Tag Archives: advocacy

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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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.

 

 

 

Who Ensures Deaf/Hard of Hearing Voting Access during Caucuses?

Disability advocates are working to ensure that people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing can participate in the selection of presidential candidates for their political parties during the Iowa caucuses.

What’s a caucus?

Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins helmets on display in a football stadium.
Think of a caucus as playoffs leading to the teams that will play the Super Bowl-our one Democratic and Republican candidate for the presidential elections. photo credit: houston texans vs. miami dolphins via photopin (license)

According to LifeHacker, “Before a presidential candidate can be on the ballot for the general election, they have to win the approval and backing of their political party. Think of the caucuses and primaries as the NFL playoffs—with candidates dropping out after each round of voting—and the general election this fall is like the Super Bowl where (usually) two candidates go head to head…”

According to a report from RespectAbility, five people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have requested ASL and CART, or Communication Access Real-time Translation, to participate in the Iowa caucuses, when “Iowans will publicly pledge their support to one of the Democratic or Republican candidates and by the end of the evening, each county will have a winner.”

Because the caucuses selecting political party candidates aren’t government run, but are run by the state’s political parties, they don’t follow traditional election procedures to ensure voting access. Some caucuses are held in churches or individuals’ homes, complicating accessibility, according to the report.

Jane Hudson of Disability Rights Iowa, has helped empower Iowans of all abilities to participate in candidate selection through the caucuses, according to the report. Hudson has had conversations with the Democratic and Republican parties and helped secure ASL and CART for the five people requesting it.

ASL open mic, cross through picture of microphone and shows sign language instead
Having sign language interpreters at events ensures greater access for people who are Deaf to have their hands heard. photo credit: Poetic Vision via photopin (license)
The nonprofit organization is “part of a national network of protection and advocacy systems established in the 1970s by the U.S. Congress to respond to repeated abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities in large institutions.”

According to RespectAbility report, “While there was discussion on who should pay for this [ASL and CART], the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties are footing the bill.”

Having CART at events ensures that people with hearing loss have another option. photo credit: CART captioning via photopin (license)
Having CART at events ensures that people with hearing loss have another option. photo credit: CART captioning via photopin (license)
The Iowa caucus will occur on Monday, Feb. 1, starting at 7 p.m. Central Time and lasting two or three hours. Results will be posted here.
Texas will not have caucuses, as it has had in the past, but will have a primary when voters determine which candidates gain their vote.
The Texas primary is on March 1 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Early voting begins on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and ends on Friday, Feb. 26.
 

 

Wheelchair Users Address the Dangers of Snow

According to an article on the JJ’s List blog, a woman who uses a wheelchair asks us to spread the word about the need to clear sidewalks of snow for wheelchair users.

Wheelchair symbol on street with snow depicts person being thrown from wheelchair.
One of the most dangerous obstacles for wheelchair users is snow. With the risk of going off course, getting stranded, or being pitched in the snow, winter travel for those using wheelchairs can be life threatening. photo credit: ramp via photopin (license)

Blogger Nura Aly lives in Illinois and uses a wheelchair. Though a city ordinance mandates businesses and residents shovel paths 36 inches wide on their sidewalks and curb cuts, not many people do it.

The situation is complicated when street snow plows move snow off the roads and into curb cuts, which are essential sidewalk entry/exit points for wheelchair users.

After a snowstorm, Aly thought she could get to work two days after the snow, but her mother and a stranger had to assist her when she got stuck in an alley.

“On Friday, six days removed from the last major storm and after dozens of phone calls by me and my loved ones to the office of my alderman, the sidewalks were finally cleared,” Aly said.

A video shows how difficult wheelchair navigation over the snow for someone who uses a wheelchair. With snow a few inches deep, her wheelchair slides to the side and doesn’t follow a straight path, which could cause the wheelchair user to plow into a post, wall, or even off the sidewalk.

Large sofa sits on a sidwalk next to the curb cut
Assuming that a sofa wasn’t blocking sidewalk access for wheelchair users, snow could block access to this curb cut. photo credit: sofafree, lowrider via photopin (license)

The Realities of Wheelchairs and Snow Days

Another blogger, Anita Cameron, said, “Often, folks who use wheelchairs get stuck in the snow and must depend on the kindness of strangers to rescue them. This has happened to me and many of my friends countless times.”

“People sometimes make glib comments – ‘stay at home,’ ‘get a power chair,’ ‘use para-transit.’ Staying at home isn’t a good idea when you work and bills must be paid. Even the most empathetic boss is going to eventually get tired of the ‘snow excuse’ and you’ll find yourself disciplined or terminated. Contrary to popular belief, a power wheelchair won’t get through six inches of snow, ice or slush – the wheels will simply spin uselessly,” Cameron said.

Cameron said that para-transit is for people who can’t otherwise access a public bus. Since many buses are now accessible, para-transit wouldn’t apply unless they weren’t near a bus stop. Sometimes, access to the bus stop is also blocked by snow, forcing wheelchair users to wait in the street. Cameron said this has resulted in police stops to understand why she was in the street.

Snow plow shovels snow near man shoveling snow off sidewalk.
Snow plows can cause build up of snow around sidewalks. photo credit: Mine is Bigger via photopin (license)

Some people are training service animals to pull them out of the snow, according to a Daily Herald report.

Technology and Resources for the Snow

The Karman website has two technology recommendations for enhancing snow safety for wheelchair users.

One is a small set of anti-tipping wheels behind the other wheels. The other is a wheel blade that works like a snow plow. As with many items, for those on fixed budgets, additional wheelchair equipment may be beyond their budget or they may have to wait months for approval from insurance or rehabilitation sources.

According to the website, snow poses a significant risk for those using wheelchairs. “It can be a very dangerous situation if you are propelling your wheelchair on your own with no assistance. One little wheel slip and you lose balance, finding yourself face down in the snow. In some situations, you can start moving about in the snow, but after a while you will find yourself stuck in the snow you’ve been raking in front of the chair.”

The Smart Chair blog recommends snow tires for wheelchairs, a buddy system, backup power sources and planning for medicines and trips.

Creative Solutions

New Mobility Magazine, a publication for active wheelchair users, offers potential snow solutions in the form of specialized wheelchairs, additional equipment, snow chains, and homemade equipment. They provide links to videos showing the equipment.

Let’s not forget that people do what they are able and wish to do, and some people who use wheelchairs love snow and snow sports, such as adaptive skiing, snowboarding, hockey, and more.

Regardless of hobbies or abilities, sidewalks should be universally accessible to everyone, whether they use a wheelchair, are pushing a stroller or walker, are walking with a toddler holding each hand, riding a bicycle to work, or just enjoying the outdoors. At no point should sidewalks present a danger to life, as the bloggers shared.

Advocating for Public Safety

If you’d like to help, make sure that sidewalk areas and curb cuts near your home or place of business have at least 36 inches of access without snow.

If you observe areas of your hometown that have snow covered sidewalks and you live in the United States, let your City Council know. Locate your council through a link at the mayor’s office or directly. Type in the name of your city and City Council for search engine results.

If the problem continues, attend a council meeting and request that the issue be addressed. Meeting dates will be posted on their website, or you can call and ask. Look for or request the times when public comment will be taken, and then plan to share your input in 1-3 minutes.

For this topic, pictures would be useful for the council to review. Printed pictures would work best, as they could be passed to council members while you present your information.

Items brought to the council must be addressed in the future in some way, whether they seek more information, write an ordinance that the city must follow, or determine they can do nothing more.

You could also send an email or call your city’s disability coordinator, or if you can’t find one, then contact the council to address your concerns.

If you believe the issue isn’t being addressed properly, other resources are state and national representatives.

Contact Your Elected Officials

Find links to contact the president, vice president, U.S. senators and representatives, state governors, state senators and representative, and mayors. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Welcome to Our Vlog

TRANSCRIPT BELOW

Sign Shares boat logo with blue handsHello, everyone of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Sign Shares’ VLOG.

My Name is: Michael AKINOSI. I am a Deaf Community Advocate with Sign Shares.

We gladly welcome you to our Web Site – www.Signshares.com. We love hearing from you, your ideas, concerns, questions and feedback you may have to better serve and work in partnership for better services through Advocacy and Understanding your Rights. Thanks for watching and be on the look out for future events and announcements as often as possible and kindly spread to others.

Have a Nice Day. Take Care. Bye.

Governor recognizes Sign Shares at awards

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recognized Sign Shares, Inc. | International of Houston at the 2015 Lex Frieden Awards in Fort Worth on Oct. 21 for the Small Business Award.

The Governor’s Committee for People with Disabilities renamed the annual employment awards after civil right’s champion, Lex Frieden, who was “instrumental in conceiving and drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”

The Fort Worth Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities hosted the sold out event.

Governor Abbott speaks about Sign Shares.
Governor Abbott sent a video to the awards ceremony.

Though the governor couldn’t make the ceremony, Governor Abbott recognized Sign Shares in a captioned video, where he said, “These awards honor those who go above and beyond what is required to ensure that all Texans have a chance to put their skills and talents to use in the workplace.”

“Today I’m proud to help recognize the award winners . . . It includes Sign Shares International of Houston, where the entire staff focuses on ensuring full inclusion and raising awareness of accessibility issues in the community,” he said.

Sign Shares staff at awards (l-r): Christina Goebel, Eva Storey, and Anthony Butkovich
Sign Shares staff at awards (l-r): Christina Goebel, Eva Storey, and Anthony Butkovich

Sign Shares’ CEO, Eva Storey, was present to accept the award. Together with Storey were Sign Shares’ Executive Assistant Anthony Butkovich and Advocacy Community Projects Manager, Christina Goebel.

“We are proud to employ people with all disabilities and wish to inspire other companies to do the same as our company is here to guide both employee and employer through the process within such a deserving community,” Storey said.

Eva Storey and Christina Goebel concentrate on their speeches before taking the stage to accept the award.
Eva Storey and Christina Goebel prepare before speaking at the Lex Frieden Awards.

At the ceremony, Goebel thanked Storey and Butkovich for making her feel wanted, needed, and accepted with her deafness, and for the access and inclusion Sign Shares provides to staff.

If you are an entity that wishes to open the doors for people with disabilities,  contact Sign Shares’ offices at info@signshares.com .