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Category: Legal Program Blog

THE BIGGEST CHANGES OFTEN CAN COME FROM SMALL PACKAGES

CCDC mourns the passing of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Julie Reiskin, CCDC Executive Director
Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director

Image of the US Supreme Court with engraved words Equal Justice Under Law
The United States Supreme Court, showing the engraved phrase “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW”.

There are no appropriate expressions to describe the magnificence of this Supreme Court Justice except to say she got the message. Justice Bader Ginsburg believed strongly in the words engraved on the front of her work home for 27 years, “Equal Justice Under Law.” Words you cannot miss when entering the United States Supreme Court building. Justice Bader Ginsburg believed in equal justice under the law, most notably for women, but, more importantly, for everyone. In her personal opinion and those she authored for the court, Justice Bader Ginsburg understood that “We the People” means all people – not only rich white men who have prevented so many people, different from themselves, from attaining equal justice under the law.

Justice Ginsburg left this world on September 18, 2020, at age 87, after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. She left this country with changes in the law that will be remembered forever; changes that must also be preserved.

For nearly 200 years (1789-1967), the Supreme Court looked something like this:
Mapp v. Ohio (1961) Supreme Court Justices. 9 White Men.
Supreme Court Justices (1961)

There is a reason the Supreme Court looked like it did. It is called “discrimination” – a term and its insidious effects we at CCDC are familiar with, as was Justice Bader Ginsburg, a.k.a. “The Notorious RGB.” Justice Ginsburg understood discrimination because she lived it. She graduated as the highest-ranking female student in her class from Cornell University. She then enrolled at Harvard Law School as one of only nine women with approximately 500 men, eventually serving on the Harvard Law Review. At one point the Dean asked all nine women the same question, “Why are you at Harvard Law School, taking the place of a man?” 

Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School when her husband, Marty Ginsburg, a tax lawyer, took a New York City job. At Columbia, she became the first woman to be on two major law reviews: Harvard and Columbia. In 1959, she earned her law degree at Columbia, graduating joint first in her class. 

Achieving such high honors should have led to a great career with a New York City law firm. However, Justice Ginsburg could not find employment. She explained it this way: despite her extraordinary academic achievements, she had three strikes against her: she was (1) a woman; (2) Jewish; and (3) at that time, had a young child. The expected norm in the late 50s and early 60s was for her to be her child’s caretaker. These combined factors meant finding a job with almost any law firm was nearly impossible. In 1960, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, based on her gender, rejected her for a clerkship position. 

In 1963 she became a professor at Rutgers Law School, despite being told that she would be paid less than her male colleagues because her husband had a well-paid job. These experiences led her to co-found the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, a law journal focused exclusively on women’s rights.

It was not until 1967 did the look of the court begin to change with the first Black man named to the Supreme Court – Justice Thurgood Marshall. It was another 26 years before the first woman would be appointed when in 1981, President Ronald Regan nominated Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

In 1993, 206 years after the Supreme Court’s establishment, President Bill Clinton appointed Justice Ginsburg. The United States Senate confirmed her by a 96–3 vote on August 3, 1993.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's graduation photo from Cornell University in 1954.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s graduation photo from Cornell University in 1954.

In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded and was General Counsel of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU. From 1972 to 1974, she participated in over 300 gender discrimination cases. Famously, she successfully argued 5 out of 6 gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, claims brought on behalf of both women and men, demonstrating that gender discrimination is harmful to both. 

It wasn’t until Ginsburg’s work in Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971) that the Supreme Court extended the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to women. It prohibits any state from denying “any person equal protection of the laws.” She calculated her winning method by following the strategic approach of Thurgood Marshall, taking a step-by-step approach to challenging gender-based discriminatory laws under the Equal Protection Clause.

Justice Ginsburg was a true believer in equality for everyone. She authored the majority opinion in Olmstead v. L.C. ex rel. Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999) demonstrating her strong commitment to the equal rights of people with disabilities. This landmark decision holds that people with mental disabilities must receive treatment and services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the individual’s needs. This decision established one of the most critical features of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”): preventing the needless institutionalization of people with disabilities capable of living in the community. Also, this decision recognizes that undue institutionalization qualifies as “discrimination.” 

In reaching this conclusion, joined by a plurality of the Court, Justice Ginsburg relied heavily on the findings and purposes of the ADA including Congress’ determination that 

[H]istorically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem . . . discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as . . . institutionalization.

The disability community has long hailed the Olmstead decision as acknowledging the simple yet historically unrecognized reality that people with disabilities should live in “Our homes, not nursing homes!” The Olmstead decision is also the very purpose of the political action disability group ADAPT. ADAPT members are friends and allies of CCDC, people who have spent their lives protesting unnecessary segregation and isolation of people with disabilities. Justice Ginsburg’s opinion in Olmstead was the U.S. Supreme Court’s first recognition that people with disabilities may no longer be incarcerated in nursing homes and other institutions when, instead, living in the community is the appropriate answer. The Olmstead decision remains one of the most important Supreme Court decisions ever reached regarding the end of unnecessary discrimination against people with disabilities. It also demonstrates Justice Ginsburg’s understanding of one of the most crucial of the ADA’s promises – that all people, regardless of perceived differences, are entitled to the same opportunities and equal protection under the law. It was no longer permissible to hide and keep from public view, people with disabilities. CCDC cannot thank Justice Ginsburg enough for this critical ruling. She was a true believer in equal and social justice for all people. 

According to Justice Ginsburg:

When I’m sometimes asked “When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?” and I say “When there are nine,” people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.

It may well be said that Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinions are also essential expressions of all people’s equality. Justice Ginsburg has stated publicly that one of her proudest professional moments came when authoring the dissenting opinion for Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). The claim was regarding unequal pay for equal work. Upon retirement, Lilly Ledbetter discovered the pay discrepancy. However, the majority opinion held that Lilly Ledbetter did not raise her claim within the 180-day time frame to bring a claim. Justice Ginsburg made clear in her dissenting opinion that the ongoing disparity in payment between women and men is not something that is discovered paycheck by paycheck. Therefore, the 180 day period in which the majority found had expired was insufficient to ensure proper compensation for such pay disparities. This case led to Congress passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, signed into law by President Barack Obama. 

CCDC Executive Director Julie Reiskin could not agree more with Justice Ginsburg’s famous quotation, 

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

The importance of Justice Ginsburg’s passing is a stark reminder to all of us an issue Kevin Williams has been raising with CCDC members and people with disabilities for years:

“Everyone knows that all Federal Court judges and Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate’s advice and consent. If you don’t think voting matters, you’re not paying attention.”

As of right now, there are less than 45 days until the next presidential election.

The immediate question for all voters and constituents should be whether the current President and Senate should push through this lifetime appointment now or wait until the next presidential election? The last time a Justice died was in 2016 – ten months before the presidential election.  Senator Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the following before the 2016 election shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia:

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, “Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

He then repeated, 

“And you could use my words against me, and you’d be absolutely right.”

Also, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Senator Graham’s comments in February 2016:

“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration,” McConnell said. “The next President may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice.”

However, on September 18, 2020, within hours of her death, both senators said they intended to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Ginsburg’s death. Any nominee President Trump puts forward will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.  

CCDC ENCOURAGES OUR MEMBERS to call both Colorado Senators and ask them to wait until after the inauguration and then have an appropriate vetting process.

Contact Senator Cory Gardner

Contact Senator Michael Bennet

No one knows what will happen between now and November 3, 2020, but CCDC encourages you to vote. See Colorado Voter Q & A from CCDC. Your vote counts! Why, when individual voters do not vote for Federal Court judges? It is simple: 

  • Federal courts and judges under federal law hear civil rights cases for people with disabilities.
  • The president appoints federal judges.
  • The Senate confirms the appointment through their power of “Advice and Consent.”
  • Therefore, the protection of people with disabilities is in the hands of the President and the Senate.

We will miss Justice Ginsburg for her wisdom, passion for equality, humor, and contributions to the Supreme Court, particularly in equal rights for all people for the last 27 years. 

We continue to ask you to vote on or before November 3. Colorado mail-in ballots will arrive on or around October 9th. In short, voting remains highly important if for no other reason than to ensure the judges throughout the federal court system, including the Supreme Court, are appointed by a President who holds your same values and will nominate the federal judges you want. 

Vote as if your life depended on it. It just might.

Call our Senators and demand a reasonable, thoughtful process for vetting our next Supreme Court Justice.

Contact Senator Cory Gardner

Contact Senator Michael Bennet

Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, A.K.A. "The Notorious RGB."
Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, A.K.A. “The Notorious RGB.”

 

Jury Trial Protocols 6/30/2020

United States District Court. District of Colorado, Official Shield or Emblem

Jury Trial Protocols

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado has adopted the following protocols for conducting jury and bench trials in the Arraj and Rogers Courthouses in Denver during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

SUMMONING AND SCREENING OF POTENTIAL JURORS

 

  • Anticipating a higher rate of excused jurors, the Jury Division has increased monthly jury pools by approximately 40%.
  • All potential jurors will be informed of the courthouse mask requirement and urged to bring their own mask. Disposable masks will be available for those who show up without a mask.
  • During the week prior to their expected service, potential jurors will be contacted and screened for factors that would automatically excuse the potential jurors from service. These factors include:
    • Currently experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or recent loss of the sense of taste or smell;
    • Having had close contact in the last 14 days with any person who has been diagnosed within the last month with COVID-19;
    • Having been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, or health agency; or
    • Recognized by the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) as a person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • On their reporting day, jurors will be directed to an outdoor station to ask them again about the above-listed factors before they enter the courthouse.
  • A separate security line will be established for potential jurors in order to promote social distancing and provide for orderly entry into the courthouse.
  • Juror check-in will occur in the Arraj Jury Assembly Room, which will allow appropriate social distancing for approximately 50 potential jurors.

 

 

JURY SELECTION

 

Civil Trials:

  • Courtroom A201 (the ceremonial courtroom) will be used to conduct voir dire.
  • Jurors who are physically able will walk from the Jury Assembly Room to the ceremonial courtroom by stairs instead of elevators.
  • Jurors will be seated in the gallery of the ceremonial courtroom, which will accommodate 22 jurors with adequate social distancing. An additional five jurors may be seated in the jury box, and four more jurors may be seated in front of the jury box, if necessary.
  • Because the gallery will be occupied by the jury, spectators will not be permitted in the ceremonial courtroom. An audio link will be provided to allow members of the public to call in and listen to the proceedings.

Criminal Trials:

 

  • Courtroom A201 will be used to conduct voir dire.
  • Jurors who are physically able will walk from the Jury Assembly Room to the ceremonial courtroom by stairs instead of elevators.
  • Jurors will be seated in the gallery of the ceremonial courtroom, which will accommodate 22 jurors with adequate social distancing. An additional five jurors may be seated in the jury box, and four more jurors may be seated in front of the jury box, if necessary.
  • Voir dire may be conducted in two rounds, if necessary. In such case, peremptory challenges will be exercised at the conclusion of both rounds against the entire qualified venire.
  • A VTC link will be established between the ceremonial courtroom and the Jury Assembly Room so that the jurors seated in the Jury Assembly Room can follow along with the voir dire questions asked in the courtroom.
  • Because the gallery will be occupied by the jury, spectators will not be permitted in the ceremonial courtroom. An audio link will be provided to allow members of the public to call in and listen to the proceedings.

 

EMPANELED JURIES:

 

  • Trial will take place in the assigned courtroom of the presiding judicial officer or, in the discretion of the presiding judicial officer, in the ceremonial courtroom.
  • Jurors will sit in the gallery of the courtroom.
  • Jurors with sight or hearing issues will be seated towards the front of the gallery.
  • Jurors will be instructed to report to an alternate courtroom each morning and at the conclusion of lunch breaks, which will serve as the jury deliberation room.
  • Beginning on the morning of the second day of trial, and on all mornings thereafter, jurors will be required to call the assigned courtroom deputy before 7:30 a.m. if he or she is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

 

TRIAL PROCEDURES:

 

  • Everyone in the courtroom must wear a mask.
  • Masks may be removed for purposes of identification in-court and for the purposes of briefly allowing the jury to see the witness’s or party’s face by way of introducing the person to the jury.
  • Attorneys and witnesses are encouraged to experiment with different styles of masks prior to trial so that they choose a mask that protects others, but also allows them to be understood more easily when speaking into a microphone.
  • Two laptop computers will be set up in the jury deliberation room, which will allow an attorney to conduct a witness examination via VTC without a mask.
  • Witnesses may testify in the courtroom with a mask or via VTC from the jury deliberation room without a mask.
  • Attorneys may ask questions in the courtroom with a mask or via VTC from the jury deliberation room without a mask.
  • Attorneys should address the court and the jury from the table where they are sitting and avoid use of the podium.
  • Attorneys should speak from the same microphone for the duration of the trial and avoid touching the microphone. Microphone covers will be provided and changed out during the lunch break and before each day’s trial session.
  • Exhibits should be presented electronically or, if necessary, with the document viewer, to avoid passing out or touching paper.
  • The Court has procured a two-way electronic transceiver system that will allow private encrypted conversations between people speaking in a quiet voice.
  • One pair of transceivers will be offered to criminal defense counsel and the defendant to facilitate confidential communications between the two while in court and still allow for social distancing.
  • A second set of transceivers, set on a separate secure channel, will be provided to one attorney for each side/party, the presiding judicial officer, and the court reporter in order to conduct bench conferences.
  • Attorneys are encouraged to bring their own ear buds with microphone (male-end plug) for greater comfort and cleanliness when using the transceiver system. Criminal defense attorneys should also bring a set of earbuds for the defendant. Bluetooth is not supported by this system.
  • Bench conferences may be conducted using the transceiver system described above. At the judge’s discretion, the judge, one attorney for each side/party, and the court reporter, all wearing masks, can move to the jury deliberation room and/or hallway behind the courtroom to conduct bench conferences without using the transceiver system.
  • Parties shall have one, or at most two, witnesses in the witness waiting areas at any one time. Witnesses waiting to testify shall observe proper social distancing and wear masks.
  • Because the gallery will be occupied by the jury, spectators will not be permitted in the trial courtroom. An audio link will be provided to allow members of the public to call in and listen to the proceedings.

Bench Trials:

 

  • Bench trials will be conducted in accordance with the trial procedures outlined above adjusted for the absence of a jury.
  • Pursuant to the discretion of the presiding judicial officer, members of the public and other spectators will be permitted in the gallery of the courtroom. Spectators may only sit in designated locations in the gallery and must wear masks. In the alternative, an audio link will be provided to allow members of the public and other spectators to call in and listen to the proceedings.

 

 

GENERAL COURTROOM RULES:

 

  • All entrants to courthouses must abide by the entry requirements specified in General Order 2020-10.
  • Masks must be worn at all times within the courthouse.
  • Elevators are limited to two passengers at a time.
  • Public bathrooms are limited to two occupants at a time.
  • Each person must maintain at least 6 feet separation from other people.
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes will be available in all courtrooms.
  • Courtroom cleaning protocols have been enhanced; all high touch surfaces will be disinfected regularly.

 

Adopted by the Court on June 30, 2020.

 

Click here to download the Original “Jury Trial Protocols” on PDF

Unmasking the Mask “Debate”—a Message from Your Friendly Neighborhood Quadriplegic Civil Rights Legal Program Director

Photo of Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director, wearing a suit and seated in front of poster of Justice Thurgood Marshall with caption, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow human beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

I have tried to follow what I can regarding everything that has been posted on the mask “debate” subject, but it is time-consuming to follow, and I already have two full-time jobs: (1) I am a civil rights lawyer for people with disabilities;  and (2) I am a quadriplegic which, as many people with disabilities know, comes with it a remarkable number of duties that easily occupy forty hours of my week (managing attendant care, fighting with benefits agencies over “work incentive” programs, managing attendant care payroll duties, addressing durable medical equipment issues and repairs, addressing accessibility issues and failures, dealing with multiple medical appointments with types of medical personnel about whose professions I wasn’t aware before my spinal cord injury, etc.– the usual stuff people with disabilities deal with).

As a quadriplegic for 34 years, paralyzed from the chest down and with limited arm and hand function, pre-pandemic, I had some complicated daily issues. The basic stuff, like getting dressed and getting out of bed. But, because of my quadriplegic hands which I like to call “paws,” I have great difficulty getting my Bluetooth (the only one I found that I can even work) and my glasses on and off independently without dropping them, breaking them or without making my glasses so filthy in the process of taking them on and off independently, I can’t use them. Now, given what I believe is a critical need (and now a duty imposed by Executive Order of the state of Colorado), I cannot get a mask on that loops around my ears on and off effectively. I can’t seem to find any other types of useful facial coverings that work either. I have tried many.

Combine this with the fact that I am an attorney who specializes in disability rights enforcement, and I have to say this whole subject has been very interesting and has become somewhat nauseating. Why? I’ll tell you.

There certainly are a multitude of different forms of masks with varying degrees and levels of protective capabilities and efficiencies. I think we at CCDC have seen and heard and read the gamut of reasons why people claim they cannot wear masks, and some of them even seem reasonable. Recently, for example, CCDC received an email message from a person who said he was an attorney who told us that because he had COPD, he was very upset by the CCDC mask policy which is posted on our website. He stated in his email that he certainly would never recommend anybody use our services because of what he alleged was a discriminatory policy. CCDC designed the policy to address the extraordinary and important healthcare crisis that affects many of our own staff and many people in the general public. As you might be aware, there is a pandemic that is killing people. People with disabilities are often the first to go. Also, has anyone heard the word “comorbidity?” It is a term that is all the rage in newspapers and scientific journals. It is also something that describes the disabilities of many people, including maybe even me.

And, in the case of the “lawyer” who sent the email saying he won’t refer anyone to us because of our “discriminatory” policy, here is what I would have to say about that if a client contacted CCDC regarding such an issue:

First, in order to prove discrimination on the basis of disability, we would have to prove (1) the alleged impairment an individual has (difficulty in breathing, for example) “substantially limits” a major life activity (breathing certainly counts as a major life activity, but how substantially limited is the individual’s ability to breathe as it relates to the COPD and what medical records and doctors we are going to need to be able to prove that to a judge or jury are all questions we must consider. (2) wearing a facial covering (as we are now required to do under Colorado law) somehow prohibits the individual from engaging in the major life activity of breathing (it is pretty unlikely that a mild impact upon the ability to breathe would create a case that would survive dismissal of a lawsuit); (3) is there any other accommodation for that impairment that might allow compliance with the state law mandate and avoid concern regarding the direct threat to the health and safety of others that might alleviate the problem (like a different type of facial covering designed in a way that helps the individual with the impairment and still protects others from getting a potentially life-threatening virus which is the goal here)?

Now, if I can assist someone and jump through all of those hoops, I still have to prove that allowing the individual to avoid wearing the facial covering does not pose a “direct threat” to the health and safety of the individual or others. That is going to require a lot of medical records, medical individuals and their sworn statements and testimony. It is also going to cost a lot of money and take a lot of time. CDDC’s Legal Program might consider taking this on, but what if we can’t prove everything I have listed? A case is not won by someone saying, “I have a disability, and your rule requiring me to wear a facial covering makes things difficult for me.” We need evidence. We need data. We need testimony that is credible. We need proof. AND we need to show the defense of public safety is not real. I would suggest that the evidence of how not wearing a facial covering and spreading germs has a substantial basis in scientific evidence to be able to combat a theory that absolutely no facial covering whatsoever would eliminate the direct threat. I can’t say I know the answer to this question in every case because other than email rants and social media rants and people who make unfounded claims without such evidence is all we have seen so far. If I had all of the evidence before me, I might be able to agree that an individual has a valid claim. Just saying you have a disability and saying that some activity required by law substantially limits you in engaging in one or more major life activities as defined by law is not sufficient to hold up in court, my friends.

Now let’s talk about me some more. I have a limited respiratory capacity (34 years of chest muscles that don’t work as well as having to have been on a ventilator once before after dying from sepsis and having to be resuscitated). I also have a highly compromised immune system as a result of repeated infections throughout my life. These are just a couple of potential comorbidity factors I deal with. Can you tell I really like that word?

Even before the recent Order, CCDC had a mask policy. As did the City and County of Denver. Many people at CCDC gave the mask policy a great amount of consideration. CCDC took into consideration an enormous number of viewpoints. As stated in the policy itself, CCDC always remains willing to update or make “reasonable modifications” to the mask policy and any other policy as needed to address changes in any factors like the availability of the types of masks out there as well as the extremely important need to keep our staff, members, clients and the general public safe. We certainly would not want to create a “direct threat” to the health and safety of our staff and others. Especially the community of people with disabilities we serve and those who run CCDC.

All of this work to create a policy has been done only to result in having extremely nasty insults hurled our way as a result. Luckily, “screaming” arguments usually in ALL CAPS through social media or some other quick and easy method that does not involve actual face-to-face communication with human beings (pardon the choice of words given the subject matter) which are rampant regarding the subject of wearing masks do not force CCDC to take a case or provide assistance without implementing a policy for the intended purpose of saving the lives of those we serve. I can’t help you with your legal claim if either of us dies from COVID-19.

Back to me again. What I have found that works best for me is the basic disposable mask that I wear all day long as a beard cover or chin cover most of the time. I have the good fortune of being able to work at home most of the time to avoid exposing you to the virus (or vice-versa), but there are all sorts of reasons why we all must go out for various reasons, sometimes unexpectedly. Therefore, I have to leave my mask on all the time. I call it my “beard cover” when it hangs below my mouth and nose so I can eat and drink. It is the only method I have found so far that works. I can use my quadriplegic paws to pull the mask up over my nose when I do have to go out. It is quite a look. Yes, it is uncomfortable. Yes, the loops hurt my ears, especially since I have only found one Bluetooth that works effectively for me without having to have somebody with me 24 hours a day and because I have to wear glasses as mentioned above which, along with the mask, rest on my ear all day. Contact lenses don’t work for quadriplegics. But, let us all remember, I am trying to save you from the germs I might have and not know about because this pandemic like other versions of COVID is tricky and doesn’t let you know you’re sick until you have already spread the germs.

Now, you might want to ignore the science that would prove the defendant’s case of “direct threat” if I had to sue on your behalf.  But I can’t bring a case for you unless I have a good faith belief in the claims I must prove and the defenses I must defeat. You are welcome to represent yourself pro se (meaning on behalf of yourself without a lawyer), and I wish you luck, but you still have to convince a court and/or jury of the types of facts I have discussed.

I want to make sure that CCDC would never discount anyone with an actual disability who is willing to engage in the “interactive process” with us regarding how to interact and not create a direct threat to themselves, our staff and others in the many activities CCDC might be involved with. This process is also required under the law for those seeking reasonable accommodations to laws, policies, practices and procedures. CCDC will always make reasonable adjustments and accommodations as needed to accommodate anyone’s disability. Remember, however, when you engage in the “interactive process,” you need to disclose what your disability is, how it substantially limits a major life activity, etc. You need to explain why you need an accommodation such as not wearing a mask. You can send more email messages in ALL CAPS to me if you disagree, but that’s the truth of the matter. Facts are stubborn things. Law is even more obstinate when you have to apply those stubborn facts if what one alleges is even a provable fact. You see, we lawyers have to prove facts. We don’t get to just say stuff to a jury or a judge in ALL CAPS! (Including underlining, bolding, italicizing and fancy fonts won’t sway your judge either, I promise.) We don’t win by doing so.

One of the “disabilities” people have claimed any mandatory mask policy violates includes, “I have to see your face because I read lips.” I do realize the type of mask I wear covers my mouth.

To begin with, CCDC’s policies allow multiple forms of communication that do not require face-to-face contact especially when initial meetings are involved.

In addition, we have had so many expert witnesses in so many cases involving deaf clients who have provided expert reports and/or testimony regarding the generally high level of the ineffectiveness of lip-reading.

Nevertheless, I do understand that the need to see facial expressions is helpful to some people with some communication disabilities. Of course, this assumes we can prove all the factors I listed above.

People have suggested wearing a “face shield.” Because I spent a great deal of time researching what kind of face-covering would work best for me to prevent you from getting my germs, I found out the problem with a face shield is twofold for me: (1) a face shield is really only effective when worn with a mask as well; and (2) I can’t find one that doesn’t just fall off of my head on a regular basis. The same is true of the chin cover I discussed earlier. For example, I was driving to a medical appointment and had my mask simply fall off my face into my lap as I was driving. (By the way, with adaptive equipment, for those of you who don’t know, quadriplegics can drive. For that matter, for those of you don’t know, quadriplegics can also be lawyers.) When I arrived at the medical appointment, an appointment at which I needed to be in close contact with medical personnel, I just used my quadriplegic paw to hold the mask up to my face and requested that the medical personnel help put the ear loops back around my ears. That is what I call a reasonable accommodation based on my disability under the circumstances. I assure you that the medical staff person was wearing a mask and other personal protective equipment at the time. I would not have allowed this to happen if that was not the case for the protection of both of us.

Consequences related to spreading the virus: Having been on a ventilator before, I do not want to subject anyone else to that experience if I can help it. And, as a matter of personal choice, I do not want to have to go that process again. That certainly does not mean that I will not continue representing, as I have, my friends, colleagues and clients who use various breathing devices in order to survive each day. (Many of them also have figured out ways to use facial coverings. ) It is amazing what a person with a disability can do when that person thinks through a problem that when solved might save someone’s life when that person takes a moment to think it through. Of course, that takes a little research and more time then screaming in ALL CAPS. That is what I find so personally annoying about people who say I have [fill in the blank] disability, and, therefore, I CAN’T wear a facial covering.  People with genuine disabilities are the most resourceful people I have ever met. We find ways to get things done that non-disabled people simply take for granted. Like…how to drive when you can’t use your lower extremities and have substantial limitations in your upper extremities. It is a facial covering, people! Figure it out! There are very few situations, if any, I have come across that lead me to believe that there is absolutely no face covering or some other reasonable accommodation that absolutely won’t work for almost all people — those with disabilities and those without — in almost any circumstance. When the goal is saving lives, putting up with some inconvenience and creative thinking is the better approach, in my view.

I believe CCDC has gone out of its way in establishing a policy that allows reasonable accommodation for anyone alleging they can’t wear a facial covering for any number of reasons. Again, we are always amenable to tweaking the policy, but the truth of the matter is, for most of our activities, there are many other ways to communicate without subjecting our staff (or anyone with whom CCDC members interact) to individuals who do not wear masks or vice versa. The same is true for all human beings in all circumstances. Work with your local independent living center or department of vocational rehabilitation. Be creative. Be considerate of others.

And please stop LYING!

All I can say is I strongly agree with a comment made by a fellow disability rights lawyer on a listserv: “The continued co-opting of disability laws for entitled political nonsense is frustrating, to say the least, and detracts from those who really do have difficulties and need accommodation.” Michelle Uzeta, thank you!

As an individual who has lived with quadriplegia for 34 of 53 years of my life, I have absolutely had it with fakers. You know who you are. You make the law that was so extremely hard-fought-for and has changed the lives of many of us with disabilities a joke. We are sick of you.

In general, if you inquired of any non-disabled individual what the worst thing is that could ever happen to that individual or a member of that individual’s family, the ready response would be “to become disabled,” as in paralyzed, blind, deaf, etc., and then have so many of these same individuals take advantage of disability-related accommodations that are truly needed turns my stomach.

By the way, when I say those rights were “hard-fought for,” I ask anyone who has never used a wheelchair because of the disability if they would be willing to become disabled and require the use of a wheelchair and then to hurl themselves out of that wheelchair in front of buses in the busiest intersection of Denver, Colorado to protest the inaccessibility of “public” transportation?

JUL 5 1978, JUL 6 1978. Demonstrators Sleep On the Job. Four demonstrators sleep in the street Thursday morning after spending the night blocking two Regional Transportation District buses near the corner of East Colfax Avenue and Lincoln Street. They were among about 30 persons who maintained an overnight vigil to dramatize the need for greater accessibility to public transportation for the handicapped. The buses, stopped and barricaded by about 30 persons early Wednesday, were freed Thursday morning. The barricade has served its purpose, said Wade Blank. Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images).

Or, how about the numerous individuals with disabilities who literally crawled up the steps of our United States Capitol during the “Capitol Crawl” to protest the inaccessibility of government buildings. These are the activities that helped get the ADA passed.

`

"Capitol Crawl" photo of protesters with disabilities crawling up the Capitol steps in Washington, DC to protest the lack of accessibility and get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed.Photo of the “Capitol Crawl” showing protesters with disabilities crawling up the inaccessible United States Capitol steps in order to protest the inaccessibility for purposes of getting the Americans with Disabilities Act passed.

This is why so much fakery leads me to have an extraordinarily increased lack of faith in the ability of human beings to show any empathy. Most non-disabled people will readily say they would rather be dead than disabled. (I might have even said that or thought that way when I had the accident that caused my injury when I was 19. Now, I actually think incurring a disability was the best thing that ever happened to me, but that would be another very long post.)

Beyond that, historically, individuals with disabilities are always the “first to go” (I mean — to be exterminated) when supremacists of any kind try to eliminate anyone they feel does not meet their standards for supremacy as occurred during the Holocaust. Again, you can fact check me if you like before sending your email.

This, along with the current debate regarding racial inequity all serves to provide further evidence of what seems to me like an incredible moral decline in humanity. During my 34 years as a quadriplegic and my 23 years of law practice in the area of disability rights, here are just some of the highlights of what we continue to see happening here in Denver, Colorado (once awarded for being the most accessible city in the country for people with disabilities):

(1) Individuals with strollers who demanded and continued to demand that our regional transportation system allow them to use the designated wheelchair seating sections on buses as well as light rail trains sometimes falsely claiming that the individual or the child in the stroller has a disability that requires the use of the limited wheelchair seating sections.

(2) Individuals who are willing to click the magic box on ticketing websites that states that you or someone in your party requires the use of a mobility device in order for the non-disabled individuals to get front row seats at Colorado’s beloved Red Rocks Amphitheatre (at which the only available wheelchair seating and this historic concert venue is located at the front or back of the venue and could not be placed elsewhere without great difficulty). These fakers even go as far as to use the tickets themselves and dance wildly next to those of us who use wheelchairs and need to sit there, or resell them on some other website at highly inflated prices close to the time of the show saying things like “great front row seating tickets except you might have to sit with a bunch of people who use wheelchairs (read as “cripples”).” Or they simply buy up the entire front row wheelchair seating section preventing those of us who want to attend the concert from being able to do so.

(3) Individuals who borrow a relative’s vehicle with a license plate demarcating the vehicle as one that may park in an accessible parking space or simply borrowing or stealing placards demarcating the same in order to get closer parking spaces especially at times like holiday shopping seasons when the individual has no disability whatsoever that would require the use of such a license plate or placard uses it for the purpose of being able to park closer.

(4) People who fake the need for a service animal or emotional support animal which has become rampant and caused everyone to go online and get a “vest” or fake letter from an alleged medical professional saying they have a need for the animal when there are so many individuals who have a legitimate need and the training service animals are so important to the lives of so many of the people CCDC serves. (I think many of us will have a hard time forgetting the story of the “emotional support peacock.”)

And now, [drumroll, please!] coming to you from some of the greatest fakers in the world for no other reason than politics and the inability to give a moment’s thought to how to save another person’s life or keep the individual from going through extensive, complicated medical treatment that may have extraordinary lasting consequences:

(5) People who won’t wear masks or just don’t like wearing masks who pretend that they are protected by civil rights laws and privacy laws regarding disability screaming (incorrectly) “and you are not allowed to ask me what my disability is” when there is no real disability-related reason to do so. Or those who just refuse to think of the potential consequences:  I recently heard someone who is the 80-year-old relative of a friend say, “Everyone will think I’m a Democrat if I wear a mask.” Therefore, she refuses to wear a mask.

I certainly am not suggesting that there are not circumstances listed above involving an actual individual with a disability with a legitimate need, but we all know people are taking advantage. When people take advantage, it just inspires others to do the same or to believe that the accommodations that people with disabilities need are not real or are not needed. It also is a constant reminder of how despised people with disabilities are. So much so that there is an increasing number of people who simply don’t care and will do anything to take advantage of the necessary accommodations we do need. Even if it means possibly killing us.

People complain all the time that all of the “handicap parking spaces” are always empty even though I can never find a parking space that will accommodate my side-loading wheelchair ramp, so they use that as an excuse as to why they should be allowed to park there when there are no other spaces available.

I hope everyone who is using an alleged and fake disability as a reason for not wearing a mask stays well and healthy and survives this pandemic. You are doing your fellow human beings an enormous disservice. I also wish you well in surviving both this pandemic and the rest of your life without having to incur the types of disabilities you are faking to take advantage of our needed accommodations. Personally, I have absolutely no problem living life as a quadriplegic. What I do have is a serious problem with people who take advantage of laws that have changed my life and allowed me to help change the lives of other individuals with disabilities dramatically despite your utter inhumanity.

Kevin W. Williams
CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director
(720) 336-3584
kwilliams@ccdconline.org (any email messages containing ALL CAPS addressing the topics raised herein will be deleted immediately without being read)

P.S. And if this is what it takes to survive the pandemic, so be it!

 

Photograph of Kevin Williams with medical gloves stuck on his hands with toilet paper wrapped around his neck, a mask as described above on his face and a bottle of gin and a can of spray disinfectant in his lap.

 

ON THIS MEMORIAL DAY, LET US REMEMBER! | A message from Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director

As many of us know, Memorial Day (formally known as “Decoration Day”) exists for the purpose of remembering, i.e., memorializing, those brave human beings who have died and fallen in combat to protect true and real liberties of this Great Nation! To all of them, so many of whom returned to our country as people with disabilities, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, many veterans with disabilities are housed (basically warehoused) in veterans’ homes and are dying from the current pandemic at rates far higher than the general population of humans who have the ability to shelter at home. To those great veterans with disabilities and others warehoused in these institutions without any reprieve, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, the current pandemic affects everyone in ways that none of us could ever imagine. However, people with disabilities who remain the most vulnerable population across the globe and yet who fight for justice with incredible courage and tenacity, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

Image of Wade Blank, standing in before an American flag
Wade Blank, crusader for the rights of people with disabilities transitioning from their incarceration in nursing homes to their own homes and creating, alongside people with disabilities, the organization ADAPT

As many of us know, ADAPT, certainly one of the greatest and most powerful leaders in the disability rights community dating back to 1983 in Colorado with its roots dating back to 1973, when 19 young people with disabilities incarcerated in nursing homes for most of their lives, said no more and moved into their own apartments. Once in the community with other human beings, they realized there were many barriers — inaccessible public transportation, restaurants, stores, and so many other places. In discussing ADAPT, we cannot forget Wade Blank, a champion of social justice and social change who worked at Heritage House, the place of incarceration where our 19 friends and colleagues with disabilities (many who are no longer with us) were trapped against their will, who helped them in their insistence that they be in their homes and not nursing homes. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, so many people who are currently warehoused in nursing homes across this country and those who work in those nursing homes are dying at a rate far higher than the rest of us were able to shelter in our own homes as a result this pandemic and the fact that no assistance appears to be being provided. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, ADAPT went on to challenge Denver’s Regional Transportation District (“RTD”), the largest “public” bus system now including light rail and commuter rail services in the Denver metropolitan area. Of course, RTD did not think the “public” included people with disabilities. After countless meetings and negotiations between ADAPT members with disabilities and RTD that went nowhere the now-famous “Gang of 19” staged a two-day protest blocking one of the busiest intersections in downtown Denver of Colfax and Broadway, people with disabilities blocked buses with their bodies, getting out of their wheelchairs and lying in the street. This action eventually led to RTD making all of its buses have wheelchair lifts. Denver was the first city in the United States to do so as a direct result of this protest. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

 

Plaque located at the site where the Gang of 19 protested on Colfax Ave. in Denver, Colorado
Plaque located at the site where the Gang of 19 protested on Colfax Ave. in Denver, Colorado

 

Image of protesters with disabilities who got out of their wheelchairs to block RTD buses in the 1984 “Gang of 19” protest
JUL 5 1978, JUL 6 1978 Demonstrators Sleep On the Job Four demonstrators sleep in the street Thursday morning after spending the night blocking two Regional Transportation District buses near the corner of East Colfax Avenue and Lincoln Street. They were among about 30 persons who maintained an overnight vigil to dramatize the need for greater accessibility to public transportation for the handicapped. The buses stopped and barricaded by about 30 persons early Wednesday, were freed Thursday morning. The barricade has served its purpose, said Wade Blank. Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

 

As many of us know, ADAPT and so many people with disabilities, in the great tradition of protest movements for civil rights of Black people, women, the LGTB community and so many other human beings who sought equal treatment and civil rights under the law, those people with disabilities crawled up the United States Capitol steps, many abandoning their wheelchairs behind them in order to demonstrate the struggle of inaccessibility and unequal treatment to get Congress and President George H.W. Bush to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

Picture of eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan leading people with physical disabilities protesting the lack of accessibility on the March 12, “Capitol Crawl” (© AP Images)
Picture of eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan leading people with physical disabilities protesting the lack of accessibility on the March 12, “Capitol Crawl” (© AP Images)
Image of President George H.W. Bush with Evan J. Kemp, Jr., then the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (pictured next to President Bush seated in his motorized wheelchair) and Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr., often called the “Godfather of the ADA,” an American activist and advocate for people with disabilities and co-founder of the American
Image of President George H.W. Bush with Evan J. Kemp, Jr., then the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (pictured next to President Bush seated in his motorized wheelchair) and Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr., often called the “Godfather of the ADA,” an American activist and advocate for people with disabilities and co-founder of the American Association of People with Disabilities (also pictured next to President Bush seated in his wheelchair)

 

As many of us know, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (“CCDC”) was formed by people with disabilities in 1990 bring the promises of the ADA to and ensure they were enforced in Colorado. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, CCDC, and solidarity with so many like-minded disability rights advocates and activists across the country and worldwide, with its mission to ensure social justice for people with disabilities of all kinds, has made major changes on the impact of the lives of people with disabilities in Colorado and throughout the nation. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, attorneys across the country and those who work for CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program have spent decades of our lives devoted to the simple principle that people with disabilities are people entitled to the same liberty and justice enjoyed by all human beings. It does not always take a village to solve a problem even though that is a good approach; often, unfortunately, it takes a lawsuit! On behalf of CCDC and all of the hundreds and maybe thousands of attorneys who understand that simple principle, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, CCDC in solidarity with disability rights groups throughout the country, are steering people with disabilities and those in power in the right direction, recognizing the humanity and quality of all people to maintain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the face of this pandemic that is killing us for reasons that make no sense. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, there are people in this country who seek to take advantage of those accommodations that are necessary in order to provide equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, but we reject and have exposed and stopped your inhumane attempts to do so. The last thing anybody claims they ever want to be is a person with a disability, but so many non-disabled people are willing to try to take advantage of the necessary accommodations people with disabilities need for equality. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, there people today in this country who claim to have a disability as the reason for not wearing a mask to protect the health and safety of all of us, those with disabilities and those without. There may be legitimate disability-related reasons for not wearing a mask, but to those of you who are doing so illegitimately, we shame you. What you’re doing is despicable and will not be tolerated. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

"mask loophole" meme that states "I am exempt from ALL REGULATION mandating face mask usage in public. Wearing a face mask poses a health risk to me. Under the ADA and HIPPA, I am NOT required to disclose my medical condition to anyone." The meme goes on to warn of financial penalties for businesses and provides a phone number for the Department of Justice.
ADA and HIPAA “mask loophole” meme

As many of us know, “The economic shutdown related to COVID-19 has complicated the lives of Colorado people with disabilities, who find their routines upset, their jobs at risk and their quest for affordable, accessible housing more difficult.” On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, on this Memorial Day, often-called the unofficial “First Day of Summer,” “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around!”[Lyrics from “Life During Wartime.”© David Byrne, 1979. Talking Heads, Fear of Music album and featured in the 1984 film Stop Making Sense]  Our friends, our loved ones and our colleagues are dying in large numbers. The death toll in the United States will most likely reach 100,000 as of the end of this hallowed Memorial Day! On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

 

— Kevin W. Williams, Civil Rights Legal Program Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. Permission to share and distribute widely because we need to remember and continue in the proud tradition of disability rights activists all over the world and fix this calamity as soon as possible and save ourselves! We SHALL overcome!

Picture of Kevin W. Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director shown in front of banner that reads, “Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition: Nothing about us without us.”
Picture of Kevin W. Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director shown in front of
a banner that reads, “Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition: Nothing about us without us.”

READ THE PDF VERSION, CLICK HERE

PART 3: URGENT AND IMPORTANT CCDC INVESTIGATION OF CSL PLASMA

Please see Part 1  and Part 2 for other important related information.

THE FOLLOWING PROVIDES AND EXPLANATION OF THE LEGAL BACKGROUND REGARDING DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION THAT MAY OCCUR BY PLASMA CENTERS, INCLUDING CSL PLASMA:

According to their website, CSL Plasma states the following with respect to “Who Can Donate?”

Anyone in good health, 18 or older, who weighs at least 110 lbs, have had no tattoos or piercings within the last 12 months, meets our eligibility and screening requirements, has valid identification and a permanent address is eligible to donate plasma.

To maintain high health standards, a member of our medical staff gives every potential donor a screening examination, and gathers medical history information. This is for the donor’s safety as well as the quality of the product that will be made from plasma, and we assure the utmost respect to donor privacy.

Both the requirements regarding “good health” and the required “screening examination” may very well discriminate against people with disabilities, even though they may have been put in place with the best of intentions. These phrases often serve as buzzwords for disability discrimination. For example, what does “good health” mean and who gets to decide? Also, as explained below, “screening examinations” may screen out letting people with disabilities donate plasma even when an individual’s disability has nothing to do with the ability to provide a plasma donation safely.

Plasma centers like CSL Plasma are places of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (“CADA”) and are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of disability.[1] As such, CSL Plasma cannot refuse to allow you (if you are an individual with the disability) to donate and receive payment for doing so on the basis of disability except under very limited circumstances. If you have already contacted a CSL Plasma center in the past and have been denied the ability to donate plasma based solely on the basis of your disability or if you call now to try to make a donation, here are some key things to remember:

No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who ow/ns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.[2]

Both Title III of the ADA and the CADA apply to the owners of public accommodations and/or businesses that lease a place of public accommodation or operate a place of public accommodation, although the CADA refers to “any person” who discriminates whereas the ADA only applies to entities that discriminate, not persons.[3] You should also be aware that Title III of the ADA prohibits an entity from engaging in contractual, licensing or other arrangements that result in discrimination on the basis of disability as well.[4] The CADA is intended to apply all of the same standards and defenses as the ADA.[5] As a result, it is possible, for example, that the CADA incorporates standards pertaining to contractual licensing and other arrangements that result in discrimination. Title III of the ADA prohibits many forms of discrimination some of which are very direct and others are much more subtle.

And now for some minutia or “getting in the weeds” of ADA Title III and CADA claims:

An individual or class of individuals on the basis of disability cannot be denied the equal opportunity to participate in plasma donation; nor can an individual or entity like CSL Plasma use “standards or criteria or methods of administration” that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability or perpetuate the discrimination of others (for example, a standard that prohibited all people who are blind or deaf or who have any other form of disability that is not specifically related to the individual’s ability to donate plasma).[6] Title III also prohibits imposing “application of eligibility criteria ” that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with the disability or any class of individual with disabilities from participating in plasma donation and prohibits failing to “make reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures” when such modifications are necessary to afford an individual with disabilities and equal opportunity to participate in plasma donation or due to a failure to “provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services” (like sign language interpreters if necessary for effective indication) in order to participate in plasma donation.[7] Modifications of policies, practices and procedures under Title III of the ADA may also include requiring that a plasma center not discriminate against an individual with the disability who uses a service animal.[8] Under the CADA, an individual with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal and even a trainer of a or an individual with the disability accompanied by an animal that is being trained to be a service animal is permitted to have the service animal in or service animal in training in any place of public accommodation.[9]

In addition, plasma centers are required to be fully accessible to people with disabilities if they are newly constructed facilities under the ADA if they have been altered or renovated in a significant way, and they must remove architectural and communication barriers when doing so is readily achievable which means without difficulty or expense (like installing accessible parking spaces and ensuring that equipment and rooms are made accessible when doing so is not complicated or expensive).[10] The CADA also addresses design and construction issues with respect to the requirements that it be construed to apply the same standards and defenses available under the ADA reference above and also in its remedial provisions.[11]

For people with mobility disabilities, there is specific guidance issued jointly by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (“Joint Guidance”). This guidance addresses requirements related to the accessibility of medical equipment and also the need to accommodate individuals with such disabilities. SeeAmericans with Disabilities Act: Access To Ethical Care for Individuals With Mobility Disabilities.” Here are just some examples that relate directly to this guidance as well as prohibitions set forth in the policies of plasma clinics regarding transferring individuals with mobility disabilities:

    • Question: I don’t want to discriminate against patients with disabilities, but I don’t want my staff to injure their backs by lifting people who use wheelchairs onto exam tables. If my nurse has a bad back, then she doesn’t have to help lift a patient, does she?

Staff should be protected from injury, but that doesn’t justify refusing to provide equal medical services to individuals with disabilities. The medical provider can protect his or her staff from injury by providing accessible equipment, such as an adjustable exam table and/or a ceiling or floor based patient lift, and training on proper patient handling techniques as necessary to provide equal medical services to a patient with a disability. (See Part 4 [of the document] for more information on this equipment.)

    • Question: What should I do if my staff do not know how to help a person with a disability transfer or know what the ADA requires my office to do? Also, I am unsure how to examine someone with spasticity or paralysis.[12]

To provide medical services in an accessible manner, the medical provider and staff will likely need to receive training. This training will need to address how to operate the accessible equipment, how to assist with transfers and positioning of individuals with disabilities, and how not to discriminate against individuals with disabilities. Local or national disability organizations may be able to provide training for your staff.[13]

Therefore, it might very well be considered discrimination on the basis of disability if a plasma clinic has a policy or standard that requires an individual who uses a wheelchair who wishes to donate plasma to be able to transfer herself to a device such as an examination table or chair used for plasma donation independently and without any assistance from the staff working at the plasma center.

Furthermore, it is very important that plasma centers do not discriminate on the basis of myths, fears, and stereotypes associated with disabilities as often occurs with respect to people with cognitive or psychiatric disabilities.[14] Therefore, if a plasma center prevented someone during its screening process from donating plasma because of fears or stereotypes related to the individual due to a condition that causes muscle spasms, seizures or psychiatric disorders, all of these actions may constitute discrimination under Title III. Likewise, if a plasma center refused to allow someone to be a plasma donor because the individual had a psychiatric disability based on a fear that the individual might attempt to donate plasma without having taken his or her medications might very well constitute discrimination on the basis of disability.

There are exceptions to all of the forms of discrimination that are prohibited under Title III of the ADA set forth above, but they are very limited. For example, if allowing the individual to donate plasma would cause an “undue burden to the plasma center, or if the individual somehow constituted a direct threat to the health or safety of others even if the behavior that caused that direct threat was related to disability and could not be accommodated reasonably, the plasma center may refuse to allow the individual to donate plasma. Even when a plasma center falls under the ADA provisions addressing newly designed and constructed facilities, there might be an exception for full and complete accessibility if it is structurally impracticable to make the facility accessible and in compliance with the requirements for the Standards for Accessible Design. There may be other disability-related reasons why an individual might not be able to donate plasma (for example, if an individual had some blood-related disease that would interfere with providing plasma, this might constitute an exception). Nevertheless, as said, the exceptions are very limited. As an example of the limitations on the exceptions, making a  determination as to whether allowing an individual with a disability to donate plasma constitutes an undue burden for the facility at issue, many considerations must be made like determining resources and capabilities of any parent company involved with the facility in question. Another example relates to the structural impracticability defense related to designing instruction. A public accommodation like a plasma center would have to prove that the conditions under which the facility was built made it almost nearly impossible to build it in for compliance with the ADA if it falls under the newly designed and constructed facilities provisions.

Therefore, as set forth in Part 1 of this Alert, please let us know if you have experienced discrimination on the basis of your disability by CSL Plasma, or, as set forth in Part 2 of this Alert if you wish to contact CSL Plasma and donate plasma, and you experience discrimination on the basis of disability as a result, please do contact Kara Gillon at the email address or telephone number listed in Part 1 of this Alert.

[1] 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(f) (defines “public accommodation” to include the office of a healthcare provider or other service establishment); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-601(1)(defines “place of public accommodation” to mean a place of business engaged in sales to the public and any place offering services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to the public, including but not limited to any business offering sales to the public or public facility of any kind whether indoor or outdoor); Levorsen v. Octapharma Plasma, Inc., 828 F.3d 1227, 1234 (10th Cir. 2016) (holding that a similar plasma donation center is a public accommodation under the ADA).

[2] 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-601(2)(a) (referencing the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability by any “person” defined elsewhere in the statute, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-301(5)(a), as including limited liability companies, partnerships, associations, corporations and other entities similar to those identified in Title III of the ADA).

[3] Id.

[4] 42 U.S.C. § 12182(1)(A)(i)-(iii).

[5] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-802(4); Colo. Code Regs. § 708-1:60.

[6] Id. §§ (b)(1)(A)(1) & (b)(1)(D).

[7] Id. §§ (b)(2)(A)(i)-(iii).

[8] 28 C.F.R. § 36 302(c)(1).

[9] Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 24-34-803(1)(a) & (2)(a) & 24-34-804(1). Both the ADA and the CADA place some limitations on the use of a service animal (and/or under the CADA a service animal in training). 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.302(c)(2), (4), (5) (the animal must be in the control of its handler, the animal must be housebroken and public accommodations are not responsible for the care or supervision of service animals); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-803(4)(requiring that a service animal or a service animal in training must be under the custody or control of the individual wh the disability or the trainer).

[10] 42 U.S.C. §§ 12183 (applicable to new construction and alterations) & 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv) (applicable to the requirement of existing facilities — those designed and constructed before the enactment of the ADA — to remove structural and communication barriers when doing so is readily achievable).

[11] Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 24-34-802(b)-(c).

[12] A similar analysis would be applied to a blood donation center or plasma donation center.

[13] The guidance provides direct contact information for the ADA Website and the US Department of Justice as well.

[14] 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, app. C at 706 (a person who is not allowed into a public accommodation because of the myths, fears, and stereotypes associated with disabilities would be protected under the ADA as would an individual who was denied services because the public accommodation feared a psychological condition constituting a disability might result in problems if the individual was not medicated properly).

⇐⇐Part 1                  ⇐ Part 2

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PART 2: URGENT AND IMPORTANT CCDC INVESTIGATION OF CSL PLASMA


Please see Part 1  and Part 3 for other important related information.

CCDC MEMBERS, IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY ATTEMPTED TO DONATE PLASMA TO CSL PLASMA (See all locations set forth in Part 1 of this Alert):

  • DO YOU NEED TO EARN MONEY? (Silly question, we know.)
  • DO YOU WANT TO SAVE LIVES BY HELPING YOUR FELLOW COLORADANS? (CCDC members are always the first responders when it comes to helping others.)
  • DO YOU WANT TO HELP CCDC WITH A DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION WITH AN INVESTIGATION BY DONATING PLASMA OR TRYING TO DO SO? (We need your help to determine what, if any, discrimination on the basis of disability is happening.)

What could be better than that? A trifecta. CCDC members and friends, would you like to earn up to 400 extra dollars per month[1] on an ongoing basis and provide an enormously needed service to help others in need? Why not donate plasma? Currently, plasma centers are designated as a “Critical Business” that will remain open for purposes of making donations under the current Colorado Order and PHO (see Part  1 of this Alert for links to these orders) as well as under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency[2] because their services are needed desperately by those who need plasma. In addition, CSL Plasma advertises that it is taking extreme precautions to follow all COVID-19 protocols in order to ensure the safety of those of you who want to help others who desperately need donated plasma.[3] CCDC certainly wants to ensure that all of its members and our families, friends and colleagues stay safe and healthy. Finally, CCDC wants to make sure that CSL Plasma is not discriminating against people with disabilities and needs your help to investigate whether this is happening.

We all know everyone is struggling both with worries about their own physical health and the physical health of their friends and family, and we all are dealing with economic circumstances that also provide us all with a great amount of stress. For many, economic problems are enormous.   On top of the physical health and economic concerns that weigh heavily upon all of us, our current circumstances are affecting many people’s mental health as well.

One way we can all benefit others as well as earn some income during these stressful economic times is to donate blood and plasma. Because people are staying at home, they are much less likely inclined to provide needed donations of blood and plasma to those centers that will make it available for life-giving and life-sustaining procedures for so many people throughout our state.

Several recent news reports provide some examples regarding medical needs in Colorado, and plasma donations are needed now more than ever.[4]

CCDC is investigating CSL Plasma, because there is reason to believe that this entity is discriminating against people with disabilities and preventing them from donating plasma as a result. Even though people with disabilities want to do their part and help others as well as earn needed income in the process, they might be turned away from doing so for reasons resulting from disability discrimination that could very well violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (“CADA”) and possibly other disability rights laws.

You can earn up to $400 for donations each month and help save other people’s lives in the process. Even though you might have already received or soon will be receiving a tax refund and/or a stimulus check, for many of CCDC members with disabilities, this additional money can really help especially those on lower incomes and those who are currently not working because of the pandemic. By doing so, you can provide a potentially life-saving service for so many people who are either hospitalized or have conditions requiring them to need plasma transfusions for reasons that may or may not be related to the current pandemic. This needed service for others can help CCDC members with disabilities with their needed extra income.

So, by donating plasma, you can serve three very meaningful purposes: (1) You can help yourself make it through these difficult economic times; (2) you can help others who so desperately need plasma to survive; and (3) you can help CCDC with its investigation regarding whether this plasma center is discriminating on the basis of disability. This is an extremely rare win-win-WIN situation!

So many CCDC members (many of home live on lower and fixed incomes) who have always stepped up to help others in need in the past have asked us at CCDC, “What else can I do to help fellow Coloradans during this horrible and unexpected crisis?” This is one more critical time and one more urgently needed way to help. This very well may be the most critical time we have ever seen with respect to all of us needing to help each other. Clearly, donating needed plasma will help others stay alive as we all work to help each other get through the pandemic together.

Furthermore, CCDC has become aware and is very concerned that the entity that runs these plasma centers may be discriminating against people with disabilities who want to serve others in helping to donate plasma. We have reason to believe that these plasma centers may be prohibiting many people with disabilities, solely on the basis of disability, from donating plasma.

As set forth in Part 1 sent earlier, please let us know immediately (1) if you have tried to donate plasma at one of the Colorado centers listed in Part 1 And available on the CSL Plasma website for Colorado locations, and, in doing so, if you have been denied the ability to donate plasma for a disability-related reason (the appropriate contact information and what information you should provide is all set forth in Part 1); or (2) if you would be willing to try to donate plasma to assist others and earn some income during these trying times.  You can find the plasma center near you in the state of Colorado and contact the facility of your choice if you would like to donate plasma. Their website provides other useful information you will need as well.

[1] Please keep in mind not every payment will be $400.00. That is the maximum amount an individual might receive for donating plasma in a given period of time. According to the CSL Plasma Frequently Asked Questions page:

You can get paid up to $400 each month by donating life-saving plasma. This is applicable for eligible, qualified new donors. Fees vary by location. In addition, you can also receive points (called iGive) for your donations. iGive points can be redeemed for extra cash deposited (loaded) right to your reloadable prepaid card. Check with your preferred CSL Plasma donation center to see if they are participating in any other special promotions.” In addition, The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations state that the maximum frequency you can donate plasma is once in a two-day period – and, no more than twice in a seven-day period.

[2] See CSL Plasma Corona Virus page and Safe Passage letter; as stated in Part 1 of this Alert, CSL Plasma centers also fall under the “Critical Business” exception to the Stay at Home Order executed by the Colorado Governor and as described by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in its implementation of the Order § III(C) which excludes businesses engaging in healthcare operations and provides a non-exhaustive list, including businesses like blood banks and other healthcare operations like plasma donation centers.

[3] CSL Plasma “Our Message to Our Donors.”

[4] See, e.g., “Denver man with rare disease is asking people to donate blood during the stay-at-home order,” Denver Post, https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/coronavirus/denver-man-with-rare-disease-is-asking-people-to-donate-blood-during-the-stay-at-home-order (last visited Apr. 7, 2020); “Local family seeks plasma donor for life-saving COVID-19 treatment,” Fox31 Denver, https://kdvr.com/news/coronavirus/local-family-seeks-plasma-donor-for-life-saving-covid-19-treatment/ (last visited Apr. 7, 2020); “Colorado hospital calling for donors to help with experimental, ‘promising’ coronavirus treatment: Convalescent plasma treatment is being used at Children’s Hospital Colorado,” ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/Health/colorado-hospital-calling-donors-experimental-promising-coronavirus-treatment/story?id=69951910 (last visited Apr. 7, 2020).

This three-part Alert will be followed by Part  3, the final installment of the Alert pertaining to the applicable law and how disability discrimination might occur related to those who wish to donate plasma. Part 1 sent earlier explains who to contact and what information you should provide if you feel you have experienced disability discrimination as a result of contacting CSL Plasma.

 

⇐Part 1                    Part 3⇒

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PART 1: URGENT AND IMPORTANT CCDC INVESTIGATION OF CSL PLASMA


Please see Part 2  and Part 3 for other important related information.

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF DISABILITY AND ATTEMPTING TO DONATE PLASMA TO A CSL PLASMA CENTER IN COLORADO BECAUSE OF YOUR DISABILITY?

For example, were you denied the opportunity to donate plasma and receive payment for doing so for a disability-related reason? If so, our Civil Rights Legal Program needs to hear from you as soon as possible. Please contact Kara Gillon at ccdclpa@ccdconline.org or (303) 660-8254. Email is best as the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (“CCDC”) staff are all following the current EXECUTIVE ORDER D 2020 024, AMENDING AND EXTENDING EXECUTIVE ORDER D 2020 017 ORDERING COLORADANS TO STAY AT HOME DUE TO THE PRESENCE OF COVID-19 (“Order”), entered April 6, 2020, as well as the UPDATED PUBLIC HEALTH ORDER 20-24 IMPLEMENTING STAY AT HOME REQUIREMENTS (“PHO”), dated March 26, 2020, and issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. Most of us are working at home unless otherwise necessary. CCDC is permitted under these orders to have staff in the office, but we are working at home unless otherwise necessary.

WHAT DO WE NEED FROM YOU? We need to know as much precise information as possible which may include the following: (1) when you made the contact with any of the CSL Plasma Centers located in Colorado (the previous link provides all addresses and other necessary contact information, also listed below); (2) all reasons why you believe you were discriminated against on the basis of your disability; (3) who you talked to and when and what was said.

Leave a good time to contact you (again preferably by email) and your name, telephone number, email address and whether you are a CCDC member already.

If you would like to become a CCDC member, membership is free and can be extended to any individual who believes in social justice for people with all types of disabilities. You can become a member easily by logging on to the CCDC Membership Website Page. By becoming a member, you may elect to receive important information regarding all activities of CCDC which are especially important in light of the current pandemic.

This is Part 1 of three parts to be included in this Alert.

Part 2 of this Alert will provide you with information regarding whether you would be interested in being a plasma donor which accomplishes three important purposes: (1) Assisting individuals who are in desperate need of plasma donations received those donations during this time of crisis; (2) helping you obtain some additional needed financial resources during this economic crisis; and (3) assisting CCDC with its investigation of this issue and the possibility of disability discrimination.

Part 3 of this Alert will provide you with the legal background for the types of disability discrimination individuals might be experiencing as a result of attempting to donate plasma at CSL Plasma centers.

WE ARE CONDUCTING AN INVESTIGATION AND NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Colorado CSL Plasma locations:

Arvada
11651 W 64th Ave Suite B1
Arvada, CO 80004
Ph: 303-425-9959
Fax: 303-423-6464
Mon-Fri 6:30am-7pm; Sat/Sun 7am-5pm
Map This Location
Donation Center Details

Aurora
690 Peoria St. Unit M
Aurora, CO 80011
Ph: 303-363-0095
Fax: 303-363-6732
Mon-Fri 6am-8pm; Sat 7am-3pm; Sun 6am-6pm
Map This Location
Donation Center Details

Colorado Springs
5506 N. Academy Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
Ph: 719-284-3258
Fax: 719-387-9767
Mon-Fri 7:30am-6pm; Sat/Sun 9am-3pm
Map This Location
Donation Center Details

Evans (Greeley)
3505 11th Avenue, Unit #1
Evans, CO 80620
Ph: 970-330-3558
Fax: 970-330-1807
Mon-Fri 7am-8pm; Sat-Sun 7am-7pm
Map This Location
Donation Center Details

Ft. Collins
1228 West Elizabeth Street, Suite D-3
Ft Collins, CO 80521
Ph: 970-484-2248
Fax: 970-484-2568
Mon-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat-Sun 7am-3pm
Map This Location
Donation Center Details

Grand Junction
2650 North Avenue
Grand Junction, CO 81501
Ph: 970-233-7947
Fax: 970-241-3511
Sun-Fri 6am-7pm; Sat 6am 5pm
Map This Location
Donation Center Details

Northglenn
11874 Washington St
Northglenn, CO 80233
Ph: 303-515-7621
Fax: 303-255-1471
Mon-Fri 6:30am-7pm; Sat-Sun 7am-5pm
Map This Location
Donation Center Details

 

Part 2⇒                         Part 3⇒⇒

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A CALL TO ARMS (OR AT LEAST LAWSUITS, IF NECESSARY) FOR PANDEMIC-RELATED DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINTS. 

English/Español

CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program has numerous and growing concerns regarding discrimination against people with disabilities as a direct result of decision-making by both private and public entities occurring during the pandemic. When a crisis hits, as we all know (or at least our community is now finding out) people with disabilities and our civil rights get kicked to the curb!

These bad actors jump at every opportunity to Take advantage of what they call our “special rights,” but now that dogged discrimination is multiplied exponentially in order to violate our rights every time the word “emergency” gets used. These evildoers and lawbreakers will do everything in their power to ignore us and act as though somehow emergencies affect the lives of everyone else except people with disabilities. We know just the opposite is true.

Although Governor Polis’ administration has continued working with CCDC in a collaborative fashion and actively seeks input from CCDC regarding the needs of the disability community (something sorely lacking with respect to our needs and rights at other levels of government), the Civil Rights Legal Program stands ready to address to the best of our ability any form of discrimination against any individual or group on the basis of disability as a result of decision-making by governmental entities or private entities (such as the police, transportation providers, government entities failing to provide effective communication, doctors’ offices treating you differently based on disability, etc.) that occur related to the pandemic. All of us at CCDC, who have been working tirelessly to do our best to help our community in this time of crisis see COVID-19: RESOURCES, LINKS, AND INFORMATION FOR PEOPLE WITH AND WITHOUT DISABILITIES, recognize that almost everyone has been hit very hard by current circumstances, but that does not permit discrimination against people with disabilities to be allowed to go unchecked. We will not do so! Now, more than ever, our civil rights must and will be enforced!

As we all know, we always face the same problems as everyone else plus all of the problems related to our disabilities, most of which would be alleviated if people would simply do what they are supposed to under civil rights laws, but during this unprecedented and unimaginable crisis, we are really feeling the devastation far more so than our nondisabled counterparts. So many of us are just trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning given that we or maybe our attendants, our families, our friends, and our colleagues are falling victim to this foe that does not discriminate. Nevertheless, we are the most resilient, most resourceful and most likely to figure out the path to victory because that is what we have to do every day of our lives. For all of those reasons, we are here to help the best of our ability and in close connection with our allies in the field and other civil rights lawyers who are working harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives to make sure everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – receives the fair and equal treatment we and those who came before us have fought so hard for all of our lives.

Please go to our Intake Form for information about the types of cases we take. You can also contact our Legal Program Assistant, Kara Gillon, at ccdclpa@ccdconline.org or (303) 660-8254 if you feel you have been discriminated against on the basis of disability based on the above types of circumstances or any other disability-rights violation. Please remember that we only take cases involving civil rights discrimination on the basis of disability. Other problems should be handled by CCDC’s other non-attorney advocates who can be found on our website, ccdonline.org.

Obviously, we cannot guarantee that we can help in every circumstance; nor can we guarantee a perfectly successful outcome, but we have been here for you for 22 (almost 23) years doing all that we can with our small but, in my humble opinion, mighty staff taking on hundreds and hundreds of cases usually with good outcomes for the disability community in most circumstances (not always, but most). This is true even in the face of many more and more opponents who seem more defiant than ever to refuse to treat people with disabilities with humanity and equality as required on the law.

Those who would deny us our civil rights were growing in number and in willful disobedience of the law before, but this behavior is only been enhanced by the current pandemic. They never stop to think that we are the one minority group that they could join and, in the face of the current pandemic, just might join at any given moment. They need us not only to fight for ourselves but for them as well. Everyone is really just one sneeze away from the potential of needing those ventilators we keep hearing about and reading about in the news and perhaps requiring home healthcare for the rest of our lives. Oddly, many of us have lived under the circumstances for most of our lives. We truly are all in this together! But even that doesn’t stop them from discriminating and denying us equal opportunity under the law.

We must show those who will try to take advantage of a crisis to discriminate against us on the basis of our disabilities that we will not permit it! Although disability rights laws are not boundless (they do have their limitations), we are seeing firsthand and hearing about so many clear-cut violations of the law (and so many violations committed in the name of “emergencies” that we must remind those who will find any excuse to take advantage of us or the pandemic, our civil rights matter more now than ever!.

 -- Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director
and a member of the disability community for 33 -- almost 34 -- years and counting).

Making This a More Perfect Union: Remembering Bloody Sunday

55 years ago on March 7, 1965, an estimated 525 to 600 champions of civil rights began the first of several nonviolent marches and risked their lives and limbs literally and attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to make this country a more perfect nation. So many people crossed the bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for the simple purpose of attempting to register Black Americans to vote. Their mission and their purpose were to force this country to live up to its many principles, statements of morality, creeds and founding documents. Representative John Lewis (D. Ga.), a member and later

one of the youngest leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was one of the leaders of the marches.

Photo of young Representative John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Photo of John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge when he was with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Before Becoming a Congressman for the United States
Civil Rights March showing the many people who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Civil rights activists march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, starting the second march to Montgomery. In the first march, the marchers had been attacked and beaten by Alabama state troopers and local law enforment. Only the third march actually made it all the way to Montgomery. (Photo by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

I think it is important to use this anniversary to make a distinction between the words and writings of those who created the country in which we now live and the events that occurred on that day. The Declaration of Independence, First Continental Congress, July 4, 1776, the following paragraph was included:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Photo of police officers stopping marchers from proceeding on to vote after they crossed the Edmund Pettiu Bridge
Photo of police in riot gear and deputized citizens of Alabama approaching unarmed marchers after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Police and attack dogs attacking marketers who cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Photograph demonstrating how the police and deputized citizens of Alabama and their attack dogs attacked the marchers who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

 

The author of this blog, a somewhat increasingly-jaded attorney who writes to you now about this event that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” has read the words in the Declaration of Independence as well as the other founding documents of our country many times and has become growing late disconcerted by the contradiction between their meaning and reality. I have also spent a great deal of time studying the law of civil rights and about the civil rights movements in this country in particular and other countries as well. But all I am is a simple civil rights lawyer for people with disabilities who works for a nonprofit organization in Denver, Colorado. So why am I writing about this?

Because I care about making this country in which we live a more perfect union so that all human beings regardless of race, religion, gender, disability or ability, and all other human beings obtain and receive the same respect and are entitled to belong just as much as any other human being. There is no superiority of any one of these groups, and there is no meaningful type of “nationalism” which is just another word for shutting out other human beings that are different. The civil rights movement that led to my ability to be able to practice law for people with disabilities, although created by my brothers and sisters with disabilities who came before me, was also built on the broken skull of John Lewis. When I view these photos, tears wells up in my eyes no matter how jaded the process of practicing disability rights law and reading American history has made me become. I do remember reading one of my favorite books, Parting the Waters, by Taylor Branch and calling my good friend, colleague and mentor, Amy Robertson, and saying something like, “I guess disability civil rights lawyers have one advantage over those who represented the great civil rights leaders of the South and others throughout our country and around the world. At least no one is bombing our houses.” Don’t get me wrong, we certainly get our share of slurs throughout the wonders of social media, newspapers and other outlets of incivility. Usually, it comes from the other side (meaning those who oppose our equality, belonging and humanity), often it comes from people who are simply ignorant about the issues, but it sometimes even comes from within our own community. I could certainly cite to many words written and spoken by the “Founding Fathers” of our country that lead me to reach the inevitable conclusion that the entire country was built on a series of lies. First of all, I, like many of you, was taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. I find it extremely difficult to understand how an individual came to discover a land that was already inhabited by a large number of people who, as far as most of us now, were perfectly content with their way of life. They were definitely human beings, and they were here first, living and existing in a way that worked for them until those who came before and after Columbus destroyed their culture, most of their population (through the spread of disease and outright murder) and all of their way of life because our ancestors* thought we knew what was best for the natives of this country now known as the United States of America.

The second major lie in existence when the words quoted above were drafted (often called “Original sin”) committed by those who “founded” this country was the bringing of in innumerable number of human beings from Africa, a continent almost as far away as it could be, to come in shackles on boats and conditions almost certain to cause most of them to die to this country for the sole purpose of being the property and working for our ancestors. Now, as a result of the great works of people like John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and so many others, the same year that the dogs took bites out of those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the same people who were gassed, knocked down by fire hoses, beaten with billy clubs shot, and arrested, our federal government under President Lyndon B. Johnson, sent troops to assist those who are not permitted to vote to be able to do so and passed The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (The Civil Rights Act of 1964 somehow managed to exclude this most important alleged inalienable right of all Americans who were in the words of the First Congressional Congress “created equal” and endowed with exactly the same rights; also interesting is the fact that it took until 1920 for women to have the right to vote; I guess the “Founding Fathers” really meant it when they said “all men are created equal”).

When reviewing that paragraph from the Declaration of Independence, it is difficult to say at what point in history (according to our “Founding Fathers, ” human beings in our society should determine when the government is destructive of the ends set forth in that document, when we as a society have stopped securing the Safety and happiness of our people (coming Social Security benefits and the possibility of attaining healthcare if you have a pre-existing condition, denying any form of long-term care and lying about it in front of TV cameras while having the United States Justice Department argue the exact opposite in federal court), whether the actions taken by our current government are light and transient causes (it is hard to imagine how 400 years of slavery coupled with the continued income inequality based on things like race or disability, The routine murdering of people of color by law enforcement with absolute immunity, the ruining of an entire society and culture leaving only a few to rise up, resisting compliance with the law or changes in the law that will allow the equality that apparently all human beings in this country are supposed to have — “the repeated tyrannies and usurpations”), whether these and other evils have risen to the level of being so insufferable as to require the change or abolishment of government in comparison to the reasons taken by the “Founding Fathers.” And who in the world (literally) did they think they were kidding when they said, “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world[?]”

Nevertheless, as President Barack Obama reminded us during the 50th anniversary of this same series of marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, change has occurred. It has occurred because we have made it occur. It is just that so much more needs to be done. Lawyers are limited by what laws allow us to do. Legislators are motivated by monetary interests and paid lobbyists against whom we have severe inequality.

I am extremely indebted to and thankful for my colleagues, friends and those who came before me whom I never met, all who have disabilities and their colleagues, who made it possible for me to assist in enforcing the civil rights of human beings — people with disabilities. It certainly seems a shame 30 years after the law was written that our society has not come into compliance, and that entities resist with such vigor, that people who would rather die than be disabled and yet they take advantage of those simple modifications that people with disabilities need enable to live equally with nondisabled people (like the example of the police car that parked in the access aisle next to my van at our office), but I can only imagine what those who survived Bloody Sunday must feel regarding the treatment of a population of people who were brought to this country four hundred years ago to do the work and be the property of white people who now hate and despise this population in such a way as that they are incarcerated them in enormously greater proportions than whites, the income inequities between Blacks and whites are extraordinary, and no one can really say with a straight face that equal treatment has been achieved throughout the country.

So in an attempt to return the bright side. I still continue to believe that we are trying to build a “more perfect union.” At least enough of us are, and there is no doubt that great changes have been made. It seems as though it is a never ending fight. And it seems as though we will never “win.” I can’t see it happening in my lifetime, so you Millennials better take it over. You are all humans too. The only tools we seem to have in our European white system of governing and thinking of the creation of laws and enforcement of them. It seems unfortunate that that even though what is required to bring about equality and belonging is often ignored, forgotten or aggressively opposed; we should continue to strive to come up with a better way. By writing this blog, I ask that we will focus on that day, Bloody Sunday. In addition, as we consider during this presidential voting season filled as it is with vitriol and concerns about whether we are actually getting accurate information about candidates and viruses and just about anything else that we must think about in order to improve ourselves and our country that we do the following: Consider where we have come from, what it will take to get to where we are going, to remember always what our fellow human beings have endured before us in order to get to where we are today and to always, always work towards ensuring the existence of the innate equality and belonging of all human beings and building that more perfect union.

Hanging on my wall just to the side of the front door of my house is a very large framed poster of Thurgood Marshall with a quote from him: “in recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” I put it there is you can’t leave my house without seeing it. What more can be said then that if we are going to create equality, belonging any more perfect union?

* I use the word “our” to refer to mostly white Europeans who settled in this country. Certainly those whose ancestors who were brought against their will and those who this country has tried to ban, remove and prevent from entering cannot be included.

Hey, A**hole! Yeah, you. The jerk who owns the motorcycle with Colorado license plate OSK-069

You know who you are! Yesterday, January 26, 2020, at approximately 2:00 PM at the parking lot at 14th St. and Market Street at least until approximately 5:30 PM.

It may very well be that such language in the title of this blog is unbecoming of the Legal Program Director of a statewide well-established and highly regarded disability rights organization, but, frankly, OSK 069, I don’t give a damn. In this day and age, this seems to be the way people communicate.

So what part of the driver’s exam did you not understand? Yellow crosshatched areas mean, “NO PARKING!”

Picture of motorcycle parked in yellow crosshatched access aisle Picture of motorcycle parked in yellow crosshatched access aisle adjacent to accessible parking space

“It shall be unlawful for any vehicle to park in any area designated for loading and unloading of a vehicle designed for the mobility impaired by pavement markings such as cross-hatching or by other indication. These areas are access aisles and parking by any vehicle is prohibited at all times.”

Denv. Mun. Ord. § 54-485(i).

For those of us who use wheelchairs and who drive vans with sideloading wheelchair lifts or wheelchair ramps, this has become an increasingly common problem: crosshatched access aisles are there for a reason. You know it. Stop acting stupid. This is not motorcycle parking. This is not an accessible parking space. This is an access aisle adjacent to and accessible parking space that is required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state law and Denver ordinances. It is there for a purpose. It allows those of us who use wheelchairs who must strive vehicles with wheelchair lifts or wheelchair ramps to have enough space to get in and out of our vehicles.

You knew when you parked your motorcycle in that crosshatched aisle that it was not a parking space. You knew when you parked your motorcycle and that crosshatched aisle that it was illegal. You knew when you parked your motorcycle in that crosshatched aisle you were going to deny somebody who uses a wheelchair access to parking in downtown Denver. You just didn’t care! What kind of person are you? Why is your life more important than mine? Why do you get to enjoy the company of your friends downtown and I don’t? You blocked access to the only place I had anywhere close to where I wanted to go to be able to park. Do you hate people who use wheelchairs? Or are you just an a**hole? You are lucky that people wheelchairs are strong enough to knock your stupid motorcycle over.

Although I was just trying to spend a little time with some friends downtown probably just like you, you made it extremely difficult to do so. Parking for those of us who drive vehicles with sideloading wheelchair lifts or wheelchair ramps is extremely limited. Especially downtown. With the advent of bike lanes that make it virtually impossible to park on the right side of the road (which is absolutely necessary for these kinds of vans) on many of Denver’s streets (an issue that we will be taking on as well because we have no choice), street parking has become almost nonexistent. For many of us, parking garages are very difficult to use because you have to be able to reach out of your vehicle and grab a ticket out of a machine that most of us cannot reach. Therefore, parking garages are off-limits. Surface level parking lots are disappearing as more and more buildings are being constructed. That means all that is left are the handful of surface-level parking lots that still exist. But because you are more important than me, I guess you are entitled to completely disregard the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Oh sure. The Denver ordinances give me options for addressing the issue. For example, I could have spent the couple of hours I had to spend with my friends I had not seen in a long time calling the Denver police. Then I could’ve waited for the Denver police to show up. Then we would’ve had to talk over what the problem was. Then, as usually happens, I would have to show them that they do, in fact, have the right to enforce parking violations on private property. Then, they might issue a ticket or tow you out of the space, but how much of the few hours that I had to spend my friends with this have consumed? Is this the way you wanted to spend your day in downtown Denver? Why should I have to?

But why should you care? You don’t have a disability. You don’t have to drive all over downtown circling the place it is you want to go to over and over again to try to find someplace to let your wheelchair lift or wheelchair ramp down.

No. You just hop on your motorcycle and ride baby ride! And apparently you park wherever you damned well feel like it.

Truth be told, you might have a much better understanding of this issue in the not-to-distant future. In a 2014 study published by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, motorcycle accidents were the fifth leading cause of spinal court injury. So, who knows? You might have a much clearer understanding of the issue sometime in the near future. Maybe then you’ll care. Until then, kindly please stop screwing up my weekends. I really appreciate it.

And finally, was that a parking ticket I noticed on your motorcycle when I left? I wonder how that happened.

Kindly please, think before you park, A**hole!

UPDATE!!

 

As you will see above, the Denver Municipal Ordinances specifically prohibit vehicles from parking in crosshatched areas. This one is really amazing! (1) it is a Denver police car in the crosshatched zone; (2) it is at CCDC’s office building; (3) that is my van immediately to the left of it, and my ramp unfolds exactly where that police car is parked. The municipal ordinances require calling the police when people park in the spaces. The problem is, of course, very few of us have time to wait for the police to come and deal with the issue. My van cannot be driven by someone else. There is no driver seat, and I have very expensive and technical equipment that I would only want someone who was specifically trained on it to drive it. Therefore, simply backing it out is not an option although everyone always asks me this rather than moving the car out of the illegally parked loading zone.

I had lengthy discussions with our management company to request that they install appropriate accessible parking throughout our building complex and install signs that are also referenced in the Denver Municipal Ordinances that say that there should be a sign posted at the front of the access aisle stating exactly what the sign states.

There is a “loading zone” directly on the other side of the overhang to the entrance of the building. When you look at the picture, you’ll notice that no one is parked there. When I use the seemingly unlawyerly language in the caption of my post, I never thought I would have to apply it to those who are supposed to be enforcing the law I was complaining about.

I guess the guy on the motorcycle was just following an example.

 

 


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