"Newsletter – December 2006" table of contents
NEWSLETTER UPDATE – DECEMBER, 2006
FROM PHYLLIS F. RESNICK, PRESIDENT
HELLO, AGAIN, EVERYBODY!!!!!
Well, another 6 months have passed since our last newsletter and much has happened in the world of “Access Now”. We have had several Class Action Fairness Hearings, a trial and many Settlements. It has been an active, interesting, challenging, sometimes aggravating, but mostly gratifying time! Some things are happening in the overall A.D.A. (Americans with Disabilities Act) world as well; more about all of the above later in this newsletter.
We have pointed out to those of you who have been receiving this newsletter for some time that, sadly, many entities continue to fail to comply with the A.D.A., despite the fact that the law was enacted in 1990. As we have said before, we continue to press on with cases against a variety of entities. On a continuing basis, virtually daily, we receive complaints from disabled persons who are routinely being denied their rights under this civil rights law. There is no such thing as a “large” or “small” case, only a large or small entity and we take pride in the fact that we do not limit our efforts to either category. The resolution of high profile cases of legal “first impression”, as well as of those involving neighborhood businesses have a great impact on the daily lives of the disabled among us (although we want to make clear that it is not our aim to put anyone out of business.)
AS AN INTRODUCTION TO OUR WORK, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NEW TO US, WE WOULD LIKE TO BEGIN WITH THE FOLLOWING TESTIMONY AND A MESSAGE FROM A MEMBER. THEY SHOW THAT WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE:
Testimony from Richard Skaff before the Housing and Buildings Committee of the New York City Council
Retired Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office on Disability, and Building Official, City and County of San Francisco, California Coalition of Disability Access Professionals
Hello. My name is Richard Skaff. I have served as a building official with the City of San Francisco for the building department, the department of public Works, and most recently, as the deputy director of the mayor’s office on disability. Thank you for patiently listening to testimony on every side of this important issue. I have previously served as an elected official as well. So I know what it is like to hear so many different viewpoints on something as complex as a building code.
Quite frankly, I didn’t think about building codes much until I was injured 27 years ago. Then, at that point in my life, it became very clear to me just how important building and other safety codes are to people with disabilities. It doesn’t matter where you live, if you have a disability, building codes really do make a big difference in an individual’s ability to function in their community. That is why I wanted to speak with you today. As you can imagine, it is not an easy process for me to travel all the way across the country. I made this trip specifically to be able to speak at this hearing.
I made the decision to come to New York City because the issues you are considering today will have a real and lasting impact on the approximately 20% of our country’s population, people with disabilities. Your decision will impact people who use wheelchairs; your decision will impact people who have visual or hearing disabilities; your decision will impact people who don’t have a disability yet. But, as they age, will have some type of disabling condition.
As I mentioned earlier, until retiring in May of this year, I was a building official for the City of San Francisco. I still am a member of the California Building Officials Chapter of the ICC (International Code Council) and have fifteen years of experience with that organization. You have heard that the ICC process is strictly controlled by building officials. I came to your hearing today to inform you how difficult the ICC’s system makes it for people with disabilities to even be heard when codes are being developed. It is harder still for them to be part of the final code adoption process.
I have seen code development under the ICC, and it was not inclusive. Each time advocates for the disability community would attempt to raise code related issues, we were shut out. Our proposals were stopped time after time after time. Quite simply, I don’t think that most of the ICC decision makers understood the issues facing those of us with disabilities. Quite frankly, I don’t think they knew what to do when we spoke up.
In contrast, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) has a long history of involving everyone in their code development process. Even with NFPA’s open process, NFPA has recognized that they needed to do more to get sufficient input from the disability community. In the NFPA system, that can happen. And, in the last few months, NFPA has developed and implemented a new national disability access advisory committee. In the NFPA process, we have a real voice. For many years, NFPA has been balancing the needs of many different groups to develop safety codes that are used world wide.
I know that you are going to hear from people about an ICC standard that is widely used in the area of disability. What you will be told about its national acceptance by the building and design community is true, but many in the disability community know that the ICC standard does not do enough. For years, ICC has essentially been saying to the disabled community that that one standard should address all of our needs. We don’t really get a full degree of input on their other documents. Well, it doesn’t meet all of our needs. In fact, building codes, fire codes and other safety codes impact our lives and we need to have the greatest degree of input in those codes as well. But, for some reason, the ICC does not have a process that allows us the level of input to develop what is needed for our community.
I am not here to tell you which code to adopt. I don’t think that would be appropriate. However, I came today to provide you with input about our positive experience with NFPA in California. Through NFPA, we finally have an opportunity to be involved in every step of the development process for building codes that affect our lives and function.
I will tell you that if you vote for intro 368, you will be working with a better code development process that will better meet the needs of people with disabilities. We feel that our experience with NFPA has been beneficial to the disability community. I know there will be times when I disagree with the outcome of an NFPA decision, but I think NFPA is structured to allow people with disabilities to have more input when it comes to the development of safety codes. Thanks again for your time.
From: Dan Murphy [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, May 19, 2006 4:48 PM
To: Dan Murphy
Subject: V.A.S.S.: a free service offered to writers to encourage development of characters with disabilities
Friends in and out of the biz:
I am writing to let you know I am working full time developing a not for profit consulting service called Value Added Script Services or V.A.S.S. for your information and potential use as writers, producers, actors, etc. V.A.S.S. is a free service provided by volunteer performers with disabilities (PWD) to WGA writers to help them create characters with disabilities in their scripts.
V.A.S.S. is also available to help producers and casting directors in any way necessary. The V.A.S.S. team is united in doing this because we all know from experience what a recent SAG/U.C.L.A. study revealed: that performers with disabilities only appear in film and TV .5% of the time. That’s pretty bad considering U.S. Census data states that people with disabilities make up 20% of the population.
Attached is an executive summary and link to our website. Over the last few months, I have made great strides working with the guilds and getting the support of industry leaders like Pete Farrelly, Marlee Matlin, Jason Alexander, Angel Rivera, Chemin Bernard, Ricky Blitt, and many others. Hopefully, within a week or so, I will have a major PR firm on board who will use all of this juice to help us convince writers and producers to utilize our really strong and creative group of artists.