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October 2001

September 11th - When Our World Turned Upside Down
by Jean Ryan

Who among us has not been affected by the events of September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center's twin towers were bombed by terrorists who turned commercial airplane flights into bombs with passengers? The massacre of passengers, airplane crews, workers, visitors, and rescuers at the WTC and nearby was almost beyond comprehension, and the destruction of the area downtown is massive. And, like a pebble thrown into a pond, there are ripples of pain and grief, homelessness, unemployment, loss to businesses, displaced businesses and city and state agencies, difficulty getting around, and debris all over, just to name a few of the problems.

More than three weeks have passed and the magnitude of the problems is still sinking in. As the smoke and fires linger, our realization grows that some of the difficulties people with disabilities had before are going to be worse for awhile or longer, no one knows exactly how long.

CIDNY (Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York), the independent living center which serves the part of Manhattan affected by the disaster, was inside of the restricted zone from the beginning until the zone was moved further south after a week or so. It is struggling to serve more people with disabilities and has an urgent need for volunteers (call 212-674-2300). Everyone in Battery Park City and many residents of buildings close by were evacuated from their apartments with nothing - no address book, no money, no medications, no supplies, no equipment. In addition, some personal care attendants were unable or unwilling to get to the people they were working for. Some buildings had no electricity and therefore no elevator service. Pharmacies were not open, and restaurants, deli's and grocery stores were not open, either. People could not get to medical appointments. Some people living in Manhattan and many businesses still do not have telephone service, or they are using temporary phone numbers or cell phones and cannot be located by their usual numbers. Deaf people lost some TTY service and closed captioning on TV and were thus cut off from communication about the emergency. People without cable television have lost reception. Some radio stations were knocked off the air because their antennas were on the WTC.

Subways and buses have been rerouted around the closed stations, but it is extra difficult for blind riders to figure out the always changing routes. Road and street traffic is abysmal and Access-A-Ride (AAR) is still limping along on hand-written vouchers and limited phone lines to take reservations. It is difficult to get accurate, up-to-date information anywhere about AAR.

Where were you when the first World Trade Center building was hit? What were you doing? No one will ever forget. It seemed like a horrible accident and then the second building was hit, and we knew it was terrorism. Our sense of security was shattered. Wherever we were, we were shocked and numbed. Some DIA members were near the WTC area and fled through the streets and across the bridges and tunnels with everyone else. If we were not in lower Manhattan that morning, we might have lost contact with our friends and families, worried for their safety. We worried for the people who worked at the WTC and nearby, the people who were visiting to go to a meeting, a class, a restaurant, a store, or who lived nearby or were staying in a dorm or hotel, or just passing by in a car, a bus, the subway, or on foot. We worried about the rescuers trying to save them.

We also worried about mobility-disabled people who were caught inside the buildings with the elevators not working. Did they die waiting for help to come? Or were their co-workers or rescuers or Good Samaritans able to bring them to safety? We read about two co-workers who waited together and died together, one a wheelchair user and the other his good friend who would not leave him alone. We heard about a blind man with a guide dog who led his master and other people to safety in the smoky stairwell. We heard about two men who carried a wheelchair user all the way down to a rescue vehicle just before one of the buildings collapsed and we realized with a sinking feeling that she must have perished as they were able to run away from the flames and falling debris. We heard about a team of co-workers and strangers who took turns carrying a quadriplegic man to safety from a high floor. He had a special wheelchair they bought in 1993 after the WTC was bombed with a conventional bomb. Apparently it was supposed to be able to be wheeled down the stairs, but it was faster to carry it.

Evacuation and safety for people in wheelchairs who work in tall buildings will be a hot topic of conversation. Some people have suggested that maybe wheelchair users should not work in tall buildings. What if that's where the jobs are? What if a person already has a job and becomes a wheelchair user. Is that person then going to quit his or her job? Hopefully, better ways to evacuate wheelchair users will be devised. A solution would also benefit people who are temporarily disabled, too.

This emergency has given the City an opportunity to improve some very big problems with its transportation system, to limit cars coming into Manhattan, and to improve public transportation in general. Permanently. Hopefully, the plan will include making all the buses, even the franchise ones, wheelchair accessible, and having all bus routes run 24/7. It would be even better if the subway system would be expanded and made truly accessible. I've heard passenger car drivers say they are willing to go along with the changes until things get back to normal. Let's hope that some things improve on what normal was.

As activists, we have the concern that now, with city services strained even more than ever because of the WTC disaster, and with communication disrupted, disability rights are going to be more difficult than ever to fight for, especially in the short run. It will be hard to get the ears of politicians. The City and State budgets will be strained more than past years. The newspapers are talking about education now being a lower priority for mayoral candidates than it was before September 11th. The newspapers don't even mention disability rights issues such as policies and funding for getting out or staying out of nursing homes, making pedestrian ramps (curb cuts), Medicaid Buy-in, or improving Access-A-Ride.

As we contemplate our future and consider our options for activism, let's keep our sense of purpose and our sense of humor. Let's help each other instead of complaining about each other. Let's mourn the dead and revel in our life. We are alive and we will help rebuild New York City. And we will continue to be activists. Disability Awareness Virtual Career Fair

(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Sept. 27, 2001 -- In an effort to bring more people with disabilities into the workforce,®, the leading global online careers site and flagship brand of TMP Worldwide Inc. (NASDAQ: TMPW - news), today announced the launch of the Disability Awareness Virtual Career Fair. The Virtual Career Fair will connect people with disabilities to potential employers, inform them about existing jobs in today's marketplace, and help to improve their overall careers through information and access to careers and disabled-employment experts.

The Virtual Career Fair ( will run through the month of October 2001 in support of National Awareness of Employment of People with Disabilities Month. This initiative further strengthens's commitment to helping workers with disabilities connect with employers, and realize their potential in today's marketplace. While providing employers with access to a pool of talented individuals, the online event will also serve as a platform for educating and sharing information on a multitude of topics and issues in today's workplace.

"Citizens with disabilities remain underemployed in the nation's workforce. Together, with the focus and efforts of employers nationwide, we will work to ensure more citizens with disabilities become part of the active workforce," said Jeff Taylor, CEO of "Monster's Disability Awareness Career Fair will serve as a forum for the country's leading companies and potential employees to connect on job opportunities across all industries."

The Virtual Career Fair will allow employers to interact directly with career-minded people with disabilities. Additional features and benefits include:



For more information on the Virtual Career Fair for People With Disabilities, call 1-800-MONSTER or go to their website mentioned above.

Disability Mentoring Day
October 24, 2001

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), with support from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities, is proud to serve as the National Host of Disability Mentoring Day: Career Development for the 21st Century on Wednesday, October 24, 2001.

Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) is a national effort to promote the employment of students of people with disabilities through the time-tested success of personal mentoring. With leadership, coordination, and resource materials from AAPD, local communities organize activities that bring students and employers together for informational sessions about career opportunities and one-on-one mentoring with volunteers at public and private places of employment.

DMD enables students to spend part of a day visiting a business or government agency that matches their interests and have one-on-one time with volunteer mentors. It's an opportunity to underscore the connection between school and work, evaluate personal goals, target career skills for improvement, explore possible career paths, and develop lasting mentor relationships. Participating in DMD could directly result in an internship opportunity with the host employer or even function as a first interview on the way to a part-time or full-time employment offer!

DMD provides public and private employers with an opportunity to help promote the employment of people with disabilities, learn more about the experience of disability, develop lasting relationships with disability community leaders, tap a pool of potential future employees, demonstrate positive leadership in their communities, and attract positive media attention. Employers can get involved by enabling employees to serve as volunteer mentors, functioning as a Local Coordinator for a community, and sponsoring DMD at the national and/or local levels.

If you are interested in participating in Disability Mentoring Day, whether as a student, a volunteer mentor, or to help plan events, contact the appropriate Local Coordinator below.

Jeff Klare, COO, Equality Staffing
525 Seventh Avenue, Suite 1412
New York, NY 10018
(866) 290-5700        FAX: (212) 840-3730

Half of America's Disabled Have Jobs, Census Report Shows
by Genaro C. Armas

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Half the adult Americans with disabilities have jobs, and the employed typically earn less than the average American, new Census Bureau estimates show. The disparity is worse among those people whose disabilities are considered severe, according to a Census Bureau report released today.

The results show that more needs to be done by the federal government and the private sector for people with disabilities to become more accepted in the workplace, said Olivia Raynor, director of the National Arts and Disabilities Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Overall, in 1997, 20 percent of Americans, or 52.6 million people, said they had disabilities. Of that total, 33 million said their disability was severe.

The data, based on a survey separate from the 2000 census, were the latest available.

Of the 27.8 million people ages 21 to 64 with disabilities, half worked in 1997, with average earnings of $23,373 per year, the report said.

Of those with severe disabilities in the same age category, 31 percent had a job, with average earnings of $18,631 per year. By comparison, 78 percent of all Americans ages 21 to 64 worked, averaging $30,155 a year.

The report comes 11 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Despite the landmark legislation, people with disabilities who seek jobs "already have two strikes going against them going into a job interview," said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA, which is based in Rockville, MD, outside Washington, D.C.

The term disability accounted for a variety of definitions. Those who use a wheelchair or cane; those who had difficulty performing simple tasks on their own, such as eating or bathing; and people with learning disability or mental retardation all fell under the definition.

Many employers are unaware of the skills that people with disabilities bring to a job interview, and many potential bosses see their hiring as "expensive or litigious," Bauer said. Those with disabilities also tend to have lower than average educational and training backgrounds, which leave them less prepared, especially during a time of low unemployment, advocates said.

The study also found that 28 percent of those ages 25 and older with severe disabilities lived in poverty, compared with 10 percent of those with disabilities considered not severe and 8 percent of people with no disability. The Census Bureau's web site is

From the March 16, 2001, New York Times

Disability Voting Project Moves to AAPD

Jim Dickson and Adina Topfer have moved from the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) and joined the Disability Vote Project of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). AAPD, the nation's largest membership organization for people with all disabilities, has as its mission the economic and political empowerment of more than 56 million children and adults with disabilities in the U.S..

While at N.O.D., Mr. Dickson led a campaign to highlight the fact that many of the nation's polling places and voting machines remain inaccessible to those who have limited mobility or vision. The Campaign also coordinated voter registration and get-out-the-disability-vote efforts that resulted in a jump in disability voting from 30 percent in 1996 to 41 percent in last fall's Presidential election.

The Disability Vote Project will use both AAPD's website, and N.O.D.'s website,, to chart progress in disability voter enfranchisement. N.O.D.'s Harris Surveys will also continue to play a key role in the effort, and Mr. Dickson will serve as a consultant to N.O.D.'s Political Participation Program.

In conjunction disability organizations, the Disability Vote Project will work to increase the number of Americans with disabilities who are registered and vote. The effort will strive to:

AAPD has called on disability advocates nationwide to join them to ensure that by the November 2004 election, every polling place is accessible and Americans with disabilities vote at the same rate as other Americans. "The community's goal should be that at least 17.5 million people with disabilities vote in the next Presidential election," said Ms. Topfer.

To find out more about the Disability Vote Project visit or call 1-800-840-8844.

The New York Times Editorial:
Voting with Disabilities

ACTIVIST editor's Note: Election reform in the wake of the 2000 Presidential Election should include requirements for accessibility rather than mere encouragement.

The fact that the nation's elections are not quite state-of-the-art may have come as a surprise to many Americans in the aftermath of last November's presidential vote. But it was hardly news to the millions of citizens with disabilities, who for years have been struggling to get local election officials to grant them equal access to the polls. Congress must address their concerns as it takes up election reform this fall.

Some states have found that more than 40 percent of their polling places are not fully accessible. Even where polls are accessible, the ballot most often is not, at least not for blind voters to cast a secret vote on their own. To make matters worse, poorly trained poll workers often deny these individuals their right to designate the person they would like to help them in the voting booth.

The Americans With Disabilities Act, the 11- year-old law that has improved access to public places for disabled people, does not presently cover all voting places and practices. Hence the need for election reform legislation to mandate equal access. President Bush should support a strong federal role in protecting the disability community's voting rights. He had a strong record on this issue as governor of Texas. In 1999 he signed a bill that requires any new voting systems purchased in the state to be fully accessible. Recently Harris County, the nation's third-largest, spent $25 million to replace its old punch-card machines with an electronic system with audible features that enable blind voters to cast a ballot unassisted.

Texas has made great strides, but the federal government must compel action elsewhere. The rights of voters with disabilities to cast a ballot and have it count must not hinge on where they happen to live.

People with disabilities should also benefit from broader election reforms designed to protect everyone's vote, such as the right to cast a provisional ballot and better-trained poll workers. But the community's difficulties in removing barriers to polling places should give pause to those who argue that state and local governments ought to be encouraged, rather than required, to make changes. After all, Congress has already passed a law encouraging local election officials to make polling places accessible. That was 17 years ago.

© New York Times August 18, 2001

October 1 Begins New Era
of Telephone Access
711 Will Permit Easy Nationwide Access to Relay Services

On October 1 of this year our country begins a new era of telephone access. That is the day that the familiar calling shortcuts of 911 and 411 will be joined by 711 - the new three digit number for access to all Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS).

It's fast, functional and free.

TRS facilitates telephone conversations between people who do and those who do not have hearing or speech disabilities. In one type of TRS, a text telephone (TTY) user calls a voice telephone user through a TRS provider (or relay center), where a communications assistant places the call to the voice user, and then relays the conversation by transcribing spoken content for the TTY user and reading text aloud for the voice user.

711 is good news for everyone, not just persons with disabilities. Both voice and TRS users will be able to initiate a call from any telephone, anywhere in the United States, without having to remember and dial a seven or ten-digit access number. There are currently over 100 separate numbers nationwide for accessing relay services. Being able to dial the same three digits nationwide to access TRS, instead of having to be familiar with each state's unique access number, makes TRS much more accessible in our mobile society.

Under the new rules adopted last year by the FCC, 711 TRS dialing must be provided by all telecommunications carriers in the United States, including wireline, wireless, and payphone providers. The FCC rule also encourages all PBX suppliers to configure their systems for 711 access to TRS.

In addition, to ensure the efficient, effective, and successful use of 711 access to TRS, the FCC required carriers and relay providers, in cooperation with the states, to engage in on-going and comprehensive education and outreach programs to publicize the availability of 711 access.

If consumers find that they are unable to get 711 TRS access after October 1, they should contact the FCC's Consumer Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (voice) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (TTY), or by e-mail at

For more information on TRS visit:

A Great Leap Backwards
by Anne Emerman

I have been trying to understand how it is that: after passage of the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, after the disability community won the right to access public transportation (100% surface transit, key rapid transit stations) as well as all voting sites, and after the 1984 New York State Codes Council provided accessibility to all new residential and commercial construction and significantly rehabilitated existing structures, this current Codes Council -- by moving to adopt the International Building Code (IBC) -- will set the disability community back more than twenty years.

This setback takes place just as the disability community finally achieves equivalent rights to full integration into all aspects of normal patterns of community living. What is driving this regressive state government policy? What philosophy has drastically changed the attitudes of our government leaders? Government assisted housing requires 5% units usable by disabled occupants. These units are difficult to market. It is almost impossible to match these units with disabled people in any given time period and location. Has the industry forgotten so quickly?

Cost has always been raised as an issue against providing facilities that would integrate people with disabilities. Fortunately, 1984 was a time when our state executives, legislators, and judges had committed to affirmative civil rights. For them, the benefit of providing equal access for a historically oppressed minority far outweighed the cost, even when it meant changing the structural environment. They cited the advances of technology and gave reasonable timetables for compliance.

How can it be that in 2001, this Governor, the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR), the Department of State (DOS), and the members of the Codes Council voted to defeat several motions by Terence Moakley, who represents Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA) and the larger disability community? The purpose of these motions was simply to preserve what we have had for 17 years while at the same time adding proposed improvements of the IBC. By rejecting Moakley's motions, the Codes Council will significantly limit the housing option for people with disabilities for years to come.

Especially disturbing was the negative vote by Dick Svenson, Department of Health (DOH) representative. Apparently the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. Since 1998, disability advocates have been meeting with Commissioner DeBono and now with Commissioner Novello. The issue is DOH's compliance with the ADA and U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, which reaffirms the right of people with disabilities to have their habitation and services in the most integrated setting. The advocates have a commitment from the Commissioner to move 1280 persons, 1% of the 128,000 confined in nursing homes, back into their community this year. The main barrier to their right to live independently in community is the shortage of housing that meets their needs. What we need is more accessible/adaptable housing (100%), not less (2%). Since 1984, the housing stock coming on line is usable by all, including disabled and elderly persons. That momentum must continue, not end. We must keep hope alive for the hundreds of thousands of our people locked in institutions. They desperately want out.

EPVA, the Governor's Disability Advocates Office and other disability advocates provided compelling information in favor of keeping the current accessibility code provisions, but GORR staff dismissed that evidence as insufficient. Yet GORR readily accepted data from Albany based affiliates of the National Association of Home Builders, Avalon Developers, American Iron and Steel and other industry representatives. The industry's claim of accessibility's excessive cost is bogus. DOS's own staff has determined the cost at 1/2 to 1% or $1200 per accessible/adaptable dwelling unit.

When DOS representatives repeatedly speak and vote against motions that enhance disability access, it sends a message that process is more important to this administration than people. Whatever happened to government's role of advancing the civil and human rights, the health, safety and well being of all state residents?

In addition to the major change in numbers of dwelling units available to disabled persons from 100% to 2%, some of the other proposed code changes appear irrational and petty: one accessible entrance required instead of two, doors wide enough for wheelchair users but no requirement for ramps or mechanisms to permit entering or leaving, reducing the space required for handicapped parking from 8 to 5 feet clearance, requiring 3000 square feet instead of 1500 to trigger an elevator or lift to the second floor in commercial buildings (this will greatly limit access to worksites), and reducing the number of Assistive Listening Devices in places of assembly from 9% to 4%.

The Governor's code policy is taking a great leap backwards. It appears also the Governor and his Codes Council have declared war against elderly and disabled people. People with disabilities will not be segregated into ghettos. We refuse to be confined and isolated. We are determined to live independently and with dignity. The Governor has thrown down the gauntlet. We will fight back. We will continue to move forward. We will free our people.

Public Comment on the Housing Code
by Jim Davis

To: The Members of the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council

Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York and informed voters with disabilities all over the State of New York, are shocked at the recent steps taken by the Technical Sub-Committee of this codes council, to abandon the State's historic commitment to moving towards equal civil rights for people with disabilities, in the new housing accessibility area.

There is a tremendous shortage of housing in New York State accessible to people with mobility disabilities. And the percentage of the state's residents who have such disabilities will be steadily increasing with longer life spans, in the next several decades. Also the recent Supreme Court Olmstead decision favoring housing desegregation for people with disabilities, saying that we can't be imprisoned in custodial institutions when we'd be better off living on our communities - will increase the number of tenants searching for accessible housing for independent living.

Disabled In Action OPPOSES the recent steps towards the abandonment of the requirement in the current state building Code for all units to have some modicum of visit-ability and low-cost adaptability. If the International building Code is to be adopted, then the Codes Council MUST honor its previously stated commitment, to making an exception so that all housing units that currently must be "Type A" units, will continue to have that requirement.

We also strongly support the motion that you will be hearing today from Terry Moakley of the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, to at the very least, modify the International Building Code as it may be adopted, to preserve (1.) the current more "functional-for-all" door swing clearances, and (2.) to provide one "Type A" bathroom per unit.

It is shocking for the State Of New York to be recently moving in the wrong direction to permit even more of what the architect Leslie Kanes Weisman has called in the title of her book, Discrimination By Design. This is inconsistent with the spirit of New York State's own human rights laws.

Eighty percent of all people will experience disability at some phase in their lives. Non-disabled or not-yet-disabled New Yorkers all have friends, neighbors and relatives whom we would like to invite into our homes, without discriminatory, designed-in barriers creating physical segregation. People with disabilities number over 55 million in the United States, about half of whom have severe disabilities, and are not only growing in percentage of the overall population as the baby boomers age, but are already the largest stigmatized and discriminated against minority in America.

And, we vote.

Federal Government Sues Developer Over Disabled Access

ACTIVIST Editor's Note: This is noteworthy because the federal government intervenes so seldom. It's also instructive to hear people's excuses.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) -- The federal government is suing a Spokane, Washington, developer for failing to make his Post Falls apartment complex accessible to people with disabilities as required by the Fair Housing Act.

The complaint was filed Wednesday against Taigen & Sons Inc. and DDI Architecture & Planning Co., the developer and designer of Centennial Trail Apartments. Taigen said he was shocked by the action, believing that negotiations with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were continuing.

"This is extortion," he said. "They'll break us. They'll break my wife and I. But they're the government. They always win."

In 1988, the Fair Housing Act was amended to protect people with disabilities. The law also was expanded to cover private facilities and set accessibility requirements for multifamily housing.

Taigen built the 86-unit Centennial Trail Apartments in 1994. In its complaint, the Justice Department alleges the complex's rental office was on the second floor until last month, all interior doors and patio doors are too narrow for a wheelchair to pass through and electrical outlets, thermostats and light switches cannot be reached by people in wheelchairs.

"It's been more than 10 years since these requirements became law, yet multifamily housing continues to be designed and built without access to persons with disabilities," said William Yeomans, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "Through this and other litigation throughout the country, we are working to make housing accessible."

Richard Mabbutt, director of the Intermountain Fair Housing Council, a nonprofit advocacy group in Boise, said Idaho has been one of the more aggressive states in enforcing the federal regulations. His agency gets complaints from the disabled and their advocate groups across the state, and conducts inspections.

But Taigen contends no one ever complained about access at Centennial Trail Apartments. Until the Intermountain Fair Housing Council's complaints were filed with Housing and Urban Development, many developers had no idea they were supposed to build according to a new set of rules, he said.

About two-thirds of the 90 developers cited in Idaho have settled with the government, either by fixing the problems that were found or paying into a fund that finances for improvements to apartments.

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, contends that Housing and Urban Development has done a poor job of informing builders about the new rules and has been inconsistent in their implementation.

Mabbutt acknowledged the rules were not well disseminated, but said it is up to developers to stay abreast of how the law applies to them.

Published on July 16, 2001

Keep Subway Token Booths Open
by Frieda Zames

Recently I got a call from John Moody, who works in public relations for the Transit Worker's Union (TWU). He was seeking the support of DIA, other disability organizations and individuals with disabilities against New York City Transit (NYCT) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for planning to close many token booths in subway stations throughout the city without holding hearings. Many subway riders with disabilities -- such as those with guide (or service) dogs, people who use walkers, wheelchair users, anyone who cannot go through the turnstile -- are concerned about these closings because the token booth clerk is needed to open the gate if the Metrocard does not work properly.

At a State Supreme Court injunction trial held on August 22nd -- filed by many transportation, community, and political organizations and several individuals -- Judge Diane A. Lebedeff issued a temporary restraining order that prevents NYCT and MTA from closing token booths until the Judge issues a further decision. After the hearing, many of us--including members of DIA and the 504 Democratic Club, as well as employees of the Lighthouse and the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY) -- participated in a press conference. If the disability community is not satisfied with the final decision of the Judge, we may decide to file an Americans with Disabilities lawsuit.

Accessible Livery and Black Cars:
Will it Happen?

The deadline for livery and "black car" companies to have wheelchair accessible transportation available for the same price and at the same availability as for other riders is October 31, 2001. Will it happen? I doubt that there will be full compliance by that date, but hopefully some companies will start to comply so that people with mobility disabilities will be able to call any car service or black car company and get a prompt ride. Financial incentives for companies purchasing accessible vehicles is available through the TLC, and companies can also take an income tax deduction.

If the car service or black car company you use (or would like to use) or your company uses does not have an accessible vehicle or is not linked to a car service who does, call the manager or owner of the company and tell him or her about the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) requirement. Not everyone knows about the deadline or even the program. Further information is available from the TLC on the web ( or by phone (new temporary number: 718-391-4555) and also from EPVA (Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association) at 718-803-3782.

ADAPT Facts and Focus:
Olmstead and MiCASSA

by Nadina LaSpina


ADAPT has a long history of organizing in the disability community and using non-violent direct action tactics very effectively to achieve its goals. ADAPT started in Denver, Colorado, as "American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit" in 1983. After fighting the battle in Denver, ADAPT worked to make the issue of access to transportation a national one. For seven years ADAPT blocked buses in cities across the United States to demonstrate the need for accessible transportation. Many went to jail for the right to ride.

In the late 80's ADAPT played a major role in achieving passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Once access had begun to be guaranteed by the ADA, ADAPT shifted its focus to the need for attendant services. After July 1990, ADAPT came to stand for "American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today." Now the fight was to get people out of institutions. ADAPT's battle cry became "Free Our People!" ADAPT's logo is an adaptation of the wheelchair access symbol, with arms raised breaking its chains.

Today ADAPT just stands for ADAPT. It is no longer considered an acronym.


ADAPT has no president, no board of directors, no membership list. The recognized national leaders, or "national organizers" as they prefer to be called, are Mike Auberger, of Denver, who with Wade Blank (now deceased) founded ADAPT, and Bob Kafka and Stephanie Thomas, a powerful husband and wife team from Austin, Texas.

There are ADAPT groups in cities throughout the nation. In places where there is no other strong disability rights organization, local ADAPT groups, while keeping their focus on freeing people from institutions, will take on any disability issue, generally fighting for access and against discrimination.

All ADAPT organizers are in constant contact and they exchange information and discuss issues through periodic conference calls and through e-mail lists. Twice a year ADAPT holds strategy meetings. For three very full days some 40 ADAPT organizers, representing local ADAPT groups, sit together and talk, argue, vote, plan and strategize.

ADAPT is able to mobilize 500-600 people for an action and up to 4000 people for a one day event such as a march or rally. There are two ADAPT actions every year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Actions are four days long, though the first day usually is a day of meetings, workshops and training of new people. An incredible amount of planning goes into an ADAPT action. Civil disobedience is always an important part of the action and is used most effectively. There are usually arrests at ADAPT actions. Anywhere from 100 to 200 people may be arrested.

The next ADAPT action will take place October 20 - 25 in San Francisco. ADAPT's target will be Laguna Honda, the largest nursing home in the country. The city of San Francisco is spending $299 million to rebuild it. Calling Laguna Honda "independent living's worst nightmare," ADAPT is demanding that those millions be spent in providing services and support to people in their own homes.

Because ADAPT actions are heavily covered by the media, when people hear the name ADAPT they immediately think of civil disobedience and arrests. But ADAPT does a lot more than that. Most of the work is done between actions. ADAPT is constantly working with other national disability organizations, meeting with governmental agencies and with elected officials, organizing letter-writing and telephone campaigns, initiating lawsuits and filing amici briefs.

"Free Our People!"

The fight to "free our people" has proved to be much tougher than the earlier fight for accessible transportation. After 11 years, ADAPT still has not succeeded in eradicating the bias in the long-term care system and the prejudice in people's minds that causes many disabled people to be institutionalized -- "incarcerated" is the word ADAPT uses -- sometimes for life, when they could be getting the services they need in their own homes and live in freedom.

Many of ADAPT's members are freed people who spent long years locked away in nursing homes and other institutions. They speak from experience when they chant "I'd rather go to jail than die in a nursing home!"

Though the struggle is not over, many battles have been won by ADAPT through the years and today we are much closer than ever to achieving the goal of freeing people from institutions.


The Supreme Court's Olmstead decision was an important victory. The case involved two developmentally disabled women who sued the state of Georgia because they wanted to live in their own homes and not spend their entire lives in a state mental hospital. Led by ADAPT, the disability community mobilized to support the two women. In June 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the women, upholding the ADA's "integration mandate" which ordains that individuals with disabilities must be offered services in the "most integrated setting." "Undue institutionalization qualifies as discrimination by reason of disability," the High Court declared.

Since then ADAPT has worked hard to get states to comply with Olmstead, to start moving people out of institutions and into the community with all the necessary services and supports. National ADAPT has met repeatedly with the Department of Health and Human Services and its agencies -- Health Care Finance Administration and Office of Civil Rights -- and with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (since people who come out of institutions need housing), to work out the best plan to get states to do the right thing. At the same time, ADAPT chapters in different states have been putting pressure on their state department of health and their governor's office to "implement Olmstead now!" The progress at the state level has been very uneven with some states developing a working relationship with ADAPT advocates and other states refusing to cooperate or even listen.

New York State ADAPT has had moderate success.  In New York State a great many organizations are working on getting Olmstead implemented. NYS ADAPT works in coalition with other organizations. But unlike other organizations, NYS ADAPT is willing to do whatever it takes and use direct action tactics when necessary. Last January NYS ADAPT staged simultaneous actions in Albany and in NYC. In Albany activists invaded and occupied the Governor's offices while in NYC activists blocked the doors of the Governor's office building. As a result of that joint action, meetings were set up with the Governor's Office and with the Department of Health and have continued regularly. In August, when it became apparent that a grant proposal to get federal funding to transition people out of nursing homes was being written in a way that would not have transitioned anyone out and would not have gotten any money for the state, NYS ADAPT staged an impromptu sit-in at the Department of Health. Two days before the proposal's deadline, NYS ADAPT was able to get the state to completely rewrite the grant proposal.

ADAPT activists throughout the country are also taking the initiative of going into institutions to identify people who want to come out and filing complaints on behalf of some of them with the HHS Office of Civil Rights, and, with the cooperation of independent living centers, are actually moving people out. ADAPT of Rochester, New York, working through the Center for Disability Rights (an independent living center) has freed 16 people already this year.

ADAPT has put a lot of pressure on President George W. Bush to make Olmstead implementation a priority. One of Bush's campaign promises was to issue an Executive Order that would speed up implementation. On May 15, 2001, since Bush had yet to make good on his promise, ADAPT -- 500 people strong -- went to the White House to demand that the order be issued within 30 days. Bush's staff assured the activists that the Order would go out and it did - only a few days late. It was signed by Bush on June 18 and went out on the 19th. The Order mostly directs federal agencies - the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Education, Justice, Housing and Urban Development and the Social Security Administration - to coordinate efforts and to assist states in offering or expanding alternatives to institutions. ADAPT sees the Order as one more tool to use in the fight to "free our people."


For years ADAPT has also worked hard on writing and trying to get passed legislation that will establish a national program of attendant services and supports.

In 1996 during the Fall Atlanta action, the Community Attendant Services Act (CASA) - was sketched out on a paper napkin and signed by ADAPT organizer Mike Auberger and then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Gingrich (under pressure from 500 angry people) promised that he would introduce the bill in Congress, and he did. In June '97 the Medicaid Community Attendant Services Act -- MiCASA -- was introduced. Hearings were held in March '98, but the bill didn't make it out of committee and died at the end of the session.

The bill was reintroduced in Nov. '99, in the Senate this time, by Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), as the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act -- MiCASSA. The extra "S" was the result of the close cooperation of ADAPT with advocacy groups for people with developmental disabilities. A version of MiCASSA was also introduced in the House but didn't get anywhere. Both the House version and the Senate bill died when the congressional session ended in December 2000.

On August 2, 2001 MiCASSA was introduced for the third time by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). The bill's number is S1298.

MiCASSA, by reforming Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid), would put an end to the institutional bias in the system. It would allow individuals to choose whether they want to go into an institution or receive "community-based attendant services and supports" in their own homes.

MiCASSA would do away with the unevenness in the availability of attendant services. As things are now, there are "good states" (like NY) that offer decent programs, and "bad states" (like Florida) that offer very little. If MiCASSA becomes law, after a five-year transition period (in which states will receive federal assistance in order to reform their programs), all states will have to offer the same full program of attendant services and supports. What that will mean to disabled Floridians stuck in nursing homes is that they'll be able to go home if they so desire. What it will mean to disabled New Yorkers already receiving 24 hours services in their homes is that (1) they'll have the assurance that their services will not be cut and (2) they'll have the freedom to move to Florida or anywhere else in the country if they so desire.

ADAPT believes MiCASSA has a good chance of getting passed in the Senate this time. Support is needed and ADAPT is trying to get senators, especially Republican senators, to sign on to the bill. ADAPT is also working on getting MiCASSA introduced in the House.

What can we do to support MiCASSA? We can send thanks to Sen. Hillary Clinton and remind Sen. Chuck Schumer to sign on. We can also ask people we know who live in other states to contact their senators. And as soon as MiCASSA gets introduced in the House, we can start putting the pressure on our representatives. Organizational support is also needed. Organizations that wish to support MiCASSA please contact NYC ADAPT at 212-366-0432.

For a complete explanation of MiCASSA and more information on ADAPT, check the ADAPT web site at

DIA Forces City Cinemas to Improve Accessibility

On August 17, 2001 U.S. District Court Judge Gerard Lynch approved a settlement of the lawsuit filed against City Cinemas Corporation by Disabled In Action and five of its members -- Robert Levine, Nancy Rolnick, Jean Ryan, Stephanie Sakovits, and Irma Shore. DIA members had charged the Corporation with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New York State Civil Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law by failing to have sufficient wheelchair spaces and companion seating with sightlines comparable to seating for persons without disabilities, by failing to make accessible paths of travel to theatre auditoriums, by failing to make restrooms accessible, and by the absence of various other accessibility features required by these anti-discrimination laws.

City Cinemas agreed to remove architectural and operational barriers to disability access at the seven theaters it operates in New York City -- Angelika Film Center, Cinema 1 2 & 3, Eastside Playhouse, East 86th Street Theatre, Murray Hill Cinemas, Sutton 1 & 2 Cinemas, and Village East Cinemas. Some of the improvements were completed this summer, others will be finished by mid-October, and the final few alterations will be done by February 2002.

Each of the theaters will have an automated telephone message providing general access information, which will also be available on the Internet at, and at each theatre box office there will be seating diagrams showing wheelchair locations in each auditorium. In all of the theaters except Cinema 1 2 & 3, where wheelchair access into the theatre is impractical, there will be wheelchair cutouts on level surfaces and next-to-companion seating. The locations, however, are not all ideal because the anti-discrimination laws do not require alterations of some structural elements of the theatre buildings.

The theatre bathrooms will be significantly more accessible to wheelchair-users, although structural elements prevent full accessibility in some bathrooms. City Cinemas' elevators and lifts will be independently operable, and it's theatre entrances and interior paths of travel will be independently usable. Every theatre will maintain a sufficient number of assistive listening devices.

Edward Kopelson, of the law firm Kopelson & Westreich, represented DIA and the named members. Mr. Kopelson is also representing DIA in several One-Step Campaign lawsuits.

DIA in the News:
Tight Retail Spaces Prompt Suit by the Disabled

by David W. Dunlap

Every inch of retail space is valuable in Manhattan. And few retailers seem to pack as much into that inch as the ever-growing Duane Reade chain.

Now an advocacy group for the disabled is charging that the layout of many Duane Reade stores, particularly those with multiple levels and obstructed aisles, has effectively made them inaccessible.

In a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Manhattan, the group, Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York, demanded that Duane Reade eliminate all barriers in its stores to those with "mobility impairments."

The lawsuit accuses the chain of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the city's human rights law.

Duane Reade Inc., whose headquarters are in Manhattan, has until mid-July to answer the complaint. Without commenting on the lawsuit, Jim Rizzo, the vice president for human resources, said, "As a retailer we want our stores to be accessible."

The lawsuit highlights the tension between a commercial tenant's economic need to wring every penny in sales from high-priced real estate and its obligation to accommodate customers with wheelchairs, motorized scooters, walkers, crutches or braces.

A couple of multilevel Duane Reade stores have recently been renovated to a single level, and wheelchair lifts have been installed in some others, but not as an acknowledgment of a problem, Mr. Rizzo said. "If we can make the stores easier to shop, we'll do so," he said, "but that doesn't mean the store wasn't accessible before that."

The case points out the inherent difficulty of laying out a drugstore with the pharmacy at the farthest reaches, a common practice that frees space in the front for merchandise.

"Not to have access to the pharmacy is not just an inconvenience," said Nadina LaSpina, who teaches Italian language and literature at New School University, uses a wheelchair and is a plaintiff in the case. "If you need to buy medication, that's a necessity."

In the Duane Reade at Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, the pharmacy is reached by escalator. At 51 West 51st Street, it is up a flight of stairs. Neither store has an elevator or lift, although signs are posted conspicuously in the 51st Street store saying, "If at any time you require assistance obtaining merchandise or services in this store, please see the cashier or any Duane Reade associate for their assistance."

Jean Meyers Ryan, a retired child psychologist who lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and gets around the city on a motorized scooter, said an intermediary was unsatisfactory in dealing with a pharmacist.

"There are things you need to discuss that are private," said Ms. Ryan, who is also a plaintiff. She noted that nonprescription medications were frequently placed beyond her reach. "I can't ask somebody else to figure out which is the cheapest container, which is the cheapest brand," she said.

Duane Reade was singled out for the lawsuit in part because of the frequency of complaints from disabled customers and in part because of its increasing domination of the market, said Dennis R. Boyd of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which, with Fish & Neave, represents Disabled in Action.

There were 172 Duane Reade stores as of December, 102 of them in high-traffic areas of Manhattan, according to the company's latest 10-K report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Thirty-six stores were on two levels.

"We have demonstrated our ability to successfully operate stores using a wide variety of store configurations and sizes," the report said. "Flexibility in configuring stores provides us with a competitive advantage in securing locations for new stores, as many of our competitors target more standardized spaces."

In the Duane Reade at 155 East 34th Street, the selling floor is three steps up from the main entrance at Third Avenue. Nothing at the front door indicates that there is a step-free entrance about 75 feet away, which is locked in any case. ("Push button for handicap entry," a sign at the side entrance says. "Wait for assistance.")

Inside, there is a six-step ascent to the photo center and greeting-card department. The lift next to this stairway was blocked on Monday afternoon by a stack of detergent boxes and an unused display case.

"It's hard to pay the rents landlords want and utilize spaces to the highest efficiency without overstuffing them," said C. Bradley Mendelson, senior managing director in the retail group at the Insignia/ESG brokerage firm. Even so, he said, "Duane Reade, more than almost any other out there, tends to have stores that seem to be overstuffed."

Faith Hope Consolo, senior managing director of Garrick-Aug Associates Store Leasing, has a similar impression. "Some of these stores have cartons in the aisles in addition to everything that's packed on the shelves," she said. "These drugstores are more like grocery stores or supermarkets."

Copyright © 2001 The New York Times Company June 27, 2001

DIA in the News:
Articulated Bus Hearing at City Hall

Disabled In Action had two people, Frieda Zames and Jean Ryan, testify at the July 18, 2001, City Council hearing on articulated buses. Those buses are the ones with a black "accordion" in the middle, and they run many places in the Bronx and on major cross-town streets in Manhattan. Plans are to start using them on the M15 bus route, too. They hold up to 145 passengers compared to 70 passengers for standard-size buses.

Articulated buses have several drawbacks for disabled people: since the buses are so big, they run less often, but they still only have spaces for 2 wheelchair or scooter users, so while ambulatory people can get on a bus, we might have to wait a long time for another bus to come if those 2 wheelchair spaces are already filled. That is a major concern on 23rd Street because of the Veteran's Hospital, Selis Manor, and big apartment complexes with many people with disabilities. The steps are uneven and difficult for walkers. It is difficult to impossible to make the turn into the bus from the lift and to pass by the people and service dogs sitting in the front without injuring them. Jean demonstrated getting onto the bus with her scooter, and after several tries to make the backwards turn, she almost ran over the toes of a councilperson who was unavoidably in the way in one of the front seats. The Daily News had an article about the hearing.

Why I Got Arrested on my Way to Jury Duty
by Tarik Hassim: Bey

I was selected as a juror on a criminal felony case in Manhattan Supreme Court in February, 2000. I have an invisible disability and require the use of a service dog to aid me with balance mobility associated with my disability. My service dog, Jazmin, is a female Clumber Spaniel, and I've had her for about 4 years. Since having Jazmin as a service dog, I have faced numerous challenges when I try to access public places, transportation or housing. Without Jazmin, I would be mostly homebound.

Jazmin was welcomed by the Court when I was selected as a juror. However, on March 1, 2000, while enroute to jury duty, Jazmin and I were stopped and challenged at the 145th Street/Broadway subway station on the 1/9 line by a New York Police Department (NYPD) transit officer.

The NYPD transit officer stopped me and insisted that my service dog must be in a cage in order to get on the subway. I assume he came to this conclusion because my disability is non-visible and he associates service dogs only as "seeing-eye" dogs, such as black Labs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, etc..

I informed the officer that my dog is in fact a service dog, as she was wearing a red identification cape specifying the word "SERVICE DOG" on it. Again, the officer insisted that my animal must be in a cage, no exceptions. Remember, the ADA only requires a verbal affirmation that an animal is a service animal and documentation and certification is not required.

Next, I produced my Service Animal Identification Card issued by New York City Transit. The officer would not even look at the ID Card. He still insisted that my animal must be in a cage.

At this time, I showed this officer a photocopy of the NYPD Patrol Guide pertaining to Service Animals on City Transit, my Service Dog license issued by the New York City Department of Health, a pamphlet from the Office of the New York State Attorney General pertaining to service animals, my Disability Reduced-Fare Metro Card and my yellow Juror's Pass. The officer refused to look at the documentation I presented to him, nor would he identify himself or call a supervisor.

I had arrived at the subway at 8:30 a.m. because I had to be in court by 9:15 a.m.. It usually took me 25 minutes to get downtown to the criminal court. Since I was being unreasonably delayed by a police officer, I used my cell phone to call the Court and inform them of my situation. The Court asked to speak with the officer, but he refused to speak with the judge or her clerk. I was still denied access onto the subway. It was around 9:10 a.m. at this point. The Court said they would wait, but that it was important that I get there as soon as possible.

Back I went into the subway station and I used my Disability Reduced-Fare MetroCard to enter the subway platform with Jazmin. At this time, I was arrested by this same officer for having an animal on the subway. I was placed into handcuffs and the officer requested assistance from his fellow officers.

Jazmin and I were taken to the Transit District 3 Station at 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. I was fingerprinted and photographed like a criminal. After being held and delayed for several hours, I was later given a Desk Appearance Ticket for having a dog on the subway.

I went on the subway at this station and caught the A Train down to Chambers Street. I made it to Court almost five hours late; it was about 2:00 p.m., when I actually got into the courtroom.

The court officers called me into the courtroom outside of the presence of the jury and escorted Jazmin and me into the jury box. I was questioned by the judge on the record in open court as to why I took this long getting to the courthouse. This was done in front of the accused, the defense attorney, the prosecutor and public spectators. I told the judge what had happened. The Judge said that the officer was out of line and his actions of arresting me were uncalled for. At this time, the Judge asked me for my copy of the desk appearance ticket, which she later had quashed. I never had to return to criminal court on that ticket.

I was terrified that I could have been arrested for contempt of court and/or given a fine for holding up a jury trial. However, this did not happen and the trial resumed. I have never been so embarrassed and humiliated like this before.

I eventually filed a complaint with the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Resolution Board) against the officer and made a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice on the basis that my civil rights were violated by this police officer for refusing me the right of access onto a subway with a service dog, then arresting me for trying. To this date, no response or corrective action has been taken against this NYPD officer by the CCRB, the NYPD or the U.S. Department of Justice.

At the close of the trial, the judge requested pictures of Jazmin and me, with personnel of the court, including her Honor. Our photograph was placed in an article in a court newsletter to educate court personnel, court officers and potential jurors about service animals.

My attempts to get help from elected officials on this issue have been futile. I have learned that other persons with disabilities accompanied by service animals have been arrested and/or given summonses for bringing their service animals onto the subway system. Access issues for persons with disabilities who bring service animals into public places, transportation, and housing accommodations continue to be a challenge for most of us in New York City.

In an attempt to educate the members of the NYPD about service animals, I participated in sensitivity training in the 30th Precinct, and I was photographed and interviewed for an article about service animals in the March/April 2001 issue of Spring 3100, the magazine for the NYPD which is sent to every member of the force.

On a final note, I would hope that New York City government officials finally take steps to educate the public and to train government employees about service animals used for various disabilities. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed 11 years ago, the average person does not know what a service animal is and the few who do only associate them with just "seeing-eye" dogs.

Editor's Note: Tarik Hassim: Bey is the new name for the person some of you knew as Angel Santiago. Tarik Hassim: Bey is a Moorish name from ancient Spain where Tarik's ancestors originally lived.

Lucky in New York
by Stacy LaRoche

Many New Yorkers will tell you that Mayor Giuliani is the biggest Yankee fan in the City but riders of the 4 and 6 train know the truth: Lucky, better known as the "Yankee Dog" takes that title hands down.

From the time we leave our Upper East Side apartment, Lucky attracts attention: a "typical" New Yorker, he dresses to match the occasion and baseball games are no exception! Yet even in his fan wear he is fully aware of his job - getting me to the stadium and home again safely, and caring for me while at the game. Yankee Stadium is a favorite spot for the family since it is so accessible and service dog friendly. Lucky loves posing for pictures for the other fans!

Lucky is a mobility assistance service dog who regularly rides public transportation, including the bus and subway systems in New York City. Lucky became a member of our family at 6 weeks old. He began his training at the ASPCA, graduated to advanced obedience with his trainer Ivan Kovach and continues to work with his service dog trainer Dennis P. Owens. Both of his trainers work independently of any service animal schools. The wait-list for a service dog can be long, so private training is a popular option. Our neighbors have watched Lucky mature into his service dog role. At approximately 15 months old, his bones were strong enough wear his support harness to protect me from falls, help me get up and down stairs, and navigate the hills of our Carnegie Hill neighborhood. He helps me ride the subway and buses, get out of chairs, get up off the ground if I fall, and he braces me when I bend down. The seriousness with which he approaches his work amazes people. He does get time off to be just a "regular" dog. He loves my kids and playing Frisbee with my husband in the park.

The general public closely associates Shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers with guide dog work, but most people know little else about other types of service animals. Service animals come in many shapes and sizes and fall into many categories. Lucky is an American Pit Bull Terrier for mobility assistance - serving as a "walking cane." Besides mobility and guide work, animals can provide hearing alert and other medical alert functions. The medical alert category is the most diverse category. It includes seizure alert, migraine alert, asthma alert or psychiatric alert animals. Some animals provide help in more than one of these categories.

I never leave the house without Lucky. He makes it possible for me to get to my doctor's visits, the movies, out to dinner, my kid's school events, church and to food shop. He can go anywhere the general public is allowed due to Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The ADA is hardly a new piece of legislation, but few people realize that the law provides for more than wheelchair user accessibility guidelines. This landmark legislation is now 11 years old but many establishments still have physical or policy barriers that prevent people with disabilities from "...admittance and/or the equal use of and enjoyment of any public facility solely because he or she has a disability..." (New York Office of the Attorney General Service Animal brochure).

Lucky's job is important not only to me but my family as well. Before Lucky was old enough to wear his support harness I rarely left the house, placing a great burden on my husband and children. As my disability progressed my husband's concerns for my safety grew. He was worried about me falling, going out and being too fatigued to get home, or being an easy target for crime. With Lucky by my side I am much more independent and that makes all the difference. Sometimes I wonder who is the lucky one, the answer is always the same - I am lucky to have Lucky!

Editor's note: After many months of fighting with the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority), Stacy LaRoche recently became the first person in NYC to get a reduced-fare Metrocard based on the fact that she is ambulatory and uses a service animal as a mobility aid. Previous to this, the MTA only allowed mechanical devices to be accepted as mobility aids. Congratulations on a successful path-breaking fight, Stacy!

Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business
  1. Q: What are the laws that apply to my business?

    A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.


  2. Q: What is a service animal?

    A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

    Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. "Seeing eye dogs" are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

    • Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
    • Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
    • Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

    A service animal is not a pet.


  3. Q: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

    A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.


  4. Q: What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

    A: The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.


  5. Q: I have always had a clearly posted "no pets" policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?

    A: Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your "no pets" policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your "no pets" policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.


  6. Q: My county health department has told me that only a seeing eye or guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those regulations, am I violating the ADA?

    A: Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of service animal on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws. The ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations.


  7. Q: Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals into my business?

    A: No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel's policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.


  8. Q: I operate a private taxicab and I don't want animals in my taxi; they smell, shed hair and sometimes have "accidents." Am I violating the ADA if I refuse to pick up someone with a service animal?

    A: Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.


  9. Q: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

    A: No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.


  10. Q: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

    A: You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

    Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.


  11. Q: Can I exclude an animal that doesn't really seem dangerous but is disruptive to my business?

    A: There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal -- that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.


If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (voice) or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD). Taken from:

All kinds of information is available at the DOJ site at

Editor's Note: Number 6 is the biggest problem faced by service animal teams in New York City. Service Dogs in Training are afforded full rights of a service dog while in New York City. New York City offers greater protection to disabled handlers than the ADA does.

Two Transit Cases to Watch

ACTIVIST Editor's note: These cases have relevance in New York City, given the problems we have with Access-A-Ride, buses, and subways.

Shaping up Paratransit in Philadelphia

September 5, 2001 - Last January [2001], U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed Jr. laid down the law to SEPTA and its hit-or-miss paratransit division, ordering the agency to provide reliable transportation to disabled riders - or else.

Last week, the judge gave his ruling a sharp set of teeth.

He set out specific ways SEPTA must comply with his groundbreaking interpretation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Promises are not enough, he said.

Starting in November, SEPTA must fulfill virtually all paratransit ride requests - or else pay a $30 penalty for every trip denial exceeding five per month. (Based on paratransit's dismal pickup rates the first six months of this year, those fines could be in the hundreds of thousands.)

The judge also ordered SEPTA to give cab vouchers to disabled commuters who are denied paratransit service when told they can't get a ride when they want it. And he said the agency must give scheduling priority to its 20,800 disabled riders in Philadelphia - even if that means bumping about 55,000 elderly who also depend on paratransit.

Let's hope the latter ruling doesn't pit the disabled against the elderly for seats. But Judge Reed's other orders give SEPTA clear standards as it works to provide the disabled with the public transportation all citizens deserve.

Don't look at this as a case of Them (federal court) vs. Us (local agency).

SEPTA officials, who have done a terrible job of providing paratransit, say they are "wholeheartedly" on board with the judge's rulings, even as they struggle to meet them.

In the last five days ending Monday, SEPTA didn't miss a single paratransit request. Keep up that success rate, and soon everyone - disabled riders, SEPTA officials and Judge Reed himself - will be smiling.

© Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.


A Major Breakthrough in Chicago -
Equal Access to Transportation

In July, a U.S. District Court judge gave preliminary approval to a settlement between Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago as well as 9 individuals and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) with respect to poor service on public buses and trains for riders with disabilities. The Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed an amici brief supporting the plaintiffs' position.

This settlement has teeth.  CTA must hire an independent monitor to oversee and document the CTA's compliance for five years and they must allocate fifteen million dollars over five years to improve service. In addition, some of the other settlement terms are:

ACTIVIST Editor's note: This settlement is for trains and buses, but if our train elevators were dealt with this way and if there was an independent monitor for elevator problems and calling out stops and late-pick-ups and overly lengthy rides, and if drivers were punished for being insolent and rude and passing us by (buses and Access-A-Ride), and if AAR had to have zero denial rate (no standby), a functioning complaint and customer service department and reliable back-up service, transportation would be much easier and more reliable for people who use wheelchairs, who have mobility problems, or who are blind. Furthermore, we have to have better access to subways. It is obvious that surface transit has many unsolvable problems in New York City.

Talking ATMs
by Deborah Kendrick

Note from ACTIVIST editor: It shouldn't have to be a big deal to independently withdraw money out of the bank, but for blind bank patrons like Cincinnati's Deborah Kendrick, it is. Here's her telling of the experience. Soon, it will be a common experience.

It isn't often that I wish to live anywhere but Cincinnati. An experience last month in Los Angeles and news last week in Columbus and Chicago triggered twinges of wistfulness, however. The cause of this is nothing more exotic than an automated teller machine.

At an ordinary Bank of America ATM in Los Angeles, I plugged in the earphone from my purse, and listened to a friendly voice welcoming me to the machine. After a brief verbal orientation to keypad layout and other points on the face of the machine, I inserted my card, entered my PIN, and proceeded with an independent withdrawal of my own money for the first time.

Verbalizing the prompts on the screen, the "talking ATM" asked the usual questions. Withdraw from savings or checking? If checking, press "Key X" which is located in the top right corner of the keypad. After pressing keys, my choices were confirmed in my ear as they are on the screen, and so it went, until the friendly voice told me where to remove my cash, my receipt, my card, and the transaction was completed. The voice also informed me that, because I am not a Bank of America customer, my account would be charged $1.50. For the first time, I didn't care.

Like 12 million other Americans unable to read the ATM screen, my only solution to using them has been to memorize the sequences of one particular machine or to trust others - sometimes total strangers - to read the screen prompts for me.

Yes, there is Braille on thousands of machines around the country, but Braille is static information, providing none of the direct feedback that directs a bank customer through a transaction. Placing Braille labels on ATM machines was a good faith effort on the part of the banking industry a decade ago to comply with the law, requiring that at least one machine at each location have information rendering it usable by people with impaired vision.

Due to the effort of two California-based civil rights lawyers, Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian, along with blind advocates in a growing number of cities, voice-equipped ATMs have been appearing since 1999. The first machine to talk in the U.S. was installed by the San Francisco City Hall Credit Union in San Francisco's City Hall in October 1999.

Since then, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Fleet of Boston and, most recently, Bank One have installed about 400 voice-equipped ATMs with commitments to install thousands more over the next five years.

Most recently and closest to home, Bank One unveiled 15 talking ATMs in Columbus and another 15 in Chicago April 25. All agreements to date have been collaborative between banks and customers, facilitated by the attorneys but without adversarial litigation. The intent, in other words, is generally to do the right thing.

Diebold Inc., one of the leading manufacturers of ATMs, forged an agreement last November with the National Federation of the Blind to research the most cost-effective way of producing ATMs with speech...

(from the May 13, 2001, Cincinnati Enquirer)

ACTIVIST Editor's note: Citibank will have one talking ATM in every Citibank branch throughout the country by October, 2002. Their talking ATMs have the same touch screens as other Citibank machines, plus Braille indicators at the bottom that instruct customers where to put their fingers on the touch screen. The reason the banks are using touch screens instead of buttons is that they can more easily change the options on the screen when they need to.

Citibank's First New York Talking ATM Locations:
717 Avenue of the Americas at West 23rd Street, Manhattan
460 Park Avenue at East 57th Street, Manhattan
2861 Broadway at West 111th Street, Manhattan
181 Montague Street, Brooklyn
95-12 63rd Road, Rego Park, Queens

Moving Right Along


The Department of Justice is offering a free CD of ADA regulations and suggestions on how to implement them. To order your free CD, call (24 hours a day) 1-800-514-0301 (voice) or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY) or go to


ADA information can be obtained at the following sources: the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which has ADA information on its website at DOJ also operates an ADA Information Hotline at 1-800-514-0301 (voice) / 1-800-514-0383 (TTY/TDD) for questions about Titles II and III of the ADA (activities of state and local government entities, and private entities like stores, restaurants, etc.). The ADA Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) at 1-800-949-4232 (Voice/TTY/TDD) is another resource for questions relating to any section of the ADA.


A woman has started a project that will give blind people access to product packaging information such as cooking directions, nutritional information, ingredients, etc.. Sighted volunteers write out this information and send it to a web site where blind people can access it. The point is just to work with products you already buy for yourself. She's put together a form that will help you know what it is she wants. For more information about the project and to see what products have already been done, go to


Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. agreed to allow persons with visual impairments to travel on its ships under the same terms and conditions as other passengers, the Justice Department said Monday. Under the agreement, Norwegian will not require blind people to travel with or share a cabin with a sighted person; obtain a medical note prior to travel; or assume liability for travel risks unless the same requirement applies to all passengers.


Several months ago, Pat O'Brien, VP in charge of Access-A-Ride (AAR), announced that a new software program had been purchased, and it was expected that it would be working in one borough by December. We hope that the new software program will improve scheduling. It is not known if the emergency conditions will delay this timetable, but most likely it will if AAR personnel cannot get back into their building in a timely manner with full phone, fax, and e-mail service.

AAR is also putting out bids for a voucher program to provide round-trip car service to people who are subscription riders, that is, riders who go to the same place at least three days a week, at the same time of day, week in and week out.  The advantages of a voucher program are that it is cheaper to outsource the rides than to use AAR vans, and hopefully it will allow more flexibility for working people to work late or to cancel rides the night before without penalty. The drawback is that this service is only for ambulatory riders or ones who can transfer from a wheelchair. Wheelchair users who cannot transfer will have to continue to ride on the bumpy, late-arriving, unreliable AAR vans. Unless car services become accessible, that is.

In a September 10th meeting between the Paratransit Advisory Committee and Peter Siskin, Project Manager for Atlantic Paratrans,  which is the largest carrier of the eight carriers that AAR uses, Mr. Siskin announced that Atlantic Paratrans made drastic management changes last month, upped its staffing level, and started to move to a paratransit-only base in Maspeth, Queens, in order to improve service. Atlantic has a disproportionate share of complaints from riders and it is widely believed to have the most poorly maintained equipment.


Some sharp readers spotted an error in the phone number to call the NYC DOT (Department of Transportation) to complain about a missing or bad pedestrian ramp (curb cut). The number is 212 or 718-CALL DOT (225-5368), and you can call this number 24/7, at least while the emergency is on. The DOT has been displaced, but their customer service number is the same as it was before. You might get faster results by going through your Community Board, although some boards are better than others about demanding services.

A poem by Eric Pernick

ADA is here to stay
ADA has paved the way
For men and women
Like you and me
To have the opportunity
For people to state their views
In every way.
One hopes it never goes away like the greatest love that never
Fades away. Long live ADA.

by Anthony Trocchia

One of my goals as president continues to be to increase DIA's membership. Recently, I started carrying DIA brochures with me all the time. When I'm on the bus, waiting at a bus stop, or simply going about my business, I give a brochure to every disabled person I spot. All have graciously accepted. I got the idea from seeing Frieda always carry brochures in her scooter's basket. We need to get the word out about DIA. I learned about DIA years ago when I was at Rusk Institute and happened to see a bunch of brochures on an information rack. Back then, DIA used to have meetings at Rusk Institute. Needless to say, I'm glad I took a brochure. DIA has changed my life... for the better. It is truly an activist group! Help to boost DIA's membership greatly. You just may make someone out there very happy to know we exist. If you need brochures, call Frieda at 1-212-260-0423 and ask her to bring you a batch at the next DIA meeting.


A learning-disabled woman will be given twice the normal two days to take the New York State Bar exam, a federal judge in New York ruled recently. Marilyn Bartlett, whose eight-year fight with the state Board of Law Examiners has included an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and two appearances before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, convinced the judge that she should be accommodated under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

by Gary Presley

In a move surprising to disability activists, officials of the Muscular Dystrophy Association USA [MDA] and Jerry Lewis both issued apologies yesterday [June 1st] for Lewis' remarks on the May 20th edition of CBS News Sunday Morning.

During that program, when questioned by the CBS interviewer about activists' protests relating to Lewis' annual MDA Telethon, Lewis said, "I'm telling people about a child in trouble. If it's pity we'll get some money. I'm just giving you the facts. Pity... you don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house."

Reaction from the disability community was instantaneous. Many were disbelieving, but soon activists had transcribed the remarks from tapes of Lewis' appearance, and the slur was confirmed. Then the boorish remarks began to circulate, primarily through the Internet.

ACTIVIST Editor's note: It was very unusual that he and they apologized for what he said, but his apology would have meant more had he withdrawn from the telethon or helped create one that shows disabled people going to school, working, and playing and not as pitiable creatures people should pity and feel guilty about being happy that they aren't in their shoes (or braces).


New York State law now requires all banks whose deposits are FDIC insured to offer more affordable Basic Banking Accounts. The features of these accounts are:

Many banks offer better terms. To be eligible, you must live in New York State and use Direct Deposit for checks from Social Security, your salary, your pension, or a similar source. You may not maintain any other checking or NOW account at any bank, with the exception of burial fund accounts. Compare the features of accounts at several banks to see which one would be best for you.


For further information, go to or call Shifra Lawner, Director, Monday thru Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at


ABLE newspaper, published by Angela Melledy, celebrated its 10th anniversary in July with a big party. Melledy's paper is a good source of information for the disability community in New York City and in Long Island. Every month, DIA has a column in ABLE. To subscribe to ABLE, go to or call 1-718-792-3533, or you can read it at your local independent living center.


Robert Schoenfeld, a DIA member, has an e-mail list which is devoted to information on disability issues. To subscribe, send him an e-mail at


We Magazine has a new talking browser for those with visual impairments. It is free. Check it out at