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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Disability Visibility Project Listening Event: Chicago October 14th

The Disability Visibility Project Listening Event

From Day 1 of the disability rights movement, story telling has been an important part of the community's history.  Stories allow us to reach wider audiences, share our experiences, express our culture, and build our community.
Two people posing for the camera before a StoryCorps Backdrop

This year, in the spirt of storytelling and the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act,  Alice Wong launched The Disability Visibility Project, which aims to "collect the diverse voices of people in the disability community and preserve their history."  Wong partnered with StoryCorps and together, they have captured the experiences of the disability community. Working with Access Living, Friedman Place, Project Onward and Thresholds, throughout 2015, StoryCorps has recorded stories from community members, friends, and families across the disability spectrum.

On Wednesday, October 14, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Access Living is hosting an event that will celebrate disability power, disability history, and all those who participated in the Disability Visibility Project.  The event will be an opportunity to share stories, thank all those who participated in the Disability Visibility Project, and honor the Americans with Disabilities Act. The event will include clips from a few of the stories that have been recorded in the past year.

Check out this link for more information about the event, and make sure to RSVP today. The event is open the public and all are invited to attend.

ADA 25 Chicago
Though the official 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was in July, there continues to be a large amount of quality programming in the context of the anniversary.  For a full listing of events, visit the ADA 25 Chicago website at this link

# information as shared by Access Living

Chicago - Regional ADA Paratransit Fares for 2016 - NO PROPOSED FARE INCREASE - Public Hearings on October

as posted by PACE Suburban Bus Services

Public Hearing Details

Legal Notice

Pace Suburban Bus Division of the RTA

Public Hearing

Public Hearing on Pace’s Proposed 2016 Operating and Capital Programs, 2016-2018 Financial Plan for Operations, 2016-2020 Capital Plan.

Notice is hereby given that Pace, the Suburban Bus Division of the Regional Transportation Authority, is holding public hearings on its proposed program and budget for the year 2016 (January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016), the operating financial plan for 2016-2018 and the capital plan for 2016-2020.
Pace proposes a $.25 increase to its Regular Fare structure on fixed routes for passengers paying with cash only. For passengers paying with Ventra, the fare will remain at $1.75. A new $2.00 cash fare will apply to regular, local, Allstate Arena and Toyota Park service, Call-n-Rides and Shuttle Bug routes. Reduced cash fares will increase $.15 to $1.00. 
No fare increases or service reductions are proposed for Regional ADA Paratransit.
Any person wishing to comment on the proposed budget may present views orally at the public hearings or by submitting written material on or before the last date of the hearings, which is Thursday, October 29, 2015, or by accessing our Public Hearing Comments page. Copies of the proposed program and budget are available for public inspection at:
  • Pace
  • 550 West Algonquin Road
  • Arlington Heights, IL
  • 60005-4412
Individuals with disabilities who plan to attend these hearings and who require accommodations other than transportation in order to allow them to observe and/or participate in these meetings are requested to contact Pace at (847) 364-7223 option 3 (voice) or (888) 847-0093 (TTY) ten days prior to the scheduled meeting.
Budget information will be available at most public libraries, as well as townships, city and village offices in the six county Pace regions.
You may also review the 2016 Proposed Budget on the Annual Budget Page.


Annual Budget documents are available for online viewing in Adobe Portable Document Format.

2016 Annual Budget Brochure

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Social Security's Technical Panel, Disability Fund Crisis Is Over

Disability recipients long have been the punching bags for a particularly ill-informed and uncompassionate wing of the anti-Social Security crowd. (Misinformed journalists haven't helped matters.)

article by Michael Hiltzik | LA Times | Sept 25, 2015
A just-released report by Social Security's Technical Panel, a blue-ribbon group that periodically analyzes program data and makes recommendations to the Social Security trustees, validates what many advocates of the disabled have been saying: the recent sharp increase in disability rolls, which has fueled congressional conservatives' attacks on the program, is over. In fact, disability rolls are expected to show their first year-over-year decline "in more than 30 years."

Moreover, the panel says, the previous increase in disability rolls had nothing to do with malingerers and layabouts, as conservatives loved to claim; its sources were well understood, and had everything to do with America's demographics, the economy and changes in the disability program rules approved by Congress in the 1980s.

The findings should help Congress deal properly with the real crisis facing the disability program, which is that its trust fund is likely to run out next year. That would force a cut in disability benefits of roughly 20% -- no trivial matter to its 10.8 million recipients, including dependents, who receive an average of $1,165 a month and thus would be cut back to about $930.

The proper way to address the shortfall is via a small reallocation of the Social Security payroll tax to shore up the fund, which would move the exhaustion date back to about 2033 without significantly impairing the Social Security retirement program. That would leave ample time to make carefully considered changes in the program, if necessary, but Republicans have blocked that so they can natter on about undeserving recipients and force hasty changes in Social Security now.

The new report should set them straight, but they haven't been listening to experts who have been telling them the truth about disability thus far, so it's not certain they'll start listening now.

They should. The 10-member technical panel comprised some of the nation's most distinguished retirement experts. It was chaired by Alicia Munnell of Boston College, the doyenne of the field, and included MIT's David Autor and Peter Diamond, the latter a Nobel economics laureate.

The panel's full panel report is here, and the disability section is here.

As has been found by other analysts, including Social Security's own actuaries, the technical panel reports that the increase in disability recipients since the late 1980s was no mystery. The largest single influence, the panel finds, was Congress' expansion of the definition of disability at that time to include psychological and neurological impairments rather than merely musculoskeletal conditions. Applicants and their doctors also were granted more opportunity to make their cases to examiners.

It's fashionable to denigrate these impairments as "subjective" or unserious -- "over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts; join the club," sneered Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul (a doctor) in January -- but the definitions suited the transformation of work in America from manual labor to service and professional jobs.

The second biggest factor, the panel says, was the aging of the population, which became a major influence "when the Baby Boom began aging into their peak disability years in the mid-1990s." The third factor was the increased entry of women into the workforce; as more women became eligible for disability, the overall incidence and prevalence rates inevitably rose. As Jeffrey B. Leibman of Harvard observed earlier this year, the proportion of women aged 50 to 64 covered by disability rose from 46% to 72% between 1980 and 2007.

All these factors have essentially run out their strings and "are not likely to recur," the panel says. Accordingly, "the years ahead are unlikely to closely resemble the preceding decades. The data ... all point to substantially slower program growth."

In other words, the demographic crisis is over for disability. What's left is a fiscal crisis fomented by congressional inaction. The lawmakers will have to do their duty without resorting to fantasy, fabrication and slandering 11 million Americans. Can they manage?




from a PRESS RELEASE | Sept 29, 2015

The Board of Directors at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), has announced that Helena Berger (photo), the current Acting President & CEO of AAPD, will now serve as the full-time President & CEO, ending a search that began earlier this year. Ms. Berger, a well-recognized and long-time disability rights advocate, joined AAPD this past April as Acting President & CEO during a time of transition.

AAPD Board Chair, Christine Griffin, reflected upon this decision by saying that she is “incredibly grateful to Helena for taking on the challenge of re-building an organization that is so vital to the needs and voices of every day Americans with disabilities”, adding that “Helena has shown remarkable leadership these past few months as Acting President & CEO, leadership that has positioned AAPD for growth and impact in 2016 and beyond.”

Prior to joining AAPD, Ms. Berger served as Advocacy Director for the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, now known as United Spinal Association. Ms. Berger then joined AAPD in 1997 and left the organization in 2012 when she was serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Since that time, Ms. Berger has remained heavily involved with AAPD and several other national disability organizations.

Upon being named President & CEO, Ms. Berger stated “I have a tremendous amount of respect and affection for AAPD, which has been a huge part of my life for almost two decades. I look forward to working with AAPD’s committed board, staff, and stakeholders across the country to ensure that we are an organization that represents our rich and diverse community in our collective fight for equal access, integration, and full inclusion for all Americans with disabilities. AAPD’s best days are not behind us, they are in front of us and I’m honored to be part of its future.”

Ms. Berger has served as a featured speaker at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs on disability rights, engaging with foreign audiences in Mongolia, Nepal, and Cyprus and has traveled to the West Bank in Israel and Amman, Jordan to meet with leaders in academia, government, and the disability movement. In addition, she has served as a member of the Comcast/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council, and continues to serve on the Board of Directors for the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia.

Ms. Berger received her Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from American University. She also attended the University of Copenhagen’s Special Studies Program in political and government affairs.
http://www.aapd.com/resources/press-room/press-releases/helena-berger-named-aapds-president-and-ceo.html# # #

The American Association of People with Disabilities is the nation's largest disability rights organization. We promote equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities. Our members, including people with disabilities and our family, friends, and supporters, represent a powerful force for change. To learn more, visit the AAPD Web site: www.aapd.com.

Justice Dept Agreement with Galveston County, Texas, to Improve Accessibility of Services and Programs

from a PRESS RELEASE | Sept 28,02015

The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with Galveston County, Texas. The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access (PCA), the department’s wide-ranging initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In July 2015, the department celebrated the 25thanniversary of the ADA and the department’s PCA initiative has now resulted in over 200 agreements with cities, town and counties. Today’s agreement will enhance access to all aspects of civic life for persons with disabilities in Galveston County.

The department’s PCA agreement with Galveston County requires the county to make physical modifications to county facilities to ensure that its parking, routes into buildings, entrances and public restrooms are accessible to persons with disabilities. Galveston County also agreed to provide effective communication for individuals who have hearing or visual disabilities; ensure that its emergency management procedures and policies include provisions for the evacuation of persons with disabilities; and, ensure that its emergency shelters are accessible to persons with disabilities. Notably, this agreement also requires the county to ensure that the county’s official website and other web-based services conform to industry guidelines – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 – for making web content accessible.

“This settlement reflects how much the law impacts the everyday lives of residents with disabilities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Through Project Civic Access, the Justice Department has worked to ensure that all Galveston County residents and visitors with disabilities have the same access to parks, community centers, museums, libraries and county government buildings, programs, services and activities in these communities.”

“We are committed to ensuring accessibility under the ADA throughout this district,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas. “Our attorneys will continue to work with our local communities and businesses to ensure compliance.”

As we continue to celebrate the achievements towards ensuring equal access for persons with disabilities in the 25 years since the passage of the ADA, the department’s PCA initiative highlights the nation’s progress towards ensuring that persons with disabilities can enjoy equal access to state and local governments.

Today’s agreement was reached under Title II of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by state and local governments. The agreement with Galveston County requires all actions to be completed within three years. The department will actively monitor the county’s compliance with the agreement.

For more information about the ADA, today’s agreement or the Project Civic Access initiative, individuals may access the ADA Web page at http://www.ada.gov/civicac.htm or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).

Monday, September 28, 2015

H.S. Students Build Wheelchair for Amputee Kitten Using 3D Printer

A tiny amputee kitten is being given a new lease on life thanks to some clever students who turned to technology to solve the problem.
Feral feline Cassidy was found nearly starved in the woods in Langley over the summer. Badly injured in an accident, he lost both of his back legs to an infection and ended up in the care of the volunteer-run TinyKittens Society.
Now 11-weeks-old, Cassidy’s daily life is documented on the charity’s webcams, and a secretary at Walnut Grove Secondary School found the Facebook page and told one of the teachers.
That’s when two Grade 12 students, Josh Messmer and Isaiah Walker, set to work designing a kind of wheelchair to help the kitten get around.
Using modeling software and their school’s 3D printer, the duo created a mobility device within a week, and tried it out for the first time Wednesday.
After some minor tweaking of the height the feline will start using it permanently.
"They really are giving Cassidy a second chance to have a really great life,” said Shelly Roche of the TinyKittens Society.
“Having a wheelchair is going to give him independence and be great for his spirit.”
The device took about six hours to create from design to prototype, and they can easily make new parts to fit Cassidy as he grows.
Printed prosthetics are becoming more common for all sorts of animals, and have recently been used to create a turtle shell and legs for disabled dogs.
CTV Vancouver, With a video report from CTV Vancouver’s Penny Daflos | Sept 24, 2015

Watch the kitten's (adorable) progress on the society's live webcams now.


Social Security Servicios for the Hispanic Community

nice information  from Social Security Matters. (page translator on top, to the Right) 
Posted on  by 

Hola! September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, and Social Security is proud to offer many of our services in Spanish. We invite you to look at our Spanish website www.segurosocial.gov.
With 57 million people, the Hispanic population in the United States is the largest ethnic minority group in the U.S. According to the Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent. And more than half of the growth in the total population of the United States between 2000 and 2010 was due to the increase in the Hispanic population.
To meet the needs of a growing Hispanic population, Social Security provides a range of online services. On most pages of our main site, you can select a tab at the top of the page to have the language appear in Spanish. From there, Spanish speakers can use our online services – Servicios por Internet. They can apply for retirement, survivors, or disability benefits, and the Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs. We also have a Spanish language option when you call us a 1-800-772-1213. We have many automated services available in Spanish, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, you can speak to a Spanish-speaking Social Security representative. In addition, many of our field offices have free Spanish interpreter services available.
Hispanics tend to live longer, and will spend more years in retirement. Our Retirement Estimator gives estimates your future benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record. It’s an invaluable tool when planning your long future.
You can find out more online about conducting business with Social Security in Spanish. We also have many of our publications available in Spanish at www.socialsecurity.gov. Some of the publications are specific to the Hispanic population.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s all remember that Social Security will continue to serve our Hispanic customers by providing a range of services and benefits tailored to their needs.  http://blog.socialsecurity.gov/2015/09/28/social-security-servicios-for-the-hispanic-community/

FCC Fined Companies $1.4 Million for Not Relaying 911 Calls from Americans Who Are Hard of Hearing

WASHINGTON, September 24, 2015 – The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Enforcement Bureau has reached settlements totaling $1.4 million with Hamilton Relay, InnoCaption and Sprint Corp. resolving investigations into the companies’ inability to handle 911 calls through applications used by callers who are hard of hearing. Over a period of several months the companies weren’t able to relay 911 calls from Americans who are hard of hearing. Individuals who can use their own voice, but have difficulty hearing, use a Telephone Relay Service (TRS) called Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) to hold phone conversations using a device that lets callers listen while reading captions of what the other party is saying.
FOR THE FULL PRESS RELEASE: https://www.fcc.gov/document/cos-fined-14m-failing-accept-911-calls-hearing-impaired-0

Making Your ShakeOut Earthquake Drill Accessible to People with Disabilities” Webinar Oct 8th

This presentation will include a brief history of the Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA), how the Great California ShakeOut began, and the approach ECA and San Francisco Bay Area emergency management programs have taken to assure the participation and inclusion of people with access and functional needs.
Learning Objectives:
  • Learn the history of the Great California Shakeout and its applicability nationally and internationally.
  • Learn how to conduct a local Great Shakeout event that is inclusive of people with disabilities and other access and functional needs.
  • Understand the importance of whole community involvement in planning local community disaster preparedness events.
Webinars begin at 2.30pm ET/1.30pm CT/12.30 pm MT/11.30am PT/8.30am Hawaii.
Registration: Free on-line at http://www.adapresentations.org/registration.php

October 8th, 2015

Mark Benthie is Director for Communication, Education and Outreach for the Southern California Earthquake Center, headquartered at USC. Mark communicates earthquake knowledge to end-users and the general public in order to increase earthquake awareness, reduce economic losses, and save lives. Many of these efforts are in coordination with members of the Earthquake Country Alliance, a private-public partnership of organizations that provide earthquake information and services, for which Mark serves as Executive Director and lead organizer of the annual Great California ShakeOut statewide earthquake drill (more than 10 million participants in 2014). Mark was recognized in 2012 by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for his role in managing the California ShakeOut and supporting the many other states and counties who are now conducting ShakeOut drills.
Dena Gunning, Emergency Management Specialist, serves as the Oakland Fire Department, Emergency Planning Coordinator for the CORE/CERT Program. Dena has served on numerous committees including: Earthquake Country Alliance Public Sector and Steering Committee and Co-Chair, Long Term Recovery Group for the San Bruno Pipeline Explosion. Dena has provided emergency preparedness training and business continuity to community based organizations serving the most vulnerable populations for over twenty-five years.
Kathryn A. Gerk, CEM (Certified Emergency Manager) serves as the Emergency Services Manager for the City of Richmond Fire Department Office of Emergency Services for the past 25 years. Kathy assisted FEMA in developing 2000 course “Managing People in Disaster: A Local Perspective”. Kathryn has served on numerous committees including: Chair of the California Governors CERT Advisory Work Group and Chair of the C8 Special Needs Population Task Force.
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
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.
# Post as shared by the Pacific ADA Center

Health Guide for Women with Disabilities 'Take Charge!'

The Empowered Fe Fes, a young women’s advocacy and peer support group at Access Living (center for independent living in Chicago), are proud to announce the publication of “Take Charge!” A Reproductive Health Guide for Women with Disabilities. The guide is geared toward women with disabilities, healthcare providers, parents, and community organizations. “Take Charge!” offers specific advice about reproductive and sexual health, and can be used as a tool to promote overall physical and mental health.
For more on The Empowered Fe Fes:  CLICK HERE

Take Charge! is available for download (pdf)

Effective Snow Removal for Pathways and Transit Stops for Accessible Pathways publication

Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) published an information publication on effective snow removal.

The publication on effective snow removal highlights a variety of innovative strategies used to improve accessible pathways and transit stops during winter weather. Partnerships, policies, and the involvement of businesses and community members are three ways that communities effectively approach snow removal for better mobility.

People using mobility devices can have difficulty or be restricted from traveling through snow. Ice and salt can get on a wheelchair user’s hands and on the mobility device resulting in injury or rust. Salt treatments used to remove ice can prove damaging or toxic to service animals’ feet. People who use surface and visual cues for navigation may find snow and ice left on pathways disorienting

Accessible pathways are important for a number of reasons and groups, especially people with disabilities. Communities located in snow and ice zones need to ensure that public walkways are clear and treated so that all people can travel as safely as possible. Trends in health, transit, and land use all are moving towards supporting active transportation and multiple transportation options. Accessible pathways and effective snow removal practices are becoming a higher priority in many regions. Community leaders interested in accessible pathways should consider identifying multiple partners and strategies to strengthen their initiatives. Many of the examples provided in this information brief are low-cost and easy to implement.

For the Full Publication (pdf), visit: http://www.adainfo.org/sites/default/files/Effective-Snow-Removal-Booklet.pdf

Easter Seals Project ACTION webinar: Developing Effective Practices for Snow Removal
Published on Aug 21, 2014
YouTube channel Easter Seals Project ACTION

Friday, September 25, 2015

Supplemental Rules on Airport Accessibility under the Rehabilitation Act

The U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) supplemented regulations for airport terminals receiving federal funding to improve access for passengers with disabilities, including those who use service animals. Under the new rules, at least one relief area for service animals must be provided in each terminal within one year. Airports must consult service animal training organizations on the relief area's design, size, and maintenance.

Provisions also improve access for people with hearing or mobility disabilities. High-contrast captioning is required at all times on airport TV and audio-visual display screens with captioning functionality. In addition, existing requirements for boarding access by lift or ramp where level-entry loading bridges is not available are reorganized and their application broadened to cover foreign carriers in addition to U.S. carriers. The rule revises regulations issued under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires access to programs and services that are funded or conducted by federal agencies, and is consistent with requirements DOT issued previously under the Air Carrier Access Act.

For the new rule, visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/08/05/2015-19078/nondiscrimination-on-the-basis-of-disability-in-programs-or-activities-receiving-federal-financial

Prevalence of Disability and Disability Type Among Adults in U.S. - CDC 2015 Report

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released findings on the prevalence of disability among U.S. adults. The report estimates that over 53 million adults in the U.S., over 22% of the population, have a disability pertaining to vision, cognition, mobility, self-care, or independent living. The report does not include estimates on people with hearing impairments or children under the age of 18. The estimates are based on the CDC's 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual state-based phone survey.

Understanding the prevalence of disability is important for public health programs to be able to address the needs of persons with disabilities. Beginning in 2013, to measure disability prevalence by functional type, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), added five questions* to identify disability in vision, cognition, mobility, self-care, and independent living.† CDC analyzed data from the 2013 BRFSS to assess overall prevalence of any disability, as well as specific types of disability among noninstitutionalized U.S. adults. Across all states, disabilities in mobility and cognition were the most frequently reported types. State-level prevalence of each disability type ranged from 2.7% to 8.1% (vision); 6.9% to 16.8% (cognition); 8.5% to 20.7% (mobility); 1.9% to 6.2% (self-care) and 4.2% to 10.8% (independent living). A higher prevalence of any disability was generally seen among adults living in states in the South and among women (24.4%) compared with men (19.8%). Prevalences of any disability and disability in mobility were higher among older age groups. These are the first data on functional disability types available in a state-based health survey. This information can help public health programs identify the prevalence of and demographic characteristics associated with different disability types among U.S. adults and better target appropriate interventions to reduce health disparities.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chicago McDonald’s employee helps a man with a disability eat his meal, photo is a social media hit

A photo of a McDonald’s employee in Chicago helping an elderly disabled man cut and eat his meal has the internet buzz.

The image, along with a description, was posted to Facebook Sept. 16, 2015 by Destiny Carreno. Since then, it has been shared over 300,000 times on Facebook.

Seeing this today brought tears to my eyes! Compassion has NOT gone out of style.
Today I made a quick stop at McDonald's after work. As I waited in line to order, an elderly handicapped gentleman wheeled himself over to the cashier in front of me. From what I perceived, the gentleman may have had a case of quadriplegia, the same medical condition my uncle has.
The man politely tried to ask the cashier something and it took him a few tries before either of us could understand he was saying "Help me please". Neither of us knew what help he needed, and the cashier suggested a few things before he figured out the gentleman needed help cutting and eating his meal.
To be honest, I thought the cashier wasn't going to help, especially during rush hour in downtown Chicago, but to my shock, he shut down his register and disappeared from view....
Not to get away from helping him, but to wash his hands and put gloves on! I had to stick around and see how this would play out, especially since it hit me so close to home with my own uncle.
The cashier came out from the kitchen, sat down, and began cutting the man's meal and helped him eat.
At that point, the tears started to gather in my eyes. My heart was so appreciative for what he did. I couldn't contain my emotions in the crowded restaurant.
This employee, who put everything on hold for this man, went above and beyond his responsibilities to help this handicapped customer out. That was the kindest and most humble thing I had ever seen.
How many shares and likes can Kenny the cashier get for his awesome service for those in need?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lack of Illinois State Budget Is Dismantling Critical State Services - Report Sept. 2015

The Responsible Budget Coalition released a report on Sept. 22, 2015 that collected information from diverse state groups and agencies that have been impacted by the State of Illinois Budget Impasse.

'Lack of Budget Is Dismantling Critical State of Illinois Services' By Lisa Christensen Gee. The failure of Illinois lawmakers to restore revenue needed to support essential .
To Read the Report (PDF): CLICK HERE
for Voices of Illinois Children, visit: http://www.voices4kids.org/

Illinois Disability Service Center Could Close Without State Funding Due To Illinois Budget Impasse

Nick was having a rough go of things. He was sick, he broke his leg and he ended up on disability, stuck in a nursing home.  Nick, who asked that his last name be withheld, said he would still be in that nursing home if not for the help from the Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living in La Salle.

article by Brett Herrmann | NewsTribune  | Sept. 22, 2015
Through their assistance, Nick relearned to walk, he found an apartment and he found the resources needed to take care of himself, once again becoming a contributing member to the community, which he attributes to hard work and the assistance he received from IVCIL.

In three months, that assistance may be gone. Illinois’ budget freeze is putting the fate of IVCIL in limbo.

IVCIL is now in its 16th year. It provides various programs that help people with disabilities in the area such as youth service programs, equipment loan programs, mobile meals and personal assistants, all of which are geared toward helping people live comfortably on their own. IVCIL currently services 70 active consumers, all people with disabilities, in five counties.

IVCIL has seen its budget shrink yearly since its inception. Staff always has worked through it.
“There have been various cuts and we’ve dealt with it. You have to deal with it in any way you can to provide services for people with disabilities,” Szuda said.

Since June 30, IVCIL has not received any of its funding from the state of Illinois. The non-profit organization relies on the state for 86 percent of its funding.

“For the 16 years we’ve been here, we’ve managed with budget cuts, but to not have a budget has never been dealt with before,” Szuda said.

“There’s nothing to manage,” added Lesley Gonigam, associate director.

For the past 11 weeks, IVCIL has been relying on reserve funding, collected over the years, to stay open. But the reserves are expected to run out within the next three months.

“Within a few months, we will not have any reserves and the bottom line is we would have to close our doors,” Szuda said. “It sickens me that we have to be put in this position because our legislatures can’t act.”

IVCIL is at a standstill with the state government, waiting for funding that may not come in time. They have been in contact with state Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) about the budget. She said that 90 percent of the state budget has already been paid out. IVCIL, unfortunately, is in the last 10 percent.

“With our legislators, it’s like a chess match and no one wants to make any moves. The game doesn’t get played and the people that provide services aren’t getting paid to help do their job,” Szuda said.

“But it’s not a game. They’re gambling with peoples lives and it’s the people with disabilities that will be losing,” Gonigam said. “Yet they keep telling us to operate as if nothing is wrong.”

IVCIL is under contract with the state of Illinois to provide services for people with disabilities. If they don’t perform, they don’t get their funding. However, they have been continuing their work despite the state not funding them.

“They want us to abide by the terms of the contract but they are not abiding by the contract when they don’t pay us,” Gonigam said.

Szuda will have to make some tough monetary decisions in the coming weeks. He questions whether or not he will have to lay people off, take furlough days, cut staffing or discontinue programs and there is no easy way to decide.

“None of these programs are any more important than the other,” Szuda said.

“And we can’t afford to lay off half of our staff and keep going,” Gonigam added.

They have seen how the other 21 centers in Illinois have been affected. The Sterling-Rock Falls center has already closed. Other centers have had to lay-off employees and take furlough days where they cease operation a day or two to save money.

IVCIL has six full-time and two part-time staff members with one intern. Marla Michalak, IVCIL’s youth advocate, says they are having a hard time keeping up with the demands of the area, which continue to increase.

“I have 30 consumers and I am behind by six calls right now on people needing help,” Michalak said. “I can’t even keep up know let alone if we had to take one furlough day.”

Sarah Revell, the community reintegration coordinator, is cautious to make any moves until she is certain of IVCIL’s fate. The reintegration program focuses on removing people with disabilities under the age of 60 from nursing homes.

“I’ve got people lined up to move out (of nursing homes) but I’m leery to move them out because what is going to happen to them when we do close?” Revell said. “And it’s not fair to them to keep them waiting.”

Revell said reintegration is at least a year-long process and a lot of hard work. If people were moved out of nursing homes and then left hanging on reintegration services, they would likely end up back in nursing homes.

“It costs them less to live in their own homes compared to nursing homes,” Revell said.

Because their clients rely on disability payments and Medicaid, the state is the one losing money if they end up in nursing homes. Nursing home stays can cost up to $5,000 a month compared to $1,200 a month for a client to live independently, Revell said. If they were not in homes, not only would they have more freedom, but they would be active consumers in the community with the ability to make purchases.

“Financially it doesn’t make sense to us, what’s going on, because we are saving the state money,” Gonigam said.

If the center does close, Gonigam said they would not be able to just pick up where it left off.

“It’s not that easy, because we have federal contracts, we have state contracts, we receive funding from United Way. When our funding is gone, it could be gone if we stop providing those services. It could never come back. We don’t know.” she said.

So, the employees have been doing what they can. They continue their work and are trying to bring awareness to their situation.

“We just can’t sit by anymore. We’re facing this and our consumers are in jeopardy of losing services. We can’t stay quiet anymore,” Michalak said.

State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley), who was a key player in establishing IVCIL 16 years ago, said that it could take about 60 days for service providers to see their money if a budget is finally passed. But there is no telling when that will be. He said they can’t negotiate a new budget until the governor is back at the table.

“I think it’s time he gets away from non-economic items and gets back to the budget,” Mautino said. “We’ve gone three months without a budget; that’s too long.”

Szuda said he hopes legislators can work as hard on the budget as IVCIL’s clients do to maintain their self-sufficient lifestyle.

“Show us the same determination that our consumers are showing to live independently,” he said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WEBINAR: Improving Employment Opportunities and Outcomes for People with Disabilities: Sept. 29th

Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 12:30-1:30PM EST
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) made significant changes to the workforce programs administered by the Employment & Training Administration as well as the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program that have the potential to assist people with disabilities to become and remain employed. This webinar will provide an overview of the changes made by WIOA and highlight two provisions that made changes to the responsibilities and procedures governing state VR programs and the implementation of those provisions. 
The webinar will feature: 
1. Overview of the provisions of WIOA impacting people with disabilities including: 
  • The Unified State Plan 
  • Improving Accessibility of American Job Centers 
  • Changes to Vocational Rehabilitation 
    • New authority to provide job retention services 
    • Business outreach and relationship development 
    • New requirements to serve youth 
    • New restrictions on the use of subminimum wage 
Presenter: Lisa Ekman, Disability Policy Consultant, American Association of People with Disabilities 
2. Improving vocational rehabilitation services to students and youth with disabilities 
WIOA requires state vocational rehabilitation agencies to dedicate more resources to working with students and young people with disabilities, including providing more work experience through internships and apprenticeships. This section of the webinar will provide an overview of the implementation of those provisions. 
Presenter: Kelly Buckland, Executive Director, National Council on Independent Living 
3. Limitations on the use of subminimum wage 
WIOA places new limitations on the use of subminimum wage by entities with certificates under section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act. State VR agencies have a major role in the implementation of those new limitations and requirements. This section of the the webinar will discuss the potential implications on employments for people with disabilities of this change and how these limitations are being implemented.
Presenter: Anil Lewis, Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind
4. Questions and Answers

This webinar is FREE. We ask that you register if you plan to attend. Login information, documents and updates will be sent the day before the webinar.

This webinar is being sponsored by UNH Employment Policy and Measurement RRTC as well as AAPD and NCIL.
# as posted by Research on Disability:  http://www.researchondisability.org/epm-rrtc/events-view/2015/09/14/WIOA-webinar?utm_source=RRTC&utm_campaign=91ce3dbaca-WIOA-Webinar&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_44d29866e8-91ce3dbaca-209079733

Monday, September 21, 2015

Illinois New Law protecting victims of domestic or sexual violence, and persons with disabilities in evictions may cause legal challenges

Ordinances in more than 40 Illinois municipalities conflict with new Illinois law
From a Press Release | Sept 21, 2015
American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois ( "ACLU" )

CHICAGO – Municipalities across the state are on notice that their local ordinances conflict with a new state law. The ordinances at issue, commonly referred to as “crime-free” or “nuisance” property ordinances, often threaten landlords and tenants with penalties when police are called in response to alleged criminal activity at a property. As a result of these ordinances, Illinois residents face the threat of eviction, fines, or other penalties for making 911 calls for help. The new state law, which goes into effect on November 19, 2015, removes this threat. Among other things, the law bars local governments from enacting or enforcing ordinances that punish tenants or landlords for calls to police in response to incidents of domestic or sexual violence or on behalf of a person with disabilities.

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (“ACLU”) and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law (“Shriver Center”), who advanced the law, sent letters to 42 local governments informing them that their crime-free or nuisance property ordinances conflict with the new state law and put them at risk for legal action. The organizations urge the communities to repeal or amend their laws to avoid liability under the new statute.

“The law is clear – victims of domestic or sexual violence and individuals with disabilities no longer have to fear eviction when they need assistance from the police,” said Amy Meek, ACLU Staff Attorney. “We must ensure that this change in law is respected in communities large and small all across Illinois.”

More than 100 towns and cities in Illinois have “crime free” or “nuisance” ordinances. The ACLU/Shriver Center letters went to those municipalities whose ordinances, as written, are most clearly in violation of the new law. Those include eight (8) communities that specifically label domestic battery or domestic violence as a “nuisance” that can lead to a tenant’s eviction, without distinguishing between the abuser and the victim (Alton, Champaign, Columbia, Herscher, Park City, Richton Park, Rock Island and Urbana) and 34 additional communities whose ordinances directly punish landlords or tenants based on the number of police calls to a particular residence – without excluding calls relating to domestic violence and/or persons with disabilities (Addison, Batavia, Bellwood, Bolingbrook, Calumet City, Carol Stream, Chicago, Chicago Heights, Chicago Ridge, Country Club Hills, Elk Grove Village, Fairview Heights, Ford Heights, Glendale Heights, Hazel Crest, Joliet, Lansing, Midlothian, North Riverside, Northlake, Oak Lawn, O’Fallon, Palatine, Pekin, Phoenix, Peru, Riverdale, Round Lake Heights, Schaumburg, Skokie, Thornton, Tinley Park, Villa Park and West Chicago). Two of these communities (Chicago and Joliet) exclude calls made by victims of domestic violence and/or other crimes; however, because none of the exceptions extend to individuals with disabilities, these ordinances may still conflict with state law. In addition, numerous other municipalities (that were not the recipients of this round of letters) have ordinances that may run afoul of the new law as enforced. The ACLU and Shriver intend to monitor these municipalities for possible future action.

“People who suffer domestic violence or who need assistance because of a disability must be able to call for help without fearing eviction,” said Kate Walz, Shriver Center Director of Housing Justice. “These communities must change their laws to correct this problem – and do so as soon as possible. Punishing people for seeking police assistance does not make communities safer.”
# # #
A sample copy of the groups’ letter is available here.

Neighbors Sue To Declare Autistic Boy A Public Nuisance

SUNNYVALE, CA -- When neighbors complained about Vidyut Gopal and Parul Agrawal's young son with autism pulling children's hair, biting a woman and other menacing behavior, the couple said they did what they could to make it stop.
article By Tracy Seipel | Mercury News | Sept. 17, 2015
They hired caregivers, gave the boy special medication, and put him in therapeutic classes. But instead of bringing calm to Arlington Court, the Silicon Valley couple got slapped with a lawsuit that called their son a "public nuisance" -- and ultimately drove them out of their home of seven years.

Now, Gopal and Agrawal find themselves in the midst of a legal battle that has sparked outrage among parents of children with autism everywhere, and raised troubling questions about how to coexist with neighbors with special needs kids.

"This has been pretty devastating for us, but we are doing our best to cope with it," Gopal, an engineer at a Silicon Valley company, said Thursday.

The lawsuit -- filed last summer by two couples who lived in homes that flanked Gopal and Agrawal's house -- alleges that the boy's disruptive behavior also created an "as-yet unquantified chilling effect on the otherwise 'hot' local real estate market" and that "people feel constrained in the marketability of their homes as this issue remains unresolved and the nuisance remains unabated."

To Gopal and Agrawal's dismay, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge last October issued a preliminary injunction against them to ensure their son does not strike, assault, or batter anyone in the neighborhood or their personal property. The case returns to court Tuesday, when a judge will hear arguments about whether the plaintiffs should have access to the boy's school and medical records.

Gopal and his wife, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, said they remain focused on helping their son. But they hope this case "will raise awareness about autism and educate the public" about the challenges that families of children with autism face.

The plaintiffs could not be reached for comment. But some neighbors not involved in the legal case said they feel compassion for Gopal and Agrawal. Still, they believe the lawsuit was necessary after communication with the couple -- and requests that the parents better supervise and control their son's behavior -- broke down. The lawsuit claims that over the years the boy, now 11, had struck a baby with his hand, spit at and tried to ride his bicycle into neighbors, and repeatedly sat on a neighbor's cat.

"It was painful," said Sue Alford, a 61-year-old retired registered nurse who has lived for decades with her family in a home next to one of the families that sued Gopal and Agrawal.

"We all met with them and talked to them about their son, but they didn't see our point of view," Alford said. "We wanted the street to be a safe place for other children."

While she said she "didn't want to make enemies of any of my neighbors," she said outsiders should not judge the residents on Arlington Court.

"We went out of our way to be understanding and kind to him," Alford said. "When you see everything, all of the pieces will fit together and maybe there will be an understanding."

Nieves Diaz, 63, who lives across the street from Gopal and Agrawal's house, said the ordeal has "been very unsettling."

"It was awful, because he couldn't play outside with the kids," Diaz recalled of the times she would see the couple's son looking forlornly out of the front window at the other neighborhood children playing on the street.

"It was kind of sad," said Diaz, adding that any claim that the boy's presence in the neighborhood would threaten property values is unproven.

"They should do their research and make sure it's a fact," she said of the plaintiffs, Robert and Marci Flowers and Bindu Pothen and Kumaran Santhanam. "If not, they should keep their opinions to themselves." The Flowers last month moved from their rental home on Arlington Court.

Bay Area parents of children with autism, meanwhile, fear the lawsuit could lead to copy cat cases.

"What scared us in the Bay Area is that there are thousands of kids just like this one," said Jill Escher, president of the board of the Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area.

"Imagine if lawsuits like this were allowed to proliferate on such allegations. This could happen to all autism families at the drop of a hat. They would not know where to go."

Stephen Rosenbaum, a lecturer at the UC Berkeley Law School, who specializes in disability rights and is familiar with the lawsuit, said he is surprised the case has continued as long as it has.

"This is something that should never have gone to court, in my view," said Rosenbaum, who is also an associate professor at Golden Gate University School of Law. Instead, he said, it should have been resolved through an informal dispute resolution process or mediation; sources, however, say that route failed.

"The plaintiffs make it out to be that there's a monster at large in the neighborhood, but I know from the standpoint both as an attorney and as a parent myself of a young man who had a disability that there may be things that are the perception by the rest of the community that can be at odds with reality."

No matter what happens with their legal case, Gopal and Agrawal say they have lost hope of returning to their former home, which they now rent to another family.

"We have no intention," Gopal said, "of coming back."

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