A Message from Commissioner Bartels
As of July 31, 2007, I will have served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission for 30 ½ years. I look back on my career with a great sense of accomplishment, especially for the people with disabilities whose lives have been enriched by the services they received from the Rehabilitation Commission.
During my tenure I have been an advocate in state government helping to create new programs and services to meet the contemporary needs of consumers. I have worked to support policies that promoted both personal and economic independence, as well as the unique goals of each individual served at the Rehabilitation Commission. I devoted time every year to educating legislators and our Congressional delegation regarding the needs of people with disabilities and how they could be met by the agency.
I am most proud of the successes achieved by our public Vocational Rehabilitation program during these many years. It has been the flagship program of the agency and has helped to provide jobs for more than 120,000 workers with disabilities who have become contributors to the economic well being of the Commonwealth. At the same time we have modernized our sheltered workshop program by transforming it into a more integrated employment program providing ongoing community supports and increased wages for participants.
Of equal import to me was the development of a strong network of Independent Living Centers (ILC) across the state, representing the desires of people with disabilities to live in their communities and become active citizens. Eight of the eleven ILCs were opened during my tenure with a combination of state and federal dollars flowing through the agency. It has also been gratifying to foster the growth of several other critical services, including our Statewide Head Injury Program, Home Care Assistance Program, Supported Living and Transition programs, as well as our Housing and Assistive Technology programs. I must also mention the MRC Disability Determination Services which was a trailblazer in the development of services to homeless and HIV-positive individuals, all while maintaining the highest standards of quality and productivity.
Throughout all of these years, the involvement of the disability community in our operations and goals has been fundamental to my management approach. Every program we run has consumer involvement built into it, such as the DDS Consumer Advisory Council and the VR Statewide Rehabilitation Council. This has allowed MRC services to keep current with the changing needs of the people with disabilities we serve.
As I leave the agency after many years of service I see the effects of our great work and the potential to increase our impact on the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. It has been both an honor and a pleasure to serve as Commissioner of the MRC. I look forward to seeing the agency grow and to seeing you all grow as leaders, keeping the agency current in meeting the needs of our disability community.
From the Editor's Desk
I write to you during a time of great change for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Commissioner Bartels retired July 31, 2007. Elmer Bartels had served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission since 1977. Commissioner Bartels' vision was that all people with disabilities in the Commonwealth should have the opportunity to live independently and go to work. His leadership made the MRC one of the best agencies of its kind in the nation. We are grateful for Commissioner Bartels 30 years of dedication and wish him the very best.
We welcome our new Commissioner, Charles Carr, who began his new role in early August. Mr. Carr comes to us with an extensive background as an advocate, manager, and public policy leader who has dedicated his career to advancing independence for people with disabilities through social and economic policies and programs.
In 1974, Mr. Carr founded the Boston Center for Independent Living. He was also a Program Coordinator at the National Spinal Cord Injury Foundation and a Vocation Rehabilitation Counselor at the MRC. As Vice President of the National Council on Independent Living in the 1980's, Mr. Carr was an influential advocate for stronger federal disability policies, including the Fair Housing Act, Rehabilitation Act, Civil Rights Restoration Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He partnered with members of Congress and other advocates to pass legislation mandating and funding independent living centers. More recently, he has led advocacy efforts in Massachusetts around affordable, accessible housing; personal assistance services; and assistive technology. For the past three years, he has worked with the state to develop a grassroots Employment Now Coalition that pushes for changes in funding and employment programs for people with disabilities.
It is our hope the MRC will continue to be in the fore front for servicing people with disabilities in the state. We look toward the future with the knowledge that our new Commissioner is dedicated to the vision of the MRC that all people with disabilities should be able to work and live independently in the community of their choice.
Food Stamp Benefits
Food Stamps is a nutrition program for families and individuals that meet certain income and resource guidelines. Food Stamp benefits help you buy nutritious food for your family. You can be working and still qualify for Food Stamps. If you qualify for Food Stamps you can use these benefits to purchase food at most grocery stores, convenience stores and food markets.
Food Stamp benefits are accessed with an Electronic Benefits Card (EBT). These cards are used the same way you would use a debit or ATM card. Food Stamps can be used to buy any food product except alcohol, pet food or heated foods.
Food stamp eligibility depends on household size, assets, income and certain living expenses. To find out if you may be eligible contact the Department of Transitional Assistance Application Information Unit at 1-800-249-2007 and ask that an application be mailed to you or go to a website sponsored by Project Bread www.gettingfoodstamps.org and print out an application.
WIC is a nutrition program that provides nutrition and health education, healthy food and other services free of charge to Massachusetts families who qualify.
WIC's goal is to help keep pregnant and breastfeeding women, new moms, and kids under age 5 healthy.
It's easy to apply for WIC. Call 1-800-WIC-1007. At your appointment, you will need to bring the following information: proof of current household income, proof that you live in Massachusetts and proof of identity. Talk to the WIC clinic if you are having problems bringing any of the above information.
Other resources to help you feed yourself and your family are Serve New England and the Dollar-a-Bag program sponsored by Fair Foods, Inc.
Serve New England is a program designed to promote volunteer service by offering deep discounts on high quality groceries, meat and vegetables. Community-minded individuals willing to volunteer 2 hours of their time qualify to participate in Serve's food co-op. For more information about this program go to www.massresources.org/pages.cfm?contentID=15&pageID=3&subpages=yes&dynamicID=321.
Fair Foods, Inc. and its partners run over 50 "Dollar-a-Bag" sites throughout Boston and eastern Massachusetts. Each week, participants enjoy a wide selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, and pastries for a donation of $1.00 per bag. Please bring you own grocery size bags and a friend to help carry them home. Fair Foods does not require an I.D. To find out about a "Dollar-a-Bag" site near you go to www.gettingfoodstamps.org and click on What other help is available? Call 617-288-6185 for directions to a site.
Commissioner Bartels Says Goodbye
State Rehabilitation Council Meeting (SRC) July 31, 2007
Today Elmer Bartels, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission said goodbye to the State Rehabilitation Council after more than 30 years as Commissioner of Mass Rehab. His thirty years of service to Mass Rehab makes him the longest serving Vocational Rehabilitation Commissioner in the United States. Commissioner Bartels served in his post under six governors, guiding the development of comprehensive vocational rehabilitation, independent living, and disability determination efforts that currently serve over 150,000 people each year.
Bartels, who broke his neck during a hockey game at Colby College in 1961, became a quadriplegic. He graduated with a BS in physics and mathematics and, in 1964, earned a MS in nuclear physics from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. From 1964 to 1968, he worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Nuclear Science and from 1968 to 1977 at Honeywell Information Systems. It was during this time that Bartels served on the boards of the National Paraplegia Foundation and the Massachusetts Association of Paraplegia.
During his tenure, Commissioner Bartels helped position the MRC as one of the leading rehabilitation and employment agencies in the country. He led the development of a diverse array of vocational and support services that have assisted people with disabilities in living productive lives at work and at home in their communities. He facilitated innovation by building close ties with consumers and businesses and forging new opportunities for job training, recruitment, job placement and retention of people with diverse disabilities. Every year, his network of rehabilitation counselors placed almost 4,000 people in jobs and provided training, support and counseling to an additional 20,000.
Commissioner Bartels distinguished himself and Massachusetts by embracing the Independent Living Center movement in the 1970s and provided both a home for these agencies and the leadership they required to become a force in community services for people with disabilities. An outgrowth of this arena has been the broad-based support services provided to people with adult onset and other disabilities as well as the cutting edge developments in the arena of traumatic brain injury. Most recently, this work has intersected with historic collaborations with veterans services to address the challenging problems of injured servicemen returning from Iraq.
Commissioner Bartels was also attentive to the changing management and development needs of the agency, spearheading IT and fiscal management changes and identifying new revenue streams to support both infrastructure and services. Well-respected nationally and with the state legislature, Commissioner Bartels established a dialogue with political leadership that was critical to agency development.
Commissioner Bartels left the MRC at the end of July. I wish him all the best in the future and thank him for his many years of service on behalf of the people of Massachusetts.
Making Family Meals a Happy and Healthy Time
Valerie Lawson, National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD)
In this day and age, meals spent together are becoming few and far between. For some, a "family" meal may mean eating with friends or a caretaker, but there is still value and tradition in the idea of bringing people together for a meal. Busy schedules often result in making "fast food" choices due to the idea that time is limited by school, work, errands, appointments, and after-school programs. Children and parents may be finding themselves with less and less time to prepare or participate in a healthy meal.
In addition to less time being spent together as a family, looming health concerns (diabetes, obesity, hyperlipedemia, etc.) are continually reinforcing the importance of healthy meals. There appears to be a connection between parents who prepare and consume healthy meals and foods in front of their children and children's likelihood to continue these healthy habits later in life. Some research has indicated that shared family meals are more likely to be nutritious and children who eat often with their families are less likely to make unhealthy snack choices and consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
This month, focus on 1) planning healthy meals, 2) eating more meals a week as a family, 3) preparing a healthy meal even if it is only for oneself, and 4) enjoying the process and the time spent with others involved in the meal. During the warmer months, take advantage of social time together and plan a picnic.
Refer to http://www.ncpad.org/parks/index.php to locate an accessible park, trail, or picnic ground in your area.
Most adults know a healthy family meal can be priceless; the concern is finding the time. For starters, determine how many meals are currently being consumed as a family and how many of the food choices are healthy. Make a realistic goal for the number of meals to share during the coming week, taking into account everyone's schedules. Then review the barriers that are preventing healthy meals and meals eaten together. Select one or two barriers (such as no supplies in the house or too little time) and brainstorm solutions as a group. Then plan healthy meals by preparing a grocery list based on meals that will be prepared the following week, and begin to store supplies that can be used for quick, healthy meals. Plan the cooking process ahead of time to make sure time does not become the barrier, or prepare parts of meals earlier in the week and freeze or chill them. Keep frozen vegetables in stock, and for a quick meal, add them to whole-wheat pasta. Plan to have a variety of food temperatures, textures, and colors presented on each plate. For example, include a green or orange vegetable and whole-grain starch, along with a protein (3-ounce serving) and a red or blue fruit.
Once the plan is in place, begin preparing meals and have fun! Involve the whole family by encouraging younger children to watch during preparation and educating them verbally on what is being done (adding, warming, dicing, and cleaning). Older children may be able to offer more assistance, or can sit in while they do their homework. Children can also practice pouring beverages, folding napkins, setting the table, or tossing the salad. Teenagers can prepare meals, as well. Make it fun by planning to have a teenager cook his or her favorite meal one evening per week. Remember to be upbeat while preparing meals and to thank children, friends, caretakers, and spouses for their assistance. Keep the environment fun and demonstrate how a family can work together and enjoy the process of preparing and consuming healthy meals.
Now sit down, relax, and enjoy the meal! Create a calm moment prior to eating, allowing everyone to change gears from arriving home, preparing the meal, changing out of work/school clothes, feeding the pets, etc., to make the meal a non-stressful event. Use this pre-meal time to wish everyone a good meal. Eat as a group whenever possible; for example, even if you have younger children that need to eat dinner earlier at times to accommodate early bedtimes, sit with them and talk about the day. Ask them to count out the vegetables on their plate or if they know how many ounces of chicken were used to prepare the meal. Focus on the food and the company during the meal, discussing activities in which everyone is involved, and teaching and reinforcing good manners. Meal time should be a time where everyone feels together, connected, and a part of the family. Keep the interactions and conversations positive and give everyone a chance to speak.
Enjoy time together and take advantage of planning healthy meals for everybody. Below are some quick and healthy ideas:
½ cup butter, melted
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp garlic powder
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbs dried parsley
6 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)
Combine butter, sauce, and powder.
Combine bread crumbs, cheese, and parsley in another bowl.
Dip chicken thoroughly in the liquid and then dredge the chicken through the bread crumbs.
Place chicken in a single layer in a baking pan (for easy cleanup, line with aluminum foil).
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Serve with broccoli, salad, and brown rice.
Quick and Easy Tacos
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
12 taco shells, 6 corn tortillas or 4 flour tortillas
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
1 cup salsa
Chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and onions for toppings
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
Cook onion and garlic in oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes or until onion is tender and somewhat transparent.
Add ground beef or turkey; cook about 5 minutes, breaking up large pieces, until meat/turkey is no longer pink.
Add chili powder, paprika, cilantro, and pepper; heat until hot.
For tacos, heat taco shells in toaster oven for 2 to 3 minutes or until hot. Spoon 2 tablespoons filling into each taco shell.
For tortillas, microwave tortillas on high about 30 seconds each in order to soften. Spoon about 1/4-1/3 cup filling down the center of each tortilla. Top tacos or tortillas with cheese, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, avocado, and sour cream. Roll tortillas around filling.
"This article is reproduced from the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability at www.ncpad.org. It may be freely distributed in its entirety as long as it includes this notice but cannot be edited, modified, or otherwise altered without the express written permission of NCPAD. Contact NCPAD at 1-800-900-8086 for additional details."
Overweight and out of Shape
Alan Troop, National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD)
Overweight and out of shape is no way to go through life. The doctors at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital in Miami were wise to point this out to me after the accident that left me with C6 quadriplegia 28 years ago. But knowing something doesn't necessarily lead to doing something about it, especially if you are someone like me-a man who never met a pizza he didn't like and whose idea of major exercise is watching a game of volleyball at the beach. Hitting a lifetime high in weight last year, along with the aches, pains, and difficulties associated with transferring, turning, and dressing that both extra pounds and a slothful lifestyle bring, finally convinced me to make some changes.
Changing my diet and swapping my power chair for a power assist chair helped me to drop 25 pounds. Still, while lugging around less weight made everything easier, I knew that a regular program of exercise was needed too. But first, for me to commit to exercising on a regular basis, it would have to be convenient. Traveling to and from a gym (if I could even find an accessible one) would never work. The best thing would be to work-out at home. Second, the system would have to be set up in such a way that I could use it without any help. About 12 years ago, I had used a door-mounted elastic exercise band to exercise my way out of a shoulder injury. It had worked fine, but I had to ask my wife to set it up each time I wanted to use it. I stopped as soon as I could. Third, the equipment couldn't take up too much space or look too institutional. I needed something that would neither make a room look like a neighborhood gym nor a physical therapy center. And lastly, I didn't want to go broke financially just to buy or build it. With a history of quitting every exercise program I had ever tried, I hardly wanted to spend thousands of dollars on some machine. I needed a poor man's exercise system.
Fortunately I had run into such a system while doing research for an article on the Miami Project in November 2003 www.miamiproject.miami.edu. The Project staff had created an entire exercise program using elastic exercise bands and found it as effective as one using much more expensive weight machines. They had mounted the exercise bands on the back of a door, so I had little doubt that my program could be located conveniently in my house. And it certainly would be inexpensive, as the Project had built theirs for less than $150. To locate equipment, I got on the web and discovered that Thera-Band http://www.ncpad.org/suppliers/index.php?id=340&country=&state=Ohio&city=Akron had recently developed elastic bands which could clip on and off, rather than having to be tied. They were perfect for my purposes, so I ordered an assortment, along with both soft and hard grips.
Once the equipment arrived, I made an appointment with Robin Smith at Miami Physical Therapy Associates. Robin had already built his own system using a 2x4 mounted vertically onto a column, eyehooks screwed in at various heights, and Thera-Band bands that could then be tied into the eyehooks. We clipped in my bands but soon found that neither the regular handles nor the soft handles that I had ordered worked well with my C6 grip. Robin recommended a pair of wrist cuffs with D rings, and with these we were able to develop a series of eight exercises that would exercise and strengthen all of my important muscle groups. For my own system, Robin recommended placing three eyehooks; one near the floor, another at navel height, and another at 84 inches.
I reviewed the regime with Dr. Mark Nash at the Miami Project, who had been involved in the Project's exercise band study. He agreed with Robin's recommendations and also suggested squeezing my shoulder blades together while doing my rowing exercises in order to loosen my scapulas as well as starting my downward and upward diagonal exercises under tension. A friend and I then designed my personal system. Rather than using a single 2x4 mounted to the wall, we opted for an 8-foot-long 4x4 mounted vertically, with a 36-inch crossbeam mounted horizontally at 33 inches. As with Robin's system, eyehooks would be screwed into the wood to hold the Thera-Band strips - one at 2 inches to hold the bands for upward diagonal exercises, one at 31 inches for high and low rowing and internal and external rotation exercises, and one at 84 inches for downward diagonal exercises. The top of the center beam would also act as a shelf where I could store the 5-pound hand weights I would use for my bicep and deltoid exercises. Rather than using wrist cuffs with D rings, which would be difficult to take on and off when going from one exercise to the other, I searched the Internet to find a pair of weight-lifting cuffs, each inset with curved, steel hooks. Clipping brass rings into each exercise band made hooking them to the weight-lifting cuffs an easy affair. For the diagonal exercises, in order to keep the bands under tension as suggested by Dr. Nash, we installed shoulder hooks to the left and right side of the 4x4, one pair at 28 inches and the other at 48 inches. Additional eyehooks and shoulder hooks were installed to store spare bands, cuffs, and other exercise equipment. After experimenting with different strap lengths, I found that 12-inch bands worked best for the bottom and center hooks and that 18-inch bands were needed for the top hook. Extra tension could be added by simply adding another wrap of strap around my hand or increasing the distance from the wall. And even more resistance could be added by either progressing to thicker bands or doubling up on the lighter bands.
In total, the materials for my system cost just $166.68 plus tax and shipping! I'm pleased to say that it works great. I'm into the regular regime now - three sets of ten reps for each exercise, done three times a week, with the whole process taking about 45 minutes to complete. I am pretty sure that I'll stick with it, though there are times that I do dream of stopping for pizza and beer. But I know that even if I backtrack every once in a while, I will still have my poor man's exercise system hanging on the wall, waiting for me.
For more information or questions regarding the exercise system, contact Alan Troop at Atroop2959@aol.com.
"This article is reproduced from the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability at www.ncpad.org. It may be freely distributed in its entirety as long as it includes this notice but cannot be edited, modified, or otherwise altered withouth the express written permission of NCPAD. Contact NCPAD at 1-800-900-8086 for additional details."
Transportation Committee Meeting
The Transportation Committee Meeting was held at the Morse Library in Natick on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 beginning at 1 p.m. Early conversation centered on unconventional transportation, the high cost of transportation and that unconventional transportation has crossed into home-based businesses. Good News Garage has merit as a template for transportation in rural areas, where the cost of transportation is very expensive. A special ad-hoc committee was created to develop a proposal for Untraditional Transportation Options. Further plans to use the proposal included:
1. Find a consumer to develop a business plan for transportation.
2. Identify funding sources.
3. Develop consensus between the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) on solving transportation issues.
Anthony Nosike presented the Transportation Options Program (TOP) Referral Report. This presentation covered the time period of April through December 2006. The participating areas included South District, West District, North District, South Shore Career Center and other non MRC offices. A transportation options activity level included transportation options referrals from all MRC districts, as well as the South Shore Career Center, Good News Garage referrals, Travel Training referrals and other transportation referrals, both employment and non-employment related. The program data resources include a transportation needs assessment referral database and the Individual Consumer Transportation assessment form. This database is managed and updated by transportation options specialists.
The types of requests often received by the Transportation Options Program are travel training, donated car, and alternative transportation options such as car/van pool, ride share, linking to RTA's, alternate route mapping, taxi voucher (specifically the Greenfield area) and transportation counseling. There are occasionally other non-MRC transportation referrals for medical and non-medical needs.
Amid the pie charts, grafts and percentages, one thing stands out! Training plus transportation equals employment. Consumers are referred to training programs in order to become job ready and then they need transportation to become employed. Oftentimes, this means getting very creative to get to the job. In one case a gentleman from Hull, Massachusetts, had been successful in his job search only to be limited by the transportation available. The Transportation Options Program was able to develop a specific transportation plan to help this man get to his job in Worcester from his home in Hull. TOP arranged for The Ride to pick him up at his home in Hull and then transport him to South Station where he was able to take the commuter train to Worcester. The consumer's job was within close proximity of the train station in Worcester making it reasonable for him to get there on his own.
Fully employed people pay taxes, shop in stores and spend money on entertainment. The investment in transportation pays back in a big way. The earnings of these new employees in Massachusetts for one year is $4,519,512.00. The average return of investment for the Commonwealth, as compared to lifetime earnings would conservatively be $15.00 for every $1.00 invested. The average savings to the Social Security Administration would be $14,606,250.00. The percentage of MRC consumers with severe disabilities who are competitively employed is 99.9% and the percentage of consumers who went to work who had medical insurance was 90.2%.
Statewide Head Injury Program (SHIP) Recreation Programs
Recognizing the social isolation of individuals with brain injury, the Statewide Head Injury Program began funding recreation programs about 15 years ago. The number of programs has increased dramatically over this period of time. Located across the state, these programs are consumer focused, meaning that staff facilitators hold planning sessions each month and activities reflect the consumers' choices. Each program takes advantage of local entertainment such as museums, concerts and sporting events. Transportation is not provided.
Sample activities participants have enjoyed:
- Amusement Parks
- Craft Nights
- Movie Nights
- Apple Picking
- Cross-Country Skiing
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Deep Sea Fishing
- Outdoor Concerts
- Boston Computer Museum
- Dining Out
- Peabody Essex Museum
- Faneuil Hall
- Sturbridge Village
- Boston Harbor Cruise
- Freedom Trail
- Symphony Hall
- Game Nights
- YMCA Swimming
- Holiday Parties
- Cape Cod Canal Cruise
- Comedy Club
- Miniature Golf
If you have a brain injury and are interested in attending one of these recreational programs, please contact the Statewide Head Injury Program (SHIP) at 617-204-3852 or e-mail us at email@example.com.
Transition Planning For High School Students With Disabilities
Jane Buckley, MRC Transition Team Supervisor
As the beginning of the school year draws near, it is the time of year that high school juniors and seniors begin to think about life after graduation. What comes next? Will they go on to college or other post-secondary education/training? Will they get a job? It can be a very exciting and anxious time for them. For a high school student with a disability the transition from school to work and adult life may mean additional planning. It is important for him/her to learn about post-school options that are available, as well as the adult services and programs that may assist with his/her future goals. It is time to start Transition Planning!
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission provides outreach to assist local high schools to identify students who may be appropriate referrals for MRC programs and services. For those students eligible for services there will be individualized transition planning to determine goals based on their interests, strengths and needs. This is a collaborative process involving the student, family, school staff and state/community partners. Transition planning needs to begin while the student is still in school (preferably two years prior to graduation) so referrals can be made to adult service agencies if necessary.
If you are a high school student with a disability or the parent/family member of a student, here are some helpful hints to help you get started with Transition Planning:
START EARLY! Begin to explore post-school options while you're still in school. Visit colleges and programs you're interested in, and ask questions. Choose school courses that will help to prepare you to meet your goals.
GET WORK EXPERIENCE DURING HIGH SCHOOL: Research indicates that students who have work experience during high school are much more likely to have a job and earn more money after they graduate.
TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE IN YOUR OWN PLANNING: It is important to express your interests and to participate in planning meetings about your future.
If you are receiving special education services, you can participate in your annual IEP meeting. Transition planning is now a required part of the IEP process for high school students under MEA 2004, the federal special education law.
FIND OUT ABOUT RESOURCES: There are many agencies and organizations that can provide information and assistance with transition planning depending on your needs. For example, a website that has been specifically designed for transition-age youth is: www. youthhood.org. Families may want to contact the Federation for Children with Special Needs at www.fcsn.org for more information. The Federation offers transition training to families that provides useful information and resources to assist in the transition process.
CALL MRC! For eligible students, the MRC can offer help in areas such as employment, college planning, assistive technology, independent living, benefits planning and other issues of concern to young adults. For more information about the MRC you can check the MRC website: www.mass.gov/mrc. You can also contact your local MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Area Office.
LD/ADHD Task Force
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.
For the past few months we have been involved in the planning of our outreach efforts to the Independent Living Centers (ILC). We have assigned a few of our members to meet with the Directors of Independent Living Centers (ILC) in the area.
These members will be inquiring about how ILC's are providing services to adults with LD/ADHD. The members who meet with the directors will be giving an update at our next meeting.
We also have been hard at work in discussing the current status of our web page. Our goal is to have a web page that is more informative, easier to use and more pleasant to look at. In particular, we have been researching LD/ADHD articles and self-help information on the Internet which we hope will replace the content that is currently on the Additional Resources link on our web page.
The LD/ADHD Task Force meets the 4th Thursday of every month from 11 am to 1 pm. Everyone is invited to attend. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Angelica Sawyer, Chairperson, or Jenna Knight, Co-Chairperson, by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) Meeting, March 27, 2007
The day began with a gathering at the State House where Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) consumers, and disability advocates received a warm welcome from Joe Bellil, the new Statewide Rehabilitation Council (SRC) Chairperson.
There was also an update on the MRC budget from Commissioner Elmer Bartels. Commissioner Bartels informed the participants that the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program will be in jeopardy if the amount of funding is not increased. Also during his speech, Commissioner Bartels expressed his concern with the need to extend the waiting list for VR services from three to six months.
We also heard from two longtime MRC supporters, Representative Bruce Ayers and Senator Steve Tolman. Representative Ayers answered questions regarding legislative advocacy. Senator Tolman spoke in support of the MRC, its mission and goals. Senator Tolman also stated he would continue to advocate for MRC programs and services.
Once the speeches concluded, participants went to meet with their respective Senators and Representatives to advocate for additional monies for MRC services and programs.
After the participants spoke to their Legislators, they returned to discuss feedback. Several people stated their concerns were well received at the State House.
The Healthcare Access Project
Alexa Rosenbloom, Litigation Specialist, Greater Boston Legal Services and Karen Schneiderman, Community Organizer, Boston Center for Independent Living
Have you ever gone to a hospital or a doctor's office for a test only to find there is no way to get onto the examining table? Have you ever had a medical professional talk to your PCA instead of you? Have you ever been assigned an inaccessible in-patient room when a non-disabled person has the accessible room down the hall?
These are some of the issues most of us with disabilities have faced in medical facilities across the country. The reason is fairly simple in receiving healthcare, people with disabilities face significant barriers like the ones mentioned above. In 2005, the Surgeon General of the United States highlighted the need for action, authoring a Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities. The paper called on healthcare providers to obtain the skills to screen, diagnose and treat the whole person with a disability with dignity.
The Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) are undertaking a project to document disparities in health care. As this investigation continues we hope to be as inclusive as possible with the end goal of obtaining accessible, high quality health care for individuals with a variety of disabilities. BCIL and GBLS have successfully collaborated in the past, most notably on a $310 million settlement with the MBTA to provide accessible services on the subway and on buses.
Issues to be addressed as a part of this healthcare access project include architectural barriers, attitudinal problems, and lack of accessible equipment. While height-adjustable examining tables exist and allow people to transfer independently, very few actually are used in medical facilities. When patients need to be transferred onto an examining table for diagnostic purposes, there is a documented failure to use appropriate techniques. People have reported being moved by security guards and others who have no training.
People with all kinds of disabilities face attitudinal barriers to health care access. Whether it is a doctor focusing too much on a disability and failing to recognize what the real issue ailing a patient is or expecting someone with a disability to do something they are not capable of doing, it is clear attitudinal barriers are pervasive. There should be an individualized assessment for every patient with a disability to determine specialized needs, including communication and mobility requirements. Hospitals and doctors' offices commonly fail to correctly determine whether a patient needs a modification of policies or procedures.
Much in the way we did with the MBTA project, the only way for us to get a sense of barriers that exist is by talking to people with disabilities about their experiences receiving health care. We would love to interview anyone with a disability who has encountered barriers like the ones listed above or any additional problems. All interviews will be done in the strictest confidence and no information will be used without permission from the interviewee. Anyone who is interested in participating or would like to hear more about the project can contact:
Alexa Rosenbloom, 617-603-1564 email@example.com
or Karen Schneiderman, 617-338-6665 x216 firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrating 17th Anniversary of the ADA
It was a hot and sultry day with temperatures in the nineties and a ton of humidity added in. I had been invited to a picnic in a state park, seventy-five miles from where I live, with no public transportation. But, I get ahead of my self.
Seventeen years ago the Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act. On the 26th of July 2007 members of this community gathered to celebrate with a picnic at Dunn Pond State Park in Gardner, Massachusetts.
This great event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council, the Disability Policy Consortium, Local 1199 SEIU, the Disability Law Center and Adaptive Environments. Also sponsoring the event was Easter Seals of Massachusetts, the eleven Independent Living Centers in Massachusetts, and American Association of People with Disabilities. The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission provided additional support, as did Verizon.
The picnic offered an opportunity to celebrate the gains made and remember those who made the journey with us. Remembered were those who dreamt the dream and made the movement strong. The picnic also gave the community an opportunity to present the 2007 ADA Pioneer Awards to Commissioner Elmer Bartels, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and Commissioner David Govostes, MA Commission for the Blind (MCB).
When the short program of introductions, awards, and speeches ended we continued to celebrate by feasting on a traditional American picnic. Nothing was forgotten: hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, cole slaw, potato salad, beverages, watermelon, and an assortment of cookies. Yum.
After lunch activities included swimming, exploring the pathways around the pond, or just sitting in the shade while listening to a very talented band play a wonderfully diverse selection of tunes.
Most notable were the interactions of those in attendance. The families, best buddies and strangers made to feel genuinely welcome. No one remained a stranger for long. After introductions were made and conversations began many people made the commitment to meet again soon. The welcoming attitude and openness of this event was intoxicating.
Personal Care Attendant Forum
The Personal Care Attendant Forum held at Boston's CourtYard Marriott on June 26, brought nearly 200 consumers and their families, advocates, state officials, and health care service providers together to discuss the current position and future viability of the PCA Program in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Consumers spoke poignantly about increasing hourly wages and a package of health insurance benefits, sick pay, and even a retirement fund for the 28,000 PCAs working across the state. Assistant Secretary for Disability Policy and Programs, Dr. Jean McGuire, recently appointed to that post by Gov. Deval Patrick, promised to work with ILCs, consumers, advocates, service providers and others with a vested interest in PCAs. "I am new to the position and daily learning the issues," Dr. McGuire said.
Paul Spooner, director of the Metrowest Independent Living Center, and an organizer of the forum, explained that Dr. McGuire understands the issues. "I believe she gets the message. Dr. McGuire believes as I do that consumers need PCAs," Spooner said.
The Boston Center for Independent Living hosted the forum. Several directors and staff from ILCs and advocacy organizations across Massachusetts spoke to the enthusiastic crowd. Members of the PCA Workforce Council - Charlie Carr, Paul Spooner, Cortland Townes, Liz Casey, and Janet Shaw - formed a panel that directed the forum's agenda.
Attendees spoke about issues affecting them and offered suggestions to enhance the PCA Program. For instance, several consumers shared stories of losing trusting PCAs to McDonald's, difficulty in hiring a potential PCA because of low wages without job protection or benefits, and revealed that without their loyal PCAs they could not attain their ambitions of independence, college, work or various personal life goals. The PCA Workforce Council is in charge of collective bargaining with the state's Office of Administration and Finance, the budget arm of state government. After a request in January for a pay hike for PCAs was shot down in June, the PCA Workforce Council swiftly pushed the agenda for action to meet with Gov. Patrick's administration.
Despite denying PCAs a long overdue pay hike, Paul Spooner sees better times ahead. "I'm excited to see the potential of the PCA union. PCAs need to be honored for the hard work they do for our society. Instead of being locked up in institutions, we (society) need a PCA system that pays a living wage and benefits." He added that PCAs must earn $13 to $15 per hour to compete with nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospitals that pay their health care workers similar wages. PCAs now earn $10.96 per hour.
A dramatic moment occurred as one of the last consumer's to speak at the forum took the microphone and asked Dr. McGuire to stand and turn around to see the entire room. "This is not about money. This is about human beings," he said.
Disaster Readiness Tips for People with Disabilities
Lessons from New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina Emergency Preparation on the Local Level in Massachusetts.
I attended a day long conference on emergency preparedness in Massachusetts, particularly for people with disabilities.
The keynote speaker, Lois Simpson is the Director of the Protection and Advocacy Agency of Louisiana. She and her staff witnessed Katrina and the aftermath first hand. Contrary to what many people think, Hurricane Katrina itself was not what did the most damage to New Orleans. Rather the levies were breached and flooded the city.
Ms. Simpson told us 80% of the people who died in New Orleans had disabilities or were elderly. Often these people depended on caregivers who were unable to reach them or were forced to choose between family and work responsibilities. New Orleans is still in conversation about how to determine responsibility for caregivers who abandoned their charges. Lois Simpson and The Advocacy Center successfully challenged FEMA's practice of providing inaccessible trailers to the disability community in New Orleans.
Attendees received a booklet from the Disability Policy Consortium entitled "Personal Emergency Preparedness Plan."
Inside you can list your health care providers, as well as details of your medical status including allergies, past and current treatments, tests, medications, etc. For more information or to request a copy contact the Disability Policy Consortium, P.O. Box 77, Boston, MA 02133, 1-866-745-0917.
We all need to ask ourselves: What would I do in the event of a disaster, natural or manmade? How will I find out which shelter to go to and will it meet my needs? How can I get involved in Emergency Planning? How can I get involved in making sure all shelters are ADA approved?
As a first step, call your local police department and find out who your local 911 Municipal Coordinator is. Request a "911 Disability Indicator Form--Individual Record." Fill it out and file it with your Municipal Coordinator. Filling out this document with your coordinator will alert public safety officials that an individual residing at your address has a disability that may hinder evacuation or transport. This information is confidential and will only appear at the dispatcher's location when a 911 call originates from your address or in the event of a public emergency.
Learn about the types of hazards that may impact your community (blizzards, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc.). You can get information from your local Emergency Management Office.
Find out what emergency plans are in place in your community, workplace, service agencies, etc. Look over whether those plans have considered your specific needs. Identify what the plan is for notifying people when a disaster may be on its way or is actually occurring. Consider how a disaster may impact your daily routines. Make a list of your specific needs before, during and after a disaster.
Identify Your Resources:
Make a list of family, friends, co-workers, personal attendants, service providers and others who can be part of your plan. Include people both in and out of your immediate neighborhood or community, such as a relative in another state. Talk to these individuals and ask them to be part of your support network (at least three people in each important location, e.g., home, workplace, etc.).
Create an Emergency Plan:
- Work with your support network to make a plan.
- You should have a plan at home, work, school or any place you spend time regularly.
- You should make a plan that includes hazards that can impact your community.
- Apply contingencies you use daily to deal with power outages or transportation delays or breakdowns. This will help you as you consider larger disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and terrorism.
Create a Communication Plan:
Make sure you and your support network have each others' contact information and alternate ways to communicate if phones are not working (such as an assigned meeting place, using pagers, email or other technology not reliant on phone lines).
Make an Evacuation Plan for Home, Work, School, etc.:
Identify a primary and secondary way to evacuate the house or building.
Tip: Ask yourself what resources you rely on regularly and determine how a disaster might affect your use of them.
- Do you use communication devices?
- Do you depend on accessible transportation?
- Do you receive medical treatments on a regular basis?
- Do you need assistance with personal care?
- Do you rely on electrically dependent equipment or other durable equipment?
- Do you use mobility aids such as a walker, cane or a wheelchair?
- Do you have a service animal?
For individuals who use telecommunication relay services, look into different options to use as backup including dialing 711 (nationwide), internet-based relay (through computer, text pager, PDA, etc.), video relay services, and Cap Tel where available.
Points to Consider:
If you require assistance to evacuate, create a plan with the assistance of your support network. If necessary, look into evacuation assistive devices or the installation of ramps at emergency exits. Identify an area of rescue assistance (where public safety officials can assist you) in any building you visit regularly. Contact the building safety director for help. If you require accessible transportation to evacuate an area, identify resources both public and private.
Plan for Different Ways of Sheltering:
Consider what you can do to safely shelter-in-place. Consider how to shelter with friends and family. Finally, consider how a shelter designated for the public would meet your needs.
If you receive regular services (home health care, transportation, dialysis), make a plan with each service provider.
Learn about their disaster plans and how to contact them in an emergency. Work with them to identify backup service providers.
Create a ready kit and a go bag. You should create a comprehensive "ready kit" with the many supplies necessary to self-sustain for a period of time. Also create a "go bag" containing your most essential items to take with you if you must leave immediately.
Recommended Items for Your Ready Kit and Go Bag:
3-day supply of non-perishable food that meets your dietary requirements.
Manual can opener.
3-day supply of water; at least one gallon per person.
Medical equipment and assistive devices (glasses, hearing aids, catheters, communication devices, canes, walkers). Label each with your name and contact information.
Extra batteries and chargers.
Medications, including a list of prescription names, dosages, frequency, doctors, and pharmacy. Cooler with ice pack or other coolant system as needed for medications.
List of emergency contact information including support network members in and out of region.
Copies of important documents (birth certificate, passport, license, proof of address, insurance information).
Extra set of keys.
Cash, credit cards, checkbook, ATM card.
Sanitation and hygiene items including soap, denture care, absorbent pads, etc.
Items for infants such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers.
Supplies for service animals including food, ID tags, proof of up-to-date vaccinations, and veterinary contact.
Clothes, blanket, pillow.
Basic first aid kit.
White distress flag or cloth, whistle, flashlights and/or glow sticks.
Identify your disability-related or health condition need by writing it down or wearing medical alert tags or bracelets.
I would like to thank Stan Eichner, Director of the Disability Law Center, and all the co-sponsors that took the initiative in making these lessons on emergency preparedness possible.
For more information on disaster readiness for people with disabilities contact:
Greater Boston Chapter National Spinal Cord Injury Association
Spring 2007 Newsletter, Director's Note
It's been a busy winter meeting with people from the Department of Public Health regarding the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.
We have been at the State House to testify for more funding for the SCI Trust Fund. Representative James Fagan of Taunton, the original sponsor of the bill, proposed surcharges to those purchasing handguns in Massachusetts and surcharges to those obtaining construction permits for construction projects over $25,000. Since there are a growing number of construction accidents and gunshot victims with spinal cord injuries, it makes sense to raise awareness and at the same time obtain funding that may lead to treatment for a cure.
We continue to visit newly injured patients, provide peer visitors, and receive a multitude of phone calls and emails from people in need. The biggest problem we're encountering is the shortened length of rehabilitation hospital stays. People are literally being put on the "fast track" and rushed through rehab. Para's are staying approximately four weeks and quads eight weeks. They are discharged unprepared to face the reality of SCI. We are attempting to pick up what the rehabs couldn't do in that shortened amount of time. Most of it comes in terms of coping.
Insurance companies are getting away with this, which brings us to our next project. We will attempt to educate employers who contract for health insurance about the effects of what these shortened stays have on people with SCI. If you are employed and your employer insures you, please let your employer know what is happening out there and that SCI can affect anyone at any time.
Girard A. Plante
When MacArthur Williams sat in his wheelchair before the Massachusetts State Legislature's Joint Committee on Health Care Financing on March 27, he never wavered as he espoused the need for a handgun surcharge to support spinal cord injury research. He supports legislation that proposes to include a $25 surcharge whenever somebody buys a handgun.
The 37-year-old Williams was changing his car's tire 18 years ago when a gang member mistook him for a rival gang and fired three bullets into his spinal cord. After completing rehabilitation at the West Roxbury Veterans Hospital, Williams returned to his community as a person with a disability determined to build a productive life.
Williams received vocational rehabilitation services from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission's (MRC) Brookline Office. "They were great to me," Williams said. The MRC helped with a ramp to his home and Williams was trained as a Computer Aided Drafter at Northeastern University.
Williams is married and has four daughters. He works full time as a peer counselor at the Multicultural Independent Living Center in Dorchester and is an Independent Consumer Consultant at the MRC. He also is a Standardized Patient Educator at Tufts University School of Medicine, and a presenter to physical therapy students at Northeastern. In both settings, Williams instructs students on how to work with persons with disabilities.
Although Williams has been working to improve the lives of people with disabilities for years, he credits friend and community activist Kenneth Mumford in getting involved with the handgun surcharge legislation. "Because we come from a similar background, we had an instant bond. I thought testifying on Beacon Hill would be good for 'Mac', and that he'd make an impact about the severity of gun violence in our community," Mumford explains.
Mumford is Program Director of Wheelchair Sports and Recreation Association, a nonprofit that provides recreational opportunities for persons with disabilities in Brockton. Mumford also is a paraplegic after being shot in the back in Dorchester in 1984. He met Williams a decade ago.
You can see Williams in action playing softball for the New England Paralyzed Veterans Association Red Sox or inside the gym racing around the basketball court for the New England Blazers. Both teams play at the Brockton VA Hospital.
Williams remains optimistic about passage of the handgun surcharge legislation: "I am hopeful about the money going into the (spinal cord injury) fund."
Being a Person with a Disability and a Parent
I've been disabled since birth with Cerebral Palsy. It wasn't easy growing up with a disability and trying to fit in with "normal children" in my Dorchester neighborhood.
I can remember when I was younger my older brother defending me
from the threats and taunts of the so called "normal kids." Walking to and from school was a particular challenge. I was often physically assaulted and had to learn to defend myself. Fortunately my older brother and an uncle were able to share their self defense skills with me and help me maintain my self respect and the respect of others.
Over the last two decades I have worked hard to develop my own persona by challenging myself spiritually, physically and mentally. I graduated from high school and was employed as a bus monitor.
Eight years ago while riding my bike in Grove Hall I had an accident. I hit a pole and landed face first on the street. While being transported to Boston Medical Center by ambulance I noticed that my legs were numb. I told the doctors that I had no feeling in my legs and their response was that I "just had the wind knocked out of me." Naturally I was concerned that there had not been an MRI or a CAT scan done to determine the reason for loss of feeling in my legs. I was discharged at two o'clock in the morning. Later that day my symptoms increased and I could not stand unassisted. The decision was made to return to the hospital and I chose to go to Carney Hospital. After I was admitted I learned the seriousness of my injuries. I had nerve damage in my arms and legs and a spinal cord injury. This is in addition to my Cerebral Palsy.
After my discharge from the hospital I went through a very difficult time. I was on my own trying to take care of myself and keep up with all of my physical and occupational therapy appointments. I was angry and frustrated with the deepening reality that I was a changed person not able to do all the activities that I had previously enjoyed. I became determined to overcome my present physical situation and drew on the lessons from my childhood.
Looking toward the future my life has changed dramatically. I have become the proud father of Sholisza and I am returning to school for web design and graphic arts. Having a disability is one thing and then becoming a parent can complicate things further. Certainly there have been people in my life who have been less than supportive. I just ignore their negative comments and concentrate on what I need to do to take care of my daughter. Becoming a "Dad" has been a gift, a reason to get up every day and face all the challenges life has to offer.
I became a consumer of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission in the Roxbury Vocational Rehabilitation office. My Counselor was Ulyena McPherson who helped me access services that allowed me to find my strengths and develop them by using all of the MRC's consumer guidelines. Ulyena encouraged me to develop my career in web design and graphic arts. It was during this time that I decided to become an Individual Consumer Consultant (ICC). With the experience of working as an ICC, I was able to become the Chairperson of three task forces; Turning Twenty-Two (T-22), the Consumer Handbook and the Consumer's Voice. These opportunities allowed me to become an effective advocate for consumers.
Prevailing Wage Report
Mary Esther Rohman, Ph.D.
The Research, Evaluation and Development Department prepared a manual to help counselors and consumers make better judgments about the availability of jobs and wages in their geographic areas. The "Prevailing Wage Report" offers an analysis of labor market information in different areas of the state. The state is divided into the 16 Workforce Investment Areas and the Area Offices that are located within them. Once you target your Area office, you can read about available jobs, how much they pay, unemployment rates, and the types of jobs that aren't hiring, all specific to that area.
At the end of each chapter there are links to 16 different websites that list all occupations and their average wages in each of the 16 Workforce areas.
This report is timely given the difficulties of the current labor market. The jobs that are available tend to be low wage or require high levels of education. Starting in 2005, the proportion of jobs that required an Associate's degree was greater than the proportion of jobs that required only high school or vocational training. While full time, permanent jobs that pay well and have benefits do exist, they are more likely to require related experience and at least a Bachelor's degree. This puts them out of reach of about 2/3rds of the working age population in MA.
The variation in the value of different jobs in the Massachusetts labor market is revealing. Geographically, the average wage in Massachusetts for all jobs was $48,934/year. The Franklin/Hampshire County area had the lowest wages, at $33,051/year, and the highest wages were found in the Greater Boston area, well above the state average at $67,772/year.
In terms of occupations, the best paying jobs were in the following sectors: financial (banking, brokerage, insurance) at $2036/week and professional/technical services at $1,778/week. The lowest paying jobs were in accommodations and food (hotels and restaurants) at $351/week and retail trade at $565/week.
Even for the low paying jobs it makes a difference where you live. For example, finance jobs in Boston pay $46,464/year. In the New Bedford area they pay $41,761/year, and in the Franklin/Hampshire area they pay $37,721/year. The category that includes food and accommodations pays $27,673 in Boston, $13,333 in New Bedford and $12,925 in the Franklin/Hampshire area.
You can find links to the Prevailing Wage Report on the MRC website under Research and Statistics section under Vocational Evaluation Reports:
http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/mrc/prevail_wage_report.rtf file size 1MB
Lack of Jobs, Accessible Homes, and Other Disabilities to Overcome
Posted by: Paul Spooner
BERKELEY, D.C. -In the 35 years since the disability rights movement took root in Berkeley, changes have swept the nation without achieving the goal of full equality.
On the plus side, federal and state buildings are more accessible. schools are better versed in meeting special needs and perceptions have largely changed.
The federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed by former President Bush in 1990, fueled some of those actions. Now, advocates want to increase the number of disabled people in the workforce. Other top priorities include lowering the high poverty rate, ensuring technological advances accommodate people with disabilities and creating more affordable, accessible housing.
The dismal employment picture might not be foremost in the public consciousness, but it hounds people with disabilities. "Employment has always been one of the things that have been on the front burner for people with disabilities," said Gerald Baptiste, Deputy Director of the 35-year-old Berkeley Center for Independent Living. Baptiste lost most of his sight when he was 29.
"We realize that with employment comes a decrease in poverty. With a decrease in poverty comes better health. With better health comes a better quality of life."
Two years ago, Jamila Feldman, 63, lost her part-time job teaching English at the College of Alameda. The Fulbright scholar is paralyzed on her left side and has a learning disability. She landed a summer job but now is looking for permanent employment. "I've been all over the place," the Berkeley resident said. "It's been terrible. It's been awful."
She is not alone. About 35 percent of disabled Americans had jobs in 2004, compared with 78 percent for people without disabilities, according to the National Organization on Disability/Harris Poll.
In 2000, those figures were 3 percent lower. Some take issue at that modest gain, contending numbers have been underreported and that surveys rely on different definitions of what constitutes a disability. In severe cases, obesity can be considered a disability, according to the Department of Justice.
Nationally, little effort has been devoted to the employment problem, said Jan Garrett, executive director of the Berkeley center.
From my experience, it's mostly state vocational rehabilitation agencies that are principally being the ones that are trying to get the people educated and trained and into the workplace," said Garrett, who was born without limbs. "But I don't really see a lot of national programs nor a national push."
In one of its main provisions, the Americans with Disabilities Act bans employers from discriminating against an employee or potential employee with a disability. Furthermore, the law states the employer must make "reasonable accommodations" unless "such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business."
The challenge then comes in enforcing the law and defending it in court, where, advocates say, the law most often loses because it is interpreted too narrowly. A 2006 report by the National Council on Disability urged the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where claims are filed to reaffirm its commitment to "vigorously enforce" the law and to aggressively prevent violations through proactive investigations.
The Department of Justice has been a party in 20 cases. In 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 14,893 claims of disability discrimination, with the agency resolving 15,357 charges. Upward of 90 percent of judgments side with employers, according to researchers. The American Bar Association found that of the 401 decisions reached in 2005, employees won 6.2 percent of the time.
The cases the Department of Justice has successfully represented included a blind teacher in Baltimore whose job offer was rescinded after she told a principal she would be picking up her service animal. Another case involved a police academy trainee whose request for additional food to offset his low blood sugar because of diabetes was denied.
California tackles the jobs issue through an assortment of programs, resources and special committees. A state advisory committee formed to increase employment in 2006 recommended ways to make hiring people with disabilities more attractive to businesses.
Some people with disabilities remain wary about re-entering the workforce, fearing they will lose health benefits and Social Security, Baptiste said. The center works to help ensure key benefits remain protected when a person with a disability gets a job.
In Contra Costa and Solano counties, better public transportation and affordable housing rank as top concerns along with jobs, said Bryan Balch, executive director for the two-county Independent Living Center. He oversees four offices, the main one in Concord and satellite branches in Antioch, Richmond and Fairfield.
"What we're working on right now is trying to educate employers about hiring a person with a disability and dispelling a lot of the myths," Balch said.
Employers frequently balk because they assume costs will cut into the bottom line. Federal agencies and advocates debunk that as myth.
On average, employers spend $100 to make necessary adjustments for employees with a disability, Balch estimates. A survey by Sears found that 69 percent of the 436 accommodations it made cost the company nothing, with 28 percent costing less than $1,000 and 3 percent more than $1,000.
A business lauded for hiring people with disabilities and making its work environment more accessible is Hewlett-Packard. The maker of information and technology products hires to maintain a diversity of opinions, said company spokesman Ed Woodward. Customers like it, too, he added.
Hewlett-Packard partners with the American Association of People with Disabilities and holds a Disability Mentoring Day. Making the corporation, which employs 156,000 worldwide, accessible from its computer screens to work stations remains a high priority, said Mary Ellen Parker, the company's culture and diversity program manager.
"They just want to be able to perform their job like anyone else," Parker said.
Hiring was an original goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the measure didn't go deep enough, advocates say. In 2001, President Bush renewed the bid to integrate people with disabilities in the workplace and society with his New Freedom Initiative. Some advocates say it does little, and others call it a setback.
A 2006 Department of Justice report, "Access for All: Five Years of Progress," trumpets the changes in physical accessibility for people with disabilities while acknowledging improvements must be made in the job market.
Other needs include affordable housing designed for people with disabilities and more provisions for disabled students, said Marilyn Goldman of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley. .
"People with disabilities don't always get a fair shake and don't get accommodations on the job," she said. "So all these areas have to improve."
Julie Langbort born in Exeter, NH holds a B.A. in Psychology & a certificate as an Accountant Assistant. Julie is self-employed as a Professional Organizer, Poet, & Ski Instructor. She has written poetry since she was thirteen. Julie believes EVERY person has their own disability. Her goal as an artist is to help others deal with the loneliness they might feel when confronted with their own limitations in life.
Featured Artist Julie Langbort
a symbol of love in any regard
I whizzed by on my way to work
Never gave you a glance
Like so for many others
You were a sign post on the way to see friends
I never made note again
till I saw in the paper your true meaning
and I never did not once notice you again
Never a ring
Nor my day as a princess in white
But oh ancient pagoda . . .
You resurrected my buried memories
Of the man who gave me the oceans
I like you best in the rain
it reminds me I am not alone in my plight
For there will be more ocean gifts
even if the man is not a knight.
Julie M. Langbort, 10/5/06.
"Pagoda Rains" 2006
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.
Editor, The Consumer's Voice
MRC Staff Editors
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
This newsletter is an independent publication sponsored by the MRC State Rehabilitation Council. The opinions expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the policy and practices of the MRC. They are solely the opinions of consumers of MRC programs and services.
For further information contact Emeka Nwokeji, Director of the Consumer Involvement Program at 617-204-3665.
To receive the newsletter electronically, send an e-mail to
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.