Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, disability civil rights

The Long Walk to the Coffee Shop

My rollator is my freedom. There’s no question about that. It allows me to observe the world while I’m walking, instead of constantly looking down to avoid pebbles or cracks that might (and do) send me reeling.

Liberating as it is, the rollator has its drawbacks. It’s big and bulky, and it’s forever a challenge to figure out where to stow the dang thing when I’m at a concert or in a restaurant. And when I’m walking down the sidewalk, I’m often either parting crowds or zig-zagging to get out of people’s way.

Still, I’m rarely without it and until I retired a couple of years ago, I took it to work every day. And because I happened to work in a government agency that investigates employment discrimination complaints, I knew that my boss and co-workers readily understood that the device was an accommodation to which was entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

But as those of us with MS and other disabilities know, once we get in the door we can still be isolated from the daily workplace rhythm. For example, in the latter years of my career, my boss and anywhere from 5 to 15 co-workers started taking daily morning walks to a nearby coffee shop. They walked three long blocks down a gentle hill in heavy traffic. None of the others had apparent disabilities, and they filled the sidewalk and moved quickly. For safety reasons, as well as the knowledge that I would always end up walking far behind them, I didn’t join these daily coffee fests.

It was always somewhat awkward when I ran into the able-bodied “mob” and saw the forced smiles and downcast eyes, especially on the part of my boss. But I could live with that. The problem was when I began to realize that these daily strolls had sort of been taking the place of staff meetings, and people often used the time to discuss work-related issues. Sometimes those items were important, and I would only learn of them through casual remarks made by others during the day. In addition, as everyone who works in an office knows, these activities can create and deepen connections that are invaluable in the course of a career.

I tried to hint a few times to my boss that the situation made me feel left out, but nothing changed. And after all, what was it I really wanted – to tell them they couldn’t go or that they had to walk slower during the times I joined them? Absolutely not!

As with most workplace accommodations, a little thought and sensitivity could have changed everything – they could have had regular staff meetings and other “accessible” ways for staff to get together. That’s what I told them during my retirement party, and my understanding is that this is exactly what they have started doing.

I won’t pretend for a moment that this was as important as the other workplace battles I fought – such as finding a system to make sure everyone gets down the stairs in the event of a fire. But I’m glad that the next person with mobility limitations that works there will not have to go through this daily indignity. I guess that’s what it means to change the world one “step” at a time.

For more information about workplace accommodation, see

https://www.ada.gov/ada_title_I.htm

Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, Air carrier access act

The Skies Just Got Friendlier for People with Disabilities

We’re all a little anxious as we wait for our airline baggage after a flight. We hope that our suitcase will happily bounce down onto the conveyer belt and we can grab it and be on our way.

If our luggage is delayed or damaged in some way, it’s always a major irritant. We have to fill out forms and wait for the items to be returned or replaced.

But what if the damaged item is your wheelchair, walker or scooter? It then becomes much more than an inconvenience – it may literally cause you to be stranded at the airport for an indefinite period of time. This is especially true if it was a device specifically designed for you and your disability.

Fortunately, Congress has just passed a law that will make airlines more accountable. On October 5, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, H.R. 302, was signed into law. Among other things, this new law requires airlines to more closely track mobility devices on flights, as well as pay increased penalties for damaged equipment. Airlines are also required to enhance training for security officers on this issue.

One of our biggest challenges is to help people understand that our mobility devices are really an extension of ourselves, and should be treated as such. This new law brings us closer to that goal.

For more information, see the article below by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

https://www.nationalmssociety.org/About-the-Society/News/Society-Applauds-New-FAA-Law-Making-Travel-More-Ac

Posted in Accessibility for people with disabilities, disability civil rights, Mobility Devces

“I decided in that moment I would never be confined again.”

A rollator is a walker with wheels. It is hard to describe the freedom I felt when I first used one.

Rather than walking (often staggering) slowly and always thinking about falling, I was able to actually look up and enjoy (or at least take in!) the world around me as I moved about.

I was no longer at the mercy of some unobservant person who might accidentally knock me down. This was both because I was more stable and because my “wheels” signaled to others to be more careful around me. And I can definitely understand why Heather M. Jones, the writer of the article below, described her first ride in a wheelchair as “like flying down Route 66…”

Lest this sounds too “pollyannaish,” let me assure you that above all, I wish I did not have multiple sclerosis and did not need this device. But since I do, this is one of the things that greatly enhances my quality of life.

And for others who think that something like this (or a cane, a wheelchair or a scooter) might make their lives more manageable, I definitely encourage you to at least give it a test drive!

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stop-saying-wheelchair-bound_us_5b59f898e4b0de86f494bcfc

Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, ADA Title II, Curb cuts, disability civil rights

It’s not just about Bicyles: The City of Portland Will be Building More Curb Cuts

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Anyone with mobility problems understands the value of curb cuts. Without them, we are much more vulnerable and unsafe.

We may try to somehow jump our wheelchairs or walkers up onto the curb, or try to use our canes as pole vaults as we “leap” from street to sidewalk. We may try to use the street as an erstwhile sidewalk, or ask a stranger for help. But the most likely thing is that we will simply decide that the danger is not worth the risk and turn back. This is one of the ways that people with disabilities are effectively shut out of  events and activities that are routine for most people.

This kind of dilemma is largely why the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) was enacted. One of the ADA’s requirements is that cities build curb cuts into newly-constructed sidewalks or into sidewalks that are being repaired or otherwise altered.

I live in Portland, Oregon, which is famous for being progressive, green and extremely bicycle-friendly. But Portland was recently sued by wheelchair users, who claimed that the city was  not installing enough curb cuts nor adequately maintaining the sidewalks.

Portland has just settled this case for $13 million dollars. Part of the agreement is that the city will construct 1500 curb cuts a year.

We sure can use them!

//www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2018/05/portland_to_settle_with_wheelc.html

Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, disability civil rights

Posting by Joe Shapiro describes a Senseless Courtroom Tragedy.

 

Joe Shapiro  just shared an astonishing  and horrendous news article on Facebook. It’s about a female inmate who appeared in court to answer criminal charges. She had a respiratory disease and had asked the judge to let her use her breathing apparatus. But the judge, astonishingly, denied her request. A few days later, she died.

The “I can’t breathe” rallying cry would be ominously appropriate here, too.

See link below:

https://www.facebook.com/joe.shapiro.94/posts/1508940372547758

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Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, disability civil rights, Disability sterotypes, Public Perceptions of Disability

Can’t We Do Better than this? ♿️

I love including emojis in my emails. If somone is taking a trip, I’ll often insert a plane or train. If they have accomplished something, I’ll sometimes insert some people dancing and clapping.

Emojis do more than give clues about the writer’s state of mind – they provide a whole extra layer of communication to a very limited medium.

When one peruses the thousands of available emojis, they will find “people” of all different races and cultures, and a seemingly infinite amount of sports, dancing and other activities. But when I was recently looking for something symbolizing a person with a disability, I found only ONE: the above, very familiar (and dare I say boring?) symbol of someone in a wheelchair.

That’s why it was so encouraging to read the Huffington Post article below. It describes a number of new emojis that are being considered for distribution. And for the first time, they all feature people with disabilities.

Is this a big deal? Probably not. But anything that encourages inclusion (rather than stigmatization) deserves at least a smiley face🙂.

ttps://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-ratcliff-dipsability-empoji_us_5ac63d03e4b056a8f5992a6

Feel free to leave a comment, above!

 

Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, Baseball, disability civil rights, Reasonable accommodation

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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Well, nothing – unless you happen to be an individual with mobility and/or balance problems. Then, this scene could quickly turn into a nightmare.

More realistically, we probably just wouldn’t go to whatever this game is. Then we would lose the opportunity to have a pleasant evening, contribute to the economy and be more integrated into mainstream society.

This and thousands of similar scenes are part of the reason the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA)  was enacted in 1990.

The ADA defines sports arenas as public accommodations (see the “public accommodations”  link on this site). As such, they are required to accommodate people with disabilities, as long as that accommodation does not create an undue burden.

So what might “accommodation” look like in this scenario? It could be a number of different things: installing hand railings, designating certain seats outside of this area for people with disabilities and their companions, providing physical assistance with getting up and down the stairs, etc.

In 2011, new regulations were issued that clarify much of what the law requires, as well as practical examples of what compliance might look like. Those regulations are in the link below.

Play ball!

https://adata.org/publication/disability-law-handbook#Ticketing,%20Reservations,%20and%20the%20ADA

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Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, Baseball, disability civil rights, Disability sterotypes, Jim abbott

Avoiding Discrimination is a Proud Part of America’s National Pastime.

Even though Jim Abbott was born without a right hand, he won a gold medal for the 1988 U.S. Olympic baseball team and threw a no- hitter for the New York Yankees. Curtis Pride and Pete Gray, both outfielders, are deaf. And John Lester and Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs and cancer survivors, recently presented their long-suffering  fans with a World Series title.

They and other baseball players with disabilities were honored in 2015 by Topps Baseball Cards. In commemoration  of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Topps launched a series of baseball cards honoring players with disabilities.

“People with disabilities are often looked at for what they can’t do instead of being appreciated for what they can do…Imagine if a child or the parent of a child with a disability, by simply opening a pack of baseball cards, discovers that one or their heroes was legally blind or deaf or has battled cancer? They should truly feel empowered and encouraged,” said the Cubs’ medical director Mark O’Neal.

And just a few days ago, the Kansas City Royals signed the first baseball player with autism.

Baseball has a long and proud history of being among the first American institutions to break civil rights barriers. They did it with Jackie Robinson and other racial minorities, and they have also done it with players with disabilities.

Of course,  baseball is dimished if people can’t watch it. So in my next post, I’ll talk about the progress made in allowing spectators with disabilities into baseball games.


See the two USA Today articles below (as well as Joe Shapiro’s facebook page) for more information.

https://www.royalsreview.com/2018/4/2/17190224/royals-sign-player-believed-to-be-first-professional-baseball-player-with-autism

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2015/10/21/topps-to-feature-cards-of-players-who-overcame-disabilities-pride–perseverance/74314206/