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

Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 National Day of Mourning Vigils for Disabled Victims of Filicide - March 1st

In December of 2015, 71-year-old Antonio Tucci was beaten to death by his nephew. A month earlier, 5-year old Helious Griffith and 6-year old Dustin Hicks were both murdered by their mothers.

In the year since our last vigil, our community has lost at least seventy more victims.
In the past five years, over one hundred and eighty people with disabilities have been murdered by their parents.

Tuesday, March 1st, the disability community will gather across the nation to remember disabled victims of filicide–disabled people murdered by their family members or caregivers.

We see the same pattern repeating over and over again. A parent kills their disabled child. The media portrays these murders as justifiable and inevitable due to the “burden” of having a disabled person in the family. If the parent stands trial, they are given sympathy and  comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victims are disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most, and ultimately forgotten. And then the cycle repeats.

But it doesn't have to.
Here's what you can do in your own community to help spread awareness of these tragedies - and help stop more from happening.

This toolkit is intended to provide advocates and allies with concrete tools and resources to use in their own communities, including in response to local incidents. The toolkit includes information about how to understand and respond to filicide, frequently asked questions about filicide, and a guidebook for Day of Mourning vigil site coordinators.

For the last five years, ASAN, ADAPT, AAPD, Not Dead Yet, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and other disability rights organizations have come together to mourn the lives lost to filicide, bring awareness to these tragedies, and demand justice and equal protection under the law for all people with disabilities.

On Tuesday, March 1, 2016, ASAN and the wider disability community will be holding vigils to mourn the lives of those we've lost and bringing awareness to this horrific trend of violence against our community.
If you're interested in leading a vigil in your areaplease sign up to be a Day of Mourning vigil site coordinator here.

The information posted is shared from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and up to date info, visit: http://autisticadvocacy.org/

This year, for those unable to attend a specific community event, there will also be a virtual vigil. The virtual event will feature a Google Hangout and a Chat Room. For more information about the virtual vigil, visit this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1726468137594861/

Finally, if you would like to track the events over Twitter or post on Twitter, the hashtag is #DDoM2016.

#editors note: As information becomes available, the information in this post will be updated.


Current Vigil Sites:


Tucson, AZ Tom Racey, cornelius41389us@gmail.com

Berkeley, CA Brent White, brent@alacosta-acat.com
Los Angeles, CA Jessica Barrett, jesserbarrett@gmail.com
Port Hueneme, CA Karen Reilly, karen@oceanviewinfo.com

Washington, DC Rachel Best, best_rachel@hotmail.com

Atlanta, GA Bennett Gaddes, bennettgaddes@comcast.net

Chicago, IL Steph Ban, sban@uchicago.edu
Lansing, IL Amanda Burkhart, missus.burkhart@gmail.com

Boston, MA Russell Fig, russellfig@yahoo.com
Cambridge, MA Alexis Toliver, Toliveralexis@yahoo.com
Salem, MA Hala O'Keeffe, halaokeeffe@aya.yale.edu
Somerville, MA Finn Gardiner, fgardiner@autisticadvocacy.org

Twin Cities, MN Gretchen Johnson, gretchensj2@earthlink.net
Kansas City, MO Spencer Hunley, spencer.hunley@gmail.com
Hanover, NH
 Sarah Dresser, dresser.sarah@gmail.com

Edison, NJ Carole Tonks, ctonks@adacil.org
New Brunswick, NJ Aaron Zisook, autisticadvocacynj@gmail.com

New York, NY Elizabeth Rosenzweig, rosenzweig.ea@gmail.com
Purchase, NY David Cusack Johnson, david.cusackjohnson@purchase.edu
Rochester, NY Ericka Jones, ejones@cdrnys.org
Troy, NY Melanie Hecker, mhecker@youthpowerny.org
Yonkers, NY Emma Graydon, egraydon@gm.slc.edu

Winston-Salem, NC Alan Katzer, katzer.alan@gmail.com
Nashville, NC Joshua White, jwhite188@st.nashcc.edu

Cincinnati, OH Carla Williams, awace123@yahoo.com

Port Orford, OR Erica Holmes, asancurrycounty@gmail.com

Philadelphia, PA Tess Speranza, spert@sas.upenn.edu
Pittsburgh, PA Cori Frazer, asanpgh@gmail.com

Franklin, TN Chad Beadles, justmechadlyb@gmail.com

Milwaukee, WI Rhonda Greenhaw, rhonda.greenhaw@advancingabilitieswi.com


Edmonton, AB Kimberley Bewick, kimmieluwho@yahoo.ca
Halifax, NS Alex Kronstein, alexkron@live.ca
New Westminster, BC Alanna Whitney, alannarosewhitney@gmail.com
Winnipeg, MB Baden Gaeke Franz, violetsunflower16@gmail.com

# originally posted on Jan. 15, 2016

2016’s Best & Worst States for Women – Study Finds

With March being Women’s History Month and women outnumbering men in all but nine states today, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2016’s Best & Worst States for Women.

To identify the most women-friendly states, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 15 key metrics. Our data set ranges from “median earnings for female workers” to “women’s preventive health care” to “female uninsured rate.”
 Best States for Women Worst States for Women
 1Minnesota 42Texas
 2Vermont 43Oklahoma
 3New Hampshire 44West Virginia
 4Maine 45New Mexico
 5Massachusetts 46Mississippi
 6North Dakota 47Arkansas
 7Maryland 48Alabama
 8Wisconsin 49Nevada
 9Nebraska 50South Carolina
 10Hawaii 51Louisiana                     

Comparing the Best & Worst
  • The District of Columbia has the highest median earnings for female workers (adjusted for cost of living), $34,241, which is two times greater than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest, $18,434.
  • The District of Columbia has the highest unemployment rate for women, 8.4 percent, which is three times greater than in North Dakota, the state with the lowest, 2.8 percent.
  • Mississippi has the highest percentage of women living in poverty, 24.8 percent, which is three times greater than in New Hampshire, the state with the lowest, 9.7 percent. 
  • Alaska has the highest share of women-owned businesses, 22.87 percent, which is two times greater than in South Dakota, the state with the lowest, 14.04 percent.
  • Arizona has the highest high school dropout rate for women, 7.20 percent, which is eight times greater than in New Hampshire, the state with the lowest, 0.90 percent.
  • The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of women who voted in the 2012 presidential election, 78.60 percent, which is two times greater than in West Virginia, the state with the lowest, 48.20 percent.
  • Texas has the highest female uninsured rate, 21 percent, which is seven times greater than in Massachusetts, the state with the lowest, 2.90 percent.
  • South Carolina has the highest female homicide rate per 100,000 females, 2.32, which is five times greater than in South Dakota, the state with the lowest, 0.48.

To read the full report and to see where your state ranks, please visit: 

As always Ability Chicago Info would like to acknowledge and thank WalletHub for publishing, and providing the article and it's findings.

Respectful Ways to Respond When Someone Uses the 'R-Word'

How many of us have been in a conversation with someone — a friend or coworker, perhaps, or a new acquaintance — and he or she casually uses the R-word in a derogatory way? It can be a difficult situation to navigate, especially with someone you’re not totally comfortable with. What’s the best way to express how problematic and hurtful that word can be.
very nice information published by "The Mighty" staff | Feb. 19, 2016

We teamed up with Spread the Word to End the Word to ask our Facebook communities how they respond (respectfully) when that happens. These are just some of the great suggestions we received:

1. “Do you think you could use a different word? It’s hurtful to people I love dearly.” — Barb Weber Eltz

2. “You know, that’s really not a respectful word, and it’s not in my vocabulary because it’s very hurtful. I would kindly appreciate it if you wouldn’t use that word.” — Jennifer Colligan-Trevett

3. “Please don’t use that word. I find it very offensive.” — Rachie Firkin

4. “I need you to know it breaks my heart when you say that. You are belittling someone I love every time you use the word.” — Cassie Mareesie

5. “Using that word, in that way, can be hurtful to others. You are kind and creative. Can you find a word that more accurately says what you want but isn’t hurtful?” — Maureen Geurin

6. “You never know how a word like that is going to hit somebody. You never know who has a kid or a sibling or a friend who has that word lobbed at them in the ugliest way. It’s just better not to say it.” — Tiffany Howard

7. “Excuse me, but I’d like to ask you to refrain from saying that word. It certainly does not apply in the situation you are using it. If you are willing, I’d like to share with you how it has progressed from a medical term into the vile, hateful way it is used far too often now. At the least consider what you said and why.” — Rob Rau

8. “Can you please choose another word? I have a child with Down syndrome, and that word is not respectful of him.” — Julie Gerhart Rothholz

9. “It’s really important to be careful about the words we choose to use. In my head, I know you aren’t using that word to hurt me, but that doesn’t change the fact that, in my heart, it does. It would mean a lot to me if you could find different words to express what you are trying to say.” — Gabrielle Leah

10. “There are so many other words in our vocabulary that can be used. There is really no need to use the R-word.” — Sandi Eaglin Cooke

11. “Using that word is a sign of ignorance, and I know you are a well-educated person.” — Jennifer Harris

12. “Please don’t use that word. Have you tried saying ‘ridiculous’ instead?” — Shari J Gary

13. “Did you know I have a sister with special needs? She’s incredible and lights up my life!” — Alexis McCracken

14. “”You may not realize it, but that is no longer a socially acceptable word.”” – Cindy Colwell

15. “I’m autistic, [and] I ask that you don’t use that word around me please. Thank you.” — Arianna Lea Nyswonger

16. “Goodness, we need to find you a better word!” — Barbara Gracey

17. “Hey, that’s not cool.” — Trista McDermott

18. “You may not be aware, but there’s this campaign [called] Spread the Word to End the Word, and I signed the pledge.” — Dawne Trombi Benoit

19. “Were you aware that many people, including me, find that word offensive and inappropriate?” — Kristin Link

20. “Please don’t use that word in my presence. Many things I can deal with. Unfortunately, this one I find offensive. Please and thank you.” — Shawn Baltz

21. “That’s really not a nice word to use.” — Laura Steenerson

22. “Excuse me there, buddy, I couldn’t help overhear just now… you misused a word I don’t think you understand the meaning to, and unfortunately it is such an offensive and derogatory word that most people out of shock shy away and lose the courage to correct your use. You see, out of fear, years ago, some people used that word to classify those ‘other’ people who made them feel uncomfortable. To mark them as being less than. These ‘other’ people are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, our loved ones, and our friends.

“Since I know you wouldn’t stand for me calling the people in your life “less than,” how about we leave that word in the history books where it belongs, huh? Otherwise every time you use it, you’ll be proving that you in fact are less than. And to me, you seem like a good person. What do you say? No more R-word?” — Jim Mallon

Spread the Word to End the Word! You can head here to pledge to stop using the R-word. It’s a step toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.
# Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

For More of "The Mighty", visit: http://themighty.com/

Caregiving Takes Physical, Emotional & Financial Toll, Study Finds

At a Glance

  • Unpaid caregivers who helped with the health care of older adults experienced emotional, physical, and financial difficulties, as well as lower work productivity.
  • The findings provide a better understanding of the unmet needs and challenges of this often invisible workforce, which plays a key role in the health care system.
Family and other unpaid caregivers perform many activities on a regular basis as they help an older adult. These include making appointments, ordering and keeping track of medicines, assisting with personal care, shopping, doing housework, and providing transportation. Such caregivers play a crucial role in helping manage disabled adults, but are often invisible in the health care system.

A team led by Dr. Jennifer L. Wolff at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health set out to examine the nature and intensity of involvement that caregivers provide, and to assess how it relates to their health and function.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 1,700 family and unpaid caregivers of almost 1,200 older adults with disabilities. The data were obtained from two 2011 national surveys of older people and the caregivers who assisted those with disabilities. The research was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Results appeared online on February 15, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Based on the findings of this representative sampling, the researchers estimated that 14.7 million caregivers assisted 7.7 million older adults in 2011. Of these, 6.5 million (44%) provided substantial help, 4.4 million provided some help, and 3.8 million provided no help coordinating health care or managing medications. Almost half of the caregivers who provided substantial help assisted an older adult with dementia.

Those who provided substantial health care assistance, compared to those who provided none, were more likely to report caregiving-related emotional difficulty (34% vs. 15%), physical difficulty (22% vs. 6%), and financial difficulty (23% vs. 7%). Compared with caregivers providing no help, those providing substantial help were more than 5 times as likely to report that their care duties interfered with valued activities, such as visiting friends and attending religious services.

Caregivers who provided substantial health care assistance were also more than 3 times as likely to lose work productivity. This was due to both hours of work missed because of caregiving and decreased work due to distraction and/or fatigue.

The researchers found that the use of supportive services, such as respite care and support groups, was low. It was greater among caregivers providing substantial help, compared to some or no help (27%, 16%, and 8%, respectively).

“A lot of work goes into managing the care of people with complex health needs, and this work is borne not only by health care providers and patients, but also by their families,” Wolff says. “The more we know about this invisible workforce, the better we will be able to develop strategies that include unpaid caregivers as part of patients’ health care team.”

—by Carol Torgan, Ph.D.

as published by the National Institutes of Health,U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
February 2016 --  http://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/invisible-work-toll-among-family-unpaid-caregivers

Sunday, February 28, 2016

City of Chicago Creates Veteran Affairs Office in Effort to Expand Services

CHICAGO (AP) (Feb. 27, 2016)— Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has set up a new Chicago Veteran Affairs Office to expand services for military veterans and their families.
Emanuel’s office announced Saturday that he has appointed Victor LaGroon to serve as director of the new department. LaGroon served with the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division and has advocated for veterans’ health needs for the past decade.
Emanuel’s office says it’s the first time the city will have a fulltime staffer specializing in veterans policy and programming.
A group of aldermen who are former service members have also formed a new veteran caucus in the City Council.
The city also announced Saturday that a website, cityofchicago.org/veterans to guide Chicago veterans to resources in areas including housing and jobs is up and running.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

For the Chicago Office of Veterans’ Affairs: 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hines VA Hospital in Illinois, falsified records of dangerous waits for patient care for Veterans, Federal Report

HINES, Ill. -- Corruption at Hines Veterans Hospital should result in criminal charges, according to Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk. A federal report just out has Hines officials falsifying records of mental health patients to cover-up long wait times.

report by Chuck Goudie for ABC7 Investigations | Feb 26, 2016
A blistering report from federal investigators Friday goes to the heart of what's wrong with veterans hospitals, according to Kirk, who says the west suburban Hines VA Hospital could be worst in the nation when it comes to corruption taking its toll on veterans care.

A new investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel focuses on Hines Hospital and secret waiting lists kept by appointment schedulers in exchange for cash bonuses.

Since 2010 at Hines, Special Counsel investigators say veterans with mental health problems were made to wait months for help, and then VA staffers falsified records to cover the wait times.

According to a report sent to the president, Hines officials had directed staff to "zero out" patient wait times, creating a false appearance that sick veterans were actually receiving timely care.

ABC7's Chuck Goudie: "This describes falsifying federal documents - why aren't people being charged with crimes?"
Kirk: "They should be. Now that we have the back up the Office of Special Counsel, we have grounds to go to a U.S. attorney to find some criminal liability when they are falsifying, lying to a federal official which we all are - is the wrong thing to do. We should be prosecuting then."

Several years ago the VA Office of Inspector General investigated corruption complaints at Hines, but according to this new report, even the IG failed to do its job - instead castigating whistleblowers who tried to report wrongdoing.

"The sad thing is the OIG is supposed to be the safe haven for employees to go to report these dangerous things that are happening within our hospital, it's really not a safe place to go because they also participate in the retaliation," said Germaine Clarno, Hines VA whistleblower, Union Local President.

"This report shows that Germaine Clarno has been right all the time saying there were secret wait lists at Hines, mistreating veterans and there's a culture of corruption," Kirk said.

"Yes I feel vindicated, I do, but what is going to happen next? Next we have to really take a look and, for instance, how are we going to make any differences if the OIG and the VA is investigating themselves?" Clarno said.
The Hines whistleblower answered that by asking how the VA and its Inspector General can get anything done by investigating themselves.

Late Friday, the VA put out a press release touting enhancements to its suicide hotline, the phone number that was found to be putting veterans on hold when they called for help, or even sending them to voicemail.

2015 IRS Tax Return Information for People with Disabilities

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publication 907 has information that people with disabilities can use to prepare their 2015 tax returns.

 You'll find information about itemized deductions for medical expenses,  the Earned Income Credit and the new ABLE Accounts that can be used to pay for certain disability-related expenses. 

Get free help with your tax return at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site near you. For more information, call 1-800-906-9887 (VITA) or 1-888-227-7669(TCE).

Accessible Shakespeare Performance of 'Othello' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in March & April, 2016 - Open-Captioned - ASL - Audio-Described

Chicago Shakespeare Theater will be having Accessible performances of Othello in March, & April. Chicago Shakespeare Theater is wheelchair accessible for all performances, and events. Please always visit Access Shakespeare for more information at: https://www.chicagoshakes.com/access

Open-captioned on March 16 & 18, 2016
ASL Duo-interpreted on April 1, 2016
Audio-described on April 3, 2016

Othello, the brilliant general, is admired and envied by his men and passionately in love with his beautiful young wife. But when he promotes the highborn Cassio over Iago, the die is cast. Enraged, Iago stealthily goes for the kill—lying, manipulating and finally convincing Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Sexual jealousy, envy, misplaced pride and prejudice—this riveting tragedy smolders with timeless issues. Fresh from Shakespeare’s Globe and Royal Shakespeare Company, internationally renowned director Jonathan Munby returns to Chicago to stage one of the greatest psychological thrillers ever written with celebrated actor James Vincent Meredith in the title role. Purchase your tickets in advance by calling 312.595.5600.

TICKETS AS LOW AS $20 with our “Pay-What-You-Can” Access Shakespeare Program

For more information, please visit www.chicagoshakes.com/othello.


Feel the passion & power of #cstOTHELLO at one of these #Access Shakespeare Performances @chicagoshakes Details: http://bit.ly/1RS0Xqd 

#cstOTHELLO @chicagoshakes Open-captioned on March 16 & 18, Sign-interpreted on April 1 & Audio-described on April 3 http://bit.ly/1RS0Xqd 


Thousands to Gather in Lincoln Park for Walk MS, May 1

Chicago's Annual walk raises money towards research and support for those affected by multiple sclerosis

from a Press Release | Feb. 26, 2016
National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois

CHICAGO, February 26, 2016 — The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter will hold its largest annual fundraising event, Walk MS, on Sunday, May 1, 2016. This year, the Chicago Walk has moved from its previous Grant Park location and will take place at its new site in Lincoln Park, Grove 2, 1746 N. Stockton Dr., Chicago. Walk MS brings people together to celebrate the progress and powerful connections made in the movement to end MS, and raises funds for critical MS research and services.

“Everyone is excited to be there,” says Carol Murphy, whose team, Walk Like a Prescription, has participated in the Chicago Walk since 2013. “It sounds really cheesy, but once you get there, you see all the teams, and you realize we’re all on the same team. We’re all working together on the same solution.”

Thousands of people participate in Walk MS each year to fulfill the Society’s mission of a world free of MS. Last year, more than 12,200 people came out to 13 Walk MS events across Illinois, raising over $2.6 million to fund MS research, programs and services, making it one of the largest fundraisers in the nation.

The Walk will begin at 11 a.m., and participants can choose to walk anywhere from one to three miles. Walk-up registrations will open at 9:30 a.m.

“This is an important day of the year for so many people impacted by MS,” says Greater Illinois Chapter President Holly Messick. “Whether it’s through participating at one of our Walk MS sites, volunteering, fundraising or recruiting a friend or family member to be part of the event, the amazing turnout of thousands of supporters helps those affected by MS live their best lives.”

Walk MS does not have a registration fee, but as a fundraising event, participants are encouraged to raise funds to support the Society’s mission. There will also be 10 additional Walks across the state on May 1, which include: Bloomington, McHenry County (Lake in the Hills), North Shore (TBD), Northwest Suburbs (Hoffman Estates), Rockford, St. Charles, South Suburbs (Orland Park), Southwest Suburbs (Lockport), Springfield and West Suburbs (Naperville).

To learn more, register or make a donation, visit walkMS.org, or contact Meghan Melone at 312-423-1138 or at meghan.melone@nmss.org.
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. The National MS Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of more than 20,000 individuals in Illinois and 2.3 million worldwide affected by MS. 
For more information, visit MSIllinois.org.

Jewish Disability Advocacy Day activists focus on jobs, caregivers with U.S, Congress visit

About 130 Jewish activists descended on Capitol Hill to lobby for measures to help people who are disabled and their caregivers.
article by Suzanne Pollak for The Jewish Chronicle | Feb 10, 2016

Washington, DC -- Sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America, the Religious Action Committee of Reform Judaism and other organizations, the day-long Jewish Disability Advocacy Day event began as an education session on disabilities. Breaking into small groups, participants then visited legislators to ask for support on three bills, The Transition to Independence Act, the RAISE Family Caregiver Act and the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act.

The Transition to Independence Act, pending before the Senate Finance Committee, would fund 10 states that submit the best plans to create competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. The states whose applications are selected receive funds for their programs. Those jobs must be in a fully integrated environment, with the abled and disabled working side by side.

The goal of the act is to determine the best ways to eliminate sheltered workshops, where only disabled people are disabled. Applications must show that the people leaving specialized disability programs are the same people who obtain the new positions. Also, the newly employed cannot be paid sub-minimum wages.

The proposals also must show that although the new programs pay better, people with disabilities may still be eligible for Medicaid. Otherwise, said Samantha Crane, director of public policy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, people with disabilities would have to choose between working and getting enough money.

Jobs are important, both to provide workers with money and also to give them self-worth, said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, executive director of the RAC, noting that 28 percent of Americans with disabilities live in poverty and that their unemployment rate is more than twice the national average.

The other legislation addresses caregivers. The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a national caregiving strategy which would cover areas including workplace policies, training and support for caregivers, and information and referral services.

The third bill, Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act, would set aside money for caregivers to have a temporary break. Currently, the act allots $3.3 million a year. But this bill calls for $15 million per year from now until 2020.

“Family caregiving affects just about everyone,” said Rhonda Richards, senior legislative representative of the American Association of Retired Persons. About 40 million people across the country are caregivers, she said, adding that 6.5 million of them belong to the “sandwich generation” and are responsible for the care of both their children and their parents.

Almost one-third of family caregivers help their loved ones at least 62 hours a week, Richards said during the event, which was held at the Rayburn House Office Building.

One out of five Americans has a disability, Steve Rakitt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, said in his welcoming address.

Rakitt lost most of his hearing when he was 2 years old; he became a hearing aid wearer and lip reader.

The Federation, which hires people with disabilities, is working on updating its website so it will be accessible to people with disabilities. The Federation also is creating an assessment tool that will be available to area synagogues and organizations to see how are doing when it comes to accommodating people with disabilities.

“Imagine a world where all children are welcome into our synagogues and offered a chance to be spiritually uplifted, regardless of their abilities,” Rakitt said.

Pesner continued on that theme, saying that if places do not welcome all people, “God cannot enter.”

During the event, Maria Town, associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement, said the Obama administration is working on inclusion and wants to see more people with disabilities in the general workforce and fewer in the prison system.

Between 70 and 80 percent of people with disabilities do not have a job, she said.

Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi, CEO of RespectAbility, agreed that employment is crucial. “Employment is empowerment. It is dignity,” she told the advocates.

“Every synagogue seems to have a food drive,” but she said she would prefer a day when synagogue members sign up to mentor and become job coaches for people with disabilities.

Joshua Sayles, director of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, called the event “really inspiring to see people in the Jewish community from all over the country come to Washington to advocate for such important issues.”

Five members of Congress addressed the advocates, including Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R- Wash.) and James Langevin, (D-R.I.).

It’s important to focus on what someone has to offer rather than the disabilities, said McMorris Rodgers.

Added Deutch, “Our society can only benefit when we embrace all varieties.”

Suzanne Pollak writes for Mid-Atlantic Media.

Woman with Epilepsy calls for better Priority Seating Signage on Canadian Public Transportation

A young woman who has seizures is asking the public transport system in British Columbia, TransLink, to update its priority seating signage to reflect the needs of people with invisible disabilities. 

Tavia Marlatt from Surrey, British Columbia, experiences major seizures, causing her to black out and fall to the ground. She uses the seats marked for people with disabilities to prevent getting injured.

"I get the nastiest looks from everybody because I'm 19 and just by looking at me, you can't tell that I have a disability," Ms Marlatt said.

"There's not enough room in the back to have a grand mal seizure without getting hurt."

Ms Marlatt relies on public transport to get around every day; drivers must not be seizure-free in Canada for at least a year to get behind the wheel, but she has a major seizure about every two weeks.

To accommodate the needs of people like her, Ms Marlatt is asking TransLink to put up signs with the international medical symbol — a mark she has tattooed on her arm — alongside the wheelchair symbol.

She says the current sign implies a person must have a physical disability to use the priority seating.

In a written response, TransLink said Ms Marlatt's request serves as a reminder to all passengers that many disabilities are invisible.

"We urge all our customers to be kind and considerate to their fellow passengers," said TransLink.

It also said it has increased the number of priority seating signs but did not, however, specifically address whether it would accept Ms Marlatt's request.

Ms Marlatt says her ultimate goal is to create a better understanding of invisible disabilities among transit users and the general public.

"I would just really hope that people put more of an effort into learning about non-physical disabilities," she said.

She said her last experience having a seizure on the bus came as a shock — she woke up lying on the floor with the door repeatedly closing on her head.

"Literally nobody tried to help me. They just stood there and watched," she said. "I was very upset with our society for not helping a youth having a medical issue."

She has sat in the priority seating area ever since then, despite the dirty looks. 

Juliet Ashton, Epilepsy Society's Sapphire nurse consultant for epilepsy commissioning said: 
“Epilepsy is an unpredictable condition, there can be very little warning, if any, when a seizure is going to happen. People with epilepsy are constantly having to risk assess for that ‘just in case’ situation, hence the need for priority seating to give them space and access for emergency assessment/treatment , in case they have a seizure. Until they do they can blend into the general population going about their travels.
"To Read Epilepsy Society's travel information: here


About 1.4 million people in Illinois have a disability, or 11 percent of the population, according to ADA 25 Chicago. Just 35 percent of people with disabilities in the state are employed, and 28 percent in Chicago, compared with 75 percent of people without disabilities. The median annual income of someone with a disability is $21,000, versus $31,800 for those without. 

The Arc of Illinois has released a statement, and a report on the content of the hearing,

from a press release | Feb 25, 2016
The Arc of Illinois

The debate to end sub-minimum wages and the use of segregated sheltered workshop has come to Illinois as the Senate Human Services Committee held a hearing on the state’s implementation of the Employment First Act.

Robin Jones, Co-Chair of the Economic & Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities Task Force, gave the committee an update on the work of the Task Force and the State’s work on Employment First. She also reported that Charlie Weikel has been appointed at the Governor’s Employment First Liasion to the Task Force.

Equip for Equality attorney’s Barry Taylor and Cheryl Jansen reviewed Equip’s Employment First Blueprint. Barry talked about employment being a “civil rights” issue for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (IDD). Cheryl talked about the problems with coordinating employment supports between the Division of Rehabilitation Services and the Division of Developmental Disabilities as well as significant rate problems. Equip recommends revising the rate structure of supported employment to more adequately support individuals and incentivize integrated employment and restoring funding for extended supported employments beyond 18 months. Cheryl also said that the state needs to review its overuse of segregated settings for state use contracts.

Other recommendations on the use of sheltered settings included:
  • Amend regulations and policies for the creation of ISPs to require exploration of employment and justification for not pursuing integrated employment before day training or sheltered workshops are offered.
  • Amend regulations and waiver application to eliminate the presumptive eligibility for day training.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to service providers on how to create ISPs and effectively inform people with disabilities of the option to pursue integrated employment.
  • Revise guidance and training to service providers on how to conduct an ISP that results in a “meaningful day” for individuals.
  • Provide training and technical assistance for sheltered workshops on the shift to integrated settings, including fiscal strategies.
Regarding the Illinois Dept. of Central Management Services, the following recommendation are:
  • Amend the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females and Persons with Disabilities Act and regulations to exclude sheltered workshops as disability owned businesses and increase the goal of contracts awarded to businesses owned by persons with disabilities to seven percent.
  • Conduct additional outreach to people with disabilities to increase the number of certified disability-owned businesses.
  • Amend the provisions of the Illinois Procurement Code relating to the State Use Program to require sheltered workshops to offer competitive employment and pay minimum wage.
  • Amend contracts with State Use vendors to require that workers are regularly informed about the choice and opportunity to work in integrated settings.
  • Amend the provisions of the Illinois Procurement Code relating to the State Use Program to require the State Use Committee to include more scrutiny of state contracts with vendors, including using benchmarks of how many people are participating in community, integrated employment.
A full list of recommendations can be found on page 48 of the Illinois Employment First Blueprint.

Rene Luna from Access Living talked about phasing out subminimum wages which only lead to poverty for individuals with disabilities and how frustrated people with disabilities are with the employment system in Illinois.

Greg Bassi, DHS General Counsel and now Dept. of Human Services (DHS) Chief of Staff, shared that the Rauner Administration fully supports the implementation of Employment First and its principles. He said there is significant movement within DHS and the other state agencies to foster Employment First. The challenge facing the Administration is the implementation because we want and need to implement Employment First in a concrete and meaningful way.

It was an excellent hearing which can be viewed in full at Senate Human Services Committee Hearing on Employment First.

Employment First needs to implemented at every level from the school system to adult services. It is no longer acceptable that individuals with disabilities are denied the right to integrated employment in the community due to current state funding and practices. Our employment system needs structural reform at every level to ensure a full life in the community for everyone.
Tony & Kim, Cheryl, Director Romano and Barry Taylor


Senate Committee Checks In On Employment First Act
February 23rd, 2016 — As social service agencies are struggling to continue during the state budget impasse, there are questions about a plan to help those with disabilities.

The Illinois Employment First Act was signed by Governor Pat Quinn in 2013. The goal, to get those with disabilities competitive employment.

The co-chair of the task force says progress has been delayed because of the change in administrations and turnover.

She said in order to get the job done, lawmakers will have to be willing to make changes and investments.
“As things come forward to you for some of these things are going to require legislative changes. Some of the changes in the wavers and things of that nature. These are critical critical issues in us trying to re-balance how we’re spending our dollars,” said Robin Jones, Co-Chair, Illinois Task Force on Employment Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities.
Lawmakers said they wanted to check in to see how they could make the process better for the implementation of the law.

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
708-828-0188 (CELL)