The monster snowstorm that pummeled the Denver metro area just days before Thanksgiving strained Littleton’s snowplowing capacity, but advocates say poorly shoveled sidewalks can pose a threat to vulnerable people long after the roads are cleared.
People with mobility issues can find themselves effectively trapped by iced-over walkways, said Julie Reiskin, the executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.
“Shoveling sidewalks means everything” for people with disabilities, said Reiskin, who uses a wheelchair. “A lot of us don’t drive. We use buses, and in many cases after this last storm we couldn’t make it down the block, much less to a bus stop.”
Businesses and absentee landlords seem to be some of the worst offenders, Reiskin said.
“We notice businesses that keep them clear, and we patronize them year-round,” she said.
Reiskin said even some well-meaning shovelers simply scoop out a path as wide as their shovel blade, which doesn’t accommodate wheelchairs or people with walkers.
Shoveling the vast majority of sidewalks in town is the responsibility of adjacent property owners, said David Flaig, Littleton’s landscape manager.
“The law says you’ve got 24 hours after the snowflakes stop falling to get your walk shoveled, and that means all the way to the corner,” Flaig said.
The city is responsible for shoveling about five miles of city-owned sidewalks, many on bridges or around city buildings, Flaig said, but citizens are responsible for many dozens more.
“If you live on a corner, that includes the curb cuts,” Flaig said.
The Thanksgiving storm was especially gnarly because the following days didn’t warm up enough to melt the snow and ice, Flaig said, and while city crews could put down more ice, there are environmental concerns at work.
“We could salt everything like crazy, and it would work, but at the end the South Platte would be about as salty as the South Pacific,” Flaig said.
Snowplows may fling snow and ice right back up on curb cuts, Flaig said, but it’s still residents’ responsibility to make sure they stay clear.
Poorly shoveled sidewalks can spell trouble for blind people, said Dan Burke, the spokesman for Littleton’s Colorado Center for the Blind.
“We teach independence, and that means we’ve got to be out in all kinds of weather,” Burke said. “You can’t be a fair-weather employee. But when we’re out and the sidewalks are jammed, it pushes us into the street, which just isn’t safe. Also, we use curb cuts to know where crosswalks are, and if we can’t find them, it’s easy to end up headed off at a bad angle.”
Poorly shoveled sidewalks are bad news for the elderly, said Diane McClymonds, the executive director of TLC Meals on Wheels, which brings food to homebound seniors.
“It can mean the difference between being able to get to the doctor or not,” McClymonds said. “And in a big storm like this last one, many of our clients aren’t able to shovel that much snow.”
The program always needs volunteers, Jorgensen said. Right now, she’s got 11 volunteer shovelers on the list, but last year she wound up with more than 80 seniors who needed shoveling help.
“It means everything to the folks on our waiting list,” Jorgensen said. “If you can help, get in touch. Your neighbors need you.”
Whether city code enforcement issued any tickets for unshoveled sidewalks after the Thanksgiving storm wasn’t immediately available, said Jennifer Henninger, the city’s community development director, but residents who encounter unshoveled sidewalks can report them to the city through the “SeeClickFix” phone app.
Reiskin, the advocate for people with disabilities, said reporting unshoveled sidewalks doesn’t help much in the moment.
“We’d really like to see cities doing their own enforcement, rather than putting the onus on people out on the street,” Reiskin said. “Reporting violators doesn’t help someone who’s stranded. We just really need people to take this seriously.”
The Social Security Administration just announced that it wants to change its rules for people who get disability benefits, including SSI. Most people would have to prove disability every two years.
If Social Security moves forward with this proposal nearly two million people will be at risk of losing benefits over the next ten years. These are people with severe disabilities who can’t work.
Submit Comments to Social Security. Social Security is collecting comments on the new rules until January 17, 2020. It will have to read and consider every comment. Click here to submit a comment. Below is some sample language, but remember, your comment will be stronger if you personalize it with your own experiences and message.
Dear Social Security Commissioner Saul:
I am writing about the proposed Social Security rule that would make most people getting disability benefits prove that they have disabilities every two years. I am very worried about the rule. I do not think it should go forward.
It can be very hard to get disability benefits. For some people it takes years, and it is a stressful and time consuming process. More frequent disability reviews will create additional burdens for people with disabilities who cannot work and are struggling with income insecurity.
Even worse, Social Security often makes mistakes when reviewing disability, meaning there is an even greater chance that people who qualify for benefits will be denied and will go without the help they need. And pushing more people into disability reviews will slow down the system for everyone.
The new rule will put nearly two million people at risk of losing benefits over the next 10 years. This rule would hurt people with disabilities. Please do not go forward with the rule.
Contact Your Congressperson. Social Security has to follow the law when it issues the new rules. Congress can investigate whether the new rules fit with the law. Ask your Congressional Representative to look into the new rules. Click here to contact your Congressperson. Not sure what to say? Here is some sample language you can modify:
Dear Congressperson ___Last Name___,
I am writing about the proposed Social Security rule that would make most people getting disability benefits prove that they have disabilities every two years. Please tell Social Security that it should not go forward with the rule.
It can be very hard to get disability benefits. For some people it takes years, and it is a stressful and time-consuming process. More frequent disability reviews will create additional burdens for people with disabilities who cannot work and are struggling with income insecurity.
Even worse, Social Security often makes mistakes when reviewing disability, meaning there is an even greater chance that people who qualify for benefits will be denied and will go without the help they need. And pushing more people into disability reviews will slow down the system for everyone.
The new rule will put nearly two million people at risk of losing benefits over the next 10 years. This rule would hurt people with disabilities. Please work with Social Security to make sure that the rule does not go forward.
Spread the Word! Social Security needs to hear from as many people as possible about the new rules. Please share this page with your friends and colleagues, and on social media.
Please join CLS for a call on December 11, 2019 at 10 am. Learn more about how the proposed rule change would affect people with disabilities, and how you can speak out against it. The call will include time to ask questions of Social Security law experts. Register here.
To read the original article, click here.
It’s holiday travel time, so here’s a handy checklist before you head to the airport: Got your earphones? A scarf in case it gets cold on the plane? Slip-on shoes for the TSA line? Doctor’s note for your emotional support snake?
Scratch that last one.
In spite of what you may have heard about a wide range of emotional support animals showing up at airports, you won’t find a warm welcome for your snake on board that flight.
Current Department of Transportation rules allow airlines to ban snakes, as well as rodents (sorry, emotional support squirrel), spiders and a few other creatures. But that emotional support cat rubbing his hair all over your black sweater? Or that dog in the next seat who’s begging for your pretzels? They’ve got a ticket to ride. At least for now.
Transportation industry watchers and a slew of interested parties — including disability rights advocates, airlines and service dog providers — are awaiting updated rules from the DOT that will further refine policy around emotional support animals on airplanes. Federal policy changes are expected soon, perhaps before the end of the year. And though no one yet knows exactly what shape the new rules will take, chances are good that it’s about to get a little harder to bring your ESA on board.
Keeping a menagerie of strange animals, not to mention pets masquerading as service animals, off flights seems like a good idea, right? But emotional support animals, in spite of the bad rap they’ve gotten lately, represent an issue that is more complex than it seems.
For some people, like Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors, which provides service dogs to veterans with PTSD and other injuries, stricter DOT rules can’t come soon enough. “Hopefully, it will be an improvement over the current rule,” he says, “which is wide open and not able to contain the number of untrained animals that are showing up on airplanes.”
In Diamond’s view, emotional support animals, which are not required to undergo specific training, don’t belong on flights. “We think only service dogs should be allowed on planes,” he says. “The issue with emotional support animals is that it’s just ripe for abuse.”
That abuse has grabbed plenty of headlines. In recent years, online businesses have emerged selling vests and harnesses for service animals as well as notes from therapists confirming the need for an ESA. Airlines typically require a doctor’s note for an ESA to be allowed to board. In some cases, notes purchased online require that an online questionnaire be filled out to assess need, but the ability to easily buy credentials has led some pet owners to falsely claim ESA status for their animals.
The incentives for cheating go beyond the convenience of being able to bring your animal into off-limits locations; pet travel fees on airlines are typically in the hundreds of dollars. “These are people who just don’t want to pay to get their dogs on the plane,” says Diamond, “and it’s causing a lot of trouble for people with legitimate service dogs.” In fact, he says, the No. 1 problem veterans traveling with his organization’s service dogs report is difficult encounters with ESAs or poorly trained service animals.
Jason Haag, CEO of service dog provider Leashes of Valor, is himself a veteran who suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury and has traveled with his service dog, Axel, for years. He’s in support of a rule change for ESAs too. “Honestly,” he says, “to put any untrained animal in a tube going 500 miles an hour with no exit doesn’t sound like a great idea to me.”
Untrained animals, Haag points out, may cause havoc on a flight by barking, moving around too much or being aggressive with humans or other animals. “Unfortunately, when you have too many animals in an enclosed area and they have not been trained, bad things can happen,” he said.
Airline employees try to maintain space between animals, but because service dogs should ideally be seated in the bulkhead row, ideal distance can be hard to achieve.
Haag and Diamond both support the idea of a national service dog registry, and Diamond has been working for two years to create an optional credential that, much like a parking permit for people who are disabled, could be promoted as a quick, visible assurance that a dog is a service animal. “It would be like TSA Precheck for dogs,” he says, “and make it easier for everyone and much easier to fly.”
Public perception around “fake” service animals has also increased the scrutiny people like Haag receive when they show up with a dog in tow. In 2015, Haag, a retired Marine captain, was flying home to Virginia from California after accepting an award for Axel, who was honored at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. But when an American Airlines employee decided to question whether Axel was a legitimate service dog, Haag was kept from boarding his flight. “I was furious,” he says, “but yet incredibly prepared for what happened. So I know firsthand what it’s like with crazy regulations and people not understanding all of them.”
Petrof points out that, in spite of airline reports that show the numbers of animals on planes is steadily rising, serious issues with ESAs still appear to be relatively few. “We don’t believe there are that many documented cases of problems,” he says. “Instead, it’s really a few high-profile cases that get everyone talking.”
Remember Dexter the Peacock? He sparked plenty of internet outrage in 2018 after his owner tried to take him on board a United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey. (United said no, and promptly tightened its ESA policy.) But Petrof says we don’t need new government intervention against oddities like Dexter. “That peacock has done large volumes of damage,” he says, “and that’s not the problem we have to solve.”
Disabled rights advocates have long held that barriers to access must be kept low in order to promote inclusiveness for people who are already facing considerable obstacles, which is why public access policy severely limits even the questions a person seeking accommodations can be asked.
Requiring a higher standard of proof for ESAs, Petrof says, could become a barrier to travel, especially for disabled people with limited means. “If you need proof beyond a basic doctor’s note,” he says, “depending on what kind of health care you can afford, you may not get to see your psychiatrist more than once per year. And wait times for mental health treatment can be long. You may not be able to satisfy these requirements in time to take a flight. So what it results in is, if you’re poor and disabled, you’re kicked off the plane.”
Not that Petrof is in favor of people scamming the ESA policies to get their pets a free ride: “We’re not trying to protect the people who are abusing the law,” he says, but he doesn’t believe an ESA crackdown is worth potential difficulties for the disabled community. “Folks who need an emotional support animal in order to use the transportation service are faced with having restrictions placed on their ability to travel, just because some people try to play fast and loose with the law.”
Instead, Petrof believes the ESA issue is one for the airlines to solve, on a case-by-case basis. “Once we start changing rules,” he says, “it seems like access for disabled people ends up getting limited. The airlines need to address the dog or animal that is causing a problem. They have a lot to figure out: passengers with allergies, seating, keeping dogs separated. It’s complicated. But honestly, if a dog is sitting quietly at someone’s feet and not bothering anyone, why do we need to know why that dog is there?”
DENVER — The worst of the storm may be over here in Colorado, but it’s leaving behind some icy obstacles for people who are disabled in the Denver metro.
Jaime Lewis knew the storm would leave him stranded for a couple days.
“You hope that you have your refrigerator full and have enough activities at home to keep you busy,” Lewis said.
Lewis is part of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. They work specifically on improving transit policies. On Saturday, he pointed out several icy areas along the sidewalk and crosswalk near 12th and Broadway where he said it would be too difficult to navigate in his wheelchair.
Lewis says he didn’t expect the sidewalks to be this bad four days after the worst of the storm hit the area.
He says there’s still parts of the sidewalk that have made it difficult to run errands, and even get to work.
“I tried to get out yesterday and go down Broadway, and had to be helped by three Samaritans on three separate occasions, because I kept getting stuck,” Lewis said.
“I guess one of the biggest disappointments is when I did enter one of the businesses and asked them why they hadn’t shoveled, I was told it wasn’t their job. So definitely the city is not communicating very well to businesses what their responsibilities are,” he added.
Adjacent property owners are responsible for clearing their sidewalks. Residents have 24 hours after the snow stops, and businesses have 4 hours.
An inspector will issue a warning first—but if they come back, and the snow is still not shoveled, they can issue a $150 fine.
“Sometimes, people will shovel the snow out of the sidewalks, but then they’ll leave all the snow on the curb ramps. And the adjacent property owner is responsible for the curb ramp, too,” said Denver City Council Member Chris Hinds.
Hinds spoke by phone from a local hospital Saturday night after his wheelchair got stuck on a sidewalk Monday night while heading home from a city council meeting.
He was admitted to the ER with a high fever Friday night.
“As it gets colder and wetter, the battery doesn’t hold as much charge. Also trying to get over the snow that was there, over the hills and the terrain, that used up more of the charge,” Hinds sai.
At the time, the property owner wouldn’t have been required to shovel the sidewalk—but Hinds says it still illustrates the importance of efficient snow removal.
“I had a 102.9 fever, and I trace it back to that 45 minutes that I was just sitting there, stranded on the sidewalk,” Hinds said.
Lewis says for some areas, it’s too late to do anything now.
“When you hear excuses, ‘it’s hard ice now.’ Well, you should have shoveled it when you had the chance to,” Lewis said.
He’s hoping the community will be more mindful during Colorado’s next storm.
“It really has to start with the residents having pride. And then the city needs to enforce the rules as they’re stated,” Lewis said.
by Dale Buterbaugh
My name is Dale Buterbaugh. I have the opportunity to serve on various statewide Health Care Policy and Financing committees as well as some local committees. I must say that I have learned a great deal and even shared a few ideas as well, They all have been very receptive and encouraging at the same time. What do I like and don’t like about Medicaid? Boy I really had to think about this and how it has either been good or what I think could change with the Medicaid system. This is hard as I am trying to think not just about myself but of others, too. I have been on Medicaid most of my life, and like any system it does have its ups and downs. It saddens me that some of the much needed medical care stops for those who are over 18 and then picks up again with people over 60 but with a lot of restrictions so to speak, like i could get my eyeglasses paid for or hearing aids etc all that till I turned 18. Much of this is still needed throughout my adult life. Right now I have no way to afford them unless I can solicit donations or foundations like Easter Seals or Hear Now to help me off-set the cost of the hearing aids . I wish all individuals could go for 30 days without hearing and see how it affects you when you lose the ability to hear. When it comes to glasses, they are considered a luxury for me as I can not afford them and it takes me a long time to save to get a pair.
I hate that not just Medicaid but most all insurance systems require prior authorization to get some services which could mean the difference between life and death for some people, I guess that we could be thankful that if a person is having a heart attack that we can be seen right away. Someday that could change and we might have to call the dr a few days ahead and, say hey, “Doc I think I am having chest pains, I need appointment ASAP.” Or have the fear of doctors turning you away because you have Medicaid and not Blue Cross etc.. I will say thank you to Medicaid for the fact that my sister is a leukemia survivor and has been cancer free for a long time now. There are times that she feels that either she owes something back or has taken advantage of a system that without it, she would not be here with us today. She just feels like she should have died and not take the medicaid help. It did save her life. I am thankful and grateful for Medicaid helping her.
I could have used some short time long term care services during my time of healing from a recent surgery to repair my Achilles’ tendon. Help to get around town to be independent and get out of the house, but I could not afford the rides nor do I qualify for the service. I just stayed home and watched TV all the time. I am not able to get out and exercise inorder to be in better health But at the same time I do not qualify for that type of services which saddens me and frustrates me. That I have to give up my freedom just because I can’t afford or get help that I would like or feel that I need. People that run the insurances say “Oh you had a common illness so therefore we are going to limit your care and needs”. But in reality it does not work that my life should not be compared to the theory if there’s one bad apple then the whole bunch are bad etc. I am an individual not a whole group, so please don’t treat me like I am a group and not a person
The East Colfax Community Collective, a newly formed grassroots organization advocating for anti-displacement policies, held a press conference Tuesday ahead of the East Area Plan workshop scheduled this Saturday to voice community concerns and call for more equitable and inclusive engagement with its most vulnerable residents.
Collective leaders highlighted challenges facing renters, refugees and the disabled community in East Colfax. The group wants deeper protections against displacement before Denver’s Community Planning and Development Department (CPD) moves forward with two major development projects.
“Before these developments are built on the backs of these communities — their tax dollars, their homes — we hope to see safeguards in this plan that will give residents some recourse if pledges are not honored, so what is said is actually done,” said Kim Brewer with the group Rename Stapleton.
Specifically, the group called for an expansion of wealth building programs and Section 8 vouchers, along with concrete metrics to prioritize the creation of 30% and below area median income housing, for accommodations for the disabled community, and a more involved and fair engagement process to ensure the East Area Plan meets community needs.
“How does it happen that a city that seems to embrace equity at every chance it gets, clearly and profoundly lacks the ability” to take care of its most vulnerable populations, asked Tim Roberts, president of the East Colfax Neighborhood Association.
“I have been attending meetings organized by CPD regarding the East Area Plan since the summer. The format of those meetings has not allowed for many resident discussions on particular aspects of the plan, and I am not confident that City Planning is actually listening to the residents’ concerns,” said Towanna Henderson, an East Colfax community leader.
“We have invited City Planning to meet with the East Colfax Community Collective to ensure that our voices are heard and to work together to develop an inclusive and equitable process for our residents,” she said.’
As of 2015, according to the East Area Plan Briefing book, East Colfax represents more than a third of Denver’s eastern area of about 33,000 people. Nearly 25% of East Colfax residents are immigrants, and a third of its population speaks a language other English at home.
More than 30% of its families are living in poverty.
The East Planning Area neighborhoods include South Park Hill, Montclair, Hale and East Colfax.
“As a collective, we are committed to bringing our communities to the table,” said Brendan Greene, the collective’s spokesman. “We look forward to having the city join us at our table, meet with the collective, think outside of the box and create the solutions we need to protect our community before
the East Area Plan is finalized.”
Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer said in a statement that more than 300 neighbors have RSVP’d for the East Area Plan workshop and that CPD “expects a full house.”
The workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 23, at Johnson and Wales (1900 Olive St.).
In 2017, when Medicaid was once again on the congressional chopping block, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) [and ADAPT] continued to fight on behalf of the 560,000 Coloradans with disabilities, 26 percent of whom rely on Medicaid.
Currently, Medicaid is the largest payer for critical services for people with disabilities, ranging from medical treatment and primary care, wheelchairs, ramps and other home modifications, to services for children in schools and job training for adults. And according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Medicaid pays for half of all long-term services and supports for people with disabilities across the country.
“These home-based and community services keep our population in their homes, rather than be institutionalized,” says CCDC staff member Shannon Secrest, whose 16-year-old son receives home care services through a Medicaid waiver designed for kids who will need long-term supports and services.
Thus, for CCDC, the fight to protect Medicaid is also a fight against the forced institutionalization of people with disabilities. “There are millions of people with significant disabilities who depend on long term care and services,” says organizer Dawn Howard. “Otherwise, they’d be in nursing homes.”
Many of the families involved with CCDC are low-income, due primarily to the state’s Medicaid asset limit, which requires recipients to have $2,000 or less when they apply for long-term care. “If your total assets are $2,000, most likely you’re qualifying for SNAP and WIC and TANF and Section 8,” says Shannon. As such, she considers the work of CCDC as intersecting with a host of other issues, including food security, housing, employment, and poverty.
And disability can and does happen to anyone. “If there’s one level playing field about disability, it’s that it doesn’t discriminate,” says Shannon. “You can become disabled at any point. So the notion that it’s just those other people is just not the reality.
In Colorado, CCDC has been a loud champion of Medicaid, advocating for Medicaid as an issue that spans political, class, or geographical divides. In 2017, they initiated a rallying cry in hashtag form, which continues today. Behind the #VoteForMedicaid hashtag is a declaration and a direct message to current and prospective candidates:
In order to be elected in the state of Colorado, you must stand up for Medicaid.
CCDC has reached out to ally organizations across the state to gain support for their social media campaign, asking them to use the hashtag and sign on to a letter of support. “We reach out to anyone,” says Shannon. “It could be the home builders association that was building ramps. Anyone and everyone.”
So far, over 100 organizations have signed on to CCDC’s letter of support and many have also jumped aboard the hashtag campaign, sharing it with their members and encouraging digital storytelling about the importance of Medicaid. That storytelling is essential, because both Dawn and Shannon say much of their work to advocate for Medicaid involves a good deal of myth-busting—about disability in general, but also the logistics and cost of home care versus institutionalization.
First, cutting Medicaid funding ignores a stark reality: there simply aren’t enough nursing homes in the United States to house and care for the millions of people who would lose access to their home service.
Second, while Medicaid is often seen as a policy priority of the progressive left, Dawn says the values behind it reach easily across the aisle. Preserving Medicaid makes both moral and fiscal sense. “We really talk a lot about choice and fiscal responsibility,” says Dawn, noting her Republican colleagues and fellow organizers who lobby in DC on behalf of Medicaid. “They say, ‘I’m a Republican and Medicaid is a human right.’”
Shannon says, “The bottom line is, keeping people in their homes is far cheaper than any kind of institutionalization.” She pauses. “But it’s also our desire. Our desire is to have the freedom to be able to come and go and choose our caregivers and make decisions that affect our daily lives.”
DENVER, CO, November 12, 2019 … The number of reported hate crimes in Colorado increased by 16 percent between 2017 and 2018 while the number of reported cases nationwide slightly decreased, according to the FBI’s annual hate crime report released today.
In its annual Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report, the FBI found that total hate crimes decreased nationwide slightly in 2018 after three consecutive years of increases. The agency reported 7,120 total hate crimes in 2018, compared to 7,175 in 2017. Race-based hate crimes were once again the most common type of hate crime. Nearly 50 percent of race-based hate crimes were directed against African-Americans. Hate crimes directed at LGBTQ individuals increased by almost six percent, including a significant 42 percent increase in crimes directed against transgender individuals. Anti-Hispanic hate crimes increased 14 percent, the third straight year of increased reporting. While religion-based hate crimes decreased by eight percent from 2017, nearly 60 percent of hate crime attacks were targeted against Jews and Jewish institutions in 2018.
In Colorado, there were 123 reported hate crimes in 2018 compared to 106 reported incidents in 2017. Last year in Colorado, the FBI documented 78 crimes based on race/ethnicity/national origin, 24 based on sexual orientation, 16 based on religion, three based on gender-identity and two based on disability. Hate crimes directed at individuals based on their race, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability all increased from 2017 to 2018 in the state, according to the report.
A diverse group of community partners called the Colorado Coalition Against Hate (formerly Mountain States Against Hate; full list below) today said more must be done to address the disturbing trend of increased hate crimes and incidents in Colorado. The coalition was formed in 2017 to counter hate crimes in Colorado by educating the public about hate crimes and partnering with law enforcement to improve incident response and reporting.
Coalition partner statements:
Scott Levin, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region:
“It is intolerable that Jews and Jewish institutions continue to experience the greatest number of religion-based hate crime attacks in Colorado and across the country. A little more than a week ago, the FBI thwarted a white supremacist’s plot to attack a Pueblo synagogue and a small band of white supremacists distributed anti-Semitic propaganda in Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins. It is clear that anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past. ADL will continue to do all it can to defend Jews and all victims of hate and bigotry.”
Rex Fuller, CEO, The Center on Colfax:
“As we come closer to Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, The Center on Colfax, Colorado’s LGBTQ community Center, would like to express our disappointment about the lack of reporting on bias-motivated crimes targeting the transgender community. In the past year, there have been 28 reported murders of transgender people in the United States. We at The Center on Colfax find it hard to believe that none of those murders would be considered bias motivated. In addition to the national issue of lack of reporting, we have witnessed a significant increase of bias-motivated incidents targeting the LGBTQ community locally. We call on all public safety agencies to do better and start including gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation in their hate crime and bias-motivated incident policies, from investigation to survivor services to reporting.”
Rev. Amanda Henderson, Executive Director, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado:
“We are saddened to read about the 16% increase in hate crimes and incidents of hate in Colorado. The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado stands against any and all incidents of hate in Colorado and around the United States. We believe in, and will defend, the dignity and worth of all people regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration or housing status, or any other characteristic. Hate has no place in our society. We are committed to bringing people together across our differences to work each day for healing and justice.”
Dilpreet Jammu, Executive Director, Colorado Sikhs:
“The 2018 Hate Crime Report is a stark reminder that Colorado is not immune to hate or to hateful rhetoric. The numbers are understated. There are individuals, and groups, in our state that are doing needless harm to so many and wasting precious time and resources. Imagine the wealth we could generate if we eliminated the negative energy and divisions created by some of our leaders, and instead came together as one human race, with a focus on taking care of each other, with compassion to ‘the other’, as is taught by our many traditions and religions. There would be peace and safety for all.”
Barbara Grove Jones, President, NAACP Aurora Colorado Branch:
“Hate crimes against people of color are nearly 60% of the U.S. total with 45% of those directed at African Americans and 13% targeting Hispanics/Latinos. A significant percentage are violent crimes. The trends of these cowardly acts nationwide are traditional with prior years, consistent with those we see in Aurora, and sadly indicative of the times. We continue to fight against this scourge through enforcement, training, victim support and improved reporting with our partners in the Coalition and law enforcement.”
Mardi Moore, Executive Director, Out Boulder County:
“These statistics bear out what we know to be true in Boulder County and our surrounding area. Based upon the climate and this sad reality, our ongoing work with law enforcement and our District Attorney’s Office continues. Our LGBTQ community is resilient, and we will continue our work with increased resolve.”
Rachel Nielsen, Director, Colorado Resilience Collaborative:
“Despite coordinated efforts to prevent hate crimes, understand the problem in Colorado, and provide support for survivors, we are still experiencing an increase in violence. It is difficult to meet the criteria for a hate crime, so many additional incidents of harassment, discrimination, and hate speech are not even reflected in these numbers. This should be a wake-up call to Colorado.”
Daniel Ramos, Executive Director, One Colorado:
“Hate crimes are real and they are on the rise. Far too often, we hear stories of people in this state that feel unwelcome, unsafe, and targeted because of the color of their skin, who they love, how they identify, or how they worship. Today’s report validates the heightened concerns of hate in our communities and highlights the challenges ahead to address this important issue.”
Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition:
“We have learned from history that hate does not work with democracy. Hate is based on fears, on a belief that people who are ‘other’ are somehow less than human. Hate goes against the values that many of us hold dear. Hate does not solve problems. Martin Luther King said, ‘Power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic.’ It is our duty as social justice advocates to combat hate. We do this by showing the love we all have inside us and using the power we can amass by joining together and demanding enforcement of existing laws that give every person within our borders basic human and civil rights.”
Colorado Coalition Against Hate partner organizations:
Law Enforcement Partners:
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, Colorado’s Premier Nonprofit run by and for people with disabilities working for the Social Justice of all Coloradans with disabilities is looking to hire a temporary employee as a Census Outreach Organizer. CCDC is looking for a highly organized, outgoing, and friendly individual who will be in the community encouraging people with disabilities to participate in the 2020 Census.
Job duties include:
Preference will be given to applicants who have
Compensation: $3,000 a month (December 22, 2019-May 21, 2020 with a possible one-month extension)
Please send your resume, a writing sample, and a sample of previous media materials personally developed. Also, include three references of individuals who can speak to your previous work.
Email the responses to Dawn Howard Dhoward@ccdconline.org
Nearly three decades after a landmark federal law mandated that public facilities be made equally accessible to those with disabilities, there are still thousands of public places in Colorado Springs and El Paso County that don’t comply and no clear plan to fix most of them.
City and county officials have touted their recent efforts to bring public spaces in line with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by adding curb ramps, re-striping parking lots to include more accessible spaces and making other adjustments. From 2016 through the end of next year, Colorado Springs’ investment in accessibility is expected to exceed $9 million, according to data provided by the city.
More improvements are in the works, they say.
“Thirty years ought to be enough, you would think,” said Drew Wills, a paraplegic who is on the board of directors for The Independence Center, a Springs-based nonprofit that helps support people with disabilities.
He sees the city and county’s recent efforts as an attempt to appease federal regulators and forestall future legal troubles. It’s an already-late response that’s expected to unfold gradually — “when people who are having barrier problems and access problems need it now,” he said.
“You’re in a difficult position of saying (to the city and county), ‘We appreciate what you’re doing.’ And we do — but come on.”
Barriers, by the numbers
Just last month, the county unveiled a draft of its “transition plan,” a document that all local governments with 50 or more employees were required to complete by early January 1993 under the ADA.
The city is working on an overhaul of a similar plan that was created in the early 90s and hasn’t been updated in years.
The documents and related facility assessments provide a window into the scale of the city and county’s accessibility woes.
Officials have identified more than 3,500 ADA violations that would cost upwards of $4 million to fix, according to data from the city and county. Those barriers range from counters that are too high and restroom stalls that are too narrow to uneven sidewalks and walkways.
That number of violations will undoubtedly grow, as will the price tag on fixing them.
The city hasn’t yet released numbers on the obstacles that people with disabilities face when they travel through the Colorado Springs airport, visit more than 160 local parks or use Mountain Metropolitan Transit to get around.
And the county still has roughly 20 more buildings, trails and open spaces to assess.
Plus, there’s roughly 2,400 miles of sidewalk and 30,000 pedestrian ramps in the city, — and more on the county side — that must be compliant.
So far, the city has assessed about 40% of those ramps, and found that as much as 90% of those surveyed do not meet the ADA’s technical requirements, Colorado Springs Public Works Director Travis Easton said in an email.
Many of the flawed ramps were built decades ago along roads that haven’t been touched since the ADA was passed, Easton said.
The transition plan documents offer only a rough timeline of when improvements might be completed.
The Colorado Springs plan states that most barriers are set to be removed on 1- to 10-year timelines. The county expects that “overall compliance is possible in 20 years.”
But those schedules hinge on funding availability, both plans note.
“This is a plan to get to a transition plan. It’s not the transition plan,” Patricia Yeager, The Independence Center’s CEO, said of the county draft. “They have a lot of work yet to do.”
Allegations lead to change
Colorado Springs faces mounting legal pressure over accessibility issues.
The city agreed in August to a $22,500 payout to Richard Muszynski, who alleged in a lawsuit filed in El Paso County District Court that city sidewalks were blocked and curb ramps were inaccessible. These were obstacles for his child, who has a disability.
The city also agreed to repair sidewalks, install curb ramps and the crackdown on walkway obstructions in the Stetson Hills neighborhood. Under the terms of the settlement, though, Colorado Springs didn’t admit liability for Muszynski’s claims.
The payout comes on the heels of two other ADA-related city settlements within six months of one another.
Lawsuits and legal threats are some of the few ways that advocates for people with disabilities have been successful in getting governments to resolve accessibility problems, experts say.
“The issue with the ADA is it takes a lawsuit to enforce it. There’s no ADA police,” Yeager said.
Colorado Springs must install more than 15,000 curb ramps over the next 14 years under a settlement reached in response to a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver in March.
Last September, a lawsuit similar to Musynski’s case ended in a settlement that was perhaps the most symbolic victory in recent years for Colorado Springs residents with different access needs.
Stetson Hills residents Chris and Nikole Sweeney sued the city, alleging their neighborhood has for years lacked necessary ramps and sidewalks.
Chris Sweeney has been in a wheelchair since being struck twice by lightning, once while on duty in the Air Force.
The city agreed to pay the couple $19,000 and hold quarterly town halls for residents to discuss accessibility issues and concerns around town.
The county has faced far fewer legal troubles stemming from the ADA.
In the past five years, the county settled one claim over accessibility for $13,260. That agreement was reached in November 2016, according to the county.
Behind the curb
Yeager and other advocates say governments nationwide have long ignored the provisions of the ADA, in part because no one was forcing them to abide by the law.
But locally, progress in achieving compliance has lagged behind other cities in the state, she said.
“Both the city and county have come to the table late,” she said. “It’s just a shame that it seems like the ADA didn’t get over Palmer (Divide) until sometimes in the mid-2000-teens.”
The ADA was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities working for organizations and agencies that received federal funding.
President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.
The city developed a transition plan between 1991 and 1992 and updated the document several times in 1995, a city staffer previously told The Gazette. But for years after that, the plan went untouched.
For more than two decades, neither the city nor county had full-time ADA coordinators. Instead, various aspects of the job were spread among different departments.
By 2015, the Colorado Springs area had fallen well short of the spirit and letter of the ADA, The Gazette reported. Buildings and pathways were inaccessible to the then-estimated 66,000 people with disabilities in the county.
“Colorado Springs is a little behind the times,” said Julie Reiskin, executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which aims to ensure that people with disabilities can access facilities and meet other basic needs.
“I would think a city of that size should have figured this out by now,” she said.
She noted, for example, that Fort Collins, Pueblo and Denver have commissions or committees that allow citizens to weigh in on ADA issues and government priorities for improvements.
Progress made elsewhere in Colorado has also been fueled by legal concerns.
Denver agreed in 2016 to install at least 1,500 curb ramps annually — until every pedestrian walkway crossing in the city is compliant — under a settlement with the nonprofit Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, the Denver Post reported.
Two years later, Denver pledged to spend millions of dollars more on ADA compliance after the U.S. Justice Department conducted a review and demanded improvements, The Post reported.
Meeting the Challenge, a Colorado Springs-based ADA compliance consultant, is working with 10 other localities in Colorado, said the firm’s director, Dana Barton.
“This is happening all over the state and all over the country,” Barton said. “When it comes to accessibility, if it doesn’t affect you or a loved one, sometimes you don’t think about all the things that go into making activities, services and programs accessible.”
Improvements in the works
Wills, a personal injury attorney who’s handled accessibility cases, said he lost the use of his legs about 15 years ago in a “freak ski accident.”
He often sees hallways and other passages that are too narrow for wheelchairs and parking spots blocking curb ramps.
And when he’s working at the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex’s older south tower, he has to use the restrooms in the newer parts of the courthouse because his wheelchair won’t fit in the aging tower’s bathroom stalls.
“There are buildings like that all over — even city and county buildings,” Wills said.
But local officials have stressed that they’re continuing to make strides in accessibility. New buildings and sidewalks are being constructed with ADA requirements in mind, they say.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” county facilities Executive Director Brian Olsen told county commissioners during an Oct. 24 work session. “That’s not to say we don’t have deficiencies and need to fix those — and we’ll continue to do so.”
The county’s 2019 budget includes about $555,000 worth of ADA improvements that will be fully completed this year or next year, Olsen said. A 2020 staff budget proposal allots another $300,000 to compliance projects.
“Could we do it better? Absolutely. It’s a matter of money,” said Mark Waller, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. “We have a limited and finite number of dollars.”
Mayor John Suthers’ proposed 2020 budget includes $1.4 million for the city’s ADA program and operating costs. Last year the council unanimously agreed to hire five new ADA inspectors, an administrator and a human resources staffer.
City Councilwoman Yolanda Avila, an accessibility advocate who is legally blind, praised the city’s progress.
“I have seen a notable difference,” Avila said.
“I don’t think it’s easy when we’re covering 200 square miles,” she said. “But we’re making our best effort.”