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We Demand Accessible Ferries
The Accessible Ferry Song
Tackling the Taxi and Limousine Commission
Accessible Taxis Song
Accessible Black Cars Coming Soon - 800-253-1443
Access-A-Ride Customers Drive Home Point: Service is Poor
New York City Settles Curb Ramp Lawsuit
Cities Must Make Public Sidewalks Accessible
Remembering Justin - A Conversation
We Demand Accessible Ferries!
by Robert Levine and Frieda Zames
Disabled In Action, a member of the Ferries for All Campaign (a coalition of advocates who are pushing for accessible ferry services), demands that New York City immediately remedy the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities by passing a local law. These inaccessible ferry services that provide interborough and inter- and intra-state transit have been operating in NYC since the mid-1990s. The disability community alerted the city and ferry owners to the necessity for access, but we were ignored.
When NYC first issued licenses for ferry service on city-owned piers in 1994, ferry service did not catch on. After 9/11 this new form of transit increased fivefold and soon after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed to provide billions of dollars to expand and increase the ferry system on the East and Hudson Rivers.
Councilmember Margarita Lopez - chair of the Committee on Disability (Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse, and Disability Services) -- held a press conference on September 12, 2002 on Pier 11 to announce her plan to introduce a local law. This legislation sets specific guidelines and accessibility standards in relation to mandating accessible piers, docks, ferry and waterborne transportation services for people with disabilities. Barrier-free ferry services will benefit members of the public of all ages, particularly seniors who often have mobility or other disabling impairments.
This legislation sets specific guidelines and accessibility standards in relation to mandating accessible piers, docks, ferry and waterborne transportation services for people with disabilities. Barrier-free ferry services will benefit members of the public of all ages, particularly seniors who often have mobility or other disabling impairments.
At the same location as the press conference, DIA demonstrated for wheelchair accessible ferries. We wore signs, we chanted, and we sang "The Accessible Ferry Song," written by Daniel Robert and Nadina LaSpina, which starts:
Just as we were about to leave, a ferry pulled up to an accessible slip. We all raced to get on board. But the instant the captain saw us, he zoomed away. Then he docked at another accessible slip. Again, we all ran to get on the ferry, but he again ran away. Margarita yelled out,
Editorís Note: This is the proposed law before the NYC City Council. Call and write your council members and Mayor Bloomberg to ask them to sign on their support for this law.
Accessible Passenger Ferry Services Transportation Act ("APFSTA")
This new Local Law sets uniform standards to ensure that passenger ferry transportation services are accessible and safe for people with disabilities throughout the City of New York. Currently, people with disabilities attempting to travel by commuter ferry transportation are not assured that they can access all the passenger piers, docks, and ferry boats. This legislation will benefit all members of the public, and is particularly beneficial to seniors who often have mobility or other disabling impairments.
The specific standards for accessibility and safety provided by the APFSTA complies with the Americans with Disabilities Actís (ADA) mandate of reasonable accommodations for the disabled and addresses serious concerns of public safety and welfare as follows:
The Accessible Ferry Song
(tune: Home On The Range)
words by Danny Robert and Nadina LaSpina
O give me a boat
Ferries, ferries for all,
O give me a ferry,
Ferries, ferries etc.
Margarita is smart
Ferries, ferries etc.
Coda for appropriate occasions, like 9-12-02:
Hail, hail, the gangís all here
by Nadina LaSpina and Danny Robert
At 11 a.m. on Tuesday September 3, 2002, a small group of Disabled In Action activists assembled at the corner of Rector and Washington Streets in lower Manhattan. At 11:15am, after a brief strategy session, DIA's President Anthony Trocchia led the group single file down Rector Street to number 40. Trocchia, together with DIA Board Member and ADAPT organizer Nadina LaSpina, entered the building and began negotiating with the security personnel.
After checking with customer service, security allowed the group to enter, telling them to go to the eighth floor.
With Trocchia and LaSpina were activists Frieda Zames (DIAís Vice President), Alexander Wood (DIA Member and 504 Clubís President), Carmelo Gonzales (DIA Board Member), Danny Robert (DIA Board Member), Carr Massi (DIA Member and 504 Clubís Secretary), Anita Spaulding (DIA member), Robert Levine (DIA Board Member), all wheelchair users, and Phil Bennett (DIA Board Member) on foot. Also present were Carmelo's attendant Nelson and two National Lawyers Guild members, attorney Aaron Frischberg and his assistant Rebecca. The activists had predetermined to do whatever necessary up to and including arrest, hence the presence of an attorney.
They all quickly single filed into the TLC office and lined up in the corridor ignoring the protestations of the receptionist. They demanded to see Commissioner Matthew Daus.
Moments later several TLC functionaries led by Public Relations Director Allan Fromberg emerged. Trocchia presented Fromberg with a letter demanding that a meeting with Commissioner Daus be scheduled within two weeks. To be addressed at the meeting were DIAís demands, which included that all new taxi medallions be used for wheelchair accessible vehicles, and that monetary penalties be imposed for non-compliance with the Wheelchair Accessible For-Hire Vehicles (FHV) Policy, which was supposed to have taken effect 10/31/2001.
Fromberg told the group that Daus was not there but agreed to attempt to reach him by cell phone. When he came back a half hour later, to inform the group that the commissioner had been contacted and had agreed to a meeting, Fromberg was all smiles. But when Trocchia repeated:
A lengthy discussion ensued during which the activists suggested alternative solutions.
Fromberg turned on his heels and disappeared into an inner office without another word."If the commissioner is not here, you can sign on his behalf,"said Trocchia.
But at 3 p.m., Alan Fromberg reemerged and handed Trocchia a piece of paper.
After carefully scrutinizing the letter, the activists agreed that they had achieved their aim. They filed out triumphantly. On Rector Street they joined a small group of DIA activists who had been demonstrating in support of the sit-in. Nadina LaSpina read the Fromberg letter aloud. The reading was punctuated by cheers of victory. With a determined expression, Anthony Trocchia commented:
Tackling The Taxi & Limousine Commission
by Anthony Trocchia
Some members of DIA met with TLC Commissioner/Chair Matthew W. Daus on September 18, 2002. What began as Daus speaking grandiosely about the TLC's commitment to wheelchair accessible taxis and livery cars soon evolved into a confrontation. I didn't mince words letting Daus know how disappointed we've been with the TLC's slow pace. At one point, Daus threatened to walk out. He abruptly got up and started to walk out. I then said to the members of DIA,
Daus turned around and thought twice about leaving. He realized we were serious. Truth is, several people in attendance were prepared to engage in a sit-in. We had brought food and drinks to sustain us. Suddenly, Daus' tone changed. He requested from us that he wanted no more demonstrations or protests. Of the four points (demands) we had given him to review at an earlier date, he somewhat committed to two: designating two people at the TLC as liaisons to the disabled population, and meeting with the disabled population exclusive of the TLC's Disability Advisory Board.
There were two demands Daus danced around:
I would have liked to leave the meeting knowing a major victory was achieved. I suppose nothing comes easy, especially for our community. I believe, however, the TLC now knows how serious we are and they're nervous. I can't promise Daus that DIA will refrain from demonstrating. Sometimes it's the last resort when all else has failed. At the next meeting, I will attempt to gain some promises from Daus. People with disabilities in New York City have been waiting patiently. The time has come for the TLC to show results. I don't expect it will be a smooth ride, but I am confident that folks at TLC know we mean business.
I want to thank everyone who attended the meeting on September 18.
Editorís Note: The next meeting was held on November 19th. The TLC was cordial, but we still did not have any accessible black cars or liveries or taxis, and the TLC would only talk about black cars. The TLC passed around a brochure about the new accessible black cars. There was some discussion about giving out cell phone numbers of the five current wheelchair-accessible medallion taxicabs, but everyone realized the drivers pick up hails and would be quickly inundated with calls if the numbers were widely disseminated, so nothing was done about this idea.
Accessible Taxis Song
by Danny Robert
(to the tune "This Land Is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie)
Accessible Black Cars Coming Soon
by Jean Ryan
In an interview on October 14, 2002, with Victor Dizengoff, Executive Director of the Black Car Assistance Corporation (a trade association for the black car industry), the Activist learned that, finally, the disability community would soon have access to wheelchair-accessible black cars we can call for door-to-door service. As noted elsewhere, this solution is not going to service most people with disabilities because black cars are about three times more expensive than cash-accepting car services (livery) which most people use when they need door-to-door for-hire service. But, car services are not now wheelchair accessible.
Who would use accessible black cars? Someone who is desperate enough to go somewhere and pay a small fortune to get there because there is no other reliable way, perhaps to an important family event, a funeral, the airport, a meeting. Many big employers pay for black car rides for their employees. Access-A-Ride will reimburse riders for black car rates but the rider has to have an AAR authorization number, a receipt, and lay out the money in advance through a credit card. A functioning accessible black car service could possibly pave the way for vouchers for back-up service and to provide rides when AAR has no rides. Other cities do this.
The four wheelchair-accessible vans which were used for several years by Symphony in a collaboration between Executive Transportation and Easter Seals will also be used by this new service set up by the Black Car Assistance Corporation. The new company is going to be called Symphony Transportation, LLC, and will be under the auspices of Golden Touch Transportation, Inc. in Flushing, and also with Easter Seals. Easter Seals will be responsible for training drivers and marketing the new service to the disability community. Golden Touch will maintain the vehicles, provide drivers, and do the billing. Golden Touch already provides van service for airline pilots and flight attendants. The drivers have been trained, but the four vehicles need a little more time to be refurbished for service. Details like what the charges will be and training the phone operators have not yet been worked out. The Symphony vans hold one wheelchair, two if one is very small.
Additionally, two new accessible vans have been ordered for the new Symphony black car service. They will be made by Starcraft of Goshen, Indiana, and should arrive in early 2003. Mr. Neokleous said they will be rear entry vans, and they will not have a lift. Like the Symphony vans, they will be low-floor ramp vehicles and they will have room for two wheelchair users, or, hopefully, two scooter users plus ambulatory passengers. They have a Mercedes engine and are supposed to be very comfortable. If the demand is there, Symphony will order more vans in the future.
There are pros and cons to both side and rear-entry wheelchair accessible vans. On a side-entry van, if there are cars parked at the curb, or if you are on the driverís side of a one-way street, you cannot easily get to the ramp. With a rear-entry van, you have to go into the street to get into the van. What if there arenít any curb-cuts nearby?
One of the big complaints of the disability community, besides the cost of black cars, is that credit cards or accounts (tied to a credit card) must be used. Black cars do not take cash. Mr. Dizengoff explained this by saying that one requirement to be a black car service is that most or all of the rides are paid by credit card. However, the black car companies cannot require riders to have an account with them.
At the September 18, 2002, meeting between the TLC, Black Car Assistance Corporation, and the disability community, activists were given a list of 50 black car companies who had been required to have wheelchair-accessible service by September 3, 2002. Several DIA members divided up the list and called the 50 companies in late September. No one was providing accessible service.
By late September, about 38 of the companies had signed on to the Black Car Assistance Corporation accessible service (which wasnít working yet), but due to activistís complaints and the fear of TLC enforcement/reprisals, more companies had signed on by mid-October, and Mr. Dizengoff expected to have at least another 30 signing on. He said that there are 50 black car companies that the TLC recognizes as black car companies according to TLC standards, but there are 60 other companies, limousine companies, which, in a loophole, are not now required by the TLC to provide wheelchair accessible service. The limousine companies seem identical to black car companies to the average observer. Only the 50 companies recognized by the TLC as black car companies must provide wheelchair-accessible service, but they do not have to do it through Symphony. If they want to, they can provide their own wheelchair-accessible service.
The Activist wondered how the members of the Black Car Assistance Corporation will know about the accessible Symphony service and how people will access it. Good communication is key. The black car companies will be notified by fax, e-mail, and a general meeting about how to book a ride. When people with disabilities call the black car companies for a ride, the dispatcher will take their phone number and give it to the Symphony dispatcher who will call them back with a pick-up time (black cars are quite accurate with pick-up times). People with a credit card can also call the 800 number for Symphony and deal with the dispatchers directly. People who have black-car vouchers from their job will have to work something out with their company and Symphony.
It will be up to the disability community to call companies and find out if they are really offering rides and complain to Barbara Schechter at 212-676-1010 with details if the company is not providing rides. Black car companies who do not participate in Symphony will have to provide their own wheelchair accessible transportation or face enforcement by the TLC. All companies are supposed to provide "comparable" wheelchair-accessible service, so we should not have to wait any longer than ambulatory people do for rides.
Anthony Trocchia, Vice Chair of Taxis for All and President of DIA, said,
In the future, when the livery owners are required by the TLC to provide wheelchair accessible service, they wonít have the advantage of a ready-made fleet of four cars to start with, although four would seem to be a totally inadequate number for liveries considering how many people need affordable transportation and how many car services there are in the five boroughs.
Access-A-Ride customers drive home point: Service is poor
But Transit official tells Council committees that program has improved
By Michael Wagner
Staten Island Advance - December 06, 2002 - Access-A-Ride officials were grilled for more than two hours yesterday by City Council members determined to get answers about the problem-riddled alternate transit system for the disabled.
Between 15 and 20 Access-A-Ride users showed up at the hearing and at least six gave impassioned testimony about their trials in getting rides. One man described Access-A-Ride as worse than walking
The joint hearing by the Council's committees on disability services and transportation was a follow-up to an April 23 hearing on the same topic.
Officials seemed less than pleased with the progress reported since the spring by New York City Transit, which administers the program.
Howard Ende, vice president of paratransit for New York City Transit, argued the program, mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, has made huge strides. A new computer system coordinating scheduling and reservations has been brought online, and ridership is up 20 percent since April, he said.
Complaints also have dropped from eight for every 1,000 trips to four, the national average. And the city's paratransit fleet is growing, with 100 more vehicles due to be delivered by January, Ende noted.
A new global positioning satellite system may be in use within two years, giving commuters -- according to Ms. Lopez --
Customers are left on hold on the telephone for only 40 seconds on average now -- compared to eight minutes in April -- and vehicles show up on time 90.3 percent of the time, Ende said.
But users, part of the city's most vulnerable population, described a far different picture of Access-A-Ride, one filled with perpetually late arrivals, rude and uncooperative dispatchers, and punitive policies that hurt clients.
At Ms. Lopez's behest, Ende promised yesterday to establish a committee to field complaints directly from riders.
Yes, It's "Accessible"
You Just Can't Get There
by Randy Kennedy
New York Times - July 23, 2002 - When people speak of having a bad subway day, it is generally understood that the day in question took place in the subway.
For Anthony Trocchia, this is not exactly the way it works. In fact, he explains, having trouble in the subway - on the subway, dare he dream - would be a kind of minor victory, something to be savored while stuck in the tunnel.
It was just after 9 a.m. yesterday, and he was explaining this in a humid corner of the Jamaica Center subway station, laughing the way people sometimes laugh to emphasize how thoroughly unfunny something is. This was because Mr. Trocchia had found himself, once again, in the role of the subway Moses.
Not to conflate platforms with the promised land, but if you make your way around New York in a wheelchair, as Mr. Trocchia does, and you would like to do so in the subway - using the 38 stations that transit officials have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last decade to make accessible for disabled riders - reaching the platform is the minimum requirement.
Mr. Trocchia would not be able to do that yesterday morning. He would look down a short staircase and see the platform stretching out in front of him. He would see the E train pulling in. Then he would look at the elevator door in front of him, the one with the ragged red plastic tape stretched in front of it. And he would slowly turn his motorized wheelchair around for a trip back to the street.
In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. Trocchia, 33, who has muscular dystrophy and has been unable to walk since he was 11, is not just any guy in a wheelchair trying to use the subway. He is president of an advocacy group, Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York, and he had invited a reporter to meet him in Jamaica yesterday to explore the workings, or nonworkings, of the subway from the perspective of a wheelchair seat.
He had not set out hoping to find dysfunction. In fact, Mr. Trocchia - who regularly rides city buses and praises how well they work for passengers in wheelchairs - had chosen one of the most accessible stretches in the subway, three stations in a row along the E line in Jamaica.
Before he left his home in Brooklyn, he had called the New York City Transit hot line that provides information about broken elevators and had learned that no problems had been reported at any of the three stations.
And indeed, at Jamaica Center around 9, it seemed as if things had improved since the last time he had tried, and failed, to use the subway: The elevator from the street worked when he pushed the button. (Mr. Trocchia rolled into it with the caution born of experience.
Stoically patient, cracking jokes in a musical voice, Mr. Trocchia made his way back to the street and rolled eight blocks down Archer Avenue to the Sutphin Boulevard station, which is listed as being wheelchair accessible on New York City Transit's Web site (www.mta.nyc.ny.us). And indeed, in theory, one might concede that it is accessible, except that the elevator is in the middle of a construction project and has been shut down for several months.
Mr. Trocchia began buttonholing employees to see if they knew of another elevator, but his question was met mostly with blank stares. A helpful New York State Police officer offered to get a partner and carry the wheelchair down the stairs, until he was told that it weighed 300 pounds.
Mr. Trocchia rolled on. (
His last attempt was made at the Jamaica-Van Wyck Station, where the elevator was working, but the button at street level was not. Mr. Trocchia waited for the elevator to be brought up from the mezzanine, where the button did work. But upon reaching the platform - at 10:20, more than an hour after he started trying to take the subway - he was finally defeated by the obstacle he had known he would find.
When E trains arrived, their thresholds were about 4 inches higher than the platform, making it virtually impossible for Mr. Trocchia to enter the train without his chair flipping over backward. A platform riser, which has been installed in some other accessible stations, was absent at Van Wyck, meaning that the elevator did little more than provide a sightseeing trip to the platform.
Mr. Trocchia, smiling a little sarcastically, mentioned that an elevator was scheduled to be installed in the subway station nearest his home in Williamsburg.
Transportation Website Links
U.S. Department Of Transportation Accessibility Page
Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation In Our Nation)
Fact Sheets on Driving with a Disability
Adapting Motor Vehicles for People with Disabilities
Accessible Bus Service, a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Justice
Serving Bus Customers with Disabilities from Easter Seals Project ACTION
DOT Airline Hotline: 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY)
The Air Carrier Access Act http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/382SHORT.htm
New Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability from the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation
"Passengers with Disabilities", a summary of the Air Carrier Access Act from the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Air Carrier Access Act: Common Questions and Answers About Air Travel for Wheelchair Users from the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association
The Air Carrier Access Act: Make It Work For You, a 7-page PDF document from the Paralyzed Veterans of America
Additional information on the Air Carrier Access Act from ICan Online
U.S. DOT's toll-free hotline to assist air travelers with disabilities
Pataki Signs Most Integrated Setting Bill September 17, 2002
The Most Integrated Setting bill (A.9913b, S.7342) was signed into law by Governor Pataki on September 17, 2002. It will establish a Council to develop a comprehensive, statewide plan for providing services to people of all ages with disabilities in the most integrated setting.
It was after one of ADAPT's actions in Albany, on February 6, 2002, when 8 activists were arrested for sitting-in in the Governor's office, that Assemblyman Cahill, Chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, introduced the Most Integrated Setting Bill. The bill was passed unanimously by the Assembly on June 12, 2002.
The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Maziarz, seemed to be fated to die in committee. But on June 20, 2002 ADAPT activists occupied Majority Leader Bruno's office demanding he get the bill out of the Aging Committee and bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. Bruno gave in, and the bill was passed unanimously by the Senate that same day.
On August 22, 2002 it was announced that the bill was being sent to the Governor for review. Knowing he would have to either sign it or veto it in the next ten days, about 50 ADAPT activists occupied the Governor's reception room from Noon until 3 p.m..
But, due to bureaucratic delays, the bill didn't get to the Governor's desk until September 5. Ten business days later, on September 17, NYS ADAPT was back in Albany. "We knew this was it. We had to make sure the bill became law!" said Nadina LaSpina.
The ADAPT activists split into two groups. One group went to the Governor, the other to the Assembly.
Finally, at 6 p.m., John Fetterman of the Governor's office announced that the Governor was signing the bill. The activists burst into applause.
City Agrees to Spend 218 Million to Make Sidewalks Accessible to Wheelchair Users
By Randy Kennedy
September 13, 2002 - New York Times - A group representing thousands of New Yorkers in wheelchairs announced yesterday that it had reached a settlement in a protracted lawsuit against the city, and that the Bloomberg administration had agreed to set aside almost $218 million to speed the installation of concrete ramps at the city's 158,000 curb corners.
The agreement was hailed as an important victory for the city's wheelchair users, who - despite a federal requirement put in place a decade ago to compel cities to install such ramps - still must contend with 61,074 corners, most outside Manhattan, where the curbs might as well be ramparts, because wheelchairs cannot be rolled over them.
The veterans' group, which successfully sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1979, leading to wheelchair-accessible buses and some subway stations, praised the city for settling the curb suit, which had dragged on throughout the Giuliani administration.
The group said that the agreement was particularly heartening in light of the fact that the city's Department of Transportation, which is responsible for installing the ramps, has seen its resources stretched thin as it has dealt with post-September 11 street rebuilding in Lower Manhattan.
Under the agreement, which was approved on Monday by Judge Thomas P. Griesa in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the city will commit $217,862,000 for installation of ramps on 61,074 corners that remain inaccessible - 27,747 in Queens; 13,008 in Staten Island; 10,710 in Brooklyn; 7,007 in the Bronx; and 2,602 in Manhattan.
Instead of adding the ramps in an ad hoc fashion, as the city has long done, transportation officials have agreed to engage in what is called blitz construction, concentrating on large areas where curbs have no ramps. The method is faster and saves money - $2,500 per corner for a standard ramp, versus $3,000 per each ramp built individually. Under the agreement, most of city street corners will have ramps by 2008.
In a written statement, city officials defended their past efforts, saying they had focused on curbs in highly traveled areas, and that as a result, 80 percent of the intersections in Manhattan had ramps in place.
But Mr. Stulberg said that the city's commitment of money, and its agreement to a timetable, were essential because the city had greatly slowed its rate of converting the curbs in recent years.
For example, from 1994 - when the lawsuit was filed - to 1998, ramps were installed at a rate of about 7,800 a year. But then it slowed to only about 700 a year. And at that rate it could have taken until 2017 or later to make all the sidewalks fully wheelchair-accessible.
Many cities converted their curbs relatively quickly after Congress, in 1990, passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, part of which called for the building of curb ramps.
Jerry Kelly, the deputy executive director of the veterans' association, said that where he works, in Jackson Heights, Queens, he is often able to use residential driveways as makeshift ramps when he cannot find one on a corner. But almost as often, he said, he gets his chair up onto a sidewalk only to find that at the other end of the block, he is trapped, unable to descend again to the street because there is no ramp.
Editorís Note: Another big problem is the poor quality of curb cuts which are already done either because there is a hole in the street at the bottom of the curb cut or because the street is several inches below the curb ramp. When the DOT recently redid streets in my neighborhood, they did not bring most of them up to the level of the ramp. Now, the curb cuts are worse than they used to be. Better supervision and training of DOT personnel is the answer to this problem.
Court hands victory to disabled
Cities Must Make Public Sidewalks Accessible, It Rules
by Bob Egelko
June 12, 2002 - San Francisco Chronicle - Cities must make public sidewalks accessible to wheelchair users and other disabled people, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled today in a case that could affect every city in the nation.
A disabled-rights advocate said the ruling would force cities to draw up plans to fix big cracks in sidewalks, keep tree branches out of the way and do something about driveways that create dangerous slopes for wheelchairs.
A sidewalk is a government "service, program or activity" covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires access for the disabled without discrimination, said the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The law does not require government agencies to take measures that would impose an "undue financial and administrative burden." But a lawyer for 76 California cities and the National League of Cities predicted a multibillion-dollar cost in the state alone.
The ruling, in a case from Sacramento, is binding on federal courts in California and the eight other Western states covered by the circuit. As the first federal appellate decision on the issue, it will be influential elsewhere, Hurley said.
He said the ruling requires cities to survey their sidewalks for barriers to access. For wheelchair users, those would include wide cracks; benches, utility poles and other obstructions that make the walkway too narrow to get through; and slopes created by driveways that cut into the sidewalk and cause wheelchairs to tilt dangerously.
Obstacles also include tree branches, signs and other protruding objects that could be dangerous to blind people, Paradis said.
The ADA also requires cities to put curb ramps at street corners. Paradis said disability-rights groups have negotiated ramp installation with Sacramento and other cities.
Editorís Note: In November, 2002, Sacramento officials announced that they will appeal this decision. The city of Sacramento, California will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case it lost in June, Barden v. City of Sacramento, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure its sidewalks were passable and usable by people in wheelchairs. Advocates question why the city would rather spend money fighting access than using it to make the city's sidewalks accessible. But City Attorney Sam Jackson told the Sacramento Bee that the city doesn't make litigation decisions based on cost. Yet, a Sacramento official has said that it would cost too much to make the sidewalks passable! Advocates are only demanding a plan and they are willing to give the city 40 years to fix the sidewalks. Whew. Even more disturbing is news that New York City signed on in an amicus brief to support the City of Sacramento. More details are available at www.raggededgemagazine.com
Remembering Justin - A Conversation
by Nadina LaSpina and Danny Robert
Nadina - The last time I saw Justin was at the NCIL (National Council on Independent Living) Rally at the Capitol on June 13, 2002, a week before he died. I had seen him the month before in the Russell Senate Building when he spoke at the MiCASSA kick-off to a hearing-room packed with 500 ADAPT activists. I was shocked at the change a month had made. He seemed so much weaker. His usually resonant voice broke several times as he spoke to the crowd, under a light drizzle, which soon after turned to pouring rain. When he was wheeled off the stage I held back and watched as the usual long line of people made its way to greet him. But Yoshiko noticed me and waved me over:
Danny - The first time I saw Justin was at our March (the Disability Independence Day March - DIDM), in July '93. You and I and Jerry Nuzzi (DIDM co-chairs) and many others worked hard to make the '93 March a really great event. I had only been disabled for 3 years - I became disabled in 1990, the year of the passage of the ADA - and I embraced disability rights as my new reason for living. Seeing Justin on the stage, bigger than life, with his cowboy hat and cowboy boots, hearing him speak of our ADA, exclaiming:
Nadina - Justin took that title - father of our movement - very seriously, especially as he got older. He always made himself accessible to disabled people who wanted to be part of the disability rights movement. His home number was always available to any of us. One of Justin's greatest talents was to immediately see your potential and to nurture that potential in every way, to make it bloom into real leadership. No matter who you were, how little you had accomplished and how little you knew, he made you feel that you were vitally important to our movement and made you believe that you could be a leader and should be a leader. Whenever and wherever he made a speech he always asked for the names of the people that worked to make the event happen so he could name each one. He wanted us to feel proud of the work we did so we would keep doing more and more work.
Danny - Because the March was such a success, in the years to follow, I felt sure that Justin was disappointed in me for failing to keep up the momentum. But he never showed any disappointment. He knew we did the best we could. He always praised us for whatever we did and encouraged us to do more.
Nadina - Through the years we didn't always agree with Justin and at times we confronted him. We had a few confrontations during the health care reform years.
Danny - Yes, I remember in í94, Justin, who had been a Republican, jumped on the Clinton bandwagon, and became the disability spokesperson for the Clinton version of universal health care, which many of us saw as an unsatisfactory solution. We wanted real health care reform. We both were single payer advocates and couldn't understand why our greatest leader didn't see it our way. Remember? Justin invited us to go to the White House for one of Clinton's Health Care Reform events. You wouldn't go but I really wanted to. So you said:
Nadina - When you disagreed with him and confronted him, he never argued against you, never tried to prove you wrong. He always said:
Danny - Remember, in that same summer there was a Clinton Health Care Rally in Liberty Park, NJ. Justin wanted us to be there, but that morning my attendant didnít show up and you went without me.
Nadina - Yes, quite a few of us went from NYC though most of us were single-payer advocates. I got to the rally in a terrible state. I was angry because I didn't like what was happening and angry because of the attendant not showing up, not to mention worried because I had left you alone. As soon as he saw me, Justin asked:
Danny - Because he was so aware of the advantage his wealth gave him over most of us, he chose to live modestly and he used his fortune as a tool to advance the cause of disability rights. He traveled incessantly, to spread the gospel of empowerment.
Nadina - He was always there at every disability event - every rally, every demonstration, every ADAPT actionÖ He was a strong ADAPT supporter, always called us soldiers and patriots. He may not have gotten arrested with us, but he always showed up in solidarity. After his heart attacks, when he stopped traveling, he would send his old fashioned wheelchair, his cowboy hat and cowboy boots (after his leg was amputated, one boot) and a statement which would be read to us. You could say it was a melodramatic gesture, and some would chuckle when the empty chair was wheeled on to the stage. But it was so wonderful for us to know that he cared so much, that he wanted to be with us so much. The empty chair was a concrete reminder of his presence among us, of his love for us.
Danny - I didnít see him as often as you did because I canít travel as you do. But the few times I saw him he made me feel so wonderful. I remember, at the Olmstead Rally in DC in í99, the heat really made me sick (thatís what happens when you have MS). I was reclined in my chair in the shade, totally out of commission, just listening to the speeches. All of a sudden I opened my eyes, and saw Yoshikoís face, bending over me to kiss me. I turned my head and Justin was right there beside me. Our great leader, the father of the ADA, the Martin Luther King of our movement, he had just gotten off the stage after making the most wonderful speech, hundreds of people were trying to get to him to give their regards, and he had come to me, he was taking my hand, he was worried about me... I felt so moved, I felt so important, I felt so loved...
Nadina - Oh, Justin really did love us, all of us. Some might have thought that all that talk about love - the
Danny - When he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Ď98, he sent each of us a replica because he believed that the Medal was ours collectively, that each of us deserved the recognition. He didnít want to be singled out. He didnít want to be seen as the hero. He called himself a soldier among soldiers.
Nadina - Yet he is our hero. Our movement really needs heroes and no one ever fit that heroic mold better than Justin. In his cowboy hat and cowboy boots heíll be forever the icon of our movement, forever part of our disability history. The lessons he taught us benefit all, disabled and nondisabled alike. The lessons he taught us in life about empowerment, solidarity, and love as well as the lessons he taught us in dying about death itself, which -just like disability - is not a tragedy, not an evil, but a natural part of life, full of mystery, majesty and profound beauty - these lessons we will cherish forever. Justin is our hero, and as he promised in his last message, he will
Editorís Note: The next issue of the Activist will carry a detailed obituary of Justin Dart.
DIA Sues Trump
When the Trump International Hotel & Tower opened in 1997, Donald Trump proclaimed that it
But not everybody is invited by Trump to enjoy his opulent venue. DIA members Bob Levine and Freida Zames could not find a way into the Trump International. It is situated on a plaza approximately four feet above the sidewalk that surrounds the hotel and condominium tower.
Mr. Levine and Ms. Zames tried to go to a cafť on the plaza after getting off a bus at a Broadway stop on the west side of the building. They assumed there would be a ramp along this block-long side of the property. But there was no wheelchair access from Broadway so they rolled east on West 61st Street to Central Park West and were again surprised that there was no ramp. They proceeded south on Central Park West toward the lavish hotel entrance and asked one of the cluster of valets, doormen and bellhops how they could get to the cafť.
Mr. Levine and Ms. Zames were directed back to West 61st Street where there was a wheelchair lift hidden in plain sight. It, and another lift on West 61st Street, closer to Broadway, had tall, smoked glass doors with no signage, switches or keys. So, they discovered that the plaza, which is accessible by stairs on three sides, is wheelchair acessible only on the north side of the property and, there, only by platform lifts that are not independently operable.
DIA along with Mr. Levine and Ms. Zames sued Trump International Hotel & Tower for violations of the ADA and the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws. Soon after the lawsuit was filed Trump placed a key in the door of each lift and filed a Motion to Dismiss Complaint. Trumpís motion argued that the case is moot because the keys have made the lifts independently operable and that the Plaintiffs (DIA, Levine and Zames) do not have standing to sue because they did not suffer an
Edward Kopelson, Esq., who is representing the Plaintiffs, argued that there are several reasons why the lawsuit should not be dismissed. First, the keys did not enable operation of the lifts. When Mr. Levine and Ms. Zames returned to Trump International they were again unable to independently enter Trumpís property. They had to summon assistance because the keys didnít work. Second, even if the lifts worked as the ADA required, there were other barrier-free design flaws at Trump International: the absence of signage on the lifts and to the lifts, the isolation of wheelchair access from the principal entrances, the failure to locate wheelchair access as close as technically feasible to bus or subway stops, and the absence of a path of travel for wheelchair users to get from the west to east side, or vice versa, of the plaza.
And third, it was argued in opposition to Trumpís contention that the Plaintiffs suffered only minor inconveniences, that Mr. Levine and Ms. Zames were made to feel unwanted, conspicuous, and foolish --
The Plaintiffsí and Defendantís arguments are under consideration by the Chief Judge of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Hon. Michael Mukasey. A decision is expected soon.
Helping Hands for the Blind of New York City
Helping Hands for the Blind is a grass-roots, volunteer organization of blind people helping blind people. Our goal is to provide services to blind persons with special emphasis on the totally blind. Services we want to provide are:
All information is confidential and there are no fees for our services. Any person who is legally blind may request our services by calling any of the numbers listed below. We are also looking for volunteers who can help us with our project. Disabled persons are welcome to volunteer.
Helping Hands for the Blind of New York City
Alice Crespo: 718-545-1529
Editorís Note: These people are fantastic! They have gotten at least one person out of a nursing home and into the community. They will tackle any problem, large or small, with a can-do attitude.
National Council on Disability Releases ADA and the Supreme Court Policy Paper
Washington - The National Council on Disability (NCD) released A Carefully Constructed Law, the newest addition to the ongoing policy brief series analyzing and responding to certain problematic aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.
A Carefully Constructed Law (http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/carefullyconstructedlaw.html) responds to the supposed uncertainties and ambiguities that the Supreme Court has perceived that the ADA was not carefully considered nor carefully written by explaining how the Congress carefully considered, negotiated, and fine-tuned the ADA before enacting it, as well as the 25 years of methodical Congressional study that preceded its passage.
In future papers in this series, NCD will examine various specific substantive aspects of the Court's rulings that have weakened or restricted the impact of the ADA, including the highly restrictive interpretation of the ADA's definition of
NCD plans to address some limitations the Court has imposed on the remedies available in ADA cases and take a cross-issue look at the consequences of the Supreme Court's decisions by contrasting the state of the law before the decisions were rendered with the legal situation after the decisions, to identify undesirable and unjust results in the decisions of the lower courts as a result of the Supreme Court's rulings. NCD will also summarize instances of unaddressed discrimination and injustices stemming from the Court's rulings that do not result in reported court decisions.
NCD will then develop legislative proposals for addressing those issues that appear appropriate for legislative correction, and present those proposals, along with pertinent supportive material from the previous papers in a final, comprehensive report, Righting the ADA. For more information, contact Mark Quigley or Joan Durocher at 202-272-2004.
Moving Right Along
DIA President Sued His Family Doctor for Access
DIA President Anthony Trocchia sued his family physician, Dr. P. Scotti, for refusing to make his office wheelchair accessible. After asking the doctor on many occasions to ramp a 4" step at the office entrance, Mr. Trocchia filed a lawsuit charging Dr. Scotti with violations of the New York City Human Rights Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Upon receipt of the formal Complaint, Dr. Scotti had a ramp installed at his office. But it did not comply with the requirements of city or federal barrier-free design codes, so Mr. Trocchia rejected the doctorís half-hearted attempt to resolve the lawsuit.
The case was settled, however, when Dr. Scotti agreed to have a code compliant and permanent ramp constructed, to pay $500 damages and all legal fees. Mr. Trocchia donated the $500 to DIA. He was represented by Edward Kopelson, Esq. of Kopelson & Westreich.
Thank You Nadina
A thousand overdue public thanks to Nadina LaSpina who does the DIA website at www.disabledinaction.org. The Activist is on our website going back to January 2001. Take a look. Youíll also see announcements and meeting dates, and you can download the latest One-Step form. The website is a lot of work, and Nadina is one of our unsung volunteers working behind the scenes.
Website for the Federal Employment of People with Disabilities
DIA SPEAKS COLUMN in ABLE NEWS
If anyone has an article you think should be in DIAís column in ABLE NEWS, please call Frieda Zames at 212-260-0423 or e-mail her at [email protected] to submit it. Frieda is in charge of the DIA SPEAKS column in ABLE News.
Great News! An Access-A-Ride Sign at Hunter College
In a great spirit of cooperation, Hunter College Facilities Director, Julio Vasquez and his associate, Peter Plevritis, installed a sign on the West Building of Hunter College so that Access-A-Ride vehicles and passengers will have a good chance of meeting each other. The sign says:
This is an example of how working with facilities directors can lead to improved Access-A-Ride service. The new address will be publicized with Access-A-Ride and will be put into their reservation computers as well as publicized at Hunter College.
Look this up! Informative and fascinating articles on problems that people with all kinds of disabilities face with housing and possible solutions to the problems. www.npr.org/news/specials/housingfirst/nprstories/020806.kansas/index.html
Have an Airline Complaint?
The U.S. Department of Transportation has established a Toll-Free Hotline to assist air travelers with disabilities. The hotline will provide general information to consumers about the rights of air travelers with disabilities, respond to requests for printed consumer information, and assist air travelers with time-sensitive disability-related issues that need to be addressed in "real time." The line is staffed from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time, seven days a week. Air travelers who experience disability-related air travel service problems may call the hotline at 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY) to obtain assistance.
A Handbook for Small Businesses
The U.S. Department of Justice has posted the following updated documents to their web site:
Title II Highlights (Updated August 29, 2002)
Questions and Answers about the ADA (Updated August 29, 2002)
ADA Information Services (Updated August 29, 2002)
A New Website for Disability Information
DOJ updates Tax Incentive Packet on-line
The U.S. Department of Justice has updated their reference materials for Tax Incentives. This includes information and forms for IRS Code 44 (Disabled Tax Credit) and IRS Code 190 (Architectural or Transportation Barriers Removal). The new packet can be accessed on-line at: www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/taxpack.htm
On June 17, 2002, the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) filed a class action complaint on behalf of individuals with mobility impairments, who have been granted Section 8 vouchers and need assistance in finding appropriate, accessible housing, but because they have not been provided with assistance, have been unable to make use of their vouchers. If you have any clients with mobility impairments, who have not been able to make use of their Section 8 vouchers because they need (but have not been given) assistance in finding appropriate, accessible housing you can contact, Jane Stevens at (212) 750-0800 ext. 207, or Laura Davis at (212) 750-0800 ext. 210.
Bothered by the cold weather?
There is a new leg-warmer product out for motorcyclists that also works well for people who use wheelchairs or scooters or also for people who are ambulatory, as well. Itís a padded leg warmer called Knee-Necksģ that attaches with Velcro around your lower legs. Thereís also something called Wrap-Chapsģ to wrap around your entire leg to keep out the cold and wind. More information can be obtained at http://www.kneenecks.com/index.html or by calling 1-877-584-5633. The JC Whitney car and motorcycle accessories catalog (in print and online) also has them listed in more detail. Go to: http://www.jcwhitney.com/JCWMotorcycle.jhtml and click on Biker Apparel on the left, or call (877) 927-7427.
Section 8 Housing Vouchers
NYCHA now has real estate brokers to deal with Section 8 Vouchers in reference to apartments. For help, you can call Rafaela Puerto at (646)-742-0231 or fax (646) 742-0231 or e-mail [email protected].
DOT Supports NEXT DAY Paratransit Service
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Solicitor General's Office submitted a brief on October 25, 2002 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit firmly establishing the right of ADA eligible paratransit users to next day service. The brief states unequivocally that DOT's ADA regulation requires transit agencies to
The brief was prompted by a request to DOT from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to interpret its ADA regulation in the case Anderson v. Rochester-Genesee Regional Transit Authority. The brief goes on to state that the DOT ADA regulation
Editorís note: Many disability rights activists called and wrote the U.S. DOT about keeping next-day paratransit service. Way to go everyone! Weíll be anxiously awaiting the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Matthew P. Sapolin Appointed New MOPD Director
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Matthew P. Sapolin to be the Executive Director of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities on October 15, 2002. Before this, Matthew Sapolin most recently served as Co-Executive Director for the Queens Independent Living Center. The members of Disabled In Action wish Matthew well in his new job. On the same day, along with others, Susan Scheer, a former Director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY), was appointed for a three-year-term to the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Now all the Commission positions have been filled.
In the fall of 2001, Justin and Yoshiko Dart wrote a Declaration of Conscience, declaring
DIA Receives Grant
We Remember Betty Kapetanakis
Sadly, Betty Kapetanakis, Executive Director of the North Star Fund*, was tragically killed in an accident on July 29th, 2002. Bettyís commitment to social justice brought her to the North Star Fund 15 years ago, and she worked hard to nurture the ongoing partnership between donors and community activists committed to social justice. She was always responsive to individuals and organizations across the city, and everyone she knew benefited from her warmth, intelligence, generosity, and tireless devotion. During this time of assaults on civil liberties, lack of government accountability, corporate malfeasance and global war, Betty worked passionately to challenge oppression rather than succumb to cynicism and complicity.
* The North Star Fund generously helps fund DIA and organizes workshops to support grassroots activism.
To donate to the Betty Kapetanakis Memorial Fund, please send your note and check to North Star Fund, Betty Kapetanakis Memorial Fund, North Star Fund, 305 Seventh Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001-6008. Or you can donate online at www.northstarfund.org or call 212-620-9110 for more information.
Become a Volunteer - Your Work Is Valuable!
The Largest Minority Hits the Airwaves
A radio show focusing on the news and views of the community of people with a disability had its first airing on Monday November 4th at 10 a.m. The show titled "The Largest Minority" was heard on The Pacifica Network's New York station, WBAI, 99.5 FM, available throughout the New York metropolitan area including Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and the northern suburbs.
The show was produced by a group of people representing a number of disability organizations including: Disabled In Action (DIA) and the Disabilities Network of New York City. The premier edition featured an interview on the history of the disability rights movement with Chris Rosa of Queens College, followed by a call-in opportunity for listeners to question in studio guest Frieda Zames, current Vice President of DIA. A highlight of the program was a witty commentary by Brendan Costello, castigating the media for its role in helping Chris Reeve paint himself into his
"The Largest Minority" will be a radio magazine reflecting the whole spectrum of disability and opinions in this community. It will be a forum for the different groups within the disability community to talk with each other as well as our non-disabled friends. Regular segments will include national, state and local reports from the disability rights front lines, community announcements, and commentary. The show will feature the music of composers and performers with disabilities, making for a large and varied play list.
The next show aired in December and celebrated the International Day of Disabled Persons. Be sure to tune in to the Largest Minority on WBAI, 99.5 FM. Announcements for the show are on WBAI and on the DNNYC e-mail list.
Baruch College Computer Center for Visually Impaired People
Disabilities Network of New York City (DNNYC)
12th Aniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Access-A-Ride Hearing December 5, 2002
On December 5th, 2002 Councilmember Margarita Lopez, of the Disabilities Committee, held a joint hearing at City Hall on Access-A-Ride with Councilmember John Liu of the Transportation Committee. The hearing, which was a continuation of a hearing held in April, looked into the improvements that the new scheduling system was supposed to provide. Access-A-Ride officials said that the new scheduling system had brought improvements and that more people were riding the system, but riders complained that they are still being picked up late or not at all, that rides are overly long and zig-zag throughout the boroughs and between boroughs, and that customer service is nonexistent. Activists called on the MTA to completely overhaul the paratransit system.
One shocking development has been Access-A-Ride's suggested use of a large foam finger glove like those that fans use at sporting events. Access-A-Ride gives these out to blind riders and those with low vision so that perhaps the drivers will see the person waving the foam glove indefinitely in the air until the van finally shows up. Alice Crespo, a blind Access-A-Ride rider, decried the use of the glove, saying,
The hearing will be continued until 2003 so riders and Access-A-Ride officials can report back on improvements or lack of them. Activists feel that continued pressure on Access-A-Ride and on elected officials is the only way that substantial and lasting change will occur within Access-A-Ride. Officials within the MTA privately say that the MTA never wanted to run paratransit and is not happy doing so. This attitude will have to change before any substantial change occurs with Access-A-Ride's service to people with disabilities.
New Book on Disability Rights
City Council Meetings Live on the Web
Mayoral news conferences, announcements and bill signings can be viewed at http://www.nyc.gov/.
Council meetings in chambers are available at http://www.council.nyc.ny.us/.
Help America Vote Act (HAVA): Resources for advocates
The recently approved federal election reform bill, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), presents important opportunities to expand participation and improve elections, while at the same time demanding vigilance on the part of advocates to protect voting rights and ensure fair implementation in the states. Democracy reform advocates must begin immediately to organize around implementing the bill. A new Demos website, http://www.demos-usa.org/HAVA, is the first stop for advocates to receive up-to-date information and resources on the HAVA.
Be sure to check the website periodically for updates and new information. We will continue to add resources over the next few months.