Tag Archives: Disabilities community

Disability Employment Awareness Month-Tips and Tools

A lot of different flowers make a bouquet — Muslim adage

Whether it’s a hefty day planner of yore or a digital device the size of a digit the calendar marks the inexorable march of time.   We are sometimes taken by surprise by what comes next! In this case, it may be the proximate arrival of National Disability Employment Awareness Month – a reminder and reason to pause, learn and reflect.

The theme for this year’s observance is “Inclusion Works.” Thinking about the definition of the term “inclusion” prompted me to google, as per usual,  the term “inclusion” as it applies specifically to workplace inclusion of individuals challenged by physical or mental disabilities. There I found – and was waylaid by – this thought-provoking collection of inclusion quotes that lured me on a meaningful mental meander. http://www.inclusion.com/inclusion.html

Back on task, I focused next on the issue at hand – ways for advocacy groups and employers to collaborate on celebration of the theme. What I discovered is that support resources are plentiful, accessible and really very good.   It is worthy of note that many materials produced by the Department of Labor are available in Spanish.

Promotion ideas range from the pro forma proclamation to social media activities, posters and press releases. A good starting point is the Department of Labor website: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam/ or tweet #InclusionWorks. Check out the Toolbox for a jump start. Promotional ideas are easily searchable by target audience – employers/employees, education/youth service professionals/associations and unions, disability-related and concerned advocacy groups.

One idea that caught my attention — It seems that some states have legislation in place that requires schools to incorporate disability history as part of the regular curriculum. https://www.dol.gov/odep/alliances/roadmap.pdf  Though I am fully aware of the inevitable objections it seems to me that  this may be an idea worthy of discussion. Sometimes time spent just talking about an idea can raise awareness, motivate change and prompt creative thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharing the right to vote — The right, the reason, some resources

Intentional suppression of the right to vote is an overt travesty we abhor; as a democratic society we establish laws and regulations that facilitate, not impede, access. Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act over a quarter century ago has open the election process to millions of Americans by requiring physical accommodations ranging from ramps to Braille ballots to wider voting booths and audio instructions.   Over the years, focus has been on reaching the disabilities community with information about their voting rights and accessibility.

The great good news is that, in its first 26 years ADA has changed the lives of millions of Americans. More good news is that the changes implemented by federal mandate reap powerful benefits for all Americans. In some ways we are just beginning to realize the broader implications of ADA – the 2016 Election offers a challenge and an opportunity to build on ADA as a powerful tool for universal suffrage.

The first challenge is to assure that everyone who needs accommodation is aware of the range of possibilities and their legal right to expect access. Clearly, focus of ADA is on the disabilities community, a community that is itself expanding as Americans age and incur physical challenges that go with the territory.’

Which leads to the need to share information about the right to access with a broader public. This demands collaboration with agencies of every stripe that is in a position to share information about access with members of the public who do not identify with the disabilities community. There are countless Americans who do not identify as “disabled” for whom physical and mental challenges present unrecognized impediments to voting.

Basically, we all need to know more about the laws and procedures that ensure that every American is free and able to exercise the right to vote – and that all Americans are aware of the legal rights and accommodations accessible to every citizen for whom physical or mental access may present a barrier.

A basic step is to ensure that every eligible voter is registered. An earlier post describing the REV-UP initiative focused on voter registration as an Election 2016 priority. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/rev-up/) Sponsored by the American Association of People with Disabilities the REV-UP campaign continues to hone in on public awareness and support materials – a great starting point for learning what’s happening this election season. http://www.aapd.com/our-focus/voting/

Voter registration not only opens the door but also offers the ideal opportunity to share the vast information resources about the voting rights of people with disabilities. It’s important to remember, too, that absentee voters who may not need information about access at their precinct, still need to have ready access to registration procedures.

The general public and agencies that serve people with access challenges need to know the law.

The legislation that codifies the voting rights of people with disabilities is the Help America Vote Act. (HAVA) Enacted in 2002 HAVA can seem as complex as it is fundamental. The straightforward basics are spelled out here: (http://www.eac.gov/about_the_eac/help_america_vote_act.aspx) For more comprehensive information on background and provisions of HAVA check Ballotpedia, the indispensable guide to all things voting related. Ballotpedia offers a good overview of the law and the process of implementation – a solid starting point for understanding the intent and the possibilities ensured by this federal legislation: https://ballotpedia.org/Help_America_Vote_Act_(HAVA)_of_2002

At the state level the right to vote for people with developmental disabilities is contained in Minnesota State Statute §204C.15, subd. 1. The basics are spelled out in detail in this publication from the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities: http://mn.gov/mnddc/news/newsitems/righttovote06.html

Municipalities have created their own systems for meeting the needs of voters who need assistance. As an example, Minneapolis residents who are visually impaired or hard of hearing are given this directive: For reasonable accommodations or alternative formats please contact the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department at 612-673-3737. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to call 311 at 612-673-3000. TTY users call 612-673-2157 or 612-673-2626.

The U.S Department of Justice offers a useful guide more specifically geared to the information needs of those charged with responsibility to implement HAVA: http://www.dspssolutions.org/resources/section-two-ada504-compliance-ocr-letters/us-department-of-justice-ada-links-documents. Written for compliance people, this may be more than mere mortals need to know about HAVA….

During the past election Access Press ran a very accessible guide on the topic of voting rights and accommodations for people with disabilities. It’s a great introduction, the only problem being that not everyone who serves the disabilities community reads Access Press or knows the story http://www.accesspress.org/blog/2014/10/10/voters-have-the-right-to-ask-for-assistance/?utm_source=Access%20Press%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=006cae818b-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7c7ff77da6-006cae818b-418448557

In spite of legal requirements and the unstinting work of the disabilities community it remains to the vigilant to monitor the implementation of federal, state and municipal laws. There is concern among these groups that people with disabilities are “invisible,” thus not included or even identified in exit polling or election analyses. Another concern is that absentee voting solves all the voting problems for the disabilities community. The contention of some polling monitors is that, if people with disabilities were to vote at the same rate as non-disabled, there would have been 10 million more votes cast in the past election.

The fact is that the responsibility to know and share information about the voting rights of and accommodations for people with disabilities is “everybody’s business and nobody’s business.” The general public who are not immediately affected must begin to take a more active role in reaching a broader constituency who may not be fully aware of the comprehensive legislative requirements that accommodations be made for voters who face physical or mental barriers to voting.

As always, ignorance of the law is no excuse. In truth we as a society have not harnessed the human, political and communications resources at our disposable to inform people who need assistance to exercise their right to register and to vote.  It is only through broader understanding of the law and the possibilities that we can share the basic facts about the registration/voting assistance to which every voter has a right. We also need to acknowledge – and counteract – the sad fact there are some Americans who think that their vote doesn’t really matter!

During this election season we need to ramp up the pitch, to share the word with and through mainstream agencies.   Those who serve the public – which includes just about everyone — need to seize the opportunity to learn about HAVA and the accessibility of registration/voting resources. It will take the combined energy and attention not only of the disabilities community but also of institutions, e.g. neighborhood associations, health care providers, small businesses, libraries, the faith community, advocacy and good government groups, to assure thatchallenged voters know their rights and needs, that mandated accommodations are readily accessible to every potential voter, and that every voter knows how much his or her vote counts!

Election officials who take their positions seriously are committed to conforming to the law and meeting the needs of every voter.   The missing link seems in many cases to be that people with disabilities, their families, care providers, and others in their lives don’t fully understand, and thus do not make fully clear, that access to the polls is within the reach of every eligible voter.

Fortunately, there are rich resources for people with disabilities and for election officials who want to better meet the requirements. Though my interest is as a concerned citizen, not an expert, my shallow dive into the possibilities came up with some, certainly not all, helpful resources that demand to be known and shared by more public and nonprofit agencies:

United States Election Assistance Commission http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/resources_for_voters_with_disabilities.aspx

National Disabilities Rights Network http://www.ndrn.org/en/contact.html

Center for an Accessible Society http://www.accessiblesociety.org/topics/voting/

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Other Federal Laws Protecting the Rights of Voters with Disabilities https://www.ada.gov/ada_voting/ada_voting_ta.htm

 

Minnesota Council on Developmental Disabilities: http://mn.gov/mnddc/news/newsitems/righttovote06.html

National Federation for the Blind – Voting, Accessibility, and Law https://nfb.org/hava-legislation

National Association of the Deaf

https://nad.org/issues/civil-rights/help-america-vote-act/be-prepared

https://nad.org/issues/civil-rights/help-america-vote-act/making-polls-accessible

Voting and Alzheimer’s Disease http://www.alzheimersblog.org/2014/11/03/

 

 

Access Press at 25! A quarter century of serving and reflecting Minnesota’s disabilities community

Access Press is celebrating its 25th Anniversary!  Congratulations are in order – and thanks!   So also is this post which I hope is redundant for many regular readers of this monthly treasure trove of information about the disabilities community. 

The mission of Access Press is “to promote the social inclusion and legal rights of people with disabilities by providing a forum for news, features, opinion and conversation to benefit people who are often invisible and marginalized in mainstream society.”   In truth,  Access Press is really the indispensable window on the world to what’s happening in the disabilities community, a community so robust that it can be difficult to understand if one does not feel a member.  With Access Press, we can all keep up, understand and participate.

Happily, after a quarter century, many Minnesotans have honed the habit of picking up the monthly Access Press – or, better yet, making sure there’s a drop site of the indispensable publication in every possible public space!  In fact, there are approximately 300 sites around the state where, on the 10th of each month, bundles of Access Press are dropped off for free and easy access.  In addition to the printed publication, the paper is produced in audiotape format using a special radio channel for people with visual impairments.   Keeping apace with technology, the articles from each edition are also posted on the Access Press website (http://www.accesspress.org)– or, if you just can’t wait for the 10th of the month, keep up with the print edition by following Access Press on Facebook and Twitter!

For those who have some catching up to do, the 25th anniversary is a good time to look back.  In the May 2014 issue Managing Editor Jane McClure offers a history note that tells the story of the newspaper, tracing the origins of the newspaper from the launch of Access Press on the brink of the vote on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  (http://www.accesspress.org/2014/05/history-note-a-look-back-through-the-pages-of-access-press/)  In fact, every month Access Press carries a History Note, reminding readers of the laws, the issues, and the leaders who have made a difference in the struggle of Minnesotans and Americans at large to create an inclusive community.

The June 2014 issue offers a great review of the legislative accomplishments of the most recent legislative session – issues that include a range from safe schools (bullying) to autism to expanded funding and more,  There’s also a synopsis of what’s coming up on Radio Talking Books and other audio options,  notes on accessible events, even advance notice of the Americans with Disabilities 24th Anniversary Celebration, Friday July 25 at DHS.

Though this is but a snippet of Access Press, it ‘s easy to see why the paper is a must read.   Check out the website for the latest edition of the newspaper and much more, including the story behind The Real Story, a documentary film exploring media coverage of the disability issues in Minnesota.  Produced by Access Press and narrated by Kevin Kling, the documentary explores the biases in media coverage of disability issues in Minnesota and nationally and examines the role of grassroots and mainstream media outlets in reporting on stories important to all people with disabilities. 
 (http://www.accesspress.org/the-real-story/press/)

Tim Benjamin has been Editor-in-chief of Access Press since 2001, assuming the position on the death of Charlie Smith, founder, publisher and long-time editor.  (http://www.accesspress.org/2001/05/welcome-new-access-press-editor-tim-benjamin/)    Tim’s monthly column always offers a thoughtful summary of what’s happening and a reminder for readers to get up and do what needs to be done – to keep up with the news and resources, to learn and understand those who “are often invisible and marginalized in mainstream society”, to share the wealth of information found on the pages of Access Press with friends, family, and colleagues, to take action (e.g. in support of Disability Viewpoints on community cable), and to be certain that Access Press is on the distribution list for events and resources of interest to people with disabilities, their families and organizations who serve the disabilities community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Documentary premiers portray stories of the disabilities community

During the next few weeks Twin Citians will enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to view and read about the lives and media triumphs of people with disabilities – and how their stories are told in the media.

The premiere of the documentary, The Real Story, produced by Access Press (http://www.accesspress.org), Minnesota’s disability community newspaper, and Verso Creative is set for October 28.  Funded in part by UCare, the documentary explores issues related to past and present media coverage of disability issues. 

Producers of The Real Story note that “the real story is how news coverage of disability issues has changed over the years.”   According to Access Press, “investigative journalists, particularly in Minnesota, have been instrumental in advancing the cause of equal rights for people with disabilities.  Starting in the 1940’s and culminating in the 1970’s journalists reported on the horrible conditions of state institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  That reporting led to changes that improved the lives of many people.”

Still, “stories intended to be factual are often influenced by misconceptions that are ultimately harmful to people with disabilities.”  Though in some cases the mainstream media recognize their own biased reporting, in other cases, stereotypes persist.  According to Access Press “too often stories about disability are more inspirational than factual, or rely on old stereotypes…..People are either portrayed as heroic figures or as objects of pity. “   Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin has observed that “we used to do stories … that were more charity stories.”

One significant challenge reflected in The Real Story is the role of self-advocacy as an instrument of change.   “Being a self-advocate is a benchmark of the community now as people are encouraged to speak up for themselves.”

The Real Story premiers on Monday, October 26, 6:30 p.m. at the U of M Alumni Center; the documentary will be shown again on Monday, November 4, 4:00 p.m. at Coffman Union on the U of M campus.  Both events are sponsored by the U of M Disabled Students Cultural Center and Access Press.  The free and open screenings will include a panel discussion with newsmakers, scholars, activists – and refreshments.

A second opportunity to explore the lives and work of people with disabilities is set for early November.   ReelAbilities: New York Disabilities Film Festival (www.reelabilities.org) is hosted locally by Partnership Resources, Inc. a nonprofit that provides employment and arts experience opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

This is the Minnesota premiere of  “the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.”  The local festival, November 1-5, opens on Friday, November 1, with a noontime program at MacPhail Center for Music and a reception that evening at Pracna on Main.

Venues for the showings of the nine featured films include MacPhail Center for Music, the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center.  All venues are fully accessible.  Post-screening discussions and other programs “bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.”  There’s a complete schedule of events and background online at http://Minneapolis.reelabilities.org/schedule.