Tag Archives: Coalition of Texans with Disabilities

Advocacy to Avoid Disability Discrimination Lawsuits

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.

Gavel rests on top of desk with court room participants in distance
The courtroom is a place to solve problems as a last resort. photo credit: CA Supreme Court – 11 via photopin (license)

Other options are available to get access and inclusion.

Many businesses, organizations, and agencies understand that they should respect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  and other federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities . One way to raise awareness is to share the law with them.

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:

Wheelchair ramp leads up to steps
Here’s a situation businesses could understand better once someone pulled their wheelchair up to this ramp. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)
  • 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.

Captions on bottom of TV screen showing news about Oprah and Australia.
Watching TV without sound or captions is a quick way to teach why captions are important to those with hearing loss or deafness. photo credit: NICOLE CHETTLE via photopin (license)

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.

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Celebrating Thanksgiving with Sign Shares

Sign Shares team in the office.
Celebrating Ms. Bettye’s birthday (l-r): Eva Storey, Christina Goebel, Tonia Osberg, Anthony Butkovich, Bettye Washington (back), Sijaama Branch (front), Lorinda Hernandez-Howard, and Michael Akinosi.

We have so much to be thankful for, most of all for you and for one another!

Sign Shares has  celebrated birthday hugs and awards, supporting the disability community through arts and more.

Group of people signing to one another.
The Sign Shares family at the Disability Touching Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

Sign Shares was honored to be a part of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Sign Shares was a Director sponsor for the event.

In a recent Facbook photo album, Sign Shares’ staff Eva Storey and Michael Akinosi interact with Lizzie Velasquez. Velasquez is an international speaker and activist who is the subject of a film, A Brave Heart. The film explores how Lizzie turned a malicious viral video touting her as the “world’s ugliest woman” into a stigma-shattering victory.

Eva Story and Lizzie Velasquez talk.
Lizzie Velasquez shares a moment with Sign Shares’ Eva Storey.

The Sign Shares team also viewed the Jessica Cox film Right Footed. Cox is an advocate, pilot, and martial artist who was born without arms. The film follows her advocacy for disability rights.

 

Cynthia Carvey signing.
Sign Shares’ Cynthia Carvey in action.
Sherri Frost talking with others in background.
Sign Shares’ Sherri Frost interpreting.

Enjoy these pictures of Sign Shares’ interpreters in action.

 

Group poses for birthday in front of large balloons.
Sign Shares staff Michael Akinosi, Eva Storey, and Sherri Frost celebrated a milestone birthday with William “Randy” Gunter.

Our pictures also share our family with you–recent birthdays for Sign Shares’ family members Bettye Washington and William “Randy” Gunter, and a picture of the Sign Shares’ Lex Frieden award!

Quote: Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first or the last time. Then your time on Earth will be filled with glory. Betty

Hands raised in blue light.On Facebook, Sign Shares’ President and CEO, Eva Storey, said, “We have more memories to create and wrap up by the end of the 2015 year. We always have you all in our hearts and minds. Love and Blue Light, the SS Family!”

Woman and man pose for selfie.
Eva Storey and Anthony Butkovich at CTD’s film festival.

 

Austin film festival showcases disability

 

This annual event highlights films that “positively and accurately represent disability.”

According to the event’s website, “The Short Film Competition provides an opportunity for independent filmmakers from around the world to screen their own films about disability, from documentaries to animated shorts to the avant-garde.”

The theme for this year’s event is “Look World, No Limits!”, which relates to both selected films, A Brave Heart and Right Footed.

This year, CTD required that submitted films for the competition contain subtitles. ASL interpretation and Closed Captioning will be provided at the event.

The festival will be located at the Alamo Drafthouse Village at 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Austin, TX 78757 (map).

Admission to the festival is free. However, a $10.00 food voucher will guarantee your seat and can be redeemed for $10.00 worth of food and drink from the Drafthouse menu. Note that past events have sold out, so purchasing the vouchers is a way to ensure seating.

Purchase a food voucher for Friday night. This evening Right Footed will be viewed. There is a pre-show, adaptive martial arts demonstration by Jessica Cox, star of Right Footed, and One World Karate at 5:45 p.m. on Friday evening only. Cox will join Cinema Touching Disability afterwards to present her film and answer audience questions.

Purchase a food voucher for Saturday night. This evening the film A Brave Heart will be shown.

Cinema doors open at 6:15 p.m. each evening and the program runs until 9:45 p.m. each night. Arrive early to ensure parking availability.

Subscribe to Cinema Touching Disability News, the organization’s free monthly e-newsletter.