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NEWSLETTER UPDATE – APRIL, 2006
FROM PHYLLIS F. RESNICK, PRESIDENT
HELLO, AGAIN, EVERYBODY!!!!!
It has now been six months since our last newsletter and we have several cases and other items of interest to report. Many of our larger cases, such as those involving hospitals and municipalities, are proceeding, but of course, as we are sure you can understand, those types of cases take a very, very long time to come to conclusion; more on those later in this newsletter. As you will see further along herein, where we acknowledge the achievements of other disability advocacy groups, the passage of several years from the inception of a case to its conclusion is not unique to “Access Now, Inc.” It is just the nature of litigation.
However, we at “Access Now” take pride in the fact that we do not limit our efforts to the high profile cases of first impression, but do, in fact, become involved in many, many small cases which have a great impact on the daily lives of members of the disabled community. Entities such as grocery stores, hotels, motels, restaurants, shops, gas stations and the like continue to fail to comply with the A.D.A. (Americans With Disabilities Act), despite the fact that the law was enacted in 1990. Therefore, we continue to receive complaints daily from disabled persons who are routinely being denied their rights under this civil rights law. Some of those about which we have undertaken litigation and which have been settled will be detailed later in this newsletter.
AS AN INTRODUCTION TO OUR WORK, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NEW TO US, WE WOULD LIKE TO BEGIN WITH THE FOLLOWING LETTERS SENT BY MEMBERS. I THINK THEY SHOW THAT WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE:
November 30, 2005
you ACCESS NOW and especially to all the attorneys who have worked on improving
accessibility for everyone at the Helen Keller Birthplace in
was a shame that it took legal action to finally get access for everyone at the
birthplace of one of our most famous activists of all times. This case was dear to my heart because I come
from a family with Deaf/Blindness. In
fact, I resided only 2 blocks from the birthplace, which is located in the
historic district of Tuscumbia. Shortly
after moving to Tuscumbia my Deaf/Blind Mother crossed over and I was able to
hold her CELEBRATION OF LIFE on the beautiful grounds of the Helen Keller
Birthplace. What a fitting tribute to my
Mom, Evelyn deVolpi, my Uncle Joseph
Since I use a wheelchair, the changes really affect my ability to be a part of this memorable historic site. Just knowing that other disabled will share equal access at this site for all time and be able to enjoy the legacy of Helen Keller gives me the greatest joy ever.
What is sad though is that there are still people who do not understand the action that had to be taken to accomplish this accessibility. I would like to thank all of those people who did support the action to see that modifications occurred so EVERYONE can enjoy the birthplace.
Betty L. Ingram
FROM: JAMES LAWSON
TO: GREG SCHWARTZ
DATE: JAN. 31, 2006
Good Morning Greg,
I want to convey my most sincere thanks
to you and your staff for your efforts on my behalf in the
Stephan and Steve both did an excellent
job. Stephan established an excellent non-adversarial working relationship with
the City Attorney, Tina Hughes. Steve Mason did a thorough and accurate survey
of a very big, very non-compliant facility. In fact there were only a few small
differences between Steve's report and the report that their expert prepared. I
think that the fact that
Again my most sincere thanks to all involved in this case.
AND NOW, THE UPDATE:
We now have 1,000 members representing 48 states plus
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF OUR LITIGATION:
Since our September Newsletter (which you received in November), “Access Now” has made progress in settling cases in several states. As we continue to settle more cases, “Access Now” and its attorneys have instituted a management system to guarantee that the agreed-upon work is finished in a timely fashion. Of the 57 cases in which modifications and alterations were supposed to have been completed over the past seven months to make properties A.D.A.-compliant, we are proud to report that the majority were completed on or ahead of schedule.
“Access Now” has filed a total of 937 cases since its inception. Presently, there are 140 cases with Settlement Agreements still outstanding, requiring alterations or modifications which in several cases should have been completed by August 1, 2005, or later. (Obviously, in cases involving hospitals and other large and complex facilities, those post-settlement compliance completions have dates much further out.)
During the past seven months, “Access Now” has entered into 10 additional settlements to make properties A.D.A.-compliant. They include:
Grocery Stores 1
Theme Parks 1
continues to become more national in scope.
The states in which cases have been settled range from the South and the
mid-Atlantic to the
We will keep expanding our geographical presence as best we can as we continue to receive requests for information and assistance from around the country and internationally. Please notify “Access Now” if you become aware of situations where access continues to be denied. We remain solidly in the forefront of the fight for accessibility.
The following is a brief listing of the cases that have been settled JUST SINCE our last newsletter:
Unnamed because of confidentiality clause in settlement agreement, FL
Kroger’s, Knoxville, TN
Second Wicklow, LLC,
Red, Hot & Blue,
Brookstone Stores, national (see class actions)
NOTABLE CASES – There are some cases that are especially important because of their value as precedents or because they remove significant numbers or types of barriers. Several of those types of cases are listed below. Please remember that most defendants in non-class action cases insist on confidentiality as a condition of signing settlement agreements. Therefore, we cannot discuss those cases by name, although they number quite a few. However, several of them are included in the cases listed above.
If any of you has had bad experiences regarding handicapped accessibility with hospitals or other medical facilities in your communities, we want to know so that we can incorporate those concerns into our current efforts. In addition, if you are aware of any hospitals that are doing a great job with accessibility, we want to know that as well, so that we can alert and educate our members.
Likewise, if any of you has had bad experiences regarding handicapped accessibility in your communities, we would like to hear from you so that we can incorporate your concerns into our efforts. We are interested in working hard to create accessibility in all communities.
We are committed to creating the legacy of an accessible world. Please help us to help ALL of us! Thank you!
1. Hospitals – The numbers of individual hospital cases that have been settled or are moving rapidly toward settlement continues to increase every week. There are presently Fairness Hearings scheduled in the 19 class actions listed immediately below.
St. Christopher's Hospital,
We continue to be actively involved in cases involving medical institutions because of our strong belief that they constitute one of the best ways to enhance the quality of life of the disabled community.
The following is a
column written by a blogger in
hospital inclined to settle
By Jeff Sturgeon for “Chat Scan” at www.Roanoke.com, the online service of The Roanoke Times.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which forbids discrimination on the basis of disability, has prompted some hospitals to retrofit bathrooms, rework parking lots and make other changes that blind, deaf, retarded, wheelchair-bound, amputated or otherwise disadvantaged patients need.
hospitals have made changes not technically required until major facility
improvements were untaken (sic) for an unrelated reason. But it would be imprecise
to conclude the hospitals acted on goodwill alone. Many hospitals have signed
legal settlements with a small
Lewis-Gale Medical Center in
Rader, the chief executive officer at Pulaski, said the hospital's original
structure, built in 1972, hasn't been upgraded over the years. But that doesn't
mean the hospital neglects the needs of the disabled. It has closed-caption
television, some telephones for use by those with limited hearing, handicapped
parking, wheelchair ramps and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms in some
locations, for example. However, the hospital recognizes that more
accommodations are possible and is willing to cooperate with the Access Now
court process to attain full
the other hospitals that have settled, Pulaski Community won't owe any money to
Access Now, but, assuming the settlement is signed and approved, will further
retrofit its facilities without admitting guilt or liability. This legal notice
explains the proceedings in
“It’s not your typical lawsuit,” Rader said, adding that HCA Inc. agreed to have ADA issues settled in the context of the Access Now suit for all its facilities. HCA owns Pulaski, Alleghany, Lewis-Gale Medical Center and Montgomery Regional Hospital, among other hospitals.
cite a few examples of the planned improvements at the Pulaski hospital:
Conventional door knobs on the doors to dressing rooms 1 and 2 in the ultrasound
department will be replaced with lever-style hardware. The coat hook in the
chapel will be lowered to 48 inches above the floor from the current height of
67 inches. A wheelchair ramp in the parking lot of Children's Choice Pediatric
The work could take a couple of years. No cost estimate was available.
However, the Florida
Department of Transportation (FDOT), another defendant in the case, has done a
much better job of meeting its commitments.
In the year ending October 31, 2005, FDOT completed work implementing
6. Malls and Shopping Centers: Of the 20 cases mentioned in our last newsletter that have been settled against malls and shopping centers with Time Up Dates (when work is to be completed) through the end of 2005, work has been fully completed in 7 more cases. This is one more indication that these comprehensive settlements are improving the quality of life for the disabled.
7. Norwegian Cruise Line, Ltd.: The Court held a pre-trial hearing on December 27, 2005. The case has been scheduled for hearing on the cruise line’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Settlement negotiations are continuing
with NCL, and we hope they will bear
fruit. However, we are prepared for the motion
hearing, and we will go to trial if negotiations are unsuccessful. In preparation for trial, Access Now’s
experts inspected the Norwegian Wind
on February 18th at the
CLASS ACTIONS – Class actions
affect a large number of disabled persons, usually because a large number of
facilities are involved. We still have
class actions pending against
Brookstone Stores: After the Fairness Hearing on January 4, 2006, Judge Joan Lenard issued an order denying the objection of 17 state Protection and Advocacy organizations and approving the settlement. This milestone settlement encompassing over 350 stores is already being implemented by Brookstone with notices being posted in their stores advising customers that stores are being renovated to make them ADA-compliant. We feel that this settlement will make a major contribution to the quality of life of the disabled who want to use the unique products available at Brookstone. This is a case which was begun over three years ago, and it is most gratifying to have achieved this very substantial outcome that will positively affect the quality of life of thousands of disabled shoppers nationwide.
PLEASE TAKE SPECIAL NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH:
NON-“ACCESS NOW” LITIGATION – We want to keep you informed about important recent litigation around the country, of which you might not be aware, affecting the rights of the disabled. We think it is important for our members to keep abreast of successes realized by and within the disabled community, whether accomplished by “Access Now” or by other organizations. We are all in this fight together!
president and vice
president made clear that Heiko’s renal disease was a significant reason for
his not being promoted. At trial the
bank contended that waste elimination was not a “major life activity” and that
Heiko was therefore not disabled. The 4th
Circuit held to the contrary, finding that waste elimination was a major life activity. It went on to find that Heiko’s thrice-weekly
dialysis constituted a
“substantial limitation” on this major life activity. The district court’s judgment was reversed,
and the case was returned for trial. This
case is especially significant because the 4th Circuit is perhaps
the most conservative court of appeals in the country. At a time when many district courts seem to
oppose enforcement of the
National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has filed a class action suit in
California against Target Corporation, a nationwide discount retailer operating
more than 1,300 stores in 47 states. The
suit charges that Target’s website (www.target.com) is inaccessible to the
blind, violating the
INFORMATION RESOURCES ON AND OFF THE WEB:
The state of
New York City Parks not ADA-Compliant
According to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (
When “Parks” upgraded its
facilities, officials did not develop a Transitional Plan establishing an
overall timetable for providing accessibility.
As a result of “Parks”’ piecemeal approach, new or altered facilities
are often noncompliant because they fail to contain accessibility
elements. “Parks” did not appoint an
There is no logic regarding which accessibility elements are incorporated into “Parks”’ projects:
Wheelchair-accessible ramps led to
comfort stations that did not have ADA-compliant stalls at
“Parks” spent more than $19 million
over 9 years at
After completing capital
improvements to the
“Parks” spent $34.4 million at Van
Cortland Park (Bronx) over a 10 year period but, the walkways around the park’s
lake were not level, and there was a raised threshold in the doorway of a men’s
comfort station in the
The Comptroller’s recommendations
to “Parks” include a major revision in the way it plans and implements capital
projects to ensure that they are ADA-compliant.
Among them, “Parks” must establish
a Transitional Plan with timetables for making facilities and services
efforts, identify and investigate complaints and develop grievance procedures
for handling complaints alleging
We hope that in light of this scathing report “Parks” and the City administration will redouble their efforts to set an example for all New Yorkers by making its facilities ADA-compliant. The full Comptroller’s report is found at http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093006/04n6.pdf
Obscure VA program can help disabled vets
A program that could open the door to the increasingly restrictive Veterans Administration (VA) health care system and provide money for assisted living and home health care is the little-known Aid and Attendance program. Since 1951, the program has provided monthly payments to disabled or homebound veterans and their spouses who have high out-of-pocket medical costs. The eligibility formula balances income against medical bills, so middle-class vets can qualify for payments as high as $1,744 a month. However, a recent study found only about one-fourth of eligible veterans and one-sixth of eligible widows are participating in the Aid and Attendance program.
The program may be especially useful to veterans now that
the VA has clamped down on new health care enrollments for those without
service-connected disabilities. In 2003,
According to federal statistics,
The Aid and Attendance program offsets all unreimbursed medical expenses against a veteran's income. Therefore, an applicant whose income exceeded the Priority 8 limit might find himself or herself eligible under the Aid and Attendance Program if their medical costs are high enough. A doctor must certify that a veteran or spouse has conditions requiring the "aid and attendance" of another person or care center in order to live safely. Veterans who qualify for the Aid and Attendance Program automatically receive full VA health care and prescription benefits.
There are private companies that can help veterans or
their care facilities apply for benefits under the Aid and Attendance
Program. While they charge a fee for
their services, state and
The following story, from Noel Neudeck, who, totally as a volunteer, heads “Wheelchair Access Now Today” in CA, also addresses the plight of veterans, but in addition it speaks to the difficulties of getting corporate America to “do the right thing” when it involves the disabled.
April 18, 2006, 7:31 a.m.
Saving America’s Steakhouse
Calling on Hilton to be the kinda corp it claims to be.
Few Americans would argue that American soldiers should not receive the thanks of our nation for their service, and fewer still would argue that, if returning to our country less than whole and in need of help, soldiers should not receive the support of America's corporate giants.
Hilton Hotel Corporation, then, has something to answer for.
Every Friday is Veterans' Day at Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse in Washington, D.C., where owners, Hal Koster and Marty O'Brien, bring soldiers — primarily amputees — recovering from their wounds at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the restaurant and treat them and their families to a full steak dinner. It is often the first place soldiers appear in public after losing limbs and it is a coveted part of their therapy. You can see the progression — new attendees hang out mainly in the private party room; regulars migrate to the bar in the main part of the restaurant, mingling with patrons and buying drinks.
But Fran O'Brien's is located in the Capital Hilton Hotel and the lease ran out in December. The owners had been asking for a new lease since the fall and management had been assuring them it would be renewed. Two weeks ago, they were given until May 1 to vacate.
There are two possible scenarios, and neither says much for Hilton.
Scenario number one says Hilton is worried about a lawsuit. The hotel is in violation of Americans With Disabilities Act. Hilton has not made the basement restaurant ADA compliant — part of the lease negotiation was to have been for the replacement of a non-working escalator in the Hilton lobby with an ADA-compliant elevator. Since there were no negotiations, there is no elevator. The soldiers have been using a steep stairwell or the service elevator. Perhaps Hilton doesn't know that there have, in fact, been several accidents, but the soldiers, being soldiers, are more interested in dinner than lawsuits.
ADA noncompliance is illegal, but more importantly, it is shameful when the chief victims are veterans who have been injured in service to our country. But the compliance issue is the better of the two possibilities.
Scenario number two is that Hilton is uncomfortable with so many wounded soldiers passing through its lobby on the way to the restaurant and worries about the impact it will have on the hotel guests.
Hilton's website proudly boasts of its corporate philanthropy and starts its paean to itself with, "We at Hilton recognize our responsibility to corporate citizenship
wherever we do business." How better to be responsible corporate citizens than to continue to house Fran O'Brien's and the wounded soldiers it serves?
Hilton has been inundated by calls and e-mails from Americans who are appalled to see veterans treated shabbily by a corporate giant. The Capital Hilton's website Monday — for a few hours — announced the eviction of Fran O'Brien's as "strictly a business decision" and that the hotel had offered to host a dinner for the troops on May 5. But by evening, the notice was gone and the website had its usual advertisement for the restaurant.
Col. Jonathan Jaffin, at the time commander of the medical corps at Walter Reed, wrote of the dinners:
The benefit to these soldiers and their families is incalculable... While the steak dinner is in itself a treat for those who have been eating in a dining facility ... the meal is so much more than a dinner: it is a night out, a chance to get away from the hospital environment for a few hours, an evening to do something as normal as going to a restaurant for dinner. Even more, it is a tangible demonstration of the support, respect, and even love that Americans feel for our troops.
Hilton Hotels should be doing everything it can to ensure that our soldiers have a safe, friendly, ADA-compliant Fran O'Brien's as a "tangible demonstration of the support, respect and even love" that a corporate giant can show to our troops. Anything less is unworthy of a major American corporation.
— Shoshana Bryen is director of special projects for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a proud supporter of the Fran O'Brien's Friday-night dinners.
We wrote in our September, 2005 newsletter
about the following problem concerning airlines and service animals, and we
included therein a copy of our letter to the
Allan Appel: Disabled people's animals may soon find the skies uninviting
©Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, March 21, 2006 Reprinted by permission.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed new rules that would make the skies very unfriendly for disabled people traveling with service animals. The DOT would regulate changes in the Air Carrier Access Act. These proposed changes would allow airlines three options if a service dog is too big to sit in the small amount of space directly in front of the owner's seat.
The three options include charging the disabled passenger for an extra ticket, or putting the dog in the cargo hold; or making the passenger and dog wait for a later flight. All three of these alternatives are outrageous and unacceptable.
Charging the passenger for a second seat would disenfranchise many disabled people, unable to pay two fares.
Shipping the dog in the cargo hold is both unacceptable and fraught with danger for the animal. Separating the service animal from the disabled passenger threatens the person's independence. And it has been
estimated about 5,000 animals shipped in the cargo hold are lost, injured or killed every year.
Making the team wait for a later flight likewise makes no sense. First, the same crowded conditions may exist on other flights. Also, the passenger may be forced to miss connections or scheduled pick-ups or appointments at the destination.
The current airline practices provide for an empty seat where space is available, or asking for a volunteer to share leg space with the service dog. This policy has served both the airlines and the public well. It imposes no financial burden on either the airline or the disabled passenger. And it also happens to implement the very spirit of the Air Carrier Access Act.
Service animals may include guide dogs for the visually impaired. Service dogs also help people who are deaf or otherwise have low hearing capacity and may assist people with difficulty maintaining balance or warn of an impending seizure or other unanticipated events.
This new measure, first proposed in November 2004, may go into effect as early as this summer. Contact your local congressmen and senators to urge DOT to withdraw this proposed rule immediately.
Thousands of disabled people who travel with service animals are depending on our support.
MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS OF INTEREST:
We hope you will enjoy these thought-provoking articles.
January 26, 2006
By Stephanie Barton-Farcas
When the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines
“artist” as “a person skilled in one of the fine arts” or “one who is adept at
something,” it doesn’t add that an artist must be a hearing, seeing,
four-limbed, perfectly formed, white, English-speaking person. When members of our theatre company, Nicu’s
Spoon, take a walk on the streets of
But look again – at the blind lady with the guide dog, the two teenagers speaking sign language in the back of the subway car, the young man in a wheelchair with a briefcase tucked into its side pocket, the girl with the prosthetic arm. Don’t look in pity. They have fine, rich lives. But the artists among them seek the work that we – the theatre community – can do with them. And whether we realize it or not, we need them as well: to enrich us and to help create an onstage world that is more real and reflective of society.
Our company has worked with handicapped (yes, you are allowed to say the word, and it won’t hurt a bit) artists of all kinds for nearly six years. Each disabled artist (deaf, blind, with cerebral palsy, epileptic, diabetic, in a wheelchair, or with prosthetic limbs) creates a different physical challenge for the artist and the company, and thus each has vastly different needs. Companies often think that meeting these needs will be expensive and time-consuming, but in truth it is no more time-consuming than dealing with an actor with memorization problems and no more expensive than having to pay an actor who needs to take the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan.
As a theatre company, you have to want to work with these amazing artists. Don’t do it just to get the funds or to impress someone and seem politically correct. It demeans both you and them, and they’ll know in an instant. Be upfront about working with them and ask about their needs and limitations. They know they’re disabled, so your bringing it up won’t come as a surprise. Deal with what to call their disability, or say to the cast, “If you don’t know, ask them. They’ll tell you.” Find out what they need at rehearsal in order to be their best. What are their technical needs? What medical needs, if any, do they have? What are the possible risks? (For example, if you choose to work with an epileptic actor, as we have, you will run the risk of possible seizure on stage, and you must accept that.) And will that adorable guide dog really steal the show? Talk it out with them and the cast, openly and with humor.
Hire these performers for themselves and all their richness. Make the effort to seek them out. Seek out and cast all kinds of actors. Mix it up. Everyone could be playing all sorts of roles. Most recently, in our production of Stumps, I was asked by a deaf actor (in the nicest way possible) why I hadn’t hired only hearing actors who could sign, as it would have been so much easier for the rehearsal and production process. My gentle reply was that I cast him and the others for their talent, not their ears. I explained their talent was worth any extra effort we had to put in. And I meant it.
My company is now ending season five and preparing for season six, and it seems we can’t not think outside the box with regard to the amazing talent in this city and across the country. It does seem odd to me that some companies wouldn’t want to work with all of that rich smorgasbord of talent. My advice? Do it. You’ll find it easier than you thought.
I have always believed that art has the power to transform – to change us and the world we live in. I still do. But it’s up to us to take the risk and make it happen. So go ahead. Sample the smorgasbord!
Stephanie Barton-Farcas is artistic director of Nicu’s Spoon, a New York City-based theatre company.
With the recent death of Rosa Parks having been much in the news, the following article struck us as one in which the disability community and its supporters would be very interested. I believe that re-visiting why, how, when and where the Disability Movement got started would be most enlightening for all of us:
The Other Movement That Rosa Parks Inspired
By Sitting Down, She Made Room for the Disabled
By Charles Wilson
On an unseasonably
warm September day in 1984, about a dozen men and women rolled their
wheelchairs in front of a city bus that was pulling onto
Rosa Parks's act of courage in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 did more than dismantle the system of racial segregation on public transportation. Her refusal to give up her seat to a white man also created a legacy she never could have foreseen. It was through Parks's example that the disabled community transformed its own often disorganized cause into a unified disability rights movement. "Had it not been for Parks and the bus boycott, there is no question that the disability rights movement would have been light-years behind, if it would have ever occurred," says Michael Auberger, a disability rights activist who was one of the first to place his wheelchair in front of a bus in the early 1980s. "Her genius was that she saw the bus as the great integrator: It took you to work, it took you to play, it took you to places that you were never before seen. We began to see the bus the same way, too, and it empowered a group of people who had been just as disenfranchised as African Americans."
The disability rights movement could in no sense have been called a movement when Parks refused to yield her seat. At that time, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities reached over 70 percent, and organizations that rallied for rights for people with disabilities focused on solutions that were specific to a single disorder. "The disability community was fragmented," says Bob Kafka, a quadriplegic whobroke his neck in 1973 and who was an early organizer for ADAPT. "The deaf community wanted interpreters. People with mobility issues wanted curb cuts. The blind wanted more sensory communication. Everyone saw themselves as a deaf person, or a blind person, or a mental health person. We were tossed salad, not fondue."
Parks's action offered these separate communities a strategy that unified their various wishes. "Rosa Parks energized us in that she was the perfect symbol for when the meek become militant," says Kafka. "She was someone who was willing to cross the line." And the fight for accessible public transportation was to be the single issue that catalyzed disparate disability groups into a common cause. By the 1960s and '70s, many cities had introduced paratransit services that picked up disabled patients. The officials who controlled city budgets, though, typically stipulated that these buses could be used by an individual only a few times a monthand that the buses could be used only by appointment. So, in the late '70s and early '80s, some activists began to extend the logic of Parks's silent act of defiance to their own cause: Buses that divided people into separate categories, they said, were inherently unequal. Disabled people shouldn't be limited to using paratransit buses. They deserved to ride the city buses, just like everyone else.
"How could you go to school, or go on a date, or volunteer somewhere if the only trips deemed worth funding for you were medical trips?" wrote ADAPT member Stephanie Thomas in her introduction to "To Ride the Public's Buses," a collection of articles about the early bus actions that appeared in Disability Rag. "How could you get a job if you could only get 3 rides a week? If you were never on time?"
Parks's method of dissent – sitting still – was well suited to a community in which many people found themselves having to do that very thing all day long. Within two decades of her refusal to give up her seat, disabled people in cities across the country began staging their own "sit-ins" by parking their wheelchairs in front of ill-equipped city buses -- or, alternatively, by ditching their wheelchairs and crawling onto the stairs of the bus vestibules.
Some of the sit-ins were individual acts of defiance. In Hartford, Conn., 63-year-old Edith Harris parked her wheelchair in front of 10 separate local buses on a single day after waiting nearly two hours for an accessible bus. Increasingly, though, the sit-ins were organized by ADAPT and involved many wheelchair users at a single location.
These actions began to change both how disabled people were perceived and how they perceived themselves. "Without the history of Parks and Martin Luther King, the only argument that the disability community had was the Jerry Lewis Principle," explains Auberger. "The Poor Pathetic Cripple Principle. But if you take a single disabled person and you show them that they can stop a bus, you've empowered that person. And you've made them feel they had rights."
The sit-ins also began
to bring about concrete changes in the policies of urban transportation boards.
In 1983, the city of
If Rosa Parks left a lasting legacy on the disability rights movement, it is important to recognize that it is a legacy that is largely unfinished. A restored version of the bus that Rosa Parks rode in Montgomery recently went on display at the Henry Ford Museum near Detroit, the city where Parks lived her last decades and died last
Monday. Detroit's mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, who is up for reelection on Nov. 8, memorialized Parks by saying that "she stood up by sitting down. I'm only standing here because of her."
Kilpatrick failed to
mention a further irony, though: The Justice Department joined a suit against
his city in March. It was initially filed in August 2004, by Richard Bernstein,
a blind 31-year-old lawyer from the
Mayor Kilpatrick is not going to the wall, and neither are many other mayors in this country. A 2002 federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics study found that 6 million Americans with disabilities still have trouble obtaining the transportation they need. Many civic leaders and officials at transit organizations have made arguments about the economic difficulty of installing lifts on buses and maintaining them. But they are seeing only one side of the argument: More people in the disability community would pursue jobs and pay more taxes if they could only trust that they could get to work and back safely.
Public officials who offered elaborate eulogies to Parks's memory last week should evaluate whether they are truly living up to the power of her ideas. During a visit to Detroit in August to speak to disabled transit riders for a project I was working on, I met Robert Harvey, who last winter hurled his wheelchair in front of a bus pulling onto Woodward Avenue after four drivers in a row had passed him by. (He was knocked to the curb.) I met Carolyn Reed, who has spina bifida and had lost a job because she could rarely find a bus that would get her to work on time. Her able-bodied friends had also recently stopped inviting her to the movies. She guessed why: A few times over the past months, they had found themselves waiting late at night with her for hours to catch a bus with a working lift. "I'd say, 'Go ahead, go ahead, I'll be all right,' " she told me. "And they'd say, 'We're not leaving you out here.' " I also met Willie Cochran, a double amputee who once waited six hours in freezing temperatures for a bus that would take him home from dialysis treatment.
None of this should be
Author's e-mail: email@example.com
Charles Wilson, a writer who lives in New York City, has been doing research for a book about the disability rights movement.
Recently, I met with a group of
wheelchair-users and their companions who were visiting
As you can see, we and other disability rights advocates have been quite busy continuing in our missions. No matter how much work is done, there is always more waiting to be tackled. We sincerely hope that, if you are not already a member of Access Now, you will sign on to become one after having received this newsletter. (See Membership Form at beginning of this newsletter.) Remember, no dues or donations are required (although, of course, donations are appreciated). What we need most is to increase our membership, because the larger our numbers, the louder our voice and the greater our strength!
Thank you all and please:
IF YOU HAVE A CHANGE OF POSTAL ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER OR EMAIL ADDRESS PLEASE, PLEASE LET US KNOW SO THAT WE CAN KEEP OUR FILES UPDATED AND SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU.
BEST WISHES FOR CONTINUED PROGRESS IN ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES!
Access Now, Inc.
Phyllis F. Resnick