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December 2005

Moving Right Along

AMTRAK Can Charge Disabled Extra
by Patrick Walters

AP Philadelphia - June 22, 2005 - A federal judge ruled that Amtrak can charge a group of wheelchair users extra to ride in the same car together.

The wheelchair users, members of Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, travel to Washington regularly to lobby. They sued after Amtrak told them that they could ride together on a Philadelphia-to-Washington train but that some of them would have to pay $200 more than the usual ticket price to cover the cost of removing seats.

The group sued, saying the policy violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said Friday that under federal law, Amtrak must have one space to park a wheelchair and one space to store an unoccupied chair per passenger coach. It can charge extra for anything beyond that, Bartle ruled.

About three-quarters of those who were to go on the February trip are on fixed incomes of about $600 a month, the group said. Executive director Nancy Salandra said the charge on top of the $90 round-trip ticket price was too much for them to bear.

"If you and your family and friends and sisters and brothers and cousins, more than 20, wanted to travel to Washington, you would get a discount as a group," said Stephen Gold, an attorney for the group.

Amtrak spokeswoman Marcie Golgoski said the policy of charging for the removal of seats does not apply to just the disabled. If people wanted to have party on a train and seats had to be removed, they would be assessed the fee, too, she said.

 

DOT Launches New Website to Assist Persons with Disabilities For Emergency Preparedness

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - The U.S. Department of Transportation today launched a new web site containing information to help ensure safe and secure transportation for persons with disabilities in the event of a disaster or emergency.

The new site includes advice on emergency preparedness, transportation accessibility, and evacuation methods for certain modes of transportation, such as rail and transit systems. Disabled individuals can learn how to react in situations ranging from evacuations of mass transit systems to being trapped in a car during a blizzard or hurricane.

The site also includes links to Department of Homeland Security web pages that provide information on preparing for specific emergencies, including natural disasters such as severe weather, fire and earthquakes, as well as man-made disasters such as spills of hazardous materials. In addition, the site also provides information for transportation providers on how to respond to the unique needs of people with disabilities during an emergency.

The new site was developed in response to an executive order issued by President Bush on July 22, 2004, which directed federal agencies to support safety and security for individuals with disabilities during natural and man-made disasters.

The web address for the new site is http://www.dotcr.ost.dot.gov/asp/emergencyprep.asp.

 

Disability Rights Online News

Disability Rights Online News is a bi-monthly update about the Civil Rights Divisions activities in the area of disability rights. The Division enforces laws prohibiting discrimination based on disability in employment, housing, access to businesses serving the public, access to government programs and services including voting and public transportation, and unconstitutional conditions in institutions of confinement.

To view the Online news visit: http://www.ada.gov/newsltr1005.htm

Source: U.S. Department of Justice www.ada.gov

 

New EEOC Publication Addresses Employment Rights Of People with Cancer under Disabilities Act

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a question-and-answer document on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to persons with cancer in the workplace. The new publication is available on EEOC web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/cancer.html.

 

Barry Winthrop Dies
by Marvin Wasserman

It is with great sadness that I report to you the passing on August 17, 2005, of Barry Winthrop, activist and former Executive Committee member of both the 504 Democratic Club and Disabled in Action.

Barry, who was 71 years of age, had multiple disabilities and was legally blind. Despite this, he had several advanced degrees, including one in law and a doctorate in psychology. He went into long term rehabilitation following an accident in which he slipped in the snow about two and a half years ago, around Thanksgiving. Since then, he had spent much time in Cabrini Rehabilitation Center and, most recently, in Coler Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island. At the time of his passing, he was at Bellevue Hospital.

He has no close relatives, but warm friends such as Ed and Gerry Law of Upstate New York, Sam Brown of Brooklyn, and Robert Furman from Coler Hospital.

 

Applying for Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE)

The Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities will be handling the application process for DRIE. They have advised that individuals start contacting them at the end of September to request applications. Below is their contact info:

Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities
100 Gold Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10038

1-212-788-2830

http://www.nyc.gov/html/mopd/home.html

 

A New Disability Law Blog

A new disability law blog can be reached at: http://disabilitylaw.blogspot.com. What is a blog? A blog is short for weblog and it is a web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles, often written by one person. They may be on one topic or many topics.

 

$55 Million Pool and Ice Skating Complex in Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Complex Will Include Special Features to Accommodate People With Disabilities

September, 28, 2005 (adapted from press release) Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today joined Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities Executive Director Matthew P. Sapolin to break ground on a new pool and ice skating complex in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The $55.2 million project will include an Olympic-sized indoor pool and an NHL regulation-sized skating rink, and will be completed by Fall 2007. The site, which will be utilized by schools, leagues, and community members of all ages, will be Parks and Recreation's first in Queens. The complex includes a number of special features to allow for recreation activities designed for the physically disabled.

During the planning phase of the project, the City engaged the Mayor's Office of People with Disabilities and the United Spinal Association to review the facility and implemented their suggestions to ensure it would best accommodate people with disabilities.

"The Flushing pool will be furnished with lift equipment providing recreational swimming for people with disabilities, and the accessible ice-rink will allow them to play sled hockey," said Executive Director Matthew Sapolin.

 

Updated Information on Pooled Trusts (Supplemental Needs Trusts)

Updated information on pooled trusts, including HRA Medicaid Alert from July 7, 2005, is available at: http://www.wnylc.net/pb/docs/Medicaid.pdf
Additional information on Supplemental Needs Trusts is available at: http://www.wnylc.net/pb/docs/SNT_Materials.htm

 

Williamsburg Bridge Pedestrian Walkway Being Made ADA Compliant

In late September, 2005, work began on the pedestrian walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge to make the 26 expansion joints ADA compliant. Previous to this, the expansion joints were several inches high like little steps instead of being low and beveled. Bicyclists and people with disabilities were having a hard time going over them, and ended up tripping or falling, and some bicyclists lost control and flipped over, getting injured. United Spinal and Transportation Alternatives, a bicyclist advocacy group, teamed up with other organizations, including DIA, to have the bumps pared down to an almost-smooth level.

 

Hurricane Emergency Funds for People with Disabilities

The U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services announced in October, 2005 that they were committing emergency funds to help people with disabilities in the states most affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One of their goals was to move people with disabilities out of nursing homes. The announcement said, "Because many shelters are not accessible, a large number of people with disabilities are being funneled into nursing homes and it is extremely difficult for them to relocate into community-based housing once they are there.)" They are also studying what happened to see if better planning can be done to help people with disabilities when their area is hit by a hurricane.

Editor's Note: Wouldn't some of this been obvious beforehand? I hope they also help get people out of nursing homes who were already there and wanted to get out.

 

New ADA Transportation Guidance From DOT

Recently, four new guidance documents interpreting the Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations were released by DOT. These four guidance documents faithfully carry out the intent of the ADA and its regulation to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities. For example, one of the documents states that transit agencies must provide paratransit service in a way that goes beyond "curb-to-curb service" if necessary to actually get the passenger from his or her point of origin to his or her destination.

The documents are entitled:

  1. Origin to Destination Service

  2. Full-Length, Level-Boarding Platforms in New Commuter and Intercity Rail Stations

  3. Paratransit Requirements for "5311-Funded Fixed-Route Service" Operated by Private Entities

  4. Use of "Segways" on Transportation Vehicles

The new DOT documents can be found at www.fta.dot.gov/ada under the first heading, "DOT Disability Law Guidance." A current direct link is http://www.fta.dot.gov/14531_17511_ENG_HTML.htm. Note that the first link has a number of other important ADA transportation tools for advocates, including:

 

EEOC Explains Employment Rights of Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired New Document Answers Frequently-Asked Questions, Challenges Stereotypes

October 25, 2005 - WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a question-and-answer document on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to people in the workplace who are blind or who have vision impairments. The new publication, is available on EEOC's web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/blindness.html.

The latest Q&A document is the fifth in a series of fact sheets issued by the EEOC for persons with disabilities, and/or focusing on the ADA and specific disability issues, in accordance with President Bush's New Freedom Initiative. It is the second ADA document made available by the Commission in the past two weeks, in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

"This publication will help eliminate unfounded fears and stereotypes that lead to employment discrimination against so many people who are blind or visually impaired," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "As with prior ADA fact sheets, our goal is twofold: first, to make clear that all people with disabilities are protected from workplace discrimination and, second, to educate employers and promote access and inclusion."

Among the issues the new Q&A document addresses are:

The fact sheet helps to advance the goals of the President's New Freedom Initiative, a comprehensive strategy for the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life. The New Freedom Initiative seeks to promote greater access to technology, education, employment opportunities, and community life for people with disabilities. An important part of the New Freedom Initiative's strategy for increasing employment opportunities involves providing employers with technical assistance on the ADA. Information about other EEOC activities under the Initiative also is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.

In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government, EEOC enforces laws prohibiting race, sex, color, national origin, religion, and age discrimination in employment.

 

Report Available on Wheeled Mobility Study

A report, Standards and Anthropometry for Wheeled Mobility, is now available from a study the [Access] Board commissioned on wheeled mobility and human measures. The report was prepared by the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center) at the State University of New York at Buffalo which is undertaking a major multi-year project to collect human measures data on people who use wheeled mobility aids. Started in 1999, this work will continue at least through 2006. The research team is gathering data at various locations across the U.S. to ensure a representative sample.

According to Dr. Edward Steinfeld, Project Director, sufficient data has been collected to start a dialogue on some of the findings, which suggest that current accessibility standards may not be adequate for today's population of people who use wheeled mobility aids. Drawing upon information collected and developed in completed phases of the project, the report reviews research conducted in other countries (Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada) and its influence on their access standards. The comparative analysis developed for this report provides a framework for the future comparison of research findings and standards and offers a foundation for improving the utilization of research for standards development. The analysis highlights the importance of integrating research with standards development, organizing international research collaborations, and developing international standards, all of which the IDEA Center is helping to advance with support from the Board in addition to its ongoing work collecting human measures data. The report is available on the IDEA Center's website at http://www.ap.buffalo.edu/idea/Anthro/index.asp.

 

Upcoming Research on Detectable Warnings

Detectable warnings, a distinctive surface pattern of domes detectable by cane or underfoot, are used to alert people with vision impairments of their approach to streets and hazardous drop-offs. Under the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), they are required at curb ramps, which remove a tactile cue otherwise provided by curb faces, and other areas where pedestrian ways blend with vehicular ways. They are also required along the edges of boarding platforms in transit stations. In its rulemaking on public rights-of-way, the [Access] Board is revisiting the requirements for detectable warnings on curb ramps and other sidewalk areas. In light of some of the questions and issues raised, the Board has promoted the need for research on various aspects of detectable warnings which can help inform its rulemaking. One project on durability is to be undertaken and another on visibility issues is underway.