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  • Boston's MBTA Sued For Lack Of 'Common Decency'
  • DC To Have Accessible Voting
  • Protesters Call for Jail for Carr
  • Conoco Agrees To Access
  • Crips in Back of Theater; Racial Analogy 'Ridiculous'
  • HHS Opens New Office On Disability

    Boston's MBTA Sued For Lack Of 'Common Decency'
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    BOSTON, Aug. 16, 2002 --Bus and train riders with disabilities have filed a federal suit against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) claiming that bus drivers do not stop to pick them up, that elevators and wheelchair lifts are dangerous or broken, and that facilities are unhealthy.

    According to the Associated Press, the class action suit seeks repairs and improvements, rather than monetary damages.

    Wheelchair users claimed that the gaps between platforms and subway train cars are too wide to be safe. Bus drivers fail to make announcement and don't pull close enough to the curb to be safe for blind riders. Some riders said that the elevators at MBTA stations are often filthy, sometimes with human waste.

    ''This case is about common decency and the way we treat disabled people,'' said the plaintiff's attorney, Taramattie Doucette. ''The MBTA has made empty promises to these people over the years but hasn't come through with concrete results.''

    MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern said the problems are being addressed. He said over the next two years the Authority plans to add up to 600 new buses with low floors and automated stop announcements. Mulhern added that other changes are in the works to devote more time to maintenance and to focus on sensitivity training for drivers.

    DC To Have Accessible Voting
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 15, 2002 --In May of 2004, the District of Columbia will become the first major metropolitan area in the U.S. to make elections fully accessible to people who are blind or who cannot use their hands to vote.

    The Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington (DRC) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) on Thursday announced a settlement agreement with the District's government and Board of Elections and Ethics. The agreement settles a suit filed in 2001 by the two organizations, along with several blind voters and a quadriplegic voter who cannot privately use printed ballots or the new optical scan system recently purchased by the District.

    The plaintiffs claimed that the optical scan system violates the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act because it does not allow voters with certain disabilities to cast a secret ballot. The optical scan system requires voters to mark paper ballots with a pencil. Blind voters and voters that cannot use their hands to mark a ballot must have another person in the voting booth in order to vote.

    Under the settlement, at least one accessible voting machine will be available in each polling place throughout the district by May 2004. These accessible machines allow voters to make their selections by touching a video screen, much like accessible ATM bank machines. Blind voters can listen to an audio reading of the ballot. Voters who cannot use their hands can tap the screen or answer verbally.

    "We are proud that DC will become the first major metropolitan area in which all voters can vote independently and in secret," said Linda Royster, Executive Director of the DRC, in a media release. "We hope that DC's lead will be followed all over the country."

    Read story in the Washington Post.

    Protesters Call for Jail for Carr

    GFIFFIN, GA, Aug. 12, 2002 --One man held a gun to the wheelchair user's head. Another had a pillow ready to stuff over a "loved one's" face. A third held a knife to a throat. Members of Not Dead Yet of Georgia and People First of Georgia were using the skit to demonstrate to passersby at the county courthouse in Griffin, GA., that nondisabled "caregivers" face little consequence when they decide to murder a disabled child, spouse, sibling or parent. Local media covered the protest.

    The several dozen protesters hope their efforts will influence a local grand jury to sentence Carol Carr, who shot her two severely disabled sons to death in a Griffin nursing home in June, to "significant jail time." The case is scheduled to go to a grand jury Aug. 2. 

    "Lack of a deterrent creates a separate class of people whose lives can be taken without significant consequence for the murderer," say protesters.   Read story from the Macon Telegraph. See photos.

    Conoco Agrees To Access
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    BOULDER, CO, Aug. 12, 2002 --Because of the work of a pair of disability rights advocates, 124 gas stations owned by Conoco, Inc., will be modified to better serve people with disabilities, if a Denver court ratifies a settlement agreed to last week.

    A suit was filed in 1999 by Julie Farrar-Kuhn, an administrative assistant for the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, and Carrie Ann Lucas, an accessibility researcher for the Colorado Cross-Disabilities Coalition.

    Farrar-Kuhn initiated the suit after she tried gassing up at a local Conoco station. She was not able to reach the credit card slot in the pump from her mini-van, nor was she able to get into the story to pay in person -- a car parked in the handicapped parking space blocked the wheelchair ramp and an ice machine prevented her from using the sidewalk.

    "It was frustrating because it amounted to so many different barriers at once," Farrar-Kuhn told the Daily Camera.

    Under the settlement, Conoco agrees to make sure that displays, sales racks and beverage coolers do not block sidewalks or store aisles. Counters, restrooms, parking spots and other features will be made and kept accessible. At least one pump in each Conoco-owned store will be changed so that wheelchair users can pay at the pump.

    Conoco will also hire an independent monitor to test the new accessibility features at Denver area stores, and will begin a three-year process of changing the other stations it owns.

    The agreement does not apply to franchise stations that carry the Conoco brands but are not owned by the company.

    More details are available from Friday's Daily Camera.

    Crips in back of theater: racial analogy called 'ridiculous'
    DENVER, Aug.4, 2002 --Activist Laura Hershey and others protested in front of Denver's Mayan theater on Saturday after learning Friday night that the theater no longer had wheelchair seating anywhere except in the back row, after renovations had removed the previous seating mid-theater. "This is discrimination," Hershey says she told manager Sasha Webb, explaining that, "It is the same as if you posted a sign saying that black people had to sit in the back row of the theater."

    "Yeah, we make them sit back there, too," Webb retorted.

    Webb told the Denver Post's Kieran Nicholson she'd made the sarcastic rejoinder because she considered the analogy "ridiculous."

    "I felt the comment she made was incredibly disrespectful and has nothing to do with the situation at all," Webb told the reporter.

    Read the Denver Post story

    HHS Opens New Office On Disability
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2002 --Tommy G. Thompson, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has announced the creation of a new Office on Disability.

    The office is designed to "oversee the coordination, development and implementation of programs and special initiatives within HHS that impact people with disabilities," according to a department statement released Wednesday.

    The new office is to help the Bush Administration focus on the President's New Freedom Initiative, a plan developed last year to break down barriers for people with disabilities to be included in all aspects of society.

    "HHS is engaged in important and dynamic work to help the nearly 54 million Americans living with disabilities," Secretary Thompson said. "The new Office on Disability will bring increased focus and awareness to the issue, and will allow the department to interact with valuable partners in the most effective manner."

    Margaret J. Giannini, currently the principal deputy assistant secretary for aging at the Administration on Aging (AoA), has been chosen to direct to the new office. In the past, Giannini has been the deputy assistant chief medical director for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 1979, Dr. Giannini was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first Director of what is now known as the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). She also was the founder and director of the University Center of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities of New York Medical College.

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