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When people with disabilities encounter disability discrimination, they may think the only option is to sue. Or, they may let the issue go, thinking hiring a lawyer may be too expensive or time consuming.
Litigation in court costs money, and matters are resolved over a period of time–sometimes years. That’s too long to wait for a pressing need.
Other options are available to get access and inclusion.
When agencies, organizations, and businesses know the laws and don’t want to make accommodations or include people with disabilities, there are other remedies.
According to the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ (CTD) Messenger e-Newsletter, a lawsuit should come after other efforts have been made to see if a solution can be reached.
The CTD newsletter suggests three actions before seeking a lawyer:
Talk to the business directly CTD recommends asking for the manager or the property manager. A CTD example shows that calling attention to access for one disability can benefit others: “CTD was approached by a group of taxi drivers who were concerned that the drop-off area [for Austin City Limits] was far from the entrance gates and required people with mobility impairments to traverse a ditch. CTD staff met with Festival organizers … By the next year, vehicles transporting people with disabilities were allowed to pull right up to the entrance gate. Plus, the Festival added accommodations such as an accessibility station and free rental wheelchairs, and ASL interpreters became permanent.”
Put it in writing An example where this worked: “Austin resident Julie Maloukis sent Maudie’s Tex Mex written notice about their inaccessible parking. Several weeks later, Maudie’s contacted Julie, thanking her for letting them know about the situation and to tell her the parking spaces were fixed.”
File a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, “which might be able to require a business to comply with ADA regulations.” What does the Department of Licensing and Regulation do? According to the agency’s website, they “ensure public safety and customer protection, and provide a fair and efficient licensing and regulatory environment at the lowest possible cost.” The department has influence over businesses, particularly if the business requires a license. Complaints can be filed against businesses that are unlicensed too.
Another way to educate others is to ask to schedule a demonstration of the lack of access or inclusion. When staff at businesses learn how the problem affects others, they are more willing to help.
For example, if a ramp is too steep at the entrance to business, offer to demonstrate for them why. Have someone to spot the wheelchair as you attempt to travel up or down the ramp, and keep safe.
If you need communication access, demonstrate how the experience would be without sound or words. For example, if you need a video captioned, have them watch the video with you without any sound. Have them read a paper with their eyes closed or in the dark if you are requesting Braille and they don’t understand why.
Be creative with teaching others to understand. Misunderstandings lead to discrimination continuing. Once everyone is on the same page, it’s easier to find a reasonable solution.
In many cases, these steps will work with solving discrimination situations.
If not, another option before filing a lawsuit is to ask a lawyer to draft a letter discussing their obligations under the law, so that they are aware of the seriousness of the situation.
Whether the person chooses to take a matter to court is his or her right. Each person needs to evaluate how severe the situation is, and if a possible solution can be reached without deciding to sue.
The Sign Shares’ blog has posted the past few articles relating to support people for individuals who are DeafBlind, or who have
both vision and hearing loss.
However, how do individuals seek DeafBlind Interpreters, Support Service Providers (SSPs), or Interveners? How do those who are DeafBlind pay for them?
One of the first stops for assistance is vocational rehabilitation. If an individual has a severe enough disability–and having both
vision and hearing loss qualifies–then most individuals can receive some assistance with services and/or equipment and training they need to maintain their independence from their state’s vocational rehabilitation program.
Vocational rehabilitation may assist individuals who are going to school or work, as well as individuals who aren’t working and need support to live, work, and play independently.
Once an individual is a client of a vocational rehabilitation program, they may assist with the cost of DeafBlind Interpreters and potentially SSPs.
However, federal and state agencies, as well as cities, will provide these services if the individual requests them. They usually need some advanced notice so they have time to make an appointment for the individual to have services. Also, large businesses that serve the public are also required to provide these services as requested.
Schools provide Interveners as needed, and the request for one should be in a student’s education plan. The first step for this is for the student to be enrolled with special education or disability services programs at school or college/university. From there, they can request DeafBlind Interpreters and Interveners to assist with communication and/or learning, as is needed by the student.
While most services can be paid for through vocational rehabilitation, schools, colleges, and universities, as well as sometimes through government agencies and businesses, it
takes extra information to be prepared and learn what is needed for independence.
Joining organizations that have other individuals who have similar needs makes it easier to socialize and learn more about ways to adapt.
There are many organizations to choose from, based on the person’s needs and interests.
Many supports are available to people who are DeafBlind. Yesterday, the Sign Shares’ blog discussed DeafBlind Interpreters. There are others who provide support besides interpreting, so that people who have vision and hearing loss can live independently.
If their need regards formal communication, such as medical appointments, education, meetings, etc., they will need a certified professional, a DeafBlind Interpreter, according to the task force.
What happens if the individual’s need involves more than communication, such as transportation?
If the person who is DeafBlind needs transportation and support navigating an environment such as a conference, shopping, hobbies and sports, or informal settings, they may need a Support Service Provider, or SSP.
There are problems with people close to the person who is DeafBlind performing the SSP role, according to the white paper. They often lack formal training, may not provide reliable support, and the person requesting SSP support “may have feelings about infringing on others’ time. Often, this will lead the person who is deaf-blind to change their plans or not get out into the community…”
According to the paper, not getting out into the community “can lead to isolation, depression, low self-worth, and frustration…”
Hiring SSPs may offer greater independence for the individual with need because they are involved in their travel experiences.
According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, SSPs:
provide visual and environmental information,
assist with communication access, and
guide within the physical environment, generally in community-based or informal settings.
In a white paper, the American Association of the Deaf-Blind describes the SSPs main role as:
“Providing access to the community by making transportation available (by car, bus, or other conveyance), and serving as a human guide while walking,” and
Relaying “visual and environmental information that may not be heard or seen by the person who is deaf-blind. This is done in the person’s preferred language and communication mode.”
An important aspect of the relationship between the person who is DeafBlind and an SSP is that the person who is DeafBlind makes all decisions, according to the white paper.
Support Service Providers, according to the task force, might assist in the following locations:
recreation and leisure sites,
during health and fitness pursuits,
at home reading mail,
social gatherings, and
other activities in private settings.
SSPs may work in together with DeafBlind Interpreters at events like conferences, where the interpreter supports workshop communication, and the SSP supports travel and navigating the event, according to the task force.
However, they differ in important ways, because Interpreters:
work with people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and also people deaf-blind;
Interpreter education is available from colleges/universities and can culminate in state/national certification;
Interpreters are paid based upon their certification and/or the rate established by the referring agency/community.
SSPs work only with people who are DeafBlind or have a combination of hearing and vision loss, according to the association.
Their training is less formal than interpreters, may be taught in workshops or through life experiences. Because of the less formal education and certification of SSPs, they may be volunteers, or receive less pay.
There are many supports for people who are DeafBlind, those who experience both vision and hearing loss.
People who are DeafBlind may have any combination of hearing and vision loss. For example, they may be Blind and have some hearing loss, or Deaf and have some vision loss, or a combination of both at any degree. Because vision and hearing are two sensory needs, having a loss of both presents an additional challenge with communication and navigating their world.
The goal of providing supports for the individual who is DeafBlind is that the individual can make decisions and live independently.
When a person might need assistance from one of the support roles above depends on their needs, level of disability, and preferences.
If their need regards communication, such as at medical appointments, school or college, conference workshops, government or professional meetings, then they will need a certified professional, a DeafBlind Interpreter, according to the task force.
According to the task force, DeafBlind Interpreters are skilled with:
Tactile signing, a hand-over-hand method for people who receive signed information through touch;
Tracking, used by DeafBlind people who have some vision but rely on understanding signed information by touching the interpreter’s wrist or forearm to visually follow their hands;
Providing visual environmental information in addition to spoken or signed content;
Modifying the signing space, the distance between the consumer and interpreter;
Adjusting pacing; and
Delivering the content in a manner which is meaningful and understandable way for the individual.
A DeafBlind Interpreter may also offer other additional support, according to the task force, which may include:
Guiding the individual when walking from one place to another,
Sharing visual information,
Translation of printed materials, or
Assisting with seating arrangements.
Tomorrow’s blog will discuss the difference between DeafBlind Interpreters and Support Service Providers.
“We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded that we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way we can bring this about,” said Louis Braille, inventor of the raised print read by people who are blind or have low vision.
January celebrates the life and death of Braille. He was born on Jan. 4, 1809, and died on this date, Jan. 6, 1852 at 43. The importance of the inventor and teacher is shown by the move of his remains from his hometown in Coupvray to Paris–except for his hands, the same that read Braille and created it, which were separated from the body and remain in Coupvray.
Braille developed his method of raised letters from a military night-reading code of raised dots on cardboard that was submitted to the Institute for Blind Children in Paris by an officer in the French military. The military had rejected it, according to an article in History Today.
According to the article, Braille was a student who examined the officer’s code, later refined it when he was just 15, and as a teacher at the same school years later, published a book on it.
Pierre Focault, another ex-student from Braille’s school, eventually developed the first typewriter for the blind, according to the article. By that time, Braille had died from tuberculosis.
The American Foundation for the Blind has developed 16 Braille resources to celebrate the life of its creator. The resources include a link to a video of Helen Keller’s speech about Braille, games, parent and teacher resources, an online museum about Braille, and links to more resources.
“The U.S. members of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) to replace English Braille American Edition in the U.S., which means that all new transcriptions will be produced in UEB and educators will teach the code,” according to the website.
While premieres for the latest Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were last night, the film opens in nationwide theaters today. Almost everyone who wants to can view one of the coolest movies in the galaxy–but not quite. For one blogger who uses a wheelchair, leaving home to view the movie with a damaged wheelchair could endanger his life. Another young man may be attending the film because of director J.J. Abram’s and others’ contributions.
Access to movies for people of all abilities will take a community effort.
Movies have been a stress point for many people with a disability. For some, they need captions or amplification to hear, others need descriptive voice, and others need physical access to parking, the building, and accessible seating and bathrooms. Many theaters now provide this access and indicate next to the movie listing if it’s accessible.
Open captioning: scheduled less frequently, captions are shown on the film itself for all to see
Assistive Listening Device: a theater-provided amplification device for those with mild to moderate hearing loss
Accessible Parking, Seating, and Bathrooms: those spaces with no seats allow someone using a wheelchair to sit–and may run out temporarily during Star Wars’ showings
Showings for People with Cognitive Disabilities: usually scheduled later for showings, allow viewers to walk around or talk as they desire, sound may be lower for those with Autism, reduces stress about “proper behavior” for viewing films
Showings for with Sign Language for People who are Deaf: usually scheduled later with sign language interpreters
Watching films with sign language is a truer form of communication for those who are culturally Deaf and use sign as their primary method of communication.
If you need accommodations, call early for theater access, especially when seats will be full, to know if there will be enough accessible seating, if captions will be available for the 3D version of the movie, if the film will have descriptive voice, if an open captioned film will be shown, or if there will be enough amplification devices on hand.
On crowded days, those using wheelchairs might want to call ahead to arrange for assistance carrying their food and drinks while navigating thick crowds in hallways.
Those needing additional access should show up early to the film to ensure their space or equipment is available. Accessible seating and equipment take extra time to arrange.
While many people with disabilities will experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, some will not.
For actor, blogger, and activist Dominick Evans, Dec. 17 was a reminder of the downside of the lack of access. Evans said in his blog, “Not only can I not go see [Star Wars: The Force Awakens], but I probably won’t be able to see it until it comes to streaming or television. The reason is because I lack access to the things I need to not only get out of my house, but also out of my bed. I have been trapped in bed before, and it sucks, but today it is my reality…not because I’m disabled, but because any type of equipment and services I (and others) need, are 10 times more expensive. ”
Evans has had a broken wheelchair for three years. He said that if insurance comes through, he may have a new wheelchair next spring. In the meantime, Evans’ wheelchair is painful and dangerous to use.
Not having a wheelchair is one of Evans’ access problems. Another is needing a new Hoyer lift, equipment used to move Evans into his wheelchair and out of it.
Evans said, “Due to something called contractures in my legs, which can be very painful, my legs hang around the bar of the kind of lift I use. My feet snag on it, and I have recently experienced multiple sprained feet and broken toes.”
The new lift that won’t break Evans’ bones costs $5,000 and may not be covered by insurance.
For people like Evans, not having appropriate technology is life-threatening and deprives him of choices many of have that we take for granted.
“This is the part of having a disability that stinks the most … knowing you could have your freedom back, but lacking that access to get the things you need, to make it happen. Today I wish I could go to the movies. I have long been a Star Wars fan,” Evans said.
Evans asks us to think of him when we experience the film at theaters. He said, “So today, if you get to go enjoy Star Wars…have some popcorn for me, and think about ways you can help support the disability community, so those of us currently unable to go see this film, or any other film franchise we happen to love, due to lack of access, have a greater chance of not facing these barriers, in the future.”
J.J. Adams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, contributed $50,000 this year to the family of 10-year-old Michael Keating, a young man who has Cerebral Palsy and whose family needed an accessible van to transport him. They needed more equipment too, since his mother had two hernia surgeries related to moving her 70-pound son.
According to a Washington Post report, Abrams said, “Katie and I made the donation. Likely for the same reason others did: we were moved by the Keating family’s grace, strength and commitment to each other.”
Sign Shares staff realizes the need to advocate for access and inclusion so that everyone can live, work, and play in the least restrictive environment. Sign Shares has contributed to disability events across the state and nation to support disability education, awareness, inclusion, and advocacy for people of all abilities.
If you need a sign language interpreter, CART live captioning, or similar resources, you can request services here or call: Local (Houston): 713.869.4373 • Toll Free: 866.787.4154, or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832. 431.4889.
The Sign Shares’ advocacy team can provide resources to those who need technology, access, or advocacy information. Contact us here or by calling the numbers above, at or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832.431.4889.