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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Warning of Scammers faking Social Security email

The Social Security Administration (SSA) and Federal Trade Commission are warning Americans about a scam email with “Get Protected" in the subject line. The email describes new features from SSA that monitor unauthorized use of your Social Security number. If you get an email like that, don’t click on any of the links or open attachments. Report it by forwarding the email to spam@uce.gov

Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn about common online scams and how to avoid them.

For more information, visit Social Security Matters at:

Friday, January 29, 2016

Traveling with Chronic Pain & CRPS, a traveler's story

I’m sitting in a chair by the Emirates Airline check-in counter waiting for my wheelchair. I hate waiting. I hate wheelchairs. And, I have always hated flying. I’m not afraid of flying – I just hate relinquishing control of my surroundings. Depending on other people is not something I’m very good at – but that’s exactly what is required of you when you travel by plane.

nice article by Katelyn O’Leary for The National Pain Report | January 28, 2016
Relinquishing control, however, is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way. After being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) due to having hip surgery in 2015, I have put my faith and my trust into the hands of doctors, physical therapists, specialists, radiologists, and nurses. Sometimes my faith has been rewarded, other times not so much.

CRPS is really just a fancy acronym for “We Don’t Know but We Will Sure Try.” And so – 12 medications, four full spine MRIs, a spinal tap, and three hospitalizations later – I have learned a hard lesson in trusting other people to do things for me while still being able to speak up for myself.

That being said, my condition has had serious ramifications on my self-esteem and my anxiety as it pertains to my surroundings. Sometimes I’m afraid to walk outside my apartment door, fearing my leg will cause me to stumble.

But, when I was invited to a wedding in India, I had to put my fear aside. I was not going to miss out on my friend’s big day, and I would be traveling with a group so what could go wrong?

Basically everything if I wasn’t careful.

Going to India was a massive undertaking for many reasons, including the fact that I had not been on an airplane since before my hip surgery. But, I booked my flights in June 2015. We would be flying out of Los Angeles on December, 28, 2015, landing in Dubai (after 16 hours of flight time) for an eight hour layover and then flying from Dubai to Mumbai the next morning (three hours of flight time).

The wedding was January 2nd, 2016, and I had exactly six months to get physically fit and cleared to fly. I wrongly assumed I would be much better by December, thinking I would fully recover. By August 2015, it was clear to me that I needed to re-think my recovery completely and instead focus on physical therapy and meeting with every specialist and doctor I have to discuss my medical options.

Traveling across the world would take two things: strengthening my leg, and the right cocktail of medications. I met with my neurologist, rheumatologist, physical therapist, my primary care physician, and my pain management specialist to determine what steps I needed to take both literally and figuratively.

I also contacted Emirates Airline to determine their policies for disabled travelers. I cannot stress this enough if you have a medical condition or disability, call the airline. Not only did Emirates place me in seats with more legroom, they also gave me a complimentary hotel room in Dubai during our eight hour layover so I could lie down and ice on a bed.

When I flew home for Thanksgiving, I used the flight from Los Angeles to Chicago as a trial run for my leg. I took meds to help me sleep and relax on the four hour flight. Just as we were preparing to land, I woke up and it felt like my leg was a hot dog in a microwave: nuked on high and ready to explode. My ankle was throbbing as if someone had taken my foot and twisted it as hard as they could. My calf muscle felt like someone replaced my tissue with hot wires. My thigh muscle was contracting so hard I could relate to the Hulk. And my hip was burning with pain. Fun fact about air travel for those with CRPS: the barometric pressure and / or cabin pressure can exacerbate nerve pain and make your pain 1000% worse. I leaned forward in my seat and grabbed my meds. By the time I met my family outside of O’Hare I was shaking with agony and needed to lie down in the back seat of my mother’s car with ice and a blanket.

If my pain was this bad on a four hour flight, how could I survive a 16-hour flight to Dubai? This was exactly what I needed to avoid. My neurologist prescribed me valium for the flights and the buses I would be taking in India. My rheumatologist helped me create a regimen of steroids (for swelling and inflammation) and pain meds. My primary care physician gave me the proper vaccinations and also prescribed me antibiotics in case I came down with a stomach bug. My physical therapist met with me weekly to help stretch, strengthen, and heal my leg as much as possible. But my pain management specialist? He told me in no uncertain terms that I should cancel my trip and stay home.

His reasoning wasn’t wrong. I was about to embark on a terribly long and arduous journey that would be hard on anyone – disability or no disability. But, I had something to prove. I had not worked for months towards this goal just to give up. Traveling to India wasn’t just about the wedding anymore: it was about returning to my life. It was about being 27 years old and wanting to see the world. It was about proving to myself that I can have a life outside my medical condition, if I was brave enough to try.

Ultimately, the 16 hour flights were the hardest legs of my trip. I made sure I had all of my medications, but I also wore my TENS unit for the entire flight. For those who don’t know, a TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a “device predominately used for nerve related pain conditions (acute and chronic).” A TENS unit works by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands by attaching adhesive electrodes to the affected area (via tensunits.com). The TENS unit helped prevent swelling and flare ups in my leg due to the cabin pressure.

But the most important thing I had to do was stretch and move during the flights. Every two hours I would need to get up and walk down the aisles and stretch my body in the bathroom – which was extremely difficult since I’m over six feet tall and airplane bathrooms are tiny. Finally, I would request ice from the flight attendants every few hours and wrap my hip with it.

Waiting by the Emirates desk for my wheelchair, I didn’t know then what I know now – that I would have an incredible experience, and all of those months of preparation would serve me well, and that I could do it.

It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, I needed wheelchairs, crutches, ice, and a bag full of meds to make it, but with a little help from my friends and my amazing roommate who traveled with me, I was able to experience the wonders and beauty of India.

When I returned home from my trip, I realized I needed a new goal to invigorate me. There are many things I want to return to, such as being able to drive more than ten miles, my job and running. Lucky for me I have a team of doctors who, God-willing, can help me reach those goals.

Editor’s Note: Katelyn (Katie) O’Leary is a 27-year old Indiana native living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry who developed CRPS after a sports injury in college. She writes for the National Pain Report.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Grand Jury Indicts Three Women Accused of using Cleveland's RTA Paratransit Service for Personal Rides

Three woman are accused of using the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's paratransit service to schedule hundreds of fraudulent rides since 2008, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. Received in email for Becky Gaylord for use in a graphic. Credit: RTA/ Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority From: Jerry Masek, Publications Manager Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority 216-566-5173, office 216-210-5504, cell 216-781-4248, fax (File photo)
article by By Evan MacDonald for cleveland.com | January 28, 2016

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted three women accused of using public transportation for people with disabilities to schedule rides for themselves, friends and family members.

The three women used the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's paratransit service to schedule hundreds of fraudulent rides since 2008, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. They used the service to run errands and for rides to the airport, sporting events, political events, work and school.

The fraudulent rides prevented some people with disabilities from using the service, the prosecutor said. The RTA denied that claim in a statement, and said no customers were affected.

"By using government-paid drivers and vehicles for their own benefit, they stole those services from the elderly and disabled," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said.

Pamela G. Mason, 61, of Euclid, is charged with theft in office, tampering with evidence and records fraud. Mason is a former RTA paratransit dispatcher who retired last year.

Linda Williams, 64, is charged with theft and two counts of identify fraud. Williams is a former RTA employee who now works for a company that contracts with the RTA to provide paratransit rides.

Trina Thompson, 48, of Cleveland, is charged with theft in office. She was suspended Thursday from her job as an RTA paratransit dispatcher.

They will be arraigned Feb. 11 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Mason scheduled the majority of the fraudulent rides for "unknown" riders. She also used the name of a deceased veteran Williams cared for prior to his death, the prosecutor said. Williams took many of the rides scheduled under the deceased veteran's name.

The investigation began nearly a year ago after a routine audit identified issued. The RTA launched an internal investigator and notified the prosecutor's office in March.

The RTA took immediate action to stop the improper use of its paratransit service, and put measures in place to ensure the fraud isn't repeated, chief executive officer Joe Calabrese said in a statement.

Other employees found to have engaged in any irregularities will be subject to discipline and possibly termination, the RTA said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General and the Cleveland Division of the FBI conducted a follow-up investigation.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's paratransit service is a federally subsidized program that provides rides for disabled riders. Services are provided to people who are eligible under the Americans with Disabilities Act due to a physical or cognitive disability that prevents them from using regular buses and trains, according to the RTA.

Agreement Reached to Make Closed Captions Available on In-Flight Entertainment Systems

from a Press Release on January 26, 2016
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD)

NAD and Gogo LLC Agree to Make Closed Captions Available on In-Flight Entertainment Systems
Deaf and hard of hearing airline passengers will soon have closed captioned, on-demand in-flight entertainment videos. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a non-profit civil rights organization of, by, and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and Gogo LLC, the global leader in providing broadband connectivity solutions and wireless entertainment to the aviation industry, have reached a historic agreement for Gogo to make closed captioning available for 100 percent of programming content sourced by Gogo and streamed through its on-demand in-flight entertainment service, Gogo Vision.

This is the first agreement of its kind with an in-flight entertainment company, and is the result of the parties’ mutual intent to increase access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to movies and television that are viewed in flight on U.S. domestic flights.  Passengers using their own personal Wi-Fi enabled devices can access a Gogo Vision server located on aircraft of certain airlines that contain an extensive library of movies and television shows.
Under the agreement, Gogo has now added technology that will enable customers to have the option to display closed captions for content with closed captions sourced by Gogo; Gogo has also begun sourcing new content with closed captions where available; and Gogo will replace all of its existing sourced content with content that has closed captions through a phase-in process that will be completed by June 30, 2017.  All captions will be consistent with Federal Communications Commission standards for completeness, accuracy, synchronicity, and placement.
“This is a monumental step in making in-flight entertainment accessible to the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States alone,” said Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, of the agreement.  “Personalized in-flight entertainment has made air travel exciting again.  The ability to access and watch an extensive library of movies or television shows helps pass the time on long flights.  The NAD is thus thrilled by Gogo’s decision to make the in-flight entertainment experience equally accessible to deaf and hard of hearing passengers.”
“We are excited to work with NAD to offer Gogo Vision’s entire library of movies and TV sourced by Gogo to passengers who are deaf and hard of hearing,” said Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo’s chief commercial officer.  “Watching movies on a passenger’s own device has become a very popular product for Gogo and we are excited to provide access to this product to the deaf and hard of hearing.”
“In-flight entertainment systems can be designed to accommodate captioning in a variety of ways similar to what is available on home television sets,” said Arlene Mayerson, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc.’s Directing Attorney, who represents the NAD.  “Gogo’s actions and commitment demonstrate its dedication to providing accessible in-flight entertainment systems.  DREDF urges other in-flight entertainment providers to follow Gogo’s pioneering example.”
“By seeking to ensure 100% closed captions on all of its streaming titles, Gogo has demonstrated that it is an industry leader, setting the standards for in-flight entertainment,” said Julie Wilensky, the Director of the California office of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, which also represents the NAD.
National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America. NAD represents the estimated 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing and is based in Silver Spring, Maryland. 
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF)
Founded in 1979 by people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national law and policy center based in Berkeley, California and is dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities. 
The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) is a membership organization whose goal is ensuring that everyone can fully and independently participate in our nation’s civil life without discrimination based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. CREEC has offices in Denver, Colorado and Berkeley, California. 


Application for the first Accessibility Officer at The White House is open now through February 9th

USA/Jobs has the following position posted, with link for full information and how to apply (farout).

Begin a challenging and exciting career with the Executive Office of the President (EOP) providing support to the President of the United States. The EOP has responsibility for tasks ranging from communicating the President's message to the American people to promoting our trade interests abroad. The EOP is comprised of The White House, Executive Residence, Office of the Vice President, Office of the United States Trade Representatives, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Office of Management and Budget, National Security Staff, Council on Environmental Quality, Council of Economic Advisers, and the Office of Administration. The Office of Administration (OA) provides a full array of customer-based services to the EOP. To learn more about OA, please visit http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/OA.

This position is located in the Executive Office of the President (EOP), Office of Administration (OA), Office of Chief Administrative Officer (OCAO). The incumbent serves as the EOP Accessibility Officer, serving as the overall accessibility program manager and expert advisor for the various offices that contribute to the overall accessibility program set forth in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a complex law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal agencies. The EOP is committed to being a model employer and strives to create and maintain a work environment which promotes and supports diversity and inclusion where services and opportunities are accessible to all qualified persons with disabilities. EOP buys, builds, maintains and uses electronics and information technology to make it accessible to people with disabilities (current employees as well as members of the public).


Move to Outlaw The 'R-Word' in Ohio State Law

One state is making moves to remove the R-word from language in state law.

article By Melissa McGlensey for The Mightyhttp://themighty.com/ |January 27. 2016The Ohio House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday to remove references to “mental retardation” from state law and replace the phrase with terminology such as “intellectual disability.”

The bill, HB 158, was a bipartisan effort and, after being passed on a vote of 95-0, will now head to the Ohio State Senate for further consideration.

Other similar changes have been made in Ohio in recent years, according to the Alliance Review. Lawmakers have removed terms like “idiot,” “imbecile” and “drunkard,” because the meanings and stigmas associated with such terms have changed over time. Recently, the legislature also removed “retardation” from state and county agency names.

In 2010, President Obama officially signed bill S. 2781,Rosa’s Law, into federal law, removing the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policy and replacing them with people-first language like “individual with an intellectual disability,” according to Spread The Word To End The Word, an ongoing campaign by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and other supporters to eliminate the use of the “R” word.

In addition to passing legislation that promotes inclusive language, many states have offered an annual proclamation to help bring attention to the mission of Spread the Word to End the Word, including California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.

Both Indiana and Texas have passed respectful language bills into law which are similar to Ohio’s. Texas passed one in May of 2011 and Indiana passed one in July 2015 to unanimous support in the general assembly.

As we learn more about those with disabilities and we work towards making Ohio a better and more responsive state for the developmentally disabled in our communities, our laws should reflect that collective wisdom,” Rep. Jonathan Dever, one of the sponsors of the bill said, according to the Statehouse News Bureau.

The Mighty is a great resource for the disability community, visit: http://themighty.com/

Lego unveils First Ever Minifigure in Wheelchair

The first ever Lego figure in a wheelchair has been spotted at the Nuremberg and London toy fairs, featuring a beanie-hatted character alongside a helper dog

article by Ben Beaumont-Thomas for The Guardian | January 27, 2016

The figure was captured in photos by the Promobricks blog, and shared on the Bricksfans website. The figure features alongside an ice-cream vendor, cyclist, picnickers and more, in a new park scene from the company’s City range.

The sighting is significant, given Lego has recently been accused of a lack of diversity in its figures. The #ToyLikeMe campaign, launched last year, resulted in over 20,000 signatures to a Change.org petition, which lobbied Lego to include disabled figures in its sets.

Its co-founder Rebecca Atkinson wrote in the Guardian in December: “The brand continues to exclude 150 million disabled children worldwide by failing to positively represent them in its products ... This is more than just about sales figures or disability access, it’s about changing cultural perceptions. It’s about brands such as Lego using their vast power of influence to positive effect.”

Lego initially resisted the call, arguing to Atkinson: “The beauty of the Lego system is that children may choose how to use the pieces we offer to build their own stories.” But the new set seems to mark an about-turn.

The #ToyLikeMe organisers reacted joyfully, writing on their campaign page: “We’ve got genuine tears of joy right now ... Lego have just rocked our brick-built world!”

Lego was at the centre of another online campaign recently, which argued that the company should drop its restrictions on bulk-buying bricks after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was blocked from ordering bricks for his work. The company previously had a policy of asking for the reasoning behind bulk orders, and preventing any overtly political use; they relented after global indignation, saying that their policy “could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent”.

Toy Fair 2016: LEGO City 'Fun at the Park' (60134) comes with a baby minifigure and a boy in a wheelchair. 

YouTube Published by Zusammengebaut on Jan 27, 2016

The "good body" (Chicago Edition): A performative lecture by Barak adé Soleil : Chicago Feb. 19th

This program is part of EXPOSURE: A Series of New Developments in Disability Arts & Culture.

The "good" body (Chicago edition) is a performative lecture centered within the intersection of disability and race. Through this multifaceted lens, award-winning artist Barak adé Soleil offers personal insights and poetics excavated from his deep engagement with the profound traditions of the African diaspora, disability culture and their interwoven aesthetic; instigating further dialog surrounding the current social and political tensions present today. As a queer disabled artist of color, he is committed to exposing the nuances of the intersectional body as an inherent reflection of humanity; while questioning the historical contexts in which live art is created and interpreted.

WHERE: Gallery 400 is located at 400 South Peoria,
 on the 5th floor (updated).

WHEN: Friday, February 19th2:00-4:00pm at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria St., Chicago, IL, 60607

This series is free and open to the public. 
ASL interpretation, real-time captioning, audio description and personal assistants will be provided.
This is a wheelchair accessible space.
Please refrain from wearing scented products.

Presented by Bodies of Work, 3Arts, UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development, and the Disability Resource Center at UIC, EXPOSURE considers ongoing projects and works-in-progress of the 2015 - 2016 3Arts University of Illinois at Chicago Fellows. Featuring the work of Riva Lehrer, Arlene Malinowski, and Barak adé Soleil, this new series offers insight into the practices of artists exploring the intersectionality between disability, art, and culture. Through this series of programs, EXPOSURE intends to continue the dialogue around issues of disability aesthetics in cross-media artistic modes of production and the cultural space, which the 3Arts Fellows occupy. 

This series is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to 3Arts. Bodies of Work and UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development are proud to partner with 3Arts to present these unprecedented fellowships and public programs in support of disability culture.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Access Living Response to Illinois Governor Rauner’s State of the State - End the Budget Impasse Now

Today, the Access Living community gathered to watch Governor Rauner's State of the State.  Below is the Access Living Statement in response to the address. 

from a Press Release on January 27, 2016

End the Budget Impasse Now
Access Living Response to Governor Rauner’s State of the State

As the Center for Independent Living that serves people with disabilities in Chicago, Access Living has honored contracts with the State of Illinois. Other disability agencies and non-profits across Illinois have also continued to provide services in the face of the budget impasse. While agencies continue to deliver services in order to meet the needs of underserved populations, Illinois has failed to fulfill its end of the contract. In Governor Rauner’s State of the State address on January 27, the Governor gave no indication that this would change. Access Living and the consumers who gathered to watch the State of the State were disappointed that the Governor did not address the impact of the budget impasse on the social safety net and on people with disabilities. 

In 2015, working with disability advocates, disability organizations and disabilities allies across the state, Access Living fought to preserve Illinois services that support the health and independence of people with disabilities. With Illinois still in the midst of a budget impasse, the fight will continue in 2016. 

“Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the 1999 U.S. Olmstead Supreme Court Ruling, people with disabilities have the right to live in their own homes in integrated communities instead of institutions,” said Marca Bristo, President & CEO of Access Living. “Yet, the support for people with disabilities in the community continues to be at risk.” In 2015, the disability community was forced to fight to preserve the Home Services program. The Home Services program was one of many disability programs in Illinois that faced reductions or elimination. Judging from the State of the State on January 27, the struggle to protect programs that support people in their own homes will continue in 2016.

Illinois has continued to fund consent decrees throughout the budget impasse. This includes three court mandated consent decrees that enforce the transition of people with disabilities out of institutions and into community-based settings. According to a news story from early January, “one of his (Governor Rauner’s) goals for his second year will be to remove court orders and consent decrees that obligate the state to spend billions on services and programs, (The News-Gazette, January 11, 2016).” In his State of the State on January 27, Governor Rauner hinted that he wanted to get out from under the consent decrees. The removal of consent decrees is a threat to the independence and rights of the thousands of people with disabilities in Illinois who remain unnecessarily institutionalized. “The legal system is there for a reason,” said Amber Smock, Director of Advocacy for Access Living. “The governor can’t pick and choose which civil rights he wants to uphold.” 

In 2015, Access Living provided direct services to 1,895 people with disabilities in Chicago, equipping them with resources and skills to live independently. Access Living is one of 22 Centers for Independent Living in Illinois that provide similar services. In FY 16, the 22 Centers for Independent Living were due to receive $4.8 million in State Funding. This has not been fully paid. Across Illinois, centers have been forced to take out lines of credit, institute furlough days, lay-off staff, and close their doors, leaving people with disabilities without critical resources. 

Recently, Access Living launched a long-term care Ombudsman Program, which staffs advocates who address health care matters for people with disabilities who live in the community. With no state budget, funding for the Ombudsman Program has frozen, which has forced Access Living to lay-off Ombudsman staff, reduce services within the program, and dip into spending reserves. 

Also, Access Living’s Deflection Program decreases long-term admission of people with disabilities into nursing facilities. Illinois funding for this program has also been frozen. 

Because there are no state payments for Center for Independent Living program, the Ombudsman Program, and the Deflection Program, Access Living is forced to spend $60,000 in reserve funding every month. “$60,000 a month is unstainable,” Bristo said. “Governor Rauner must end the budget impasse now.” 

The devastating impact of the Illinois Budget Impasse is being felt by tens of thousands of people with disabilities. 

• In the mental health community, state funding for mental health and other behavioral health services in Illinois has been plummeting. As one example, the Kenneth Young Center, a non-profit mental health and senior service provider located in the northwest suburbs, had its budget cut by $500,000 and lost funding for psychiatric care due to the state budget crisis. 

• Regarding developmental disabilities, more than 22,000 people with disabilities remain on the PUNS Waiting List, waiting for community-based services.

• Recent mass layoffs in the CPS - Central Office greatly impacted the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, which lost up to 60 positions, including 70% of the staff on the transition team. 

• According the Illinois Area Agencies on Aging, if the budget impasse continues, more than 9,000 people will lose transportation services, more than 2,000 will lose legal assistance, and more than 1,600 would be forced to enter a nursing home. 

Access Living supports a solution that generates revenue and that ensures the Illinois State Budget addresses its liabilities, prevents damaging cuts to community based services, and allows community-based services to grow according to need and demand. Community–based services that support the independence of people with disabilities are necessary for the fiscal rebound of Illinois. They make economic sense and they make common sense. 

                                                                       # # # 
For Access Living, Center for Independent Living in Chicago, visit: https://www.accessliving.org/

Georgia Nurse Mary Bennett Faked Cancer in order to get Donations

report by GILLIAN MOHNEY for ABC News | January 26, 2016A Georgia woman is facing multiple criminal charges after she allegedly faked having cancer in order to get donations.

Mary Bennett, 29, is accused of felony forgery and a misdemeanor charge for theft after allegedly lying about a fake cancer diagnosis to get money and gifts from people in her local community, police said.

Deputy Epifanio Rodriguez of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office told ABC News today that authorities were tipped off by an anonymous caller who accused Bennett of faking her illness to get money and other benefits.

After a lengthy investigation, police determined that Bennett had never been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, Rodriguez said, and that she had received free trips and money to help her with the disease.

"She would go to great lengths and shaved her head," to appear to be a cancer patient, Rodriguez told ABC News.

Calls by ABC News to a phone number listed to Bennett were not immediately returned. Bennett’s attorney Jacob Stidham declined to comment to ABC News, citing the pending case.

Investigators have evidence that Bennett was faking her illness for at least two years, Rodriguez said, and police are looking into whether the scheme stretched back to 2010. Bennett, who was a licensed practical nurse, received free tickets to an Atlanta Braves game, a free trip to Houston and even went skydiving, police said.

Police estimate that in total she received $25,000 in gifts and money from people wanting to help her through her illness, Rodriguez said.

However, when police asked her to produce evidence she was indeed sick, Rodriguez said Bennett falsified documents from an oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

"That doctor said, 'That is not my signature and I never signed that and she had never been a patient of mine,'" Rodriguez told ABC News.

Bennett was arrested on Jan. 8 and was released on Jan. 11 after posting $2,365 bond, police said.

Rodriguez said the case is still pending and the theft charge could be upgraded to a felony if more victims are found.

WATCH Georgia Nurse Faked Cancer, Police Say

Living With a Disability, Struggling to Get By: January is Poverty Awareness Month

January is Poverty Awareness Month, a month-long initiative to raise awareness and call attention to the growth of poverty in America. Today, there are 46.7 million Americans living in poverty - a total population greater than Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska combined. If that's not troubling enough, when we delve deeper into the statistics, we find that nearly 1 in 3 individuals with disabilities are living in poverty - and even worse, the disability-poverty rate is twice the rate to that for individuals without disabilities. Now, more than ever, it is time to break the disability-poverty pipeline.We intend on doing exactly that at National Disability Institute (NDI).

by Michael Morris, published by HuffPost Impact | January 25, 2016
(Executive Director of National Disability Institute, working to improve the financial health of people with disabilities)

At the start of the New Year, and coinciding with Poverty Awareness Month, NDI set two overarching goals to accomplish by 2025 and realize the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which explicitly guarantees the opportunity to achieve "economic self-sufficiency" for ALL Americans, no matter their disability status. Our goals are: (1) to cut the poverty rate for working-age adults with disabilities in half; and (2) increase banking access and use among people with disabilities by 50 percent.

To make these initiatives a reality, we are traveling across the country and working with a broad range of partners to solicit buy-in to a collective action agenda to improve and expand financial inclusion for Americans with disabilities. One of our partners is disability advocates and recording artists, 4WheelCity. The New York City hip-hop duo of Namel "Tapwaterz" Norris and Ricardo "Rickfire" Velasquez, both victims of gun violence and wheelchair users, are lending their "voice" to our mission. We are honored to have them join us on the journey.

Namel and Ricardo are all too familiar with the expectations and general roles assigned to members of the disability community. Both need Social Security benefits and other public benefits to make ends meet, and continue to push back on commonly held stereotypes. They dream of the day when they will achieve financial self-sufficiency and have the capability to secure the American Dream - just like their non-disabled peers.

To help spread the message, and to highlight the challenges of poverty and disability, 4WheelCity worked with NDI to write the hit song, "Mainstream."

Never heard of 4WheelCity? Recently, we sat down with Namel and Ricardo to talk about music, poverty and getting more people with disabilities into the "Mainstream." You will find their experiences to be like that of many Americans with disabilities.

"4 Wheel City" Namel “Tapwaterz”Norris and Ricardo “Rickfire” Velasque
NDI: First off, what words would best describe 4WheelCity?"

Ricardo and Namel:
"Resilient, brave, leaders, pioneers and survivors. We don't take 'no' for an answer!"

NDI: "How has your disability changed your life? What insights has it given you? New perspectives?"

Ricardo: "Well, one day I was walking. Then, the next day, I wasn't. My disability has made me appreciate everything - to take nothing for granted. With my injury, I quickly found out that family will always be there and have your back."

Namel: "I was always active in sports growing up. After my accident - when I was 17 - suddenly everything changed. I was no longer able to walk or play the sports I used to. My disability changed my state of mind. Before my disability, I was on the wrong path; just another kid from the projects following the wrong crowd. But, after becoming a person with disabilities, I learned our decisions have consequences - good and bad."

NDI: "What's your American Dream? Do you want to own a house? A car? Send your kids to college?"

"I want to be like every other Americans. I want to own my own home and car and have the opportunity to travel the world. I want to be okay financially. Honestly, I'm just tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck."

"The American Dream, to me, is all about my finances. Rick and I are two paraplegics from the projects in the Bronx, fighting to make a difference in other peoples' lives. We are the American Dream, the American Spirit!"

: "What's 4WheelCity's message?"

"Rick and I are in a unique position. Before we started, the hip-hop world would have never given a second thought to a person with disabilities."

Ricardo: "Our message is to change the perception and attitudes of others toward a person in a wheelchair, or a person with any type of disability."

NDI: "What would you like to see happen to Americans with disabilities both culturally and economically?"

Ricardo: "Give us jobs! A lot of us have great ideas... stigma needs to change!"

Namel: "I want the mentality of others and perceptions toward people with disabilities to change. I want people to look beyond the wheelchair. Let's get rid of the ignorance that exists among some when it comes to access to shops, clubs, taxis, restaurants and so many more places."

NDI: "Tell us about your newest song, "Mainstream?" What are you trying to get across to people?"

Namel: "In the song, we mention the "mainstream of the economy." Everyone should have access. We should all have the right to earn and spend our money how we want... be mainstream, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said about the content of your character. It also means that if you work hard, you will have greater opportunities for success. The song is about breaking down barriers; we need to help each other out."

Ricardo: "Everyone should be able to work and dream. No one should be held back. The mainstream is about everyone being 'A-List.' The song tells the struggle of who we are as artists - our life in poverty. The song's beat is rugged and reminds me of the Depression. We are letting the world know we and so many other people with disabilities are coming!"

To learn more about 4WheelCity, please visit their official website. Visit NDI's website to download "Mainstream," or go to:http://4wheelcitymusic.reverbnation.com/, for 4WheelCity's entire catalog of songs.
Follow Michael Morris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RealEconImpact

Chicago Performance Feb. 5th of "A Little Bit of Not Normal" one woman play written, performed by Arlene Malinowski .

Friday, February 5th, 2:00-4:00pm at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria St., Chicago IL, 60607

This program is part of EXPOSURE: A Series of New Developments in Disability Arts & Culture
The autobiographical solo show “A Little Bit Not Normal” revolves around a secret that had been kept for over six decades and discovered at a family wedding. With her trademark humor, Arlene Malinowski confronts her own state of mind when depression slipped in through her basement window, lit a cigarette and made himself at home. Exploring the shame and secrecy that comes from mental illness because of the stigma that is so attached to it. “A Little Bit Not Normal” is the journey from mental illness to recovery and the story of naming it, claiming it and standing to be counted.

WHERE Gallery 400 is located at 400 South Peoria. The Lecture Room is across the hall from the Gallery space.

This series is free and open to the public. 

ASL interpretation, real-time captioning, audio description and personal assistants will be provided.
This is a wheelchair accessible space.
Please refrain from wearing scented products.

Presented by Bodies of Work, 3Arts, UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development, and the Disability Resource Center at UIC, EXPOSURE considers ongoing projects and works-in-progress of the 2015 - 2016 3Arts University of Illinois at Chicago Fellows. Featuring the work of Riva Lehrer, Arlene Malinowski, and Barak adé Soleil, this new series offers insight into the practices of artists exploring the intersectionality between disability, art, and culture. Through this series of programs, EXPOSURE intends to continue the dialogue around issues of disability aesthetics in cross-media artistic modes of production and the cultural space, which the 3Arts Fellows occupy.

This series is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to 3Arts. Bodies of Work and UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development are proud to partner with 3Arts to present these unprecedented fellowships and public programs in support of disability culture.

Lecture and Discussion with Riva Lehrer featuring clips from the film "Self-Preservation: The Art of Riva Lehrer : Chicago Feb. 9th

                               Beauty in Exile

Tuesday, February 9th2:00-4:00pm at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria  St., Chicago, IL, 60607
click to enlarge
This program is part of EXPOSURE: A Series of New Developments in Disability Arts & Culture

We live in a world utterly obsessed with physical beauty, yet disability seems to exempt one from being seen as beautiful. This talk is in part a memoir of sexual identity, and in part an examination of the societal wall that separates the disabled from inclusion in corporeal delight. Images will be shown from the history of Lehrer's art, which strives to uncover the glamor inherent in non-normative bodies.

WHERE Gallery 400 is located at 400 South Peoria. The Lecture Room is across the hall from the Gallery space.

This series is free and open to the public. 
ASL interpretation, real-time captioning, audio description and personal assistants will be provided.
This is a wheelchair accessible space.
Please refrain from wearing scented products.

Presented by Bodies of Work, 3Arts, UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development, and the Disability Resource Center at UIC, EXPOSURE considers ongoing projects and works-in-progress of the 2015 - 2016 3Arts University of Illinois at Chicago Fellows. Featuring the work of Riva Lehrer, Arlene Malinowski, and Barak adé Soleil, this new series offers insight into the practices of artists exploring the intersectionality between disability, art, and culture. Through this series of programs, EXPOSURE intends to continue the dialogue around issues of disability aesthetics in cross-media artistic modes of production and the cultural space, which the 3Arts Fellows occupy.

This series is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to 3Arts. Bodies of Work and UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development are proud to partner with 3Arts to present these unprecedented fellowships and public programs in support of disability culture.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chicago Volunteer Opportunity : Tutor people with disabilities

Make a difference in the life of a person with a disability with just one hour a week!

Volunteer tutor adults with disabilities in Anixter Center's Jack Ehrlich Literacy Program!

Make a difference in the life of a person with a disability with just one hour a 
Already a tutor? Visit our tutor resources pages here.
What makes Anixter Center’s Jack Ehrlich Literacy Program unique?
  1. Over 20 years ago, Anixter Center realized that literacy was essential in its efforts to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. To answer that need, Anixter Center created the Jack Ehrlich Literacy Program, the first and only Chicago area literacy program that focuses on the unique needs of individuals with disabilities.
  2. Whereas many literacy programs operate in a group setting, our program primarily provides adult learners with a volunteer tutor for 1 on 1 individualized attention. Adult learners determine the goals that are important to their lives and work on accomplishing them with the assistance of their tutor. Goals can vary from: the ability to understand prescriptive drug instructions, reading a map to plan a pathway to a destination, gaining computer skills, learning the alphabet, or finding a job. We do offer some small groups in subjects such as: computers, basic math, creative writing, and reading.
  3. Our volunteer tutors commit at least 1 hour each week for at least 3 months, although the average time in our program is about 2 years for tutors! The tutoring experience can be greatly beneficial to both learner and tutor. We simply couldn’t assist so many individuals with disabilities without the dedication of our volunteers!
  4. We offer free pre-tutoring training as well as many continuing training opportunities throughout the year. Anixter Center (located at 2032 N Clybourn Ave) Literacy Program is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and on Thursdays until 6 PM. Off-site and evenings matches possible (usually at public libraries). We try to accommodate all schedules.
    Our services are much needed and we have a long wait list of adult learners eager to be matched. Interested in being a volunteer tutor? Fill out our online form here.
    Already a tutor and looking for help? Visit our tutor resources pages here.
    Please contact the Literacy Coordinator at 773-929-8200 x265 or lkartali@anixter.org to find out more specific details about requirements. 
For Anixter's Center website: http://www.anixter.org/

# information in post is from the Anixter Center's Jack Ehrlich Literacy Program website.

In New York Most Roads Are Clear, Why Not The Crosswalks?

This does not pass Americans with Disabilities Act muster. (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)

article by NATHAN TEMPEY for the Gothamist | January 25; 2016

As Sanitation Department plows began to clear snow from the last remaining side streets in the city this morning, many non-driving New Yorkers navigated thigh-high mounds of snow on street corners. Some cursed silently as they slipped on the underlying slush and imagined the black snow, ribbed ice, and slush lagoons to come. Others took out their phones to shame the property owners, for failing to shovel, and the city, for prioritizing clear passage for cars over clear paths for pedestrians.
For some background, the city requires property owners to clear adjacent sidewalks of snow to 18 inches beyond the curb or face fines of $100-$350. Sanitation Department enforcement agents are tasked with inspecting reports of violations and eyeballing streets twice daily, and can write the tickets. The enormity of this task following the second biggest snowstorm in New York City history aside, this system falls short where the sidewalk meets the crosswalk, even on blocks where all homeowners and landlords do their civic duty, because snowplows shoving mounds of snow out of the way for drivers throw it directly in the paths of pedestrians.
On Sunday, all public transit but the Long Island Rail Road shuddered back to life as Mayor de Blasio toured the city inspecting plow work and telling residents and reporters that the city would be "good enough for people to get around" by today. In a weekend packed with email announcements, press conferences, and photo ops, however, de Blasio only mentioned the problem of clearing crosswalks once, when announcing Sanitation's hiring of temporary workers to shovel them (a Sanitation Department spokeswoman could not immediately say how much money is allotted to the project versus plowing, or how intersections are prioritized for shoveling). Sidewalks only came up once, too, in a set of Mayor's Office Travel Safety Tips that recommended, "If you’re walking outdoors, be careful as sidewalks may be snowy and icy."
Park Slope resident and road-safety activist Doug Gordon said the blizzard response shows the transportation policy of a city—where by the way fewer than half of households own cars—writ large.
"You see the mayor out there jumping through all these hoops to explain to drivers how hard the city is working," he said, adding, "but you don’t see him having to jump through the same hoops to explain to pedestrians why the medians on Fourth Avenue where I live, for example, are iced over and likely to remain that way for weeks. Or what the city is doing to make it so there aren’t lines of people trudging through slush at every corner."
Gordon said that more interagency coordination is needed to ensure that pedestrian paths stay clear, Sanitation should be more aggressive in ticketing scofflaw business owners, and maintenance of crosswalks at corners should not fall through the cracks. He pointed out that the Department of Transportation is responsible for installing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps on street corners, and said that responsibility should extend to keeping them clear.
The ADA specifies that public entities should maintain accessible facilities and allow only "isolated or temporary interruptions in service." New York is no shining example of disabled-person accessibility, though. Just ask Edith Prentiss, head of the group Disabled in Action, who relies on an electric wheelchair to navigate the city. She has been stuck in her Washington Heights apartment since Friday.
"[To the city], we’re expendable," she said. "The attitude is that none of us have jobs and we all just sit at home eating and watching TV. There are people who have real jobs and need to get there just like everyone else, and who can’t."
Prentiss said there is plenty of blame to go around. She believes sidewalk removal enforcement is disproportionately focused on affluent areas such as the Upper East Side, and would like to see more aggressive inspecting across the city. She also noted that government agencies such as the MTA, the Department of Education, and the Parks Department are delinquent in maintaining clear sidewalks around their facilities, and said they should do more to lead by example.
"if you see that city entities are not doing their fair share and you’re a small mom and pop shop, are you going to do it?" she said.
The problem recurs every time it snows. Last winter, Prentiss says there was a period so bad that she was stuck inside for 10 days. In the winter of 2014, there was a week where she couldn't leave her block, stymied at each crosswalk by impassable snow. Today's forecasted melt and subsequent possible rain and snow during the week will likely create ice and make getting around, even getting from the front door to the Access-A-Ride van, more hazardous, she said.
People with disabilities have grown used to preparing for this kind of thing, Prentiss explained, but that doesn't mean the city and building owners are anywhere near compliance with federal law.
"We have to be prepared for sheltering in place, which is what this is," she said. "And I get to eat all my mandarin oranges and all my cans of tuna fish."
Prentiss said that she has so far staved off cabin fever by drawing up meeting minutes for a political group she is active with. The club had to cancel a candidate-vetting meeting it had planned for the weekend. Other than a Wednesday doctor's appointment, she plans to stay inside this week.
She said a meeting she convened with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities in 2014 about snow-related problems for peoples with disabilities produced few answers on this one beyond being "told we had to be patient."
"No one's telling subway riders they have to be patient," she said.
Mayor's Office spokeswoman Rosemary Boeglin said in a statement:
"MOPD understands that persons with disabilities may be particularly vulnerable during episodes of extreme weather, and have staff on hand to serve as a direct resource for New Yorkers with disabilities to triage their concerns and make sure needs are met."
She said further that a fact sheet on snow removal issues for disabled people (PDF) came out of the office's meeting with activists, and noted a pilot program to dispatch volunteers to shovel snow in Queens and Staten Island.
At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor de Blasio said that building owners should be sure to clear 3-4 feet of sidewalk, and avoid shoveling it into the street. A Mayor's Office rep later clarified that the width should be 4 feet to accommodate wheelchairs, and said curb ramps fall under owners' sidewalk responsibilities.
The city is not yet fining homeowners, de Blasio said, but is focusing instead on businesses such as parking lots and gas stations that are shoveling large amounts of snow into the street.
"Everyone has a role to play," he said, gently admonishing property owners to get their acts together before the citation books come out.
Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia told reporters that there are 920 snow laborers working today.
"I do believe we are making strong headway," she said. "We still have more [work] to do."
The workers are digging out crosswalks, fire hydrants, and storm drains.
By comparison, the Sanitation Department is using 2,000 pieces of snow removal machinery today and 2,300 Sanitation staffers at a time are pulling 12-hour shifts as the agency temporarily shifts its function from trash pickup to blizzard cleanup.
In parts of Queens, Garcia says that the snow is so deep and roads so narrow that plows are "not effective." Instead, workers are "literally going in and dragging it out" with front-end loaders and dump trucks, for melting off-site. After clearing closed streets, the department's focus is on clearing bus stops and crosswalks, she said.
For Prentiss and Gordon, paths can't get cleared fast enough.
"I think the mayor actually did a really good job overall," Gordon said. "It’s just that we seem to be every year caught off guard that this stuff causes major problems for pedestrians. By now we should probably expect that it snows in winter and we need to figure out what to do about it."
# ed. note: The same issues plague Chicago pedestrians, lack of crosswalks being cleared of snow.