities to expand their Medicaid programs to increase access to affordable coverage. To date, 26 states and D.C. have expanded their Medicaid programs.  The Council of Economic Advisers recently reported that in states that have expanded Medicaid, 5.2 million low-income adults have gained access to affordable health care through Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act, coverage for newly eligible individuals is fully paid for during the first three years by the federal government, and federal funding will not fall below 90 percent afterward. Increasing access to Medicaid coverage not only provides a lifeline to low-income and disabled Americans: it reduces the amount of uncompensated care provided by hospitals and strengthens local economies.
The Affordable Care Act also made strides in improving and integrating the benefits of the 10 million Americans with both Medicare and Medicaid.  As a result of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government and states have launched initiatives throughout the country to better coordinate care and provide beneficiaries with more seamless access to their Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
It’s also worth noting that the Congressional Budget Office yesterday reported that projected Medicare and Medicaid spending over the 10 years from 2011 – 2020 is $1.1 trillion lower today than it was in 2010.  That represents a $715 billion decline for Medicare and a $395 billion decline for Medicaid over the same time period, and a 12% reduction for these programs in 2020 alone.
More than ever, we are committed to making health coverage more affordable for more families and individuals, while holding down costs and improving the quality of care.  Working together we can ensure our parents, grandparents, children, and our most vulnerable neighbors have access to the care they deserve. 
Happy 49th Anniversary Medicare and Medicaid.

Content last reviewed on July 30, 2014

FOR the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, visit: http://cms.hhs.gov/

Chicago Housing Authority CHA hoarded millions of dollars despite a long waiting list!

have to share this article from Crains Business, with so many Chicagoans, many with at least one member that has a disability that could of benefit from a better quality of life from housing assistance, SHAME ON CHA!
(update on this issue below)

By Hailey Lee | Crains Business | July 30, 2014

The Chicago Housing Authority has hoarded millions of dollars in a reserve fund and used federal taxpayer money for non-housing-related services, despite a waiting list of thousands of low-income residents, a new study says.

The report, released today by Chicago-based research group Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, found that from 2008 to 2012, the CHA handed out an average of 13,534 fewer vouchers each year than it was able to, according to the study. (See graphic above.)

The CHA also had an average annual surplus of $107 million from 2008 to 2012, the study found. At the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the agency had stashed away $432 million in cash reserves.

The center also found the CHA had used a portion of the money for educational and workforce-related services. Both the reserves and the non-housing spending were legal since the agency participates in the “Moving to Work” federal program, which allows the agency to divert federal funding into other uses.


Earlier this week, the CHA was under scrutiny for the opposite reason — using federal tax dollars to pick up most of the tab for low-income residents to live in luxury buildings.

In a Crain's report this week, the CHA was criticized by officials for issuing "supervouchers" for some of Chicago's priciest high-rises. So far, 706 of them have been approved, with some subsidizing rents as high as $3,000 a month.

The program's critics include U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria, who wrote a letter to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development asking him to investigate the program and how it selects recipients.


At a news conference this morning, Ald. Ray Suarez, 31st, chair of the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate, said none of the council members was aware of the CHA's reserves. The conference was hosted by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and the Chicago Housing Initiative, the housing advocacy group that commissioned the study.

Officials there announced that a team of six aldermen, led by Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, will introduce an ordinance asking for more City Council oversight over the CHA. And this year, 3,000 residents who had been on the CHA's waiting list since 2008 will receive almost fully subsidized private housing.

That news was announced in May behind closed doors to Leah Levinger, the director of the Housing Initiative, and was confirmed today in the Chicago Tribune.

“What the CHA said today in the Tribune is very reassuring for us, but there's no way to ensure this isn't just a one-time decision to quell the masses,” Ms. Levinger said.


She added that the Housing Initiative has been meeting with CHA about budgetary and housing issues for several years. When she started noticing “visible dysfunctions in vacancies of public housing and in their financial reports” she realized these signs were just the tip of the iceberg and commissioned the center to conduct the study.

Bobby Otter, one of the co-authors and principal researchers of the study, said it took six months to dig through and analyze the CHA's multiple and complex financial documents. What initially started as a budget overview quickly changed into a fiscal review of what the CHA was up to.

“Hopefully this study will get the CHA to provide more transparency of what they're doing and why. Having to review four different budget documents for just one agency was difficult to say the least for us,” Mr. Otter said.

“I hope this study inspires the mayor's office to take leadership and get behind the ordinance,” Ms. Levinger said. “This has to be structural reform, not just discretionary, only when people are watching.”

In a statement, Chicago Housing Authority CEO Michael R. Merchant defended the program.
"CHA has the flexibility to use financial resources for vouchers or for other housing activities, such as development and capital projects," he said. "I am aware that there is a need for immediate housing assistance that vouchers can provide, so I made a commitment to ensure that CHA fulfills its obligation. . . .Of course, we will continue to forge ahead with our development plans; however, due to the great housing needs that exist, right here, today, I have elected to make more vouchers immediately available."



The Chicago Housing Authority is subsidizing the rent for low-income residents in some of the city's priciest apartment buildings. (WLS)

Sunday, August 17, 2014
The Chicago Housing Authority is scaling back a controversial program that allowed some low income renters to live in several of Chicago's priciest downtown high rises. $2,500 per month rent was no obstacle to luxury living for recipients of the so-called "super vouchers." As Crain's Chicago Business and ABC7 first reported in July, the program paid a sizable portion of the rent for some occupants of the plush Aqua Tower and the high-end Streeter apartment building in downtown Chicago.

"After concluding a review and analysis of exception payment standards, we believe adjusting the policy strikes a critical balance between providing housing options for voucher participants and fiscal responsibility," CHA CEO Michael Merchant announced via press release Sunday. The changes will impact approximately 260 of the 700 families currently using "super vouchers." Not all of them live in luxury down apartment buildings. The program was created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow those with low incomes the chance to live in "opportunity areas" with better transit, career options and schools.

The program came under fire after it was revealed the high end lifestyles were being subsidized by tax dollars at a time the CHA has a waiting list of 15,000 people hoping for any help at all. "When it comes to the luxury high rise units, there's no excuse why the CHA is doing this at taxpayer expense and at the expense of thousands of Chicagoans who are denied any access to vouchers because the CHA runs out of money," Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) told ABC 7 in July.

The CHA says the scaled back program will offer participants up to 150% of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development fair market rent, down from 300%. Fewer than 2% of CHA subsidy recipients receive the more valuable "super vouchers."

The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Launches Line of Braille Greeting Cards - order online


inBraille logo

Poster describing inBraille greeting cardsINTRODUCING... inBraille™Greeting Cards

The Chicago Lighthouse is launching a new line of Braille greeting cards!
The cards, specially designed for The Chicago Lighthouse by a local artist and packaged by participants in the Lighthouse's Industries program, celebrate the unique beauty and meaning of Braille as both a language and an art form. The pattern of the contemporary art design on the cover of each card corresponds to the embossed Braille message included inside the card.  Sales of inBraille™greeting cards support The Chicago Lighthouse's services to the blind and visually impaired, but the cards are intended to be read and enjoyed by everyone - those who can see and those who cannot

For individuals or organizations interested in purchasing the greeting cards, please visit http://chicagolighthouse.org/inBraille
Below are cards that were available when originally posted, please check for current availability inBraille™ 
inBraille™ "all occasion"

Included in package: Thinking of You, Happy Birthday, Congrats!, Thank You, Sympathy
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hugs and kisses inBraille cards

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tikkun olam inBraille cards

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Lighthouse Industries workers assemble valentines
Lighthouse Industries employees Mary Turner, Juanita Ferrel and Debbie Rodriguez package inBraille™ Valentines.  Proceeds from card sales will help support programs for other people like them who are blind or visually impaired. 

Alisa Singer is a retired corporate attorney with a lifelong passion for art.
 Design of the inBraille™ greeting cards marks her most recent artistic endeavor. Though she enjoyed a successful legal career, Ms. Singer has never given up on her true love and continued to paint for more than 30 years.  Her work has been exhibited in the Chicago area and other cities, including New York City and Washington, D.C.
Also adept at writing, Ms. Singer had for several years penned and illustrated a monthly column featuring humorous essays intended for female baby boomers which was published in over 20 papers and magazines in the U.S. and Canada.
For The Chicago Lighthouse, visit: http://chicagolighthouse.org/
updated post: July 2014

“Jobs Galore III” Chicago Job Fair for People with Disabilities - August 12th - Chicago Lighthouse Teams with MOPD to Host

CHICAGO – In an effort to boost employment prospects for people with disabilities and Veterans, particularly those who are blind or visually impaired, The Chicago Lighthouse is joining forces again with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) to host a “Jobs Galore III” Fair on Tuesday, August 12th.
This event, which follows in the footsteps of two successful ventures held in 2012 and 2013, will take place from 11 am to 3 pm at the MOPD field office located at 2102 W. Ogden on Chicago’s near west side.
a candidate interviews for a job
The Lighthouse will be pre-screening candidates for more than 100 positions, ranging from entry level to management. Included will be call center supervisors, call center agents, mailroom processing clerks and retail sales associates.
Candidates must be able to work with a database and navigate through a windows environment; type a minimum of 25 words per minute with 90 – 95% accuracy; possess basic math skills; and be able to maintain a flexible work schedule, including days, nights, weekends and holidays. Seminars will be offered during the Job Fair. MOPD and Chicago Lighthouse information will also be available.
Limited free parking is available at the 2102 W. Ogden location. The site is also close to public transportation, including the #157 CTA bus route and the Pink and Blue rapid transit lines. In addition, the Lighthouse will provide shuttle service every 30 minutes between its headquarters building at 1850 W. Roosevelt Road and 2102 W. Ogden.
For additional information on the event, call Dominic Calabrese at 312/997-3662. 
WHEN: Tuesday, August 12th, from 11 am to 3 pm.

WHERE: Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)
2102 W. Ogden, Chicago.

For The Chicago Lighthouse, visit: http://chicagolighthouse.org/

For the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), visit: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mopd.html

Update on the Disability Treaty CRPD Fight from Washington, DC! from Access Living & allies

as shared, & a thank you for all in supporting CRPD, TY to Amber with Access Living...

Dear Access Living friends and allies,
Writing you from Washington, DC!  Yesterday was an amazing day with disability advocates from across the nation fighting for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
First thing yesterday morning, hundreds of advocates marched from downtown DC to the Reflecting Pool at the US Capitol. Energy and positivity was very high as we knew we were marching with our best!  We rallied with a number of members of Congress who came to express support for independent living and the CRPD.  Among them were our own Senator Dick Durbin and Representatives Brad Schneider and Jan Schakowsky.  They lit the crowd on fire!
Then, about 150 of us marched to the Senate Hart Office Building where there is a large atrium.  We rallied in the atrium with a range of national disability advocates.  Then, we split up to focus on visiting the offices of Senators whose votes we need to pass the CRPD.  I personally visited eight of the twelve key Senate offices with support from Access Living and Progress Center team members. We found some people are still wavering, while some are resisting.
I know that advocates are working all fronts right now to get that support so Senator Tom Harkin can call for a floor vote on the CRPD.  No news yet this morning, but if we have new developments we will be sure to let you know! In the meantime, desk warriors, your support yesterday has meant so much and I need to ask you to call those offices once again today.  Below my signature is the contact info you need.  Just say, “Support the CRPD!”  Every contact counts. Let’s go Illinois!
Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living
Key Senators:
Senator Flake, Arizona
Senator Isakson, Georgia
Senator Chambliss, Georgia
Senator Coats, Indiana
Senator Blunt, Missouri
Senator Cochran, Mississippi
Senator  Wicker, Mississippi
Senator Fischer, Nebraska
Senator Johanns, Nebraska
Senator Burr, North Carolina
Senator Portman, Ohio
Senator Toomey, Pennsylvania
Senator Graham,  South Carolina
Senator Scott, South Carolina
Senator Hoeven, North Dakota
Senator Hatch, Utah