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Category: Press Releases

CCDC Statement on Masks and the Americans with Disabilities Act

For Immediate Release
May 27, 2020: 

DENVER, Colorado—The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) is Colorado’s largest statewide, disability-led, disability rights organization. CCDC advocates for social justice on behalf of people with all types of disabilities (cross-disability). This Statement is made jointly by CCDC’s Executive Director, CCDC’s staff, and CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program. This Statement is not intended to be construed as legal advice. As set forth below, all information regarding how to proceed under the circumstances is made available by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

CCDC was founded 30 years ago to make sure that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became real in Colorado. To that end, we have been involved in both education and enforcement regarding the ADA. CCDC has been aggressive about requiring governments and businesses to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to enable people with disabilities to have equal access to any public accommodation. A public accommodation is any place where the public can engage in activities such as stores, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, golf courses, etc. Non-profits like CCDC’s office and meeting areas are public accommodations. (All information about what the ADA says is publicly available on the DOJ website www.ada.gov.) The ADA also applies to state and local governments (including special districts), transportation, and employment. 

We have learned that people who object to requirements to wear masks or face coverings are advising followers to state that they have a disability and that it is a violation of the ADA to require that individuals wear a mask. There are individuals with disabilities who cannot use masks at all or who can but only with great difficulty. Securing a mask may be difficult to impossible for individuals who may not be able to get a mask on and off independently and lack constant support from a caregiver or other person and for individuals with facial anomalies. However, we are aware there are others invoking this rule without cause.

It is our position that businesses and governments ARE allowed to deny entrance to people who are not wearing masks. In fact, we encourage it.

Public accommodations must also protect their employees and other customers. In fact, the DOJ already has spoken on the issue of the fraudulent claims by people who simply do not want to wear a mask and claim they have a disability as the reason why. The DOJ position states the following: “The Department urges the public not to rely on the information contained in these postings and to visit ADA.gov for ADA information issued by the Department.” See *COVID-19 ALERT: Fraudulent Facemask Flyers* (DOJ COVID-19 ALERT). Furthermore, the ADA regulations in the section that governs public accommodations speak to this issue:

Sec. 36.208 Direct threat.

(a) This part [Title III of the ADA] does not require a public accommodation to permit an individual to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of that public accommodation when that individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

(b) Direct threat means a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices, or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services.

(c) In determining whether an individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, a public accommodation must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; the probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will mitigate the risk.

If a person claims that they are unable to use a mask, the public accommodation must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the customer in a different way. This must not involve requiring staff to take unsafe risks. A reasonable person can conclude that behaviors that are contrary to local health department guidelines are unreasonable and unsafe. Some examples of accommodations or modifications might include:

  • Telephone or video chat services
  • Curbside delivery
  • Allowing a substitute person to pick up and item with proper permission. This may include taking a credit or debit card number by phone and then allowing someone else to pick up the item with a special code
  • When possible and in some unique situations, delivering the good to the person outside of curbside delivery

CCDC recommends that businesses post a sign outside that says “Masks Required” and also provides a phone number and email address for someone to contact should they be unable to use a mask. Doing this will eliminate the need for an employee to have to debate the situation with an un-masked person.


“We want you to protect your employees. Some may have disabilities themselves, but more importantly, they are our neighbors, friends, and the essential workers that keep our community going. Why would anyone want to risk harming the people that they want to provide service to them?” Julie Reiskin, Executive Director 


Common Questions:

Can I ask the person what their disability is?

No, you cannot. You can ask why they cannot wear a mask, but it is irrelevant. You do not need to let them in.

Can I ask for proof of disability?

No. Generally, requiring an individual to prove a disability does not occur a complaint is filed and you are in court for an ADA lawsuit or before the DOJ for an administrative complaint. Remember, the person claiming a disability has the burden of proving their disability meets the strict definitions of the ADA to the court. If the individual who does not want to wear a mask does not have a disability but claims that they do and if the claim is fraudulent, the individual will lose in court. It is a risk. Fraudulent lawsuits have consequences. If someone asks for a modification of policy that is significant or maybe an undue burden, the public accommodation could ask for proof, but we recommend you avoid this and consult with an attorney before doing so. Having a condition or diagnosis does not necessarily mean that the person has a disability under the ADA. What meets the ADA definition of an individual with a disability is complicated and requires proof of a substantial limitation of a major life activity and more. All of this can be found on the DOJ website referenced above.

 What if the person has a note from their doctor?

That is irrelevant. Whether an individual is an individual with a disability is a legal definition, not a medical diagnosis.

How far must I go to provide services to this person?

A public accommodation must make reasonable modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures. You need not fundamentally alter your business model or go to such extreme expense that it would cause your business undue hardship. A large business with branches would need to consider the entire company’s, not just one location’s, resources. Under no circumstances must you ever put your employees or customers in danger under the direct threat analysis.

What if my employee says they do not want to work near anyone who does not have a mask?

This is a reasonable request, and you should support this. Check with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for employee safety requirements. Also, you must follow state, city, or county orders that govern wearing a mask in a public location. You might violate the law by not wearing a mask. See also the DOJ COVID-19 ALERT referenced above.

What if the customer has a mask but it is hanging from their neck?

Instruct your staff to request that the customer secure the mask appropriately or leave. Confirm your staff knows to maintain appropriate social distancing restrictions of 6-feet as recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and other health authorities.

What if someone has a visible disability and their mask falls off? Are you obligated to help the person put it on?

No, you are not required to provide personal services like this. If you or your staff want to do so you may offer and then listen to the individual as they instruct you on how to do this. However, any staff person who feels compromised or uncomfortable must be permitted to not provide this level of assistance. 

Specific disability issues:

While there appear to be people blithely making up disabilities, there are people with real disabilities, and the rule of reasonable modification of policies always applies with the caveats set forth above. 

Deaf/Hard of Hearing:

Very few Deaf people read lips as it is rare but sometimes effective. However, some people who are hard of hearing do use a combination of lip-reading and hearing aids to understand others. If you can have at least some employees use a mask with a clear plastic panel to make the mouth visible, that will be appreciated. A face shield might be appropriate under the circumstances. You should conduct research regarding available types of masks and face coverings to ensure they are effective for the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus.

Blind:

If you have signage, please have Braille underneath.* Also, have available paper flyers in very large print (20 point font or higher) with the phone number to call for assistance. (Dial 711 for a Relay Operator)

Mental Health/Cognitive:

While some individuals may not be able to understand why they have to wear a mask or have extreme discomfort when something is over their mouth, the health risks of allowing people in who are not masked outweighs the benefit. Make sure not to challenge their experience or act like you do not believe them if they say they cannot wear a mask.

Physical:

Some people have facial structures that make mask-wearing impossible or may be unable to secure a mask if it falls off. For most of these individuals, the risk of serious illness or death from contracting COVID-19 is quite high, particularly for employees or other customers who already have respiratory problems and/or other disabilities that compromise their immune systems and are likely to understand mask policies.

Speech:

People with speech disabilities may be a bit harder to understand when wearing a mask. Feel free to ask them to repeat themselves if you do not understand. Most people with speech disabilities will be happy to repeat themselves. If they are unwilling to do so, they are not assisting you in the process of facilitating communication. Therefore, they should not be permitted to enter.

Perspectives from CCDC Staff with Disabilities


Michelle McHenry-Edrington Advocacy Coordinator and Air Force Veteran and her service dog Edgar
Michelle McHenry-Edrington Advocacy Coordinator and Air Force Veteran and her service dog Edgar

“I went into service because I wanted to protect my country and help others. I would never want to risk un-knowingly spreading this disease now even if my PTSD makes it harder to wear a mask. The mask makes me feel as though I am deployed again and in my decontamination suit.”

Michelle McHenry-Edrington Advocacy Coordinator and Air Force Veteran and her service dog, Edgar

 

 


Kevin Williams, Civil Rights Legal Program Director.
Kevin Williams, Civil Rights Legal Program Director

“As a quadriplegic with limited hand function, I cannot re-secure most masks if it slips off. I understand I may need to leave a store or find another way to shop. That is an inconvenience. However, as a quadriplegic with reduced breathing capacity and a compromised immune system, I believe it is very likely I would not survive if infected with COVID. As a result, I will do everything in my power to ensure that I have a mask on so I do not infect you.  It is a matter of simple respect and kindness for other people and should not be made a political issue or an issue of faking disability for getting an accommodation.”

Kevin Williams, Civil Rights Legal Program Director


Dawn Howard, Director of Community Organizing.
Dawn Howard, Director of Community Organizing.

“I know I am hard to understand sometimes. I am never offended if you ask me to repeat myself.”  

Dawn Howard, Director of Community Organizing

Letter to the Governor, RE: Survival of People with Disabilities during COVID-19 Pandemic

Read our letter crafted by our Executive Director and several partner organizations to Governor Polis regarding the Survival of People with Disabilities during COVID-19 Pandemic.

Download the fully accessible PDF Version

Blue line with three diamond shapes in the middle

CCDC Logo blue and black with the letters CCDC and the words Colorado Cross-disability Coalition

 

 

1385 S. Colorado Blvd., #610-A
Denver, CO 80222
303-839-1775

Julie Reiskin
Executive Director
jreiskin@ccdconline.org
720.961.4261 (Direct)
303.648.6262 (Fax)

March 25, 2020, via Electronic Mail

The Honorable Jared Polis
Colorado State Capitol
200 East Colfax Room 136
Denver, CO 80203

Re: Survival of People with Disabilities during COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Governor Polis,

We want to start this letter by thanking you for your extraordinary leadership during this crisis. Unlike our peers in other states, we are being included in policy decisions and working closely with members of your team (like Elisabeth Arenales) and your cabinet (Kim Bimestefer, Michelle Barnes, Jill Hunsaker-Ryan, and others). We appreciate being involved and allowed to help your administration make the best possible decisions in a horrible situation.

People with disabilities and chronic health conditions are doubly vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis: they are vulnerable to acquiring the virus and to suffering more severe effects, and they are vulnerable to healthcare discrimination that may deny them necessary care. As a result, Coloradans with disabilities and chronic health conditions are experiencing escalating fear and anxiety, on top of any physical effects of the viral illness. We need your continued leadership to communicate and ensure that Colorado will protect
the rights and access to care of disabled people of all ages.

Colorado has a strong and united disability community that includes ADAPT, Centers for Independent Living, Arc Chapters, Disability Law Colorado, numerous organizations representing specific disability groups such as the Colorado Metal Wellness Network, the National Federation of the Blind Colorado chapter, and the Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind. The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) is the largest statewide organization run by and for people with all types of disabilities and we are working to coordinate with this amazing community to help with ongoing information dissemination and input to your team on policy issues. We are lucky to have such a strong and united community. This letter is written on behalf of many of these organizations, we wanted to get it out quickly so did not put extended time into sign-ons, but please note the organizations signed on below.

CCDC and others thank you for the swift and decisive actions that you have taken to protect the people of Colorado from COVID-19, reduce community spread, and flatten the curve. Your leadership will protect people with disabilities and their families from the virus’s accelerating spread, including daily increases in the deaths. Our community now asks that you take the following actions to ensure that people with disabilities receive equitable and effective healthcare in Colorado which will, in turn, help maintain the health of all Coloradans.

Prevent and Prohibit Medical “Rationing” Based on Disability

The prospect of shortages of medical staff and equipment for treating those made severely ill by COVID-19 has triggered a discussion of “rationing” medical care.

While the coronavirus crisis poses serious challenges to our social and health care systems, federal laws including the ADA, Section 504, Section 1557 of the ACA, and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) prohibit any “rationing” measures by public or private entities which discriminate on the basis of disability. Denying care to disabled individuals who are likely to benefit from care is unlawful.

Moreover, swift and efficient action now may prevent or ameliorate the need for untenable rationing decisions. There are additional reserves of ventilators and other medical equipment and supplies maintained by hospitals and the U.S. Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.¹ Colorado must follow its own policy statements to ensure that these stockpiles are allocated based on objective need – and distributed throughout the state of Colorado so that health care workers have them on-site.² If existing numbers are projected to be insufficient, Colorado must procure additional equipment and supplies.

People are looking for factual information, honestly, and assurances. As Governor, you are the best person to speak out about the state’s efforts to alleviate widespread fear and anxiety among vulnerable populations, including Coloradans with disabilities.

We further urge the Governor and state agencies to swiftly issue a directive to health plans and insurers, hospitals, and other medical providers on maintaining their obligations under state and federal disability nondiscrimination laws during the coronavirus crisis, including in the allocation of scarce medical resources. Such guidance should include the following basic principles:

  • The presence of a disability, including a significant disability, is not a
    permissible basis for denying people access to care or giving them a lower
    priority for care.
  • The fact that a disabled person may have a lower likelihood of survival is not a
    permissible basis for denying care or allocating the person a lower priority for
    care. If the person will benefit from care, then they are entitled to access care on an equal basis as others.
  • The fact that a person with a disability may require reasonable accommodations during treatment, or more intensive treatment, is not a permissible basis for denying care or allocating the person a lower priority for care.
  • All medical decisions about providing care must be based on current objective
    medical evidence, and not based on generalized assumptions about a person’s
    disability. Treatment decisions shall not be made based on misguided assumptions that people with disabilities experience a lower quality of life.

Covered entities should be permitted to prioritize those with a greater urgency of need, and delay non-urgent care. They need not allocate scarce resources to individuals with no reasonable chance of survival. But people with disabilities should not face discrimination in seeking life-sustaining care that they will benefit from. The lives of people with disabilities are equally valuable to those without disabilities, and healthcare decisions based on devaluing the lives of people with disabilities are discriminatory. Benefit should be derived solely based on medical evidence, not a belief about the life of the patient.

Ensure Access to Home-and Community-Based Services and Related Services

Individuals with various disabilities who rely on personal care assistance face a dilemma during the COVID-19 crisis. No person with a disability should have to choose between catching a potentially deadly new virus and receiving the assistance needed to perform critical activities of daily living such as toileting, eating, dressing, etc. Personal care assistants whether paid or unpaid, should not be required to perform their duties without proper protective equipment to ensure both their own well-being as well as the continued well-being of their own families and other clients with disabilities or face the ethical dilemma of rendering necessary duties while beginning to feel sick.

The following measures are needed to preserve the well-being of people with disabilities while they shelter in place:

  • Fund paid sick leave for any personal care worker unable to work regularly
    scheduled shifts because of illness or the need to quarantine due to exposure. This must also cover any Medicaid consumer-directed or private pay client. Grants to small home health agencies should be made available to allow them to pay their workers. Larger agencies should be required to do the same.
  • Fund and establish backup personal care assistant (PCA) registries, for both
    public and private pay PCAs, and establish streamlined on-call emergency backup alternatives to ensure PCA services when scheduled PCAs are unavailable.
  • Place a moratorium on Medicaid LTSS reassessments that could lead to service hour reductions and consider revising overtime rules.
  • Provide and efficiently distribute protective gear for paid and unpaid PCAs,
    including family, friends, and volunteers who are providing personal attendant
    services. To the extent that shortages make this impossible, provide funding
    for substitute items such as cleaning gloves, industrial respirators, scrubs,
    garbage bags, etc.
  • Continue to include disability-specific providers (whether formal or not, paid or
    not) within the guidance on categories of “essential business” and “essential personnel,” such as public and private personal care attendants, public transit and paratransit, privately contracted Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) providers, durable medical equipment providers/repairers, and veterinarians.

Even short gaps in coverage of personal care attendants and related services can lead to worsened health and unnecessary hospitalization or institutionalization, contrary to the integration principles adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). These risks are sharply heightened by the dangers posed by the coronavirus.

CCDC and the signatories below urge the following additional steps to ensure that disabled Coloradans are safe in their homes and communities with supports during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Ensure that accurate and up-to-date information about the progression of COVID-19 within Colorado is fully accessible in alternative print and online formats.
    • We appreciate seeing the sign language interpreters at all of your press conferences. Please make sure videos are always captioned properly (just turning on YouTube captioning does not work). We appreciate the remarkable responsiveness of your staff, especially the Lt. Governor’s Chief of Staff, Crestina Martinez, Maria De Cambra on your Communications team and Theresa Montano in OIT when there has been an error in document accessibility. We hope that process improvements to assure no document goes up that is not fully accessible to people that use screen reading technology are prioritized.
    • We also urge that essential documents are quickly translated into threshold languages, adapted for people with lower reading abilities, and made available in American Sign Language and captioned videos. This must apply not only to Executive Orders but to instructions that are important including how to apply for unemployment, testing protocols, prevention protocols, etc.
  • Require all private insurers operating in Colorado to provide fully accessible, current, clear, and readily available information about in-network and out-of-network coverage of COVID-19 testing and treatment.
  • Require public utilities and internet providers to maintain gas, electricity, water, telephone, and internet services for seniors and people with disabilities sheltering in place.
  • Ensure that public and private insurance prioritization of healthcare procedures consider not only the category of procedure before canceling or delaying it as “elective/non-urgent,” but also the underlying conditions and cross-disability needs of the person who will be undergoing a scheduled procedure.
  • Continue provision of ADA paratransit, NEMT, and accessible on-demand service for passengers, including trips to the grocery store, medical facilities, and COVID-19 testing sites. Maintain ADA paratransit service areas even where bus routes are cut or reduced like areas such as Summit and Gunnison.
  • Protect passengers and workers by ensuring the provision of adequate protective gear and cleaning supplies for transit workers, including NEMT providers and janitorial support staff.
  • Place a comprehensive state-wide moratorium on evictions and a hold on termination of public benefits, including all administrative actions that result in individuals being cut off from public benefits. We also ask that any fraud investigations be suspended as this is not a good use of money or resources and could endanger the at-risk individuals.
Ensure Legal Services and Prompt Affirmative Responses to the Potential Violations of Rights of Disabled Coloradans.

We ask that Colorado take steps to bolster financial and human resources in Colorado’s legal service organizations to ensure that they have – the capacity to provide timely representation for individuals who face unlawful medical “rationing” based on disability, any unnecessary and involuntary institutionalization, evictions, benefits issues and other forms of discrimination in COVID-19 treatment and testing.

From past disasters, we know that legal services needs tend to peak 2-12 months after the disaster “ends”. Additional legal services support will be required for the next year. Specifically, Disability Law Colorado, Colorado Legal Services, Colorado CrossDisability Coalition, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, and The Colorado Center for Law and Policy will need support to meet the legal needs of low-income Coloradans with Disabilities.

We further ask that you ensure that Colorado and its agencies respond immediately and effectively to any reports or complaints indicating that the rights of people with disabilities are being violated. While this must include prioritization and streamlining of administrative complaint procedures at all relevant agencies to respond affirmatively and forcefully to any formal or informal report.

Our state has long been a leader in many aspects of healthcare, accessibility, and civil rights protections for people with disabilities. Colorado, as the home of the Atlantis Community, the organization that created ADAPT is the birthplace of the internationally known disability rights movement. Help us to maintain our reputation as a leader in preserving the rights of people with disabilities. We would welcome the opportunity to continue to work with your administration on ensuring that people with disabilities in our state receive equal and effective healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis under the priorities detailed above.

Sincerely,
Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition

Ailsa Wonnacott, Association for Community Living, Boulder and Broomfield Counties

Martha Mason, Executive Director, Southwest Center for Independence

Wilfred Romero, The Arc – Pikes Peak Region

Darla Stuart, Executive Director, The Arc of Aurora

Larry McDermott,  The Arc of Weld County

Timothy Fox, Attorney at Law, Senior Partner, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center

Sara Froelich, Chronic Care Collaborative

Lisa Franklin, Executive Director, Parent to Parent

Candie Burnham, Executive Director, Atlantis Community, Inc.

Robert A. Lawhead, Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council

Christiano Sosa, Executive Director, The Arc of Colorado

Hope Hyatt, Colorado Mental Wellness Network

Christine Fallebell, The American Diabetes Association

Ian Engle, Executive Director, Northwest Colorado Center for Independence

Jessalyn Hampton, National MS Society

Judith I. Ham, Ability Connection Colorado

Eileen Doherty, Colorado Gerontological Society

Barbara Henry, Domino Service Dogs

Linda Skaflen, Executive Director, The Arc of Adams County



¹ Dan Lamothe, “Pentagon offers respirators, ventilators and labs in expanding coronavirus response,” Washington Post (Mar. 17, 2020) (describing the release of 5 million masks and 2,000 ventilators from military stockpile), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2020/03/17/pentagon-offersrespirators-ventilators-labs-expanding-coronavirus-response/;

² Surge Standards, Foundational Knowledge, § 8.4.3, Allocation of Ventilators for Pandemic Influenza, http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/sites/default/files/public/php/258/258_foundation.pdf (“[T]he allocation of ventilators from State and federal stockpiles must take into account the ratio of local populations to available resources, designating appropriate resources for the most vulnerable who are most likely to suffer the greatest impact in any disaster.”).

 

Denver Police Apparently Don’t Think Accessible Parking Laws Apply to Them

On February 24, 2020, at the office building of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (“CCDC), Colorado’s only statewide organization run by and for people with disabilities, including its Civil Rights Legal Program, a Denver Police Department vehicle parked illegally in an access aisle. CCDC is located at Empire Park at 1385 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, Colorado. Kevin Williams who is an attorney and who uses a wheelchair and drives the blue van with a side-loading wheelchair ramp that is pictured above has practiced in the area of civil rights law for people with disabilities for 22 years.

The Current Cases and Past Cases that have been brought by the Civil Rights Legal Program during this time can be found on CCDC’s website. He and his legal team have brought numerous civil rights cases against government entities, private businesses of all kinds such as restaurants, sports venues, shopping malls and many more, housing providers and other entities covered by civil rights laws to help enforce the law for people with disabilities who cannot afford attorneys.

Many of these cases have been brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Legal Program has been involved in and remains involved in numerous civil rights investigations on behalf of its members throughout Colorado and works with attorneys both in the state and nationwide to end discrimination against people with disabilities. The Legal Program has received numerous awards for its work helping people with disabilities achieve the objectives of the ADA which is now almost 30 years old.

See Full Press Release: Denver Police Apparently Don’t Think Accessible Parking Laws Apply to Them

Media Update on 3/5/2020 at 10:12.

Fox 31 KDVR:

The Denver Police Department has issued an apology after an officer was photographed parking in a handicap spot during an emergency call.

That handicap-accessible spot happened to be in front of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which specializes in advocating for those with disabilities.

Photos show the officer taking up a portion of the handicap spot as well as the majority of the “access aisle,” used by many at the building to get in and out of vehicles.

“The law says you can’t stop, stand, or park in the access aisle,” said Legal Program Director Kevin Williams. “Nevertheless, the Denver police vehicle was parked in that access aisle.”

Williams says he frequently receives complaints regarding police vehicles parking in accessible spots.

His van, parked next to the police vehicle shown in the photo, is specially equipped with a ramp to get in and out of the passenger door.

Read the entire article and watch the video here:

Denver officer photographed blocking handicap spot at disability advocates’ headquarters

Our Friend, Colleague and Teacher, Sheryle Hutter

Picture of Sheryle Hutter

CCDC is saddened to announce the passing of disability rights all-star Sheryle Hutter.   Sheryle was a CCDC staff member until last year, before that she was a Board Member, and dedicated volunteer advocate.  Among her many significant accomplishments was the development of our current advocacy training program.  Her efforts made it a professional level class, eligible for continuing education units from the University of Denver.  Sheryle developed the curriculum in partnership with the University College at DU and created enough evidence-based curricula with a robust evaluation to qualify it for a college-level class.

Sheryle was born on September 26, 1944 and died October 13, 2019.   She was married to the love of her life Don Hutter on January 27, 1962.  They renewed their vows this past January.  She leaves behind two sons, Don Jr, and Ron Hutter.  Ron works as the CCDC event assistant and is on the Arc of Aurora Board of Directors.  He followed in his mother’s advocacy footsteps, something that made Sheryle very proud.    Sheryle is also survived by all five siblings:  Vicki Shultz, Pam Farnoik, Tommy Collins, Scott Collins and Brent Collins.  She leaves behind many nieces and nephews, colleagues, friends and admirers.

Sheryle’s professional history began when she owned and operated a square dance shop, then had an interior design business and finally became a grants manager for the Cherry Creek School district where she worked for more than 30 years.    Sheryle poured her significant talents into several organizations as a volunteer.  She was involved with Special Olympics for more than 30 years.  She started the program in the Cherry Creek District and there are now over 10,000 athletes participating across the state.   Her son Ron is an athlete and coach with Special Olympics.    Sheryle was a leader in the all-volunteer organization PADCO (Parents of Adults with Disabilities of Colorado).  PADCO takes strong unapologetic advocacy positions.   Sheryle and founder Dr. Denver Fox uncovered fraud in the intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) system that was later verified by government auditors.  She found a glaring error in legislation missed by several professional lobbyists that took needed services away from hundreds of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and she forced a correction to maintain needed services.

Sheryle was involved in many capacities with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.   She joined as a volunteer in the late 90’s, later she served on the Board of Directors and acted as Treasurer for several years.  After her retirement from the Cherry Creek School district, she threw herself into advocacy, lobbying on behalf of CCDC, and creating the advocacy training program that is in place today.    Sheryle was also involved in local Arapahoe County and City of Aurora politics.  Sheryle has mentored and encouraged many people with disabilities and parents of people with disabilities.  Sheryle had a strong sense of disability pride, and that is evident in the work of her son Ron.   Sheryle was passionate about improving the quality and accessibility of health care, enforcement of the American’s Disabilities Act, and ethical and transparent behavior of nonprofits that are funded to support people with disabilities.

Sheryle has received several awards for her work in the disability community including the Dan Davidson Award given by the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council and the Lucile Weiss Memorial Award for Education from CCDC.  Sheryle will be dearly missed.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that people honor Sheryle by voting, becoming active and involved with your community and doing something to improve health care and access for people with disabilities and/or senior citizens in your communities.

Investigative Report on Immigration Detention Released Today, Sept. 18, 2019

CCDC wants to thank the ACLU of Colorado for your groundbreaking (and heart breaking) expose.   We are proud to partner with this great organization and with CREEC who is also doing this work and look forward to working with anyone interested to assure that immigrants and asylum seekers with disabilities are treated fairly and humanely.

Rise Up fist, it reads: Nothing About Us, Without Us, EVER!!
Rise Up fist, it reads: Nothing About Us, Without Us, EVER!!

 

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Rachel Pryor-Lease <rpryor-lease@aclu-co.org>
Date: Wed, Sep 18, 2019 at 10:52 AM
Subject: Investigative report on immigration detention released today
To: Julie Reiskin <jreiskin@ccdconline.org>

Today marks the release of our investigative report about the GEO immigration detention facility in Aurora: Cashing in on Cruelty: Stories of Death, Abuse and Neglect at the GEO Immigration Detention Facility in Aurora.

The report is based on a nine-month ACLU of Colorado investigation, which included a lawsuit against ICE under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records about Mr. Samimi’s death and interviews with dozens of victims of mistreatment. The investigation revealed numerous stories of medical incompetence, dental neglect, inadequate mental healthcare, lack of accommodations for detainees with disabilities, as well as substandard care that contributed to the suffering and death of Kamyar Samimi, a Lawful Permanent Resident for more than 40 years.

Cashing in on Cruelty provides a set of recommendations to improve state and local policy, including increased oversight and accountability of ACDF, divesting from investments in private detention operators like GEO, funding for legal counsel and bond money for detainees and limiting local cooperation with ICE. The policy brief enumerates ways that Colorado cities, counties and the state should respond to the expansion of private immigration detention centers to improve conditions of confinement and reduce the number of people who end up separated from their families and communities or worse — dead.

Read the report and learn more, including actions to take and know your rights information at: https://www.allarewelcomeco.org/.

 

As a reminder, we are having an informal breakfast this Friday, September 20th from 8:30-10am to hear from the staff that worked on the report, as well as learn more about our next steps. Please let me know if you would like to join us.

Thank you for your support, so that we can continue to do this critical work.

Best,

Rachel

Rachel Pryor-Lease

(Pronouns: she/her/hers)

Director of Philanthropy

American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado

303 E. 17th Ave., Suite 350

Denver, CO  80203-1256

(720) 402-3105

rpryor-lease@aclu-co.org

 

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Press Release: President Trump’s Statement Blaming Gun Violence on People with Mental Health Conditions Is Outrageous, Says National Organization of Mental Health Advocates with “Lived Experience”

For Immediate Release

President Trump’s Statement Blaming Gun Violence on People with Mental Health Conditions Is Outrageous, Says National Organization of Mental Health Advocates with “Lived Experience”

WASHINGTON (August 7, 2019)—The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR), which advocates to improve policies affecting individuals with mental health conditions nationwide, offers its sincere condolences to all those affected by the tragedies in El Paso and Dayton.

At the same time, the NCMHR is disgusted by President Trump’s recent statement in which he conflated perpetrators of violence and people with psychiatric diagnoses.

“As a national organization representing persons with mental health issues—many of whom are trauma survivors—the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery condemns President Trump’s statement blaming people with mental health conditions for gun violence,” said NCMHR co-founder and board president Daniel B. Fisher, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist with lived experience of a mental health condition.

“As the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and numerous studies have reported, people with mental health conditions are the wrong scapegoat after mass shootings,” Dr. Fisher continued. “Instead, frequently the shooter in these tragedies is an isolated, angry white male with an automatic weapon.

“But the President refuses to take responsibility for his central role in ginning up racism and anti-immigrant hatred in countless statements and at numerous rallies over a period of years.
“Economic and social oppression have alienated and disempowered people, putting the American Dream out of reach for many. We need a more economically and socially equitable society to address the roots of society’s anger. It is crucial that we hear, and respect, the voices of people angered by these economic factors, because so many feel unheard and unrespected.

“And we must immediately pass and implement effective gun control laws. When economist Richard Florida examined gun deaths and other social indicators, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

“After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia adopted tougher gun control laws—and this resulted in a huge decrease in gun violence.

“Unfortunately, many of our legislators feel obligated to the National Rifle Association. Republicans received nearly $6 million in the 2016 election cycle; Democrats received $106,000. President Trump received at least $21 million from the gun lobby. At the same time, 90% of Americans support background checks for all gun sales.

“We can do this. At long last, we just need to summon the political will.”
The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) works to ensure that people with psychiatric diagnoses have a major voice in the development and implementation of health care, mental health, and social policies at the state and national levels, empowering people to recover and lead full lives in the community.

CONTACT: Daniel Fisher, MD, PhD, NCMHR board president, info@ncmhr.org; 202-642-4480

No to Oppression Olympics

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Logo
1385 S. Colorado Blvd.  Bldg. A, Ste. 610
Denver, Colorado 80222
303.839.1775
www.ccdconline.org

Julie Reiskin
Executive Director
jreiskin@ccdconline.org
720.961.4261 (Direct)
303.648.6262 (Fax)

 

CCDC was made aware that yesterday an ADAPT leader Bruce Darling made an inappropriate comment saying that Democrats cared more about immigrants than people with disabilities.  Mr. Darling has apologized in writing for these comments and has acknowledged that this is inappropriate, divisive and that “oppression Olympics” serves no one.   We agree.

CCDC is proud of our long affiliation with ADAPT. Many of us at CCDC are ADAPT members and participate in ADAPT actions.   CCDC understands the frustration when politicians that use us to get elected ignore us.  This frustration is something communities of color have dealt with for decades and continue to deal with throughout the country.

The situation for immigrants in this country has reached a crisis point.  National “leaders” are bullying, threatening, belittling, and intimidating immigrants.  People who even have family members who are immigrants are being intimidated into not using services that they need.  This hostile climate is antithetical to what America is….after all, we are a nation of immigrants.  Only those who are Native American/Indigenous People are not from another country.  CCDC appreciates the lawmakers that are speaking out against the abhorrent conditions at the border, and fighting back against the mistreatment of immigrants around the country.    CCDC believes there is bandwidth for our elected officials to deal with more than one issue and that ignoring disability issues is due to ableism, nothing more and nothing less.

As a social justice organization, CCDC must speak out –otherwise we are complicit.  More than ever, we must be vigilant to not fall into the trap of frustration of blaming and othering. The current hostile and divisive political climate can and should be blamed, but it is because of this climate that we all must take extra care to be personally responsible and avoid these comparisons.   We must stand with our brothers and sisters (with and without disabilities) who are new arrivals as a matter of social justice and mutual commitment to a more equitable society.

We will not comment or opine on the intent of Mr. Darling.  It is never acceptable to pit oppressed groups against each other. We hope that the larger social justice community will not see these comments as reflective of the disability community. Our community is diverse and includes many people who have intersectional identities as immigrants, migrants, new arrivals and people with disabilities.   We are not immune to the racism and xenophobia that permeate our organizations and all American communities, but we are responsible to address it inside and outside of our organizations.

CCDC POSITION ON SB19-182

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Logo
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Logo

1385 S. Colorado Blvd.  Bldg. A, Ste. 610

Denver, Colorado 80222

03.839.1775

www.ccdconline.org

Julie Reiskin

Executive Director

jreiskin@ccdconline.org

720.961.4261 (Direct)

303.648.6262 (Fax)

 

 

After a great deal of deliberation, cautious debate, legal advice, research, and consultation, CCDC has decided to actively support SB 182, which would repeal Colorado’s death penalty.  We deliberated carefully and at length as to whether or not the bill raised an issue crucial to disability rights and, if so if there was a legitimate reason to urge repeal while maintaining our ongoing opinion that people with disabilities should take full and equal responsibility.  With the help of our legal team, we decided that the answer was firmly “YES” to both questions.

I wish now to focus on some salient issues brought forth from our discussions and analysis.

  • The death penalty falls heavily on the disability community writ large. “As of June 2014, approximately 32 of the last 100 people subject to capital punishment in the United States demonstrated evidence of an intellectual disability.  During that same period, approximately 53 of the last 100 people sentenced to the death penalty demonstrated symptoms or diagnoses of mental illness. Expanding the pool to include individuals who have demonstrated diminished capacity (such as youthful offenders individuals with traumatic brain injuries, who are not included in either of these categories despite still-developing brains and brain injuries having similar effects on the defendant’s culpability, and, therefore, suitability for the death penalty, the list grows to 87 of the last 100.”
  • Further, although there have been legal advancements that might alter these statistics in the future, the lack of a standard has left state governments floundering in the search for solutions and drawn in the Supreme Court, which has issued a long and winding path of decisions.  Beginning with Atkins v. Virginia, the Court has held that it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishments” to execute a person with an intellectual impairment.  However, the Court has also left it up to state authority to determine how to determine if a person indeed has such an impairment. Subsequent cases show that this has left states unequal in the application of the death penalty and left adrift.  Clear but inflexible rules, such as those that rely solely on IQ scores, have been struck down.
  • The Texas Court of Appeals, which applied a test it had developed in a case called Ex Parte Briseño that was based on a mixture of medical standards from 1992 and the Texas court’s conclusions as to “wh[en] a consensus of Texas citizens would agree that a person should be exempt from the death penalty[,]” was struck down as reliant upon outdated standards that amounted to a mixture of lay misperceptions and stereotypes.  In this time of uncertainty of standards, hyper-prevalence of people with disabilities on death row across the nation, and despite being in a state that uses the death penalty as rarely as Colorado (once since 1967), we argue that Colorado’s own standard on determining intellectual impairment is so high, that an indigent person with a disability and an overworked public defender is too likely to fall through the cracks (and on to death row) for this issue to be ignored. A ban would ensure that no person with a disability, regardless of whether the individual could meet the “clear and convincing evidence” standard under Colorado law, would be put to death.

Support of a ban would show that CCDC stands in solidarity with groups against whom the death penalty has been historically weaponized.

Carrie Ann Lucas, Champion for Disabled Parents, Dies at 47

Carrie Ann Lucas, second from left, in 2018 in Windsor, Colo., with her children, from left, Asiza, Heather, Adrianne and Anthony. Ms. Lucas fought for the rights of the disabled, especially those who are parents.
Carrie Ann Lucas, second from left, in 2018 in Windsor, Colo., with her children, from left, Asiza, Heather, Adrianne and Anthony. Ms. Lucas fought for the rights of the disabled, especially those who are parents.

By Katharine Q. Seelye

Feb. 27, 2019

Carrie Ann Lucas, who championed people, especially parents, with disabilities and won a major lawsuit to make Kmart more accessible, died on Sunday in Loveland, Colo. She was 47.

Her sister, Courtney Lucas, said the cause was complications of septic shock.

Ms. Lucas, who lived with a rare form of muscular dystrophy for three decades, was an effective advocate for people with disabilities. A lawyer, she successfully forced several businesses to make their premises more accessible in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

And last year, through her forceful lobbying, she helped change Colorado law to ensure that the disability of a parent or potential guardian could not be the sole basis for denying custody, adoption, foster care or guardianship of a child.

The legislation grew out of her own struggle to adopt her niece, who was in foster care. Ms. Lucas, who used a power wheelchair, breathed through a ventilator, had low vision and minimal hearing, and relied on a feeding tube, went on to adopt a total of four children, all with disabilities.

“We hear things all the time like, ‘How can you be a parent if you can’t throw a football for your son?’ ” she told The Colorado Independent in 2016.

“As disabled people,” she said, “we are always addressing the issue of how society devalues our lives and experiences.”

On Monday, members of both the House and Senate of the Colorado legislature paid tribute to Ms. Lucas and held a moment of silence in her honor. “Carrie Ann Lucas is a testament to doing everything that you can with what you’ve got,” State Senator Julie Gonzales said.

Ms. Lucas’s commitment was evident in her relentless campaign against a measure to allow doctor-assisted suicide (sometimes called “right to die” or “death with dignity”) in Colorado. An active member of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, she appeared at numerous forums to express her outrage at what she saw as the implicit suggestion that people with disabilities had such a low quality of life that their lives were not worth living.

Despite her protestations, voters approved the measure in 2016. Doctor-assisted death is now legal in seven states and the District of Columbia.

It was a rare defeat in a long career of advocacy. Perhaps her most notable legal victory came in a class-action lawsuit against Kmart, to make its stores more accessible.

Ms. Lucas was the lead plaintiff in that suit, filed in 1999, and in a settlement in 2006, Kmart agreed to pay $13 million in damages to shoppers — the largest payout in a disabilities case at the time — and to bring its 1,400 stores into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Kmart agreed to spend as much as $70 million over eight years to do so.

Carrie Ann Lucas was born on Nov. 18, 1971, in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Her mother, LaVerne (Rupert) Lucas, was a sales manager; her father, Philip Emory Lucas, served in the Marine Corps for 20 years and was stationed at the base there. When he retired, the family moved to Windsor, Colo., where he was an appliance repair technician.

Carrie Ann graduated from high school in Windsor and went to Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., graduating in 1994 with a double major in education and sports medicine.

While in high school, she began to lose muscle strength, and by age 17 she was walking with braces. She was in a wheelchair by her early 20s.

Still, she went overseas. She taught middle school science for two years in Saipan, part of the Northern Marianas in the Western Pacific. Her goal was to become a minister, and when she returned to Colorado she earned a master of divinity degree at Iliff School of Theology in Denver in 1999.

As her health deteriorated, her sister said, she became involved with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which works for equal rights for people with any kind of disability. She investigated and monitored disability rights cases there.

At the same time, she sought to adopt her niece, Heather, then 9, the disabled daughter of her half brother, Eric Gover, whose family, in Tennessee, was unable to care for her. But because of her own disabilities, Ms. Lucas ran into resistance.

She fought the system and, with the help of a court-appointed special advocate, was able to adopt Heather. The experience inspired her to make sure that the same thing would not happen in Colorado.

Driven by the prejudice she saw against parents with disabilities, Ms. Lucas enrolled at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver, where she received a full scholarship. She graduated in 2005 and went on to adopt three more children, Asiza, Adrianne and Anthony, all of whom have disabilities.

Ms. Lucas was executive director of Disabled Parents Rights and served on the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. In 2017, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Windsor City Council.

She was among several people with disabilities who were arrested in 2017 on charges of trespassing after a 58-hour sit-in at the Denver office of Senator Cory Gardner. They were protesting the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have reduced Medicaid funding and eliminated services that make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently.

In addition to her sister, her half brother and her children, Ms. Lucas is survived by her parents and her partner, Dr. Kimberley Jackson. Her half sister, Kelli Mann, died in 2017.

For the last several years, Ms. Lucas had been writing a blog, DisabilityPride.com, which provided an unvarnished view of her life.

One of her final entries, the day after Christmas, described her fear of what would happen to her children, now in their late teens and 20s, when she was gone. She said she hoped that she had given them “the tools to thrive if given appropriate supports.” But, she added, she was terrified that they would be separated and lose contact with one another.

“My kids are all adopted and lost their first family,” she wrote. “I desperately don’t want them to lose this family too.”

To Read the Original Article:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/obituaries/carrie-ann-lucas-dead.html

Disability Community Loses one of our Rock Stars

The disability community lost one of it’s fiercest advocates on 2/24/19.  Carrie Ann Lucas, a disability rights attorney who pioneered representation for parents with disabilities, died after an arbitrary denial from an insurance company caused a plethora of health problems, exacerbating her disabilities and eventually leading to her premature death.  She was 47 years old.

Carrie Ann Lucas is known around the state and the country for her strong advocacy.   

Carrie Ann grew up in Windsor, Colorado and had several careers including being a teacher, ordained minister and legal assistant before becoming an attorney.  Carrie graduated from Whitworth College in 1994, traveled and taught in Saipan, and then returned to the states to attend the Iliff School of Theology. She received a Master’s of Divinity with Justice and Peace Concentration from Iliff in 1999, but during her time there, became increasingly involved in disability advocacy.  After she graduated, she started working as an advocate and later legal assistant for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, investigating, preparing, and monitoring disability rights cases and providing informal advocacy on a wide range of topics.  While there, she was granted a full scholarship as a Chancellor’s Scholar at the University of Denver School of Law.

Following her graduation from law school in 2005, she was awarded a prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship to create a program to combat discrimination that impacts parenting for parents with disabilities.  This program, initially started within the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, spun off to be Disabled Parents Rights, one of the only organizations in the country devoted to this issue.  She also became a national expert and trainer on the rights of parents with disabilities and, through her legal advocacy, secured decisions upholding and promoting those rights here in Colorado.  Most recently she was recruited by the Colorado Office of Respondent Parents Counsel to help set up a program to train other lawyers around the state to replicate the sort of impact she was making.  

In addition to these professional activities, Ms. Lucas was an advocate with the disability rights groups ADAPT and Not Dead Yet, speaking, teaching, writing, testifying, and protesting on disability justice and the rights of people with disabilities to healthcare and respect.  She was also a talented photographer and cook. Carrie Ann was an activist at heart. She graduated from EMERGE, ran for Windsor City Council in 2017, and was planning on additional political activity.  She was chair of Colorado Democrats with Disabilities for the past several years. She was a member of the ADAPT group that protested in Cory Gardner’s office and got arrested to help save the Affordable Care Act in 2017, particularly Medicaid.    She served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.   She was active with Not Dead Yet and fought hard against physician assisted suicide and the notion that life with a disability is not worth living.  She demonstrated every day how amazing life with a disability can be. She was given the Intersectionality Award from The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center in 2016.  She was a leader in passing HB 18-1104 which changed Colorado law to make sure that disability was no longer a reason to remove a child from a parental home. There is much, much more.

Carrie became a lawyer to practice family law after lived experience of discrimination against parents with disabilities firsthand.   In 1998 fostered and later adopted her oldest daughter, Heather Lucas. Heather has significant developmental disabilities and was languishing in another state.   She fostered and was preparing to adopt a second child, but that was disrupted due to prejudice against parents with disabilities. Where most people might be upset and feel helpless, Carrie Ann was furious and went to law school to represent parents with disabilities.    

Carrie adopted three more children over the years, Adrianne Lucas, Azisa Lucas and Anthony Lucas.   All of her accomplishments centered on her dedication to her children and her role as a mother. All of her children have significant disabilities and Carrie Ann always made sure that they were not only educated and included in their communities, but that they were loved, respected, and supported in their individual hopes and dreams.    

Carrie had a severe neuromuscular disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy.  She relied on a power wheelchair, and had used a ventilator for years. However, her death was premature and caused by inappropriate and brutal cost containment procedures of an insurance company.  Because Carrie Ann worked for the state, she had use state insurance which was primary ahead of her Medicare and Medicaid. In January of 2018 she got a cold which turned into a trach and lung infection.  Her insurance company UnitedHealthcare, refused to pay for the one specific inhaled antibiotic that she really needed. She had to take a less effective drug and had a bad reaction to that drug. This created a cascade of problems, loss of function (including her speech).  United Healthcare’s attempt to save $2,000 cost over $1 million in health care costs over the past year. This includes numerous hospitalizations, always involving the Intensive Care Unit which is par for the course for ventilator users.

Carrie Ann had hoped to spend a lot of time in 2019 using her tragedy to work to fix our broken health care system.   Her blog www.disabilitypride.com provides more details.   For all intents and purposes a shero of our community was murdered in the name of cost containment.  This is why we MUST fight these measures with all we have. Insurance companies and government programs must not be allowed to deny people what they need.  Just last month she was having to ration her insulin for her type 1 diabetes because of the same insurance company and how impossible it is to work between private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid.  This is a great example of why people with disabilities should not be forced into insurance or health plans and why we need Medicaid as the primary health delivery system for this country.

In addition to her four children, Carrie Ann is survived by her sister Courtney Lucas, her parents Lee and Phil Lucas, her nephews Gavin and CJ Lucas, Gavin’s wife Kathleen and their daughter Emily.  She is also survived by her partner Dr. Kimberley Jackson, a CCDC Board member and activist in the disability community. She will be missed by a wide circle of friends and colleagues throughout the country.  


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