By Adriana Mallozzi
I was doing some "spring cleaning" and came across a project that I had done about 15 years ago. It was my History Day project on Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). How ironic for me to come across this remnant from my past as we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the ADA. As I quickly glanced through all of the articles and legal documentation I had collected, I realized how far we have come. There was an article in U.S. News & World Report on September 18, 1989 with the heading "Liberation Day For The Disabled." I was only 12-years-old at the time and I don't think I fully understood the impact it would have on our future. At the time, my life consisted of school, the mall, movies and the occasional trips to TCBY with my friends. Accessibility was never a problem in the handful of places I frequented and I took it for granted. I guess I sort of expected it; this was the United States, naturally places would be accessible. By then, I had been to Italy a couple times and had experienced a completely inaccessible world where people with disabilities were treated as second class citizens. Of course, I was young and it didn't really bother me because my friends and family there treated me just like everyone else. Also, I was still young enough for my parents to carry me when necessary, making the inaccessibility merely an after thought, but enough of an inconvenience for me to appreciate the fact that I lived in a country where I didn't really have to think about it.
By the end of my junior year in high school, I came to realize how naïve I had been. Like most soon-to-be-seniors in high school, I was looking forward to that final lap. Excited, and at the same time nervous, about the uncertainty of what lay ahead. It was customary for most seniors (at least in our school) to want to participate in the production of the yearbook for our final year. I was no different, and when it came time to choose my classes and electives for the last time at Stamford High School, I immediately checked off "Yearbook." About a week later, I was notified that I could not be a part of the Yearbook Committee because it was on the third floor. Third floor? How was it possible that I wasn't even aware of the existence of this third floor? The answer was simple; the elevator didn't go to that particular floor. I was disappointed. I had learned that this was the floor where all the art classes were held and another student who was also disabled would leave his chair by the steps and use crutches to get to class. This was unacceptable! There was a discussion about possibly moving the computers and some of the equipment to a lower level, but then arose the question of where. All rooms and space were accounted for. It had been decided, I would not be able to participate.
A friend of mine, whom I had known since elementary school, wrote for the school paper and decided to interview me. This was the perfect opportunity for my voice to be heard. When the issue came out, numerous classmates commented to me how they were unaware of the situation and agreed it was ridiculous. A copy of the article was even taped to the entrance of the cafeteria (to this day I don't know who did it) and a buzz started circulating around the school. The administration agreed to install another elevator for the sole purpose of allowing access to that floor. Of course, I would not get the chance to make use of it, but it was great to know that future students would.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has allowed the disability community to make great strides. We have become immersed in society and are no longer sitting on the side-lines watching everyone else live the American dream.
15th Anniversary of the ADA: Promises and Struggles
Fifteen years ago the world was still celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and the international freedom that it symbolized. So on July 26, 1990 when President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), he likened it to the dismantling of "…another wall, one which has, for too many generations, separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse, but not grasp. Once again, we rejoice as this barrier falls, proclaiming together we will not accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate discrimination in America… Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."
Fred Fay, longtime disability advocate and co-founder of Justice for All, an online disability rights journal (www.jfanow.org), had this to say about the impact of the ADA over the last decade and a half:
"Perhaps the biggest change that has happened in the lives of people with disabilities is the change in self-image. A generation ago, people with disabilities grew up hearing from every corner that they were less human, that they should be 'out of sight, out of mind', or even that they should be incarcerated in institutions. Well, if you grow up in that kind of a society, it's very hard to have a positive self-image, since most people live up to the expectations of those around them. If all you hear is negative attitudes and low expectations, these become a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, today young people with disabilities grow up hearing that they have rights and equal opportunity to become part of society. People with disabilities therefore now have a more positive self-image; this makes it easier to have high expectations for ourselves and to achieve a lot more."
The following quotes from others involved in the passage and celebration of this landmark civil rights legislation convey the mood of that day and the hopes for the future. Senator Orrin Hatch said, "Congress has sent a clear message across this country - individuals with disabilities, no less than other Americans, are entitled to an equal opportunity to participate in the American dream. That dream can now become a reality." Senator Ted Kennedy called the ADA "in a sense, an emancipation proclamation for the disabled. And America will be better, fairer, and a stronger nation because of it."
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Public Law 101-336, truly did have an extraordinarily broad base of support. For the first time in history people with all types of disabilities worked shoulder to shoulder with their families and friends to create an effective coalition to shape social reform. In the halls of government, the ADA was a model of bipartisanship, supported by a vote of 377 to 28 in the House of Representatives and 91 to 6 in the Senate. Congressional committees were equally united in their backing of the legislation. Such overwhelming approval of a measure could only occur with both Republican and Democratic support.
Justice Department Announces Resolution Of Lawsuit With Regal Entertainment Group
WASHINGTON, D.C. - June 8, 2005 The Justice Department announced the resolution of a lawsuit with Regal Entertainment Group filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit challenged the construction of stadium-style movie theaters that fail to provide persons who use wheelchairs seating and line of sight comparable to that of the general public. Regal is the largest movie theater chain in the country with 3,500 screens.
"Opening everyday activities like a night at a movie theater to persons with disabilities is a core goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act," said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Today's agreement is another step toward making the ADA's promise a reality for thousands of Americans. We are pleased that Regal has worked with us to resolve this litigation and to provide necessary accommodations for its customers with disabilities."
"One of the vital missions of the Justice Department is the enforcement of our nation's civil rights laws. By requiring that patrons who use wheelchairs have equal access to seats with comparable views to those available to other theater patrons, the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that people with disabilities can attend and enjoy performances like anyone else," said Michael J. Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. "We are pleased that Regal has decided to join in this proposed consent order and to provide the accommodations necessary for its patrons with disabilities."
As a result of the consent agreement, Regal's current and future stadium-style theaters will provide improved lines of sight for persons who use wheelchairs. Under the decree, all future construction of Regal theaters will be designed in accordance with design requirements that place wheelchair seating near the middle of the auditorium. Regal also agreed to make changes to nearly 1000 existing stadium-style theaters by moving wheelchair seating further back from the screen. At the remaining theaters, Regal will ensure that any wheelchair seating be relocated as far back from the screen as possible without major reconstruction.
The United States Attorney's Office filed suit to enforce the ADA in December 2000 in federal court in Boston, for the District of Massachusetts. The suit was initially filed against Hoyts Cinemas based upon private complaints filed with the Justice Department. Regal Entertainment Group acquired most of the former Hoyts movie theaters in 2004.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA can call the Justice
Department's toll-free Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA homepage at www.ada.gov
By Bill Henning & Lisa Sloane
The Senate approved the amendment sponsored by Senator Brian Joyce (plus Senators Fargo, O'Leary, and Barrios) to increase funding for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) by $700,000. Thanks to all who made calls to senators. And thanks to Matt Noyes of United Disability Housing Partnership and Chris Norris of CHAPA for working this issue in the State House.
Accessible Unit Openings in Boston
The Boston Housing Authority is currently accepting applications for affordable, wheelchair accessible apartments of all bedroom sizes. The BHA is building brand new, fully accessible apartments with new appliances in neighborhoods throughout the City of Boston. Some units will have roll-in showers and/or on-site parking. Applicants may apply for any location(s) they choose.
Apartments will be ready for occupancy this fall in the following neighborhoods: Brighton, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, the South End and Mission Hill/Roxbury. Apartments are available for persons eligible for public housing. For more information on eligibility, go to www.bostonhousing.org. For questions, to apply or to request a reasonable accommodation, please call 617-988-4200 or 617-988-4549.
Cash and Counseling Program
The Cash & Counseling approach provides consumers with a flexible monthly allowance that is based on an individualized budget, which allows them to direct and manage their own personal assistance services and address their own specific needs. In addition, this innovative program offers counseling and fiscal assistance to help consumers manage their allowance and responsibilities by themselves or with the aid of a representative. These main features are adaptable to consumers of all ages with various types of disabilities and illnesses. Cash & Counseling intends to increase consumer satisfaction, quality, and efficiency in the provision of personal assistance services. The vision guiding this expansion is the promise of "a nation where every state will allow and even promote a participant-directed individualized budget option for Medicaid-funded personal assistance services." The National Program Office at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work will coordinate and direct the replication project.
Up to ten states will be awarded three-year grants of up to $250,000 to implement the Cash & Counseling model and collect information to monitor the effectiveness of these programs. Only one grant will be awarded per state.
Three states with ambitious plans to expand significantly beyond the basic Cash & Counseling model may be eligible for an additional $100,000 over the same three year period. All grants were awarded in the summer of 2005.
Cash & Counseling is a national program sponsored by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the United States Department of Health and Human Services (ASPE/DHHS), and the Administration on Aging (AoA). In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reviews states' Section 1115 demonstration or 1915 (c) waiver applications and provides continuing oversight and technical assistance in the waiver process. With the cooperation of the aforementioned agencies and the National Program Office located at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, a three state Cash & Counseling Demonstration was implemented to compare the Cash & Counseling consumer-directed model with the traditional agency-directed approach to delivering personal assistance services.
Due to the success of the Cash & Counseling Demonstration and Evaluation in Arkansas, Florida, and New Jersey, interest from other states, a supportive political environment, and President George Bush's New Freedom Initiative, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and Administration on Aging have authorized an expansion of the Cash & Counseling program that will provide grants and comprehensive technical assistance to additional states that are interested in replicating, and in some states expanding, on this Cash & Counseling model.
Fact Sheet for People with Medicare and MassHealth: Your Prescription Drug Coverage is changing.
What is the change?
Starting January 1, 2006, the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program will pay for most of the prescription drugs you need. Medicaid will no longer pay for these Part D covered drugs. You will need to join a Medicare prescription drug plan for Medicare to pay for your drugs. Medicare will notify most individuals by mail, this summer (2005) and again in the fall (2005) with more information. These mailings provide important information for you to begin to choose the best plan for your prescription drug needs.
When will I need to choose a plan?
The initial enrollment period begins November 15, 2005. In order to enroll you will need to call the company that offers the plan you choose. If you are enrolled in both Medicare and full MassHealth, Medicare will randomly assign you to a prescription drug plan in the fall 2005, to make sure you don't miss a day of coverage. You will have the ability to opt out of the plan before coverage begins.
Please Note: If you are enrolled in a Medicare managed care plan, such as a Medicare Advantage plan, PACE (sometimes called Elder Service Plan), or Senior Care Organization, you will continue to receive your drug coverage from that managed care plan and will not need to choose a Medicare prescription drug plan.
Where can I get more information about the Medicare prescription drug plans?
Read the Medicare & You 2006 handbook you get in the mail in October 2005. It will include more detailed information about Medicare prescription drug plans, including which plans will be available in your area. After that time, if you need help choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan that meets your needs, see the list of helpful contacts below.
Medicare 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) TTY: 1-877-486-2048 or www.medicare.gov
Social Security 1-800-772-1213 TTY: 1-800-325-0778 or www.socialsecurity.gov
SHINE (Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders) 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636), press '2' TTY: 1-800-872-1066 or www.medicareoutreach.org
MassMedLine 1-866-633-1617 or www.massmedline.com
Prescription Advantage 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636), press '1' TTY: 1-877-610-0241 or www.800ageinfo.com
MBTA Introduces Automated Fare Collection System
You may have recently heard about the new fare collection system that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is installing. Eventually everyone will be using smart cards just like riders in Washington, D.C., New York City and London, and the old MBTA token will be a thing of the past. These new smart cards that have a magnetic strip are sometimes called "Charlie Cards" or "Charlie Tickets."
There will be new fare vending machines with "touch" screens where you can purchase a smart card or ticket with cash or a credit or debit card. You can put as much value on the smart card or ticket as you like - anything from a $1.25 one-way fare to the cost of a weekly or monthly pass. Riding the subway or bus with these new cards is easy. You insert the smart card in the slot or tap it on the black "target" when you board. The cost of the fare is automatically subtracted from the balance on your card.
The Airport and Aquarium stations on the Blue Line were converted to the new fare collection system in May. The conversion of the Orange, Red and Green lines will begin in the fall of 2005 and will continue through 2006. The Green Line and bus fleets will be done last.
The reduced fare of 35¢ at most subway stations and 25¢ on buses is still in effect for individuals with a MBTA Senior ID or Transportation Access Program (TAP) card.
If you are a senior or a person with a disability with one of these cards you will be able to buy reduced fare tickets and monthly passes at these new vending machines. When you board you will need to use the wheelchair accessible/reduced fare gate in the subway stations.
With the installation of these new smart card fare vending machines seniors and individuals with disabilities who are eligible for reduced fares will need to get new identification cards. The Senior Citizen ID and the Transportation Access Program (TAP) cards for people with disabilities will be replaced by new cards that combine the old ID with the new smart card technology. Cash value can be stored on this new ID card at the reduced fare rate. As the cash value is used up more value can be purchased and added to the card at the vending machines.
For more information, visit www.mbta.com/traveling_t/disability_pwd.asp or call the Office of Transportation Access at 617-222-5976 voice or (TTY) 617-222-5854 .
For general information contact the MBTA at 617-222-3200 or check their web site at www.mbta.com.
Benefits Of Taking A Break And What Can Be Learned From It
By Hang Lee
After working for over ten years in the human services field for various agencies, a short break was necessary. This field can be very frustrating and aggravating when you've been in it as long as I have. Dealing with an inflexible staff team, working out communication issues, and, more commonly, working in the entry level market where many staff have little knowledge about employees with disabilities are just some of the issues I have dealt with through the years. However, the clients have always been a joy and have given me a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Fortunately, my former employer gave me some options after informing me that several programs were being transferred to other agencies. They suggested I seek new employment opportunities within the agency, transfer to the new agency that was taking over the program I worked in, or leave the agency and collect unemployment. I chose the latter. My former employer told me I could collect because it was the agency who initiated the discontinuation of several programs, resulting in my termination.
This information on unemployment insurance is very important to individuals with disabilities. All too often, individuals who receive the notice of discontinued contracts don't realize the options they have. They may think, "Because the program is moving to another agency, I have to stay," or "I'll just leave and look for work elsewhere" and don't file with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Individuals need to find out by asking their human resource department whether they are permitted to collect. In addition, people who leave their job without taking another one should always file for unemployment benefits. Even if the person is not qualified to collect monetarily, she might be eligible for low-cost health insurance funded by the Commonwealth. People who are not working temporarily should always inquire whether they are eligible for benefits when events such as those discussed here happen to them.
As for the summer, it had been too hot to do anything, especially job-hunting. I did however, send out a couple of resumes, attended a few workshops, and did a little networking. I also did some traveling in the month of July. I took the bus to Montreal, went to a few beaches when the temperature reached above 90 degrees, and made a day trip to New York City with a friend. Thus, it was a balanced summer insofar as going away and looking for a permanent position.
Eventually, I'll need to work on a regular basis, making it important for me to focus my energy on the primary objective; to be gainfully employed again. Finding a job has been my concentration all along, but a little deviation is also necessary. The trips I took were therapeutic and revitalizing for my body and soul. I haven't been so active in years, it felt great! Lastly, the trips taught me a lesson; if I would like to travel more, I must be employed.
Living With ADHD
By Jennifer Knight
I did not figure out that I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) until I turned 28. That was a long time believing that I was somehow "not quite with it," to put it lightly. I really did not think it was possible for me to have ADHD because it was usually associated with hyperactive boys.
When I was growing up, I wanted to be the best at everything I did, no matter what it took. I remember staying up all night doing homework because I never got anything done during the evening, as there were too many distractions. The library was awful because I would just end up counting the books on the shelves instead of reading what was in front of me! I thought taking a job at the library might force me to do schoolwork, but it was disastrous. Every time someone walked in, I got distracted and easily lost focus, realizing I had been reading the same sentences over and over again.
It wasn't until I took Abnormal Psychology that things really got out of control. On numerous occasions I asked the professor to bring my exams to the Disability Service Office (DSO) so I could take them there, but time after time she seemed to forget or just did not want to do it. It was not until the very last exam that I had become fed up with her. I went to her office a week in advance to request that she bring the exam to the DSO, and she promised she'd do so. On the day of the exam, I went to the DSO as planned and it was not there. I was outraged! I waited till the class had ended and proceeded to her office. I asked her why she did not bring the test to the DSO (only three doors down from her office) as promised, and she came up with every excuse under the sun. That is when I let her have it! I told her that she was violating my rights. As I was about to leave, Marion Bergin, Director of the DSO, stopped me and told me to go to her office, and that she would take care of this matter. About 10 minutes later, Marion returned and handed me a sheet a paper that almost looked like a test. When I was reading it, it was as if I was reading my life story. I was crying, holding the crumpled questionnaire. My whole life made sense now, it was like finding a piece of myself that I never knew existed. I was sent for a psych evaluation, and that was when it was confirmed I had classic ADHD.
Six years later, I still remember Marion's compassion. After beginning treatment, my life completely turned around. I graduated in 2001 with a certificate in Human Services and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science. I am working towards starting my own business and am proud of myself for not giving up. Living with ADHD is very difficult and many people do not understand. Some days it's hard to believe that I have made it this far, but without the love and support of my family and close friends, it wouldn't have been possible. I now know that if I can find strength inside myself, anything I dream and desire is attainable.
Introducing the Consumer Involvement Listserv
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LD/ADD Support Group
MRC is sponsoring a cost-free support group for persons with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. The group meets every Wednesday from 6:00 pm-7:30 pm, Parish House Library of Christ Church Episcopal in Cambridge. For more information contact Angelica Sawyer @ 617-661-3117.
Asperger Connections 2005, Celebrating a Decade of Discovery and Growth
Date: October 1, 2005
Time: 8:30am - 4:00pm
Place: Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, Marlborough, MA
Special presenter Dr. Oliver Sacks, noted neurologist and author of Anthropologist on Mars and many other books Plus: Dr. Daniel Rosenn, Stephen Shore, Elsa Abele, Dr. Scott McLeod, Dena Gassner, Dr. Teresa Bolick, and others. For more information visit www.aane.org or call 617-393-3824.
State Rehabilitation Council Meeting
Date: October 27, 2005
Place: To be determined in the Metro-West area
For more information, contact Emeka Nwokeji @ 617-204-3624.
25th Annual Consumer Conference
Empowerment, Independent Living, Assistive Technology and Advocacy.
Join us in celebrating 25 years of consumer involvement!
Dates: December 1 & 2, 2005
Place: Marriot Hotel, 1000 Marriott Drive, Quincy, MA 02169
For more information, contact Emeka Nwokeji @ 617-204-3624.
The Consumer's Voice
To request this document in an alternative format or for further information contact Emeka Nwokeji, Director of Consumer Involvement at 617-204-3665.
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|The Consumer's Voice |
A quarterly publication of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Consumer Involvement Program.
Editors: Adriana Mallozzi (ICC), Leslie Wish, David Mortimer (ICC), Eileen Brewster (ICC), Lisa Chiango, Warren Magee, Girard Plante, Robert Sneirson and Janna Zwerner.
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.
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.