From the Editor's Desk
I have sleep deprivation from staying up late watching the Red Sox. It was all worth it because we are the World Series Champions. Go Sox!!!!
Now we must turn our attention and energy back to business. One very important issue was the supplemental budget. In a speech given at the State Rehabilitation Council meeting on September 27, 2007 in Springfield, MA, Commissioner Carr asked all members of the Rehabilitation Council, consumers, providers and staff within the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission community to contact their Representatives and Senators in support of the supplemental appropriation of $2.89 million as well as all the budget requests the Commission has for Fiscal 2009. Thanks to the overwhelming number of people who contacted their Representatives and Senators the supplemental budget was passed
In the future, when you are asked about the work of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and why the Commission's budget requests should be funded, please pass on the following information.
According to a report by the Commonwealth Corporation the returns to society based on increases in lifetime earnings range from $14.00 to $18.00 for each $1.00 invested in the MRC Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program, and $5.00 is returned to the state in the form of increased taxes and reduced public assistance payments for every dollar invested.
Dr. Jean McGuire, Assistant Secretary for Disability Policy and Programs within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said "People with disabilities want to work and have much to contribute to the workforce, especially in a state where changing demographics are revealing critical labor shortages."
One Simple Proposal to Prevent "Unnecessary Institutionalization"
Paul Spooner, Massachusetts Independent Living Alert Network (MILAN)
Nearly 11.9 % of the 1,304,810 people in nursing facilities were admitted directly from their homes or apartments. Despite a common misconception, these people were not admitted from an acute care hospital, a rehabilitation hospital, or another nursing home. Prior to being admitted to the nursing facility, these 155,272 people (the 11.9 %) were really living in their own homes and apartments. And here's the real kicker: None of them were receiving any home health services before they were admitted to a nursing facility! They went from receiving NO health services directly to an institutional medical setting.
How can people go directly from their homes to expensive residential nursing facilities without, at the least, being offered home health services? How can states approve expensive nursing facility Medicaid payments without first, at the least, offering people medical assistance, home health services, whether visiting nurses or attendant care so they could remain in their own homes? Do states want to pay for nursing facility services without attempting to provide services in a person's home or apartment?
States claim they are worried about their Long Term Care Medicaid budgets. They are supposed to be complying with the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision to stop "unnecessary institutionalization." They are supposed to want to save taxpayers unnecessary expenditures of public funds.
A simple proposal:
How about screening people before they go into a nursing facility to determine what community services might prevent institutionalization?
How about, dare we use the term, "prior authorization" before a person can be admitted to a nursing facility?
How about really offering a full range of community health and attendant services when people are still in their own homes and apartments?
States could talk with people before institutionalization.
Can you imagine the conversation: "Hi. We understand you're thinking about going into a nursing facility. Would you want to stay in your apartment or home if we could offer you health and attendant care services? What services do you think you would need to stay at home? Here's what we have available and what these services might be able to do." Or, "Do you think additional services are needed? What additional services might you need?"
Can you persuade your Governor to adopt this proposal? What plausible reasons could they give you for not trying to prevent unnecessary institutionalization? Why should even one person go directly from his or her home/apartment to an institution, if with community-based health and attendant services she or he could stay at home?
Below is a breakdown of the national 11.9% by state that shows the percentage of people in nursing facilities in your state who were admitted directly from their homes and apartments with no home health services being provided in their homes or apartments.
The list on the following page shows that Massachusetts has the lowest percentage of people in nursing facilities who were admitted directly from their home with no home health services provided.
D. C. 10.8
New Hampshire 10.4
New Jersey 8.1
New Mexico 16.3
New York 7.3
North Carolina 8.8
North Dakota 14.3
Rhode Island 9.2
South Carolina 8.3
South Dakota 14.6
West Virginia 14.4
New Rehabilitation Commission report shows increase in individuals with disabilities employed in Massachusetts
BOSTON The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) has issued a new report of its Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program detailing an increase in the number of Commonwealth residents with significant disabilities who were successfully placed into employment in Fiscal Year 2007 (July 1, 2006 - June 30, 2007). A total of 3,829 individuals were newly employed in FY07, an increase of 1,017 since FY04.
In spite of the significant disabilities faced by consumers of the MRC, the agency has been consistently successful in placing more than one-third of its consumers in full-time work arrangements and more than three-quarters enter the workforce with half-time or greater employment. Higher earnings in FY07 have consistently been well above the state minimum wage, with this year's average at $12.50/hour. As a result, the first-year earnings of these rehabilitated Massachusetts employees were $70.5 million in FY07, up from $45.1 million in FY04.
Overall, nearly 16,000 individuals with disabilities are actively served today by the MRC. In addition to the 3,829 employed in FY07, more than 11,183 are enrolled in training/educational programs that will prepare them for future employment. One of the many thousands of individuals who has been a part of the MRC program over the years is newly appointed Commissioner Charles Carr.
"I came to the MRC in 1971 as a 17-year old high school graduate wanting an education during a time when people with disabilities such as mine were living in nursing homes and hospitals," explained Carr. "Like most of my peers without disabilities, I wanted to go to college and use my degree to get a job. My MRC counselor could have steered me in another direction, and I might still be living in an institution, but he didn't. As a result, I earned my degree and began a career that has led me to be appointed Commissioner of the very agency that helped open doors for me."
MRC consumers were placed in a broad spectrum of occupations, including the top-paying professions of engineering, law, computer technology, health care and education. In the past four years, the number of consumers actively receiving employment services from the MRC grew 47%. During the same period, the number of consumers with significant disabilities who were competitively employed in occupations based on their choice, interest and abilities grew by nearly 36%.
"People with disabilities want to work and have much to contribute to the workforce, especially in a state where changing demographics are revealing critical labor shortages," said Dr. Jean McGuire, Assistant Secretary for Disability Policy and Programs within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. "Commissioner Carr's leadership assures even more innovation in the future; he knows the system and knows the opportunities."
In benefiting MRC consumers, the Commonwealth also benefits. According to a report by the Commonwealth Corporation, the returns to society based on increases in lifetime earnings range from $14 to $18 for each $1 invested in the MRC Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program, and $5 is returned to the state in the form of increased taxes and reduced public assistance payments for every dollar invested.
The MRC has also been engaged in helping place the approximately 30 significantly disabled former employees of Filene's Basement in Downtown Crossing. The MRC has provided three informational sessions describing services offered by the agency and one-on-one sessions with Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors Job Placement Specialists. As a result of the informational sessions, approximately 20 individuals requested MRC services, and 18 referrals are currently being processed.
About the MRC
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission assists individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. The MRC is responsible for Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Community Services and eligibility determination for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) federal benefits programs for Massachusetts citizens with disabilities. The MRC serves people with all types of disabilities except those who are blind. Individuals with visual disabilities are served through the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.
Caring, Sharing -Couples, Singles Give Disabled People Homes
By Lee Hammel, Worcester Telegram & Gazette Staff
Deinstitutionalization-taking people with disabilities out of large institutions so they can live in group homes - has long been considered a more humane way of caring for them. But for some people, there is a good alternative to group homes: shared living.
It is an arrangement in which married or single people care for a person with disabilities in their home under contract with a human service agency. While there is substantial payment (an average of $40,000 per year, tax free, paid by the state Department of Mental Retardation), the arrangement involves a lifestyle change for the hosts as they integrate the person with a disability into their family.
The state Department of Mental Retardation has 953 clients in such arrangements. Horace Mann Educational Associates (HMEA), a Franklin-based human services provider, has found homes for 29 of those people.
"There's more freedom here" said Will Wellman, 29, of his home in Webster with the Rev. Ron J. Anderson.
Mr. Wellman, one of HMEA's clients, survived a horrific auto accident 13 years ago that left him with a brain injury. Once he learned to walk and talk again after years in rehabilitation hospitals, Mr. Wellman moved into a group home, hoping to adjust to social life there and regain more use of his arm. But Mr. Wellman's social development was stunted with his injury at age 16, and he said he did not get along with his three roommates. And, he didn't like the feeling of being monitored by the staff and having to go along with activities he felt did not benefit him.
After one false start for Mr. Wellman in a shared living arrangement in Barre, Rev. Anderson and Will found each other. That happened when a member of the North Star Cathedral of Hope, a nondenominational church at 70 James St., Worcester, told Rev. Anderson, the pastor, about HMEA's shared living program.
Mr. Wellman has lived with Rev. Anderson since October 2005. Rev. Anderson, a pastor for 43 years, said he has always needed both roommates and outside income to make ends meet.
The pastor said it was "miraculous" that helping Mr. Wellman also allowed him to reduce the number of clients for whom he designs and maintains Web sites and to jettison roommates who were not averse to coming home drunk and laying waste to the house.
While he has a long history of caring for people and being a minister, Rev. Anderson, 63, is the only one of 26 people currently providing a home for HMEA clients who is not a professional human services provider, according to David Placido, HMEA director of shared living.
Mr. Wellman works six hours a day in a meals-on-wheels program and is permitted up to three hours of unsupervised time per day, but for much of every day Rev. Anderson is teaching Mr. Wellman-whose inhibitions were destroyed along with part of the frontal lobe of his brain-how to set limits. It means putting cereal in baggies so Mr. Wellman won't eat the whole box in a day or two and it means curbing his inclination to ask the waitress at Applebee's to be his girlfriend.
Pretty much Mr. Wellman is free to indulge his irrepressible sense of humor with strangers. ("Why don't sea gulls fly over the bay? Because then they'd be bagels.") "Ron's done a wonderful job with social skills and boundaries for Mr. Wellman," said HMEA placement coordinator Pam Green.
The Rev. Anderson has taken Mr. Wellman everywhere from The Lic's Restaurant in Webster to a Caribbean cruise and to services and choir practice at the Church, although he said he also goes to a restaurant without Mr. Wellman on occasion.
In Douglas, Ellen Burbank has been living with Carol and John Breault since January 2003. Ms. Burbank, 60, has multiple challenges, including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, seizures, osteoporosis, difficulty swallowing, and is legally blind. Ms. Breault is a certified home health aide who had been hired to care for Ms. Burbank overnight when Ms. Burbank had a shared living arrangement with another woman.
When that woman moved out of state, HMEA and Ms. Burbank agreed that Ms. Breault would make a good provider in her own home. Ms. Burbank needs closer supervision than Mr. Wellman does, and MassHealth provides a personal care attendant for 24 hours a week in addition to the Breaults' care.
Ms. Burbank said she enjoys living with the Breaults. She watches "Judge Judy," game shows and "Animal Planet" from her black leather rocker-recliner and, in the winter, watches the fire roar in the fireplace. Ms. Burbank goes to the adult day health program at Whitney Place in Whitinsville each day, giving Ms. Breault a chance to do errands by herself.
Ms. Burbank accompanies the family to St. Denis Church, out to eat and to a special bowling league. You can tell the shared living people from the group home residents at the bowling night, Ms. Breault said. The shared living people are better groomed because of the one-on-one attention they receive, she said.
Because Ms. Burbank suffers from seasonal affective disorder, vacations have included sunny places such as Disney World in Florida and Las Vegas, where they were out until 3 a.m. at a show, Ms. Breault said. The Breaults and Ms. Burbank also went to Canada this year to attend the wedding of Ms. Burbank's nephew.
With respite care, the Breaults can go on vacation by themselves, as well, which can put Ms. Burbank in a funk. "One time a year she's allowed to go away," Ms. Burbank joked.
While the money from HMEA permits, for all intents, Ms. Breault not to work outside the house, Ms. Green said shared living is "a lifestyle. It's not a job. If you look at it as a job it doesn't work."
Ms. Breault, who has a grown daughter and a grandchild who refers to Ms. Burbank as an aunt, said, "You have to readjust your life. I'm starting over again."
Mr. Placido said the agency does not refer to the relationship as parental, because the clients are adults who can make choices, even if they need help doing certain things.
"She's my buddy," Ms. Breault added. "She became part of this family."
For the Department of Mental Retardation, the $40,044 average cost of shared living is only 53 percent of the $74,818 per capita cost of a group home, according to the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services. DMR has 6,500 people in group homes operated by provider agencies and 1,009 people in group homes operated by the state.
DMR's shared living payments range from about $25,000 to $65,000, depending on the needs of the client, and some of the client's Social Security income goes to the home provider on top of that, according to Larry Tummino, DMR assistant commissioner.
Other state agencies have their own versions of shared living, although the payment is much less. DMR payments are higher because caring for someone with a developmental disability is a full-time responsibility, according to Jennifer Kritz, deputy communications director of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
Home providers are carefully screened, including criminal record checks, said Mr. Tummino, "and you have to receive specific training. CPR, first aid, and all the stuff our staff has to go through. You are a direct care worker in your home."
When the home provider is matched carefully with the client, a process HMEA said takes three months, "it can really be wonderful. A commitment develops, a reciprocal relationship develops, the household adapts to the person as well as that person adapting to that household," Mr. Tummino said.
With shared living, "the host family has their own social network before our person gets there. So the goal would be for the consumer to become integrated in their world so they have new friendships and relatives in that family.
"They might start going to activities with the host. It's a nice entree to community living" he said.
Victory for Institutionalized Californians Disability Civil Rights Lawsuit to Proceed as a Class Action
Steve Gold, The Disability Odyssey Continues (MILAN)
San Francisco, CA - The Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District handed a significant victory to people with developmental disabilities who are institutionalized throughout California.
The court held that the Alameda County Superior Court case-Capitol People First (CPF) v. Department of Developmental Services (DDS)-may proceed as a class action on behalf of more than 7000 individuals who receive services from regional centers and are either living in state or private institutions, or are at risk of institutionalization.
Protection and Advocacy Incorporated (PAI) managing attorney Eric Gelber, who argued the appeal, said "the ruling means that even people with significant disabilities have meaningful access to the courts to vindicate their rights to live as a part of, rather than apart from, the community." Brad Seligman, executive director of the Impact Fund, who also participated in the oral arguments, said "the decision is a ringing re-affirmation of the importance of class actions to challenge broad-based violations of the law. It reminds lower courts they must take seriously evidence showing a pattern of illegal conduct."
The Impact Fund was one of 15 advocacy organizations participating as amici curiae in support of the plaintiffs.
State and federal laws give people with disabilities the right to live and receive services in integrated community-based settings, rather than institutions, when their needs can be met in the less restrictive community settings. In the early 1990's, PAI brought a lawsuit on behalf of people with developmental disabilities who had been recommended for placement in the community but still remained institutionalized. That class action lawsuit, Coffelt v. DDS, settled and resulted in the community placement of some 2400 individuals over a 5-year period and many system reforms.
"Pressure Was Off"
After the settlement period ended, the pace of people moving into the community slowed down even though, as the Court of Appeal noted in its opinion on September 25, state officials have said the vast majority, if not 100% of developmental center residents, could live successfully in the community with appropriate supports and services. But, as state witnesses further said, without a court-approved settlement, "the pressure was off." This slowdown led to the filing of the CPF v. DDS lawsuit, which named DDS, other state agencies and the state's 21 regional centers as defendants. It was filed on behalf of individual class members and taxpayers as well as organizational plaintiffs Capitol People First, The Arc of California and California Alliance for Inclusive Communities, Inc.
The aim of the lawsuit was to eliminate systemic policies and practices of the state and regional centers resulting in the unnecessary institutionalization of thousands of people with developmental disabilities. Plaintiffs are represented by PAI, a non-profit disability-rights advocacy agency, and pro bono counsel with Bingham McCutcheon and DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary.
Opposition to Class Certification
Defendants opposed class certification, arguing that because everyone's needs are individual, issues over inappropriate institutionalization can only be addressed on an individual, case-by-case basis. Defendants and organizational interveners representing family members of institutionalized individuals also argued that the plaintiffs and their counsel could not represent the interests of all class members. Trial court judge, Ronald Sabraw, agreed and denied class certification.
In overturning Sabraw's ruling, the appellate court found in clear terms that "the trial court ignored or misunderstood the guiding principles of California law and thus based its decision on improper criteria and erroneous legal assumptions."
The appellate court noted that "the very nature of this class cries out for a class treatment and a systemic approach" because the people whose rights allegedly have been violated are persons with cognitive or other severe disabilities without resources to undertake the daunting task of seeking relief on their own. Discovery in the case, which has been stayed while the class certification appeal was pending, will now proceed and, unless the parties reach a settlement, the case is expected to go to trial in Fall 2008
One U.S. Attorney's Lawsuit Against A Nursing Home
Steve Gold, The Disability Odyssey Continues
Recently, a United States Attorney's Office filed a very interesting federal lawsuit against a nursing home. While many disability advocates have tried, unsuccessfully, to have state health departments rigorously conduct and enforce inspections of nursing homes, this lawsuit provides another handle.
The U.S. Attorney stated "This is a life and death issue. All previous efforts to bring this (nursing) facility into compliance have failed and we are taking this step in an attempt to ensure the safety of the residents.
The nursing facility, like nearly every other one in the country, received Medicaid funds and was, therefore, subject to the federal statutory and regulatory requirements.
Here are some of the violations the U.S. Attorney alleged:
1. The nursing home received Medicaid reimbursement for services that were "of a quality which fails to meet professionally recognized standards of health care."
What about causing bedsores? Not having a continence program? Not providing wheelchairs? Use of widespread restraints?
"Professionally recognized standards?"
2. Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, the nursing facility services must again comply with "professional standards and principles which apply to professionals providing services in such a facility."
Doesn't this assume "professionals" are actually providing services?
How many "professionals" are actually "providing services" in your nursing homes? The national data shows there are very few RN s or LPN s and services are provided by attendants.
3. Also under the NHRA, a nursing facility "must care for its residents in such a manner and in such an environment as will promote maintenance or enhancement of the quality of life of each resident."
Wow, did Congress really expect nursing facilities to affirmatively "maintain" and actually improve the "quality of life" of each resident? Sure like to know how the widespread use of restraints promotes this. Not providing wheelchairs, let alone motorized wheelchairs, promotes quality of life?
4. The NHRA requires that nursing facilities "must provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a plan of care."
Have you read a plan of care that relates to attaining or maintaining such well-being? What services are directed at achieving such well-being? Physical restraints? Keeping people in bed?
Here's a great one: Nursing facilities are supposed to have "sufficient nursing staff to provide nursing and related services" to reach the "well-being" in #4. Throughout the country, most nursing facilities do not meet the CMS recommended minimum ratio of RNs to residents.
Disability and Older American Advocates
1. Set up an appointment with your U.S. Attorney to discuss nursing facilities in your area.
2. Ask your U.S. Attorney to look at the Complaint "United States of America vs. Holland-Glen" (E.D.Pa.) filed 9/5/07. Ask if your U.S. Attorney would consider filing a similar lawsuit.
3. Pick out the worst nursing facility in your area and ask your U.S. Attorney to investigate and sue them.
An additional 4.5% of people (58,716) in nursing facilities were admitted directly from their homes and apartments but were receiving some home health services. We do not know what services, whether they were adequate, or whether more or different health and attendant care services might be necessary for these people so they might continue residing in their own homes.
4. If advocates for older Americans and people with disabilities do not enforce the NHRA, it will not be enforced. Maybe a few good lawsuits by the United States of America might shake up the nursing facilities. Sure doesn't look like much else shakes them up.
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Welcomes Concord-Carlyle High School Students and the Partners for Youth with Disabilities Mentoring Program
On October 24, 2007 students from Concord-Carlyle High School visited the MRC's office at Wormwood St. to spend the morning meeting with and shadowing various employees as the MRC celebrated Disability Employment month.
The day started with a "get acquainted meeting" with John Chappell, Emeka Nwokeji, Larry Espling, Lisa Weber and Leslie Wish. Students were able to ask questions about how staff came to work for the MRC and what it was like for them to go to school and become employed before the days of 766 and the Americans with Disabilities Act had even become a thought. MRC staff encouraged everyone to think ahead about what they might like to do for work and make plans.
Students shadowed staff from 10 am to 12 noon. They returned to the large conference room and participated in a working lunch of pizza, cold drinks and cookies.
Commissioner Carr spoke with the students about his experience as a person with a disability and how the MRC helped him go to college and how he established the first independent living center in Massachusetts so there would be choices for other people with disabilities. All the students received certificates of participation from the Commissioner and had their photographs taken.
The students felt it was a great day and a good experience for them.
LD/ADHD Task Force Meeting, September 20 and October 18, 2007
The Learning Disabilities/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADHD) Task Force is a group of advocates who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for adults with LD/ADHD.
The LD/ADHD website is an ongoing project. Currently the website redesign project is vital as it allows increased sources of information pertaining to adults with LD/ADHD. Recently 15 new links have been added to the web site. All are links to websites created for the benefit of those with LD/ADHD. This project started in August 2007 and is vital, viable and realistic. The task force is hoping for a project completion date of September, 2008. In the near future, we anticipate many changes on the MRC website, look for the link between the MRC and State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), which will feature information on the SRC website.
At the last task force meeting, unemployment issues and the importance of Individual Employment Plans were emphasized. The Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) is a document on which you and your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor list your employment goal's) specifying your responsibilities, as well as the services the MRC is responsible for to help you become employed. Developing and agreeing on an IPE is an important time for you. The more you know about your interests and abilities, the more you will be able to make informed decisions about your future work. Organizational skills and personal relationships are highly desirable in terms of employment. Generally, all consumers are entitled to a wide variety of services but the choices consumers make determine whether they will get these services. If a consumer does not verify their disability, or provide proper/complete documentation to be eligible for services, they may be declared ineligible.
In addition, Independent Living Centers were discussed briefly. Two issues of concern were that the ILC's are not satisfactorily serving the LD/ADHD population and how to develop a survey methodology that would help us ask the right questions. It has become apparent that ILC outreach is not a strong point. The group felt posters and flyers would be a beginning point to increase outreach. Further outreach could be accomplished by using contact addresses and phone numbers of people interested and provide a more personal touch. Every MRC area office should have posters regarding the MRC's services to adults with LD/ADHD.
Furthermore, the importance of belonging to and developing "Support Groups" was stressed. In the past, some participants have mentioned problems associated with long term support groups. The most common concerns are financial costs, lack of transportation and support group leaders maxing out. More conversation will have to happen around these issues and making sure that the topics at support groups remain current and helpful to the members. For more information, contact Jenna Knight at email@example.com.
State Rehabilitation Council Meeting, September 27, 2007
Charles Carr, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), addressed the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission's State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) for the first time in Springfield. Before he began the main substance of his remarks, Carr scanned the room and said he felt very much at home at the meeting since he saw so many familiar faces from his time as Chair of the Rehabilitation Advisory Council (RAC) of the MRC in the early 1990s.
In his remarks, Carr described his first four weeks as Commissioner as well as some ways consumers and the SRC can work together for the benefit of the Commission. "On day one, I walked into the job as Commissioner; there was a $4 million structural deficit in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program," he said. This compelled the Commission to ask the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), for a supplemental appropriation of $2.89 million to provide services to its consumers who had been on an indefinite waiting list since June. Further, Commissioner Carr asked that the $2.89 million be rolled into the base of the 4120-0020 account in Fiscal Year 2009 and beyond. In addition, the Commissioner warned if the Commission does not get the money, certain expenditures consumers have taken for granted over the years, such as the Consumer Conference, would be in jeopardy. Carr ended his presentation with a heartfelt plea to all members of the SRC and by extension to all consumers and providers in the MRC community to contact their Representatives and Senators in support of the supplemental appropriation as well as all the budget requests that the Commission has for Fiscal 2009.
In other news, the Rehabilitation Council voted to change its by-laws to eliminate the office of Chair-Elect who would take over the chair of the Rehabilitation Council in the absence of the Sitting Chair. This would also have the added benefit of providing continuity when the Sitting Chair's term expires.
The SRC also heard reports from the Committee in charge of planning the Annual Consumer Conference. There are 2 or 3 proposals on planning the Annual Consumer Conference for 2007-2008. One proposal is to hold the conference at the Marriott in Quincy, Massachusetts at a cost of approximately $40,000. The other proposal is to hold it at Northeastern University. Conference participants would stay in the student dormitories and the MRC would receive a $25,000 grant from the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation. The SRC accepted the report and consumers will watch to see how this plays out.
Posted by: Paul Spooner, Massachusetts Independent Living Alert Network (MILAN)
The new Rose Kennedy Greenway may be filled with brick paths, like many sidewalks around the city. While Bostonians love the historical look, some see treacherous going ahead.
Stroll down a brick sidewalk and you stumble upon an inevitable conclusion: The quaint paths may look historical, but the often jagged conditions are no fete for the feet. Wobbly sidewalks are part of the Boston experience, but there's a movement afoot to give bricks the boot.
In the rocky landscape of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, pedestrians experience the challenges of watching their steps. Crude bricks meet uneven granite slabs and bumpy cobblestones. For the disabled, the rigors of maneuvering around the Marketplace make it forbidden territory. "I can't go there," says John Kelly, a Boston access activist who's been using a wheelchair for 21 years. The area can also hinder the elderly, parents with strollers, women in spike heels, and anyone else with slippery shoes. Ann Hershfang, advocacy chairwoman of WalkBoston, a group that champions pedestrians, calls the terrain there "quite obnoxious."
Until my consciousness was raised, I blamed myself when I snagged on a bad brick and took a tumble. "After you fall, you stand up and you say, "Stupid me, why did I do that"? Says Christopher Hart of Adaptive Environments, a local firm specializing in accessible design. "But it's not you. It was the physical surface you were walking on."
According to Hart, Boston's love affair with the brick is flawed. "Given the city's historic character, there is a tendency to opt for sidewalk surfaces that appear historic, even when the material used, frequently rough brick, has no historical validity," he says. "Rough bricks cause falls, are unpleasant for many people, and cause extreme vibrations when rolled across."
Yet developers, backed by preservationists, continue to build ye olde bumpy sidewalks. "In the last two or three years, brick is everywhere," says Hershfang. "I heard the Rose Kennedy Greenway is going to be full of brick," says Kelly. "They just don't stop."
WalkBoston and other groups urge the city to adopt sidewalk standards. And city leaders feel the pressure. "We've been really working on this for a while, but it's a complicated issue. Everybody wants something fancy where they live," says Stephen Spinetto, Boston's commissioner for persons with disabilities. Hershfang knows what her group wants: "If it's brick, it should be smooth brick". So called wire-cut or square-cut brick fits together evenly for a flat surface. But Hart says developers are keen to use Old City Hall pavers, irregularly shaped bricks newly molded for an antique look. "The companies that make Old City Hall pavers have purposely made them rough," he says.
"We're trending away from City Hall pavers," says Michael Muehe, executive director of the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities. "And we're urging that brick not be used as a primary walking surface. Concrete sidewalks with brick accents not only solve the walking and rolling problems, they are cheaper, too.
Such a design would work on Huntington Avenue, where a lumpy sidewalk built in 2003 with Old City Hall pavers pose an obstacle for well-heeled Boston Symphony-goers and wheelchair riders. The sidewalk there is the subject of a lawsuit by Kelly's Neighborhood Access Group. The state's Architectural Access Board agrees and has ordered the city to fix the misshapen walkways around Symphony Hall and Gainsborough Street. Initially, the city denied responsibility and pinned the blame on the MBTA, which built the sidewalk. Spinetto now promises the work will be done by July 1. Kelly holds out for concrete: "Concrete is the only guarantee of a smooth path of travel. They can put the brick near the edge, and we can all admire it from a distance."
Subway Sandwich Shops
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
Posted by Paul Spooner, Massachusetts Independent Living Alert Network (MILAN)
The Department of Justice today announced a comprehensive settlement agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Doctor Associates, Inc. (DAI), the privately held corporation that franchises Subway sandwich shops throughout the United States.
The agreement, which sets out steps to make Subway shops physically accessible to people with disabilities, affects more than 20,000 Subway franchises. The settlement focuses on barrier removal for people with disabilities, to ensure they have access to the facilities; use of the services offered by shops; and whenever readily achievable, access to restroom facilities in the Subway shops. "People with disabilities should be able to eat at their favorite establishments, and this agreement is designed to improve access to 20,000 Subway shops across the nation," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "I commend DAI for working with us to fashion a practical and effective agreement. We hope it will serve as a model for other dining establishments so they will take the steps necessary to serve individuals with disabilities."
Because the individual Subway shops are franchisees, the agreement recognizes that DAI will facilitate the efforts to ensure compliance while the individual Subway shops will be responsible for removing barriers to access. In particular, DAI will conduct the initial architectural surveys to identify barriers; provide guidance on the ADA requirements and the steps each shop must take to address violations identified in the survey; revise its operations manual to reflect that shops are required to conduct evaluations and remove barriers and that penalties may be imposed if they do not comply; provide interest-free loans to its individual stores for the purpose of ensuring accessibility; and use its best efforts to locate accessible buildings in its site selection for future Subway shops.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA or the agreement can call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY), or access the ADA website at
Many use Handicap Permits Illegally
Posted by: Paul Spooner, Massachusetts Independent Living Alert Network (MILAN)
A yearlong investigation by the state inspector general and the Registry of Motor Vehicles has turned up widespread abuse of the placards that allow people with disabilities to park all day in designated spots and free of charge at meters across the state.
Investigators focusing on three Boston commercial districts where parking is particularly scarce -- North Station, Newbury Street and the Financial District -- found nearly a third of the roughly 1,000 placards they saw on vehicles were being used by people who were not disabled and had been issued to someone else.
Forty-nine placards were used repeatedly even though the registered holder of the permit had died -- in some cases several years ago. Nine placards had been renewed since the person's death.
At a time when an aging population has an ever-increasing need for the permits, the misuse of spots and placards for the disabled is "an unconscionable insult and a fraud," said Inspector General Gregory Sullivan.
Registry officials, who announced the findings at a news conference said abuse of the placards is a rampant problem that is getting worse.
"It's universally appalling when someone commits a fraud and takes a space from someone who needs it or takes a space for their own immediate convenience, not thinking about the other folks who have need for it," said Anne L. Collins, the registrar of motor vehicles. "It's the lowest level of scoundrel in the assortment of motor vehicle offenders we see."
Registry officials announced changes aimed at cracking down on the abuse.
Blind Customers Take Action Against the Cell Phone Industry
Posted by: Paul Spooner, Massachusetts Independent Living Alert Network (MILAN)
Washington, DC - Blind and visually impaired customers are taking legal action against the cell phone industry in an effort to improve cell phone accessibility. This week, 11 customers from across the country filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which enforces Section 255, the law that requires phones to be designed to be accessible for people with disabilities. Complaints were filed against both the cell phone carriers and manufacturers.
"These complaints illustrate a market failure on the part of the cell phone industry to address accessibility," said Paul Schroeder, VP, Programs and Policy Group at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). "While some companies have taken steps, consumers with vision loss have few good options for accessibility, and almost no reliable information about accessibility. There is a growing need for accessible phones given the increasing rates of vision loss. Experts predict that by 2030, rates of severe vision loss will double along with the country's aging population. For people with vision loss, finding a cell phone with a readable screen or with voice output of essential features like menus or text messages is almost impossible. Some companies, like AT&T, have taken the lead on providing accessible phones. But, too often, the handsets and services are not designed to be user friendly for those who are blind or visually impaired. Earlier this month, AFB initiated a campaign called 255 Action to help people with vision loss understand access requirements, and if necessary, file complaints. As part of that campaign, AFB sent letters to leading cell phone service providers and manufacturers asking what they are doing to meet the needs of people with vision loss. Frequent complaints from blind and visually impaired cell phone customers include:cell phones do not provide for audio output of information displayed on the screen; * the visual displays on most phones are hard to read; *numeric and control keys are not easy to distinguish by touch; and *product manuals or phone bills are not available in Braille, large print, or other formats they can read. The complaints filed with the FCC came from customers in Florida, Georgia, Colorado, California and West Virginia.
QUOTES FROM FCC FILINGS
Problems Purchasing Equipment:
In November 2006, I asked for assistance in identifying and purchasing a new telephone. The agent was completely uninformed regarding available phones with built-in accessibility features for a Blind user. Indeed, the representative did not even understand what features a Blind user would need in purchasing a phone. "Melissa Green, Greeley, CO.
Phones Features are Inaccessible:
"I cannot text message, surf the Internet, or use the phonebook.
Additionally, the numbers displayed on the keypad are too small for me to read, thus I have to use the voice recognition feature to call contacts in my phonebook. This poses some limitations, because I can only program in ten names, yet I have many more contacts than this amount." Douglas Brooks, Winston, GA.
"Even after setting my phone's level of brightness to the highest level, I still have to use a closed circuit television (cctv) to read the text displayed. This magnification device is quite large, encompassing a television set with a similar sized stand. This defeats the "mobile" aspect of my phone, since I have to wait until I am at home to enter contacts in the phonebook, change settings, etc." Richard Rueda, Union City, CA.
Documentation Is Inaccessible:
"Upon receiving my phone, I was given an inaccessible print manual explaining how to use the phone. However, because I am totally Blind, I cannot read the text on the instruction manual. My phone's instruction manual is in a pdf file, which I have difficulty accessing with my computer's screen reading software because graphical representations are used to instruct a person on how to use the phone". George Roberts, Orlando, FL.
Phones With Access Software Cost More:
"In order to access the features of the Motorola Q, I had to make an additional out-of-pocket purchase of Mobile Speaks (a screen reader) to access the cell phone features. While this phone is more accessible than the Katana with my add-on software, it was quite expensive, and I would not have purchased it if my previous phone was accessible. Being Blind forced me to stretch my budget to the limits in order to have access to my cell phone's features." Tony Claive, Winter Park, FL.
Customer Service Is Inadequate and Accessibility Features/Information are Unavailable:
"I went to my local Sprint store, and explained that I was legally blind and looking for an accessible cell phone. The salesperson did let me know about getting my bill in large print format. Sprint's representatives were unable to provide me with a description of the accessibility and compatibility features of their phones." Dennis Wyant, Melbourne, FL.
Overhaul Plan for Vote System Will Be Delayed
Posted by: Paul Spooner, Massachusetts Independent Living Alert Network (MILAN)
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are slowing their drive to revamp the nation's voting systems, aides said yesterday. Under pressure from state and local officials, as well as from lobbyists for the disabled, House leaders now advocate putting off the most sweeping changes until 2012, four years later than planned.
Overhauling voting systems before next year's presidential election had once been a top Democratic priority, primarily to allow greater accountability and be certain that all votes registered on computerized touch-screen systems were counted. But state and local elections officials told Congress they could not make the changes in time for the balloting in November 2008, particularly in light of the extra workload involved in preparing for next year's much-earlier presidential primary season.
Confronted by similar concerns, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, said she had already decided against seeking any major changes in voting equipment before 2010.
"My sense is there's no way to get this thing in place by the election of 2008," Ms. Feinstein said. "Without adequate time, we could cause real problems in the election."
Senate Democrats say stretching out the timetable could increase their chances to win enough Republican support to put the changes into law.
House Democratic officials say they are now working on compromise legislation that could allow hundreds of counties in 20 states to simply add tiny, cash-register-style printers to their touch-screen machines for the 2008 and 2010 elections, while waiting for manufacturers to develop better technology by 2012.
House officials said the compromise would ensure all voting machines nationwide would have some kind of paper trail in 2008 through which voters could verify their ballots were properly recorded and could be used in recounts. Under the plan, New York, which has delayed replacing its old lever machines, would be the only state that would have to change its entire voting system by November 2008.
But critics say that, while billions have been spent to improve voting since the disputed presidential election in 2000, the compromise would leave a patchwork and somewhat jury-rigged system that would still be vulnerable to tampering or computer malfunctions in next year's elections. Many experts have criticized the add-on printers, which use thin rolls of relatively fragile paper, as too prone to paper jams and smearing to ensure every vote is counted.
The House leadership is negotiating with Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, the bill's original sponsor, over the details of the compromise. Those talks, however, have hit a snag over how to guarantee easy access to voting machines by the handicapped without limiting the technology available to everyone else. Mr. Holt has long expressed a preference for optically scanned ballots marked by voters, but so far House leaders are siding with advocates for the handicapped, who fear they cannot use optical ballots without help.
Reached by phone yesterday, Mr. Holt would not discuss details of the negotiations. But he said: "There are a lot of competing interests, and this has for years been a difficult bill. It also could still be tough to resolve the issues that are remaining."
If a deal is reached soon, the House could vote on the bill within two weeks. House leaders also need to hold onto Mr. Holt's support. Mr. Holt, a former Princeton University physicist, is the leading expert on voting technology in Congress, and any deal could fall apart if he withdrew his support.
The proposed legislation is the second effort by Congress to fix the nation's voting system since the bitter fights over hanging punch-card chads in Florida. Under the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002, the federal government has spent more than $3 billion to help states and counties modernize their voting systems, installing thousands of touch-screens and other machines. But since then, growing concerns about the reliability and the security of some of the machines had led to widespread calls for another overhaul.
As a result, the proposed compromise is a blow to some computer scientists and other activists, who would like to get rid of the touch-screen machines used by nearly 40 percent of American voters. They had hoped that a tighter deadline would force states and localities to quickly shift from touch-screens to optical-scan systems, in which ballots are marked by the voters themselves rather than being generated by computers.
But state and local election officials, weary from all the changes they had already made, argued that it is already too late to make such significant changes without creating chaos next year. Advocates for the blind and the disabled also threatened to oppose the bill if it went too far in discouraging the use of touch- screen machines before the optical scanners were made easier for them to use. And House officials led by the majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, who is trying to broker the deal - said they wanted to avoid another buying spree if better equipment might be available later.
House aides said Mr. Hoyer, who has long taken a lead on voting and disability-rights issues, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California do not want to undercut any of the gains the disabled had made in voting without assistance. They also said the compromise would achieve the Democrats' main goal - ensuring there would be a paper back-up for each vote cast in November 2008 - while allowing more time to move to systems with more durable ballots.
As the talks stand now, the proposed bill would include several substantial changes that Mr. Holt has long sought. Like Ms. Feinstein's version in the Senate, the House bill would generally make the paper ballots or printouts the official votes in the event of a recount. It would require localities to conduct rigorous audits of most federal races to ensure the voting machines had worked properly.
To guard against computer bugs, both bills also would require manufacturers to make the software code that runs their machines available to government authorities, though neither bill would require that it be released publicly, as some computer experts have advocated.
In addition, the House Bill would authorize $1 billion in additional spending to help pay for the equipment upgrades, while the Senate version calls for $600 million.
Under the proposal in the House, six states - Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee - and various jurisdictions in 14 others would have to add the paper trails to their touch-screen machines by November 2008. New York would have to install either optical-scan machines or buy touch-screens with printers by then.
Votes can also be lost on the optical-scan systems, and election officials say it can be cumbersome to use them in large cities where ballots have to be printed in many languages. But if scanners can be made easier for the disabled to use, many computer experts believe they could eventually dominate the voting landscape.
Farewell to Frank Bowe
Within minutes of arriving at the Telecommunications for the Deaf International (TDI) conference, I learned Dr. Frank G. Bowe had died earlier in the day. He was 60. His death is a stunning blow for advocates of people with disabilities. Frank was at the forefront of many of our major pieces of disability legislation.
Frank was one of my role models and I will miss his wise counsel. I always felt a connection with him because we both became deaf at a young age, had roots as journalists and were drawn to the disability rights movement. I met him for the first time 25 years ago. He was my version of a rock star! Our paths have crossed many times since, and during the past two years I worked with him on several advocacy projects that included attempts to make broadband more widely available and affordable, and the successful DVD captioning lawsuit by Russ Boltz.
I searched the Internet for something that could begin to do justice to Frank, and finally settled on an entry about him in Wikipedia. Here are excerpts:
"Dr. Bowe was the Dr. Mervin Livingston Schloss Distinguished Professor for the Study of Disabilities at Hofstra University. As a disability rights activist, author, and teacher, he has strung together a series of firsts:
"Dr. Bowe was the first executive director (CEO) of the first national cross-disability consumer advocacy organization, the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD). The Coalition's signature achievement was securing the long-delayed implementation of Section 504, the world's first civil-rights provision for persons with disabilities.
Bowe conceived and led the nationwide protest that led to issuance of landmark regulations for Section 504 in 1977. A year later, he wrote the first full-length text on social policy and disability, Handicapping America (Harper & Row). In 1980, Dr. Bowe was the first person with a disability to represent any nation in the planning of the United Nations (UN) International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP-1981). Today, many countries are represented in key UN committees by people who themselves are individuals with disabilities, including 14 who are, as Bowe is, deaf.
"In the mid-1980s, he chaired the U.S. Congress Commission on Education of the Deaf. COED made 52 recommendations for improving education and rehabilitation, many of which have had long-lasting effects. What is not well-known about that work is that he was, in 1986-1988, a highly visible chairperson who was deaf and who appointed deaf people as COED staff director and chief counsel. COED issued a public draft of its final report in January 1988. The example he and COED set was not lost on the students at Gallaudet University across town when, in March 1988, they launched their famous Deaf President Now protest.
Section 504 led, in 1990, to the Americans with Disabilities Act. That same year, Dr. Bowe was the principal architect of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act, which was sponsored in the Senate by Tom Harkin (D-IA) and in the House by Ed Markey (D-MA). The act requires that TV sets receive and display closed captions. The 1996 Telecommunications Act took it a step further, mandating that broadcast and cable programs themselves be captioned. More recently, in 2005 and 2006, Bowe gave invited testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce and conducted demonstrations of high-speed broadband communications for both the House and the U.S. Senate.
"Dr. Bowe's textbooks are in use at colleges and universities around the country and in several other nations. Making Inclusion Work (Prentice Hall) and Early Childhood Special Education (Thomson Delmar Learning) are two examples. He is also the author of Universal Design in Education (Greenwood Publishing), of the encyclopedia entries on deafness and disabilities in Scholastic's New Book of Knowledge, and of several hundred articles in professional journals in public policy, special education, rehabilitation, and technology.
"In Disability in America 2006, a policy paper addressing health care, employment, and entitlements, Bowe outlined disability policy goals for 2006-2008. Disability advocates concerned about health insurance coverage for individuals with disabilities who could work are excited about the possibilities he suggests."
Frank earned his doctorate at New York University, his master's degree at Gallaudet University, and bachelor's degree at Western Maryland College. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by Gallaudet University and he appeared in many Who's Who publications. He was selected as an Outstanding Scholar of the 20th Century and received a Distinguished Service Award from President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Frank always thought big picture. He wanted to change the world. He had a vision for what it should become and the principles and work ethic to keep pushing that vision. "America handicaps disabled people." he wrote. "And because that is true, we are handicapping America itself." America has lost a lion but there is hope that the cubs inspired by his work will grow stronger.
SOURCE: Northern Virginia Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC)
Accessibility is Ramping Up at the T
General Manager, Dan Grabauskas
The month of October was designated National Disability Employment Awareness Month by Congress in 1988, and, as general manager of the MBTA, I feel it's time to shine a spotlight on the contributions and skills individuals with disabilities have made to the workforce and the workplace.
Public transportation plays a crucial role in enabling people with disabilities to live life to the fullest by seeking higher education, employment and overall inclusion in our society. There is a strong desire to comply not only with the letter, but also the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). All people with disabilities must have every opportunity to be fully participating members of our community and must have the right and ability to use public transportation in an equal and dignified manner.
The T is working hard to improve accessibility systemwide for all our customers, including those with disabilities.
We continue to upgrade our stations with accessibility features - such as elevators, raised platforms, TTYs and detectable platform warnings - to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. During the next 10 years, we will invest $176 million dollars to replace and refurbish many of our elevators and escalators ($122 million of that will be invested in the next four years). The design of additional or backup elevators at many stations is underway. We have purchased new, low floor buses that kneel and have built-in ramp systems for easier boarding. We are working to minimize platform gaps at subway stations. We are replacing mobile wheelchair lifts and are in the process of installing new public address systems and improved signage.
The MBTA is also replacing seven elevators at Park Street, Porter Square, Central, Harvard and State Street stations. Vertical access in our stations is critical, and I believe our new focus to improve elevator and escalator availability and durability has made a real difference.
Just last year, the availability of the T's 140 elevators averaged 91 percent, and, today, we are averaging up to 99 percent availability. In the past few months, we have had two days of 100 percent elevator availability system wide for an entire day no small achievement. Out of our 167 escalators, we average 97.5 percent availability. This represents a 20 percent increase over 2005 availability rates. We will continue on this fast pace to ensure our system is operational, dependable and accessible to all.
Today, six stations are under construction and being made 100 percent accessible: Ashmont, Kenmore, Arlington, Copley, Maverick and State Street. And we will continue to focus on improving accessibility at other stations, such as Science Park, which is presently in the design phase.
Along with these many enhancements to the MBTA system, we continue to improve our customer relations. We are implementing new training programs for our employees on ADA and passenger assistance. With this new training, employees and customers can be assured that MBTA rules and regulations are compliant with the law and will meet the needs of the disabled community.
So, as we near the close of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let's remember the critical role the T plays in so many lives and how our citizens and visitors will benefit from a more accessible MBTA.
Disabled Given Access to Test Drives
This story reprinted with permission from the Boston NOW Paper
An agreement reached between one of the Commonwealth's biggest auto dealers and a disabled shopper who filed a discrimination complaint against his company could have significant implications across the state.
"I'd argue any dealership is at risk because of this case," Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Chairman Walter Sullivan said.
Ernie Boch, Jr., who owns and operates eight dealerships in Massachusetts, had been the subject of a discrimination complaint from a disabled woman who wanted to test-drive a vehicle and was denied access to hand controls.
After initially contesting the matter, Boch began making the hand controls available. The Commission Against Discrimination, which received the complaint, lauded Boch for offering the service at all his dealerships - not just the one that had been the subject of the case.
"I didn't realize how many people actually needed (hand controls)," Boch said in a recent interview. "I don't think I placed any importance on it at first."
The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association said it had not heard of the issue, and was not aware of other dealerships with similar policies. A Boston NOW survey of 10 area auto dealers found that none had hand controls available for disabled test-drivers, but one - Expressway Toyota in Dorchester said it plans to.
Advocates for the disabled contend this accommodation is required by state and federal law and all car dealers should have been doing this for a long time.
"Car dealerships are covered under the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act), so they have to accommodate people with disabilities," said Paula Pearlman, the deputy director of Disability Rights Legal Center, a national advocacy center based in Los Angeles.
Hand controls, which allow a disabled driver to attach handles on the steering wheel to accelerate and stop a vehicle, cost about $2,000 to permanently install, but cost very little to temporarily set up. "It costs nothing for a dealership to have these on hand and install when requested," Pearlman said.
At issue in the complaint against Boch was whether the dealer violated the state's disability rights statute by not offering "reasonable accommodation" to Betsy Pillsbury, who is confined to a wheelchair. Pillsbury, according to the April 2005 Commission Against Discrimination filing, was only seeking temporary installation of the devices, while Boch employees thought she wanted the devices permanently installed for the test-drive, "which indisputably would permanently alter the vehicle," an MCAD motion reads.
But in the same motion, Boch maintains "even the requirement to make available and install portable hand controls constitutes an undue burden on its business and is, therefore, not a reasonable accommodation."
Nine months later, however, Pillsbury dropped her complaint after Boch agreed to offer the temporary devices, commission chairman Sullivan said. Pillsbury, who ended up buying a car at a different dealership, could not be reached for comment.
Hand control devices, which allow disabled drivers to press the gas pedal and the brake without using their feet, work on a single-lever push or pull system. They can also be helpful in engaging turn signals, windshield wipers and adjusting mirrors.
There are dozens of other adjustments and modifications that can be made to a vehicle to accommodate disabled operators, including adding a wheelchair lift and installing swivel seats so it is easier to enter and exit the car.
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination received 3,198 complaints in 2006, a decrease of 200 complaints from 2005. Greater awareness of the laws is the likely reason.
Almost one-fifth of the cases - 19.7 percent - involve charges of discrimination based on disability. Complaints about gender discrimination (18.9 percent) and racial discrimination (18.5 percent) followed. Other complaints focused on retaliation (12.6 percent), age (9.6 percent) and national origin (7.8 percent).
Those who feel victimized by discrimination can call MCAD at (617) 994-6000. Complaints should be filed at MCAD's office located in Room 601 of the McCormack Building.
(Robert Boismier contributed to this story.)
Become a Mentor Today with Partners for Youth with Disabilities VR Mentoring Program
Adults with disabilities can provide support, motivation and guidance to a youth with a disability as they take the next steps in their lives. Help a young person pursue their postsecondary education, an apprenticeship, or a new career. Young people need your help to develop the skills to be successful in reaching their goals and exploring the possibilities available to them.
Lori Lafargue, of Brockton Massachusetts, is the designer, owner and photographer of Lori-Beth Photography and Lori's Custom Designs.
Lori has always loved designing and handcrafting jewelry primarily earrings and matching pendants. The craft show market proved to be highly competitive and Lori decided to develop her photography skills and incorporate that into her business strategy. She began making note cards and T-shirts; the cards are her best sellers right now. Lori is also developing a custom design service for all three of her crafts jewelry design, photographing your favorite or special bloom for prints and putting almost anything on a T-shirt. You can view Lori's online portfolio at www.photo.net/photos/lorilafs and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone her at 774-240-9283.
Are you an artist? Become our next Featured Artist; whether it be painting, drawing or writing poetry, submit your works to us via e-mail to
email@example.com or call Lisa Weber at 617-204-3638 for more information.
John Chappell, Jr., Deputy Commissioner
Emeka Nwokeji, Director, Consumer Involvement
Sheila Wojdakowski, HR/Customer Relations
Leslie Wish, ICC Program Coordinator
Lisa Weber, CI Program Coordinator
Girard Plante, ICC
Robert Sneirson, ICC
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