Category Archives: disability advocacy

Join a Texas Emergency Management Webinar

Are you prepared for when an emergency strikes?

The Texas State Independent Living Council will host a webinar/virtual conversation, “Conversations on Independent Living: Emergency Preparedness,” on May 5, from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. (CT).

Color-enhanced picture of clouds over the ocean, showing golden and pink hues against black storm clouds.
If floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, or other disasters strike, are you ready? (license)

The guest speakers will be Ron Lucey, Executive Director of the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, and Danielle Hesse with the Texas Disability Task Force on Emergency Management of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The session will discuss:

  • best practices for emergency communications with members of the disability community;
  • including individuals with disabilities’ needs in emergency management processes; and
  • increasing emergency preparedness in the disability community.

    Picture of trees and a bridge, with high strong water forcefully crossing under it as if from a recent flood.
    Flooding presents a challenge to most Texans with a disability. Are you prepared? (license)

This discussion is open to all members of the public.

Register for the webinar here.

(They will send you an e-mail with call-in information after you complete registration.)

Accommodations: If you need accommodations to join the meeting, contact the Texas SILC by Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

For more information, contact Ashley Fry at 512-371-7353 or ashley@txsilc.org.

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Congressional Bill Challenges the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) allows people with disabilities the right to go to court if they can’t find satisfaction regarding their civil rights under this law and other disability rights laws.

American flag shines in the sunlight.
Will Congress reduce the power of one of its greatest laws? photo credit: docoverachiever VOTE via photopin (license)

However, a new Congressional Bill, H.R. 620, seeks to change the way people with disabilities may seek redress, or resolutions, to the inaccessible world they encounter. You can read the bill here.

According to a newsletter from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the bill will take away some rights that now exist under the ADA.

According to bill H.R. 620, it is designed “to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to promote compliance through education, to clarify the requirements for demand letters, to provide for a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action, and for other purposes.”

The fund opposes the bill. “We must counter the business lobby, which wants to make it much more difficult to attain accessibility when businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. disregard their ADA responsibilities,” according to the fund’s newsletter.

Black and white photo of an empty wheelchair at the bottom of some stairs.
Stairs are an example of an architectural barrier for someone who uses a wheelchair, scooter, or cane. But what if they block access to a doctor, lawyer, or school? (license)

Two problems in particular will affect people whose rights are violated under the ADA under H.R. 620, and according to the newsletter, it:

  • “Requires a person with a disability who encounters an access barrier to send a letter detailing the exact ADA provisions that are being violated;” and
  • “Rewards non-compliance by allowing businesses generous additional timelines, even though the ADA’s reasonable requirements are already over 25 years old!”
Gavel with a book in the background
How many actions must a U.S. citizen take before they can bring an action to court? (license)

If a person with a disability encounters an architectural barrier, according to the bill, they must do three things before they can take civil action:

  • “Provide to the owner or operator of the accommodation a written notice specific enough to allow such owner or operator to identify the barrier;” and
  • “Specify in detail the circumstances under which an individual was actually denied access to a public accommodation, including the address of property, the specific sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act alleged to have been violated, whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier to access was made,” and
  • Specify “whether the barrier to access was a permanent or temporary barrier.”

The amendment language also calls for the creation of a “model program with … an expedited method for determining the relevant facts related to such barriers to access and steps taken before the commencement of litigation to resolve any issues related to access.”

H.R. 620 seems to contradict the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Since lawsuits allow U.S. citizens to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” or for a remedy for their problems, then requiring people with disabilities to take additional steps before they can bring a lawsuit would hinder that freedom and cause them to have an additional burden unlike other U.S. citizens.

The fund recommends that individuals let their representatives in Congress know if they don’t wish the ADA to be limited by the amendments that H.R. 620 brings.

To find out who your state’s representatives are, you can type your Zip Code in at https://contactingcongress.org. Contacts include phone numbers, emails, and social media of your representatives.

Picture of the domed White U.S. Capitol building.
U.S. legislators will vote whether amendments are made to limit the ADA. (license)

You may also contact your legislators via phone by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You may ask them to help you locate your representatives if you don’t know them.

 

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Disability News Update: Advocacy Resources

The beginning of a new year is a great time to begin collecting valuable information and resources for advocacy. Below, you’ll find resources for:

  • workplace accommodations,
  • disability inclusion,
  • accessible signage, and
  • pre-school inclusion.
Woman in wheelchair interacts with a dog.
Is your workplace accessible? If not, JAN has a guide for you! photo credit: Bennilover Benni, the Christmas Elf, making friends via photopin (license)

Do you need a Great Workplace Accommodation Resource?

The Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, has updates its resources to provide a Toolkit to help businesses build an inclusive workplace.

The kit provides streamlined access to its resources that can assist employers and their staff with workplace accommodations for people who have disabilities.

Included in the toolkit are tools for:

  • Employers, employees, co-workers and others in the workplace, and
  • Reasonable accommodations.

Do you understand Disability Inclusion?

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, or EARN, has created a captioned video, “Primer on Disability Inclusion.”

“John Kemp, President and CEO of the The Viscardi Center, explains the benefits of fostering a disability-inclusive culture in your organization.”

To begin with, employers should make sure that people with disabilities are present and included in all levels of employment.

Does your place of business have accessible signage?

The U.S. Access Board has created an animation demonstrating accessible signage.

“The 15-minute animated film reviews and illustrates requirements in the standards for signs and clarifies common sources of confusion. It covers provisions for visual access, tactile signs, required access symbols and other pictograms.”

Adults and small children make paper crafts in classroom.
Preschools should also be a place where children of all abilities are included.

Did you know pre-school needs to be inclusive too?

According to the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” on Least Restrictive Environment for preschool age children.

The letter “provides information on why it important to offer educational programs for our youngest learners with disabilities from the start, and how states and districts can achieve this goal and meet their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

According to the letter, OSEP wishes to “reaffirm our commitment to inclusive preschool education programs for children with disabilities” because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act applies to children of all ages—including those in pre-school.

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Texas Emergency Planning for People with Deafness or Hearing Loss

Hurricane as seen from a satellite in space: clouds spin in circles.
The time to prepare for a storm is before it comes. photo credit: ISS017E015718 via photopin (license)

Texas cities prepare for emergencies and how they will affect people who have a variety of needs, including communication needs. More community input is needed to ensure that existing programs serve a purpose and are easily understood, but emergency preparations have come a long way.

Registering for communication and other needs during disasters

The State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry, or STEAR, is a program where people with disabilities may register and list their needs in times of disaster. According to the website, the registry “provides local emergency planners and emergency responders with additional information on the needs in their community.”

The program doesn’t guarantee that accommodations will be available to Texans in time of emergency, since, according to the website, Texas communities use the data in different ways. However, it’s recommended that people who have communication needs register so their local community is aware of their emergency needs.

Register at STEAR here.

Preparing ahead for emergencies

The Texas Department of State Health Services’ Ready or Not? website has checklists, brochures, information, and printable emergency wallet cards to help people prepare for emergencies. The site’s Disaster Supply Checklist includes items that people may need for assistive technology, such as hearing aids and hearing aid batteries.

Two men in suits receive questions from an audience.
How government plans ahead for communication access needs for the state’s Deaf Community depends on them learning how large the needs is now. photo credit: Engaging with FEMA Employees via photopin (license)

The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov provides special concerns for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

This includes having a NOAA weather radio or downloading the FEMA Safety App, and they offer unusual considerations, such as taking an older analog TTY phone or captioned phone with you.

Nine service dogs wearing jackets.
Service animals are allowed in shelters, including Hearing Dogs, but owners must be able to answer questions about how the dog is assisting them. Service dogs don’t need to wear a jacket. photo credit: Service Dogs of Hawaii Fi-Do, Training Session, Working Dogs, Job, Group Photo via photopin (license)

They also make recommendations regarding service animals, which may be taken into shelters, provided the individual with a disability remains with them and can answer the necessary two questions.

Do you have suggestions for how Texas could better prepare for emergencies and disasters? Share your ideas with us at the Sign Shares’ and Capsule Facebook pages.

 

 

Capsule: For the Love of Advocacy!

Sharing contributions with the world & future generations, one Capsule at a time! 

On August 16, 2016, Sign Shares, Inc./International announced the website publication of a new business on Facebook:The Capsule Group, known as Capsule. “We are proud to announce our advocacy group’s website is now live!!! Right before the August 18th rally at Houston, City Hall, well that just gives us goosebumps!”

Man uses sign language for interpreter and captions read: "My friends said 'VRI Deny. We choose a live interpreter.' That's a great idea."
Deaf Advocate Robert Yost signs about the right to choose a live interpreter.

The Aug. 18 Houston rally is a consumer-demanded event to address the Deaf Community’s response to the increasing use of Video Remote Interpreting, or VRI, at medical appointments without asking people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing about their preference.

At focus group meetings, advocates who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing urged Capsule and Sign Shares’ staff to help them make a stand for their civil rights.

The rally is just one of Capsule’s time capsules–“sharing contributions with the world & future generations.”

Eva Storey picture: a woman with dark hair smiles.
Detective: Eva Storey, Founder of Capsule.

According to the Founder of Capsule, Detective: Eva Storey on Facebook, “Our late founder asked me one day to bring my passions for all disabilities forward and collaborate my love for advocacy. This includes a main focus on the Deaf & Hard of Hearing communities from local, statewide, to international. It is far time for a different way to advocate, educate & legislate beyond the scope of interpretation and with flexible, creative freedoms.”

Storey has a disability herself, which informs her about the needs for a better way of supporting others with additional needs. “I myself am a five-time stroke survivor with an auto-immune deficiency, but I don’t go around introducing my disabilities. I introduce myself, raw & real. ‘Hi, my name is Detective: Eva Storey, founder of The Capsule Group.'”

Capsule’s mission is “to advocate, educate, and legislate on behalf of people of all disabilities to have unlimited access to resources and support needed to achieve life!”

According to Capsule’s website, the business exists “For the Love of Advocacy! A Different way to Donate! Advocate, Educate, Legislate!”

By creating Capsule, Storey became the first Capsuler. Meet the rest of the Capsule team.

Register to Join Capsule and begin making your own capsule here.

Fill Your Capsule With Love. Launch.

Follow Your Capsule. It Will Be Loved.

Click here if you would you like to create your own capsule by donating the following for a person with a disability:

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For the Love of Advocacy, Follow Capsule on Facebook.