Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Freedom for people with disabilities

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Olmstead decision, which admonished segregation, sought to put an end to discrimination and opened the door to freedom for thousands of people in the United States. It was not about race or gender, but about freedom for citizens who happen to have disabilities. The court ruled that “the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions may constitute discrimination based on disability.”

Years ago, it was common for people with disabilities to be segregated in institutions. Today, citizens who happen to have a disability can live the life they want in the community because of two brave women in Georgia, living in an institution, who wanted to leave.

However, for many, the struggle continues. Missouri has six institutions. Ten other states have none. Medicaid is required to pay for expensive nursing homes and institutions. Almost 5,000 are waiting for community services. There is no demand for institutions.

Is this the year that people cry out against injustice and policy is passed that reflects what we all have a right to — a real life in the community?

Shelly Shetley
Self-advocate and chair Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities
Kansas City

Friday, June 19, 2009

Managing Chronic Illness at Work

Juggling work demands and sick time isn’t ever easy, but when you have a chronic illness like diabetes or multiple sclerosis, sick days can disappear quickly and bosses can become impatient. Read More.

Van Giveaway

Check it out! BraunAbility is teaming up with Toyota, Great Clips & Braun Racing to give away a one-of-a-kind wheelchair van!
Use this link to enter: href="">

Doctors group: Obesity not a disability

Sun-Times News Group

Chicago, IL - The American Medical Association Tuesday said obesity shouldn't be considered a disability, because it could limit doctors' ability to talk to patients about their weight.

Defining obesity as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act would enable advocacy groups to challenge weight discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere.

But the AMA is concerned that it could also open the door to discrimination lawsuits if overweight patients take offense to a doctor discussing their weight.

The doctors group, in Chicago this week for its annual meeting, passed a formal resolution on the subject Tuesday.

"We have to have the freedom to talk to our patients and help them lose weight," said Dr. Domenic Federico, a member of the Michigan delegation that proposed the measure.

Also on Tuesday, the AMA's house of delegates pledged to lobby Congress to ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies nationwide, on the basis that pharmacies are part of the health care system and should not sell tobacco.

The AMA meeting concludes today with a vote on the organization's stance on a "public option" health insurance plan for the uninsured.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

North Pole Now Wheelchair Accessible

North Pole Now Wheelchair Accessible
Quadriplegic Reaches Geographic North Pole: A Historic First

Press Release Source: Team Independence

Monday April 13, 2009, 10:05 am EDT

TORONTO, April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The North Pole has now been made wheelchair accessible. On April 11, 2009 a disabled parking sign
was raised at the North Pole on the 100th anniversary of the first successful polar expedition. David Shannon became the first person in
world history with quadriplegia and in a wheelchair to reach the Pole. He along with expedition co-leader and fellow Canadian, Chris
Watkins, developed "Team Independence 09" to promote breaking barriers to accessibility and greater community inclusion.

David upon reaching the pole stated, "This sign represents all peoples who have faced challenges or adversity in their lives
and have dreamed of overcoming them. If we as people, work together in our homes, our cities, our countries and in our global village,
there is no dream that cannot be realized."

Chris Watkins who himself was injured in 1988 stated, "David and our team represents the long-shot win of the underdog. But it shows
that there is no dream too big to dream and no challenge to big to overcome. What David has left us with is a world of infinite horizons."

Media is invited to go to for more information and a media package on this historic first North Pole
expedition. A photo of their arrival at the North Pole is available.

During the expedition the team struggled with adversity. In addition to the cutting arctic winds, David's spinal
cord injury compromised his ability to maintain body heat. The week of the final polar push, this heat retention problem was compounded
by a significant infection, which caused increased susceptibility to the life threatening cold temperatures. David and Chris have returned
exhausted and with some minor injuries. For example, Chris suffered some frostbite to his fingers and a cut to his foot. They are recovering
in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway with their team mate Darren Lillington. This is an island still within the Arctic Circle north of Lapland.
They will return to Canada in a few days.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Disability discrimination in the workplace

Disability discrimination
Disability discrimination means treating individuals differently in employment because of their disability, perceived disability, or association with an individual with a disability. Some examples of disability discrimination include:

discriminating on the basis of physical or mental disability in various aspects of employment, including: recruitment, firing, hiring, training, job assignments, promotions, pay, benefits, lay off, leave, and all other employment-related activities.

harassing an employee on the basis of his or her disability.

asking job applicants questions about their past or current medical conditions, or requiring job applicants to take medical exams.

creating or maintaining a workplace that includes substantial physical barriers to the movement of people with physical disabilities.

refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees with physical or mental disability that would allow them to work.

If any of these things have happened to you on the job, you may have suffered disability discrimination. If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, there are federal and state laws protecting you from job discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of your disability. You are also protected if you are a victim of discrimination because of your association (family, business, social or other relationship) with an individual with a disability.

Federal law(s) cover people with disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), makes it illegal for private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

The Rehabilitation Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These are the primary federal laws that apply to workplace discrimination, although there are many other federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability. The laws of most states also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability, and some state laws have different standards than the ADA for determining who is covered by state disability discrimination law.

By Steve Spiegel
Seattle Workplace Examiner

Thursday, June 11, 2009

PROMISES, PROMISES: Polling places lack access

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite high-profile promises over the past 25 years, many disabled Americans still are unable to fully participate in their democracy.

Advocates say they field complaints from around the country from disabled people who have problems getting into polling places or can't independently and privately cast their votes. T.K. Small, who doesn't have the use of his hands because of a neuromuscular disorder, said a 2002 law mandating access to voting for the disabled feels like a broken promise.

"My right has been completely frustrated," said Small, 44, a New York attorney who finally cast an absentee ballot on Election Day after workers at two separate precincts in his Brooklyn neighborhood were unable to work the voting machines equipped for the disabled.
New data backs up the complaints from voters like Small.

A Government Accountability Office report to be released Wednesday found that in last November's historic election, nearly one-third of polling places failed to accommodate voters in wheelchairs. Twenty-three percent had machines for the disabled that offered less privacy than offered to others — some even positioned in a way that other people could see how they were voting.

The study of 730 polling places in 31 states said improvements have been made since the agency's last similar survey in 2000. But it found that 73 percent of polling places had some sort of impediment, such as narrow doorways or steep curbs, that might impede access to the voting area for people with disabilities. Nearly half of those sites offered curbside voting as an alternative.

"We are a far cry from where we need to be," said Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, who requested the report. He said in a statement he would work with the Justice Department, which has jurisdiction to enforce federal election laws, to seek improvements.

In 1984, Congress passed a law requiring states to make polling places more accessible to the elderly and disabled. The issue was addressed again in the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. The issue was addressed again in the 2002 Help America Vote Act, and it came with money — at least $54 million has been given to help states implement it.

"When problems arise in the administration of elections, we have a responsibility to fix them," President George W. Bush said at the time. An author of the law, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., called it "nothing less than the first civil rights legislation of the 21st century."

But seven years later, some local jurisdictions refuse to move polling places, arguing that voters won't know where to vote or that there's no place in the jurisdiction that meets the disability access requirement, said Lee Page, associate advocacy director at Paralyzed Veterans of America.

That leaves disabled voters the option of having the ballot brought out of the polling place to them, being reassigned to a different jurisdiction, or voting absentee, Lee said.

"You want to vote with everyone else at your jurisdiction because it's ... part of the community," Page said. "To find barriers in this simple issue is really disheartening, truthfully," Page said.
The issue is expected to take on greater prominence as baby boomers age and become less mobile. In last year's election, about 16 percent of voters were 65 and older. By 2040, it is anticipated that 40 percent of all voters will be at least 65.

Today, an estimated 15 percent of Americans have some sort of disability.
Jim Dickson, an advocate at the American Association of People With Disabilities, said there's been an increase in the number of polling places that offer voting machines usable by the disabled. But that doesn't guarantee they're being used, he said.

"This problem of poll workers not wanting voters to use the accessible machine, not knowing how to set the machine up, in our election incident collection, that was the biggest single problem faced by people with disabilities," Dickson said.

Rick Birge, 55, of Dardanelle, Ark., a Vietnam veteran who lost his left leg and right foot in a truck explosion after his military service, said he's benefited from the law change.

In some past elections, Birge said he avoided voting altogether because it was difficult to get in and out. But he said his voting polling place in recent years moved from a courthouse to a civic center, and he had no problems voting in November.

"If people have trouble getting into the building, they'll actually come out and get you here," said Birge, an officer in the veterans group AMVETS. "They've changed a lot of things for people like us."

Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, said he hopes the new government findings will bring about additional improvements so that others can witness the changes that Birge has seen.

"We thought we'd turned the corner with the (Help America Vote Act) bill because it has really good language in there about mandating accessible voting, but clearly it's a pretty intractable problem that needs more work and more attention," said Decker, whose organization assists states in complying with the law.

On the Net:
• Center for Accessible Living, Inc.:
• Senate Special Committee on Aging:
• U.S. Election Assistance Commission:
• Paralyzed Veterans of America:
• National Disability Rights Network:
• American Association of People with Disabilities: