The office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the appointment of Detective Eva Storey to the Texas State Independent Living Council. Storey is the CEO and President of Sign Shares, Inc. and the Founder of The Capsule Group, Inc. Her term is until June 20, 2022.
“It is an honor to be appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to serve within the State Independent Living Council of Texas,” Storey said. “I will respectfully advocate for individuals of disability, creating accessibility between their choice of educational, employment, medical, and legal providers, for all to engage on positive platforms of understanding and acknowledge one another through effective communication.”
The Texas State Independent Living Council, or the Texas SILC, has a mission to “ensure that all Texans with disabilities have access to quality Independent Living services by providing a framework for service delivery.” This is done via the Independent Living Movement principles of peer support, self-help, self-determination, equality, and positive systemic change.
Within that mission, the Texas SILC develops the State Plan for Independent Living in conjunction with the state’s Centers for Independent Living. The three-year plan “establishes the goals for the provision of Independent Living services in Texas.” The SILC also monitors the implementation and effectiveness of the plan and collects input from across the state via meetings, events, and town halls.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
“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.”
Did you know pre-school needs to be inclusive too?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!”