The Sound Off! blog is a place for CCDC members to share their experience of living with a disability from the perspective of a disability rights activist. Express opinions on disability issues or other issues that relate to disability. Share their feelings about the issues of the day.
CCDC is pleased to announce that in July 2020, there will be changes to two of the Single Entry Point Agencies (SEP). The Single Entry Point System is a collection of more than 20 state-wide SEPs that provide eligibility determinations and case management for particular Home and Community Based Services Waiver programs. Continue reading “Changes coming to two of the Single Entry Point Agencies (SEP)”
The New Year brings with it reflections on the past year, hopes for the year to come, resolutions to do better at something or perhaps a resolution to stop making empty promises to oneself. Why do we celebrate the New Year? Have we not had enough time off from work, enough to eat and drink, and enough time with family by now? The reason we celebrate is the passage of time is something to celebrate –as a culture that is a blend of many different cultures, we celebrate survival. Continue reading “The New Year Brings with it Reflections on the Past Year by Julie Reiskin”
Remembering some of the artists, innovators, and thinkers we lost in the past year.
View original article: Carrie Ann Lucas Obituary in the New York Times
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. Continue reading “Carrie Ann Lucas Obituary in the New York Times (Quoted)”
The aim is to reduce Medicaid fraud by requiring therapists, respite workers and nurses to log in and verify their location when they visit someone’s home to provide care. But backlash, especially from the parents of children with disabilities, has been fierce.
“We’re disabled, not criminals!” shouts one petition. Continue reading “Medicaid law forcing caregivers to be tracked by GPS inspires privacy backlash from Colorado’s disabled community”
The Regional Transportation District on Thursday proposed cutting six bus routes, reducing service on 19 bus routes, suspending special buses for sporting and community events, and curtailing service on three of its light rail lines.
The agency hopes those reductions are enough to give their operators a needed break. Because of a driver shortage, they’ve been required to work overtime for the last four years to keep service levels up. That in turn has led to more turnover, and, in October, senior staff told the RTD board they wanted to make “significant” cuts to service in a last-ditch bid to fix the problem.
“Clearly, we would rather not be doing any of this,” spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas said at a press briefing Thursday. “But this is our responsibility; we’re owning this. Some of these are going to be painful.”
The agency is currently short about 80 bus drivers and 60 light rail operators; it needs 1,084 and 216 of each, respectively. RTD says the cuts to regularly scheduled service alone would reduce the need for 44 bus drivers and six light rail operators on a given weekday. The suspension of special service buses — which include BuffRide, BroncosRide and RunRide on Memorial Day Weekend — would mean anywhere from six to 114 fewer drivers would need to report to work.
The 16L on West Colfax, the 55 in Arvada, the 99L in Lakewood and Littleton, the 157 to the Community College of Aurora and Buckley Airforce Base, the 236 in Boulder and the 403 in Highlands Ranch, would be cut completely. This map shows which regular bus and light rail routes would be affected by the cuts.
Peak frequency on the 16th Street MallRide would drop to three minutes and the D Line from downtown Denver to Littleton would no longer operate on weekends. Only part of the R Line would see reductions because the federal government, which funded part of the line, turned down RTD’s request to reduce service in Lone Tree.
Service on the 16 would be expanded, as would weekend service on the D Line’s cousin, the C Line. Many 16L riders will likely migrate to the nearby W light rail line.
But on a recent morning, some said they’ll have to switch to the 16 local. Solomon Joseph, who said he takes his kids to school Lakewood on the 16L every day, said the local bus will add at least another 15 minutes each way — and more if he misses his connection.
“RTD, you’re going to make a big mistake if you cut this route,” he said. “Because there are people more than just myself that ride it on a regular, daily basis and depend on it.”
Carla Respects Nothing said she takes the 16L from her home on the west side to her job in downtown Denver every day.
“It takes me not even 10 minutes to get to work. I’m lucky,” she said. “I just hope they don’t cut it because we really need these limited routes to get where we are going faster.”
And it also appears that cuts could affect future users of RTD’s paratransit service, Access-A-Ride. Anyone who lives within a 3/4-mile radius and has a qualifying disability is entitled to use the service. Advocates had worried the cuts would affect their communities, but in November, outgoing General Manager Dave Genova told the board that “We don’t need to touch Access-a-Ride.”
But now, RTD says no new customers will be added to the program if routes are eliminated in their area.
“I have issue with that,” said Jaime Lewis, a transit adviser with the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition who attended the press conference. “I can see the scenario where if somebody obtains a disability, that their neighbor is going to have access to Access-A-Ride and they won’t. That proposes an issue with our community.”
Additionally, what were originally advertised at “temporary” cuts now contain a caveat that poorly performing service will likely not be reinstated. RTD staff say those services likely would’ve been cut through the agency’s routine service changes.
At a special board meeting Thursday evening, several directors said they’d like to know which specific lines are unlikely to come back. Staff said they couldn’t say at the moment.
Overall, RTD says 1,049 out of 10,102 daily bus trips would be affected, along with 420 out of 1,036 light rail trips. Two board members estimated that added up to about 5 percent of RTD’s services, though staff did not corroborate that assessment.
“I think this is a good start. I think we don’t want to go too far,” said RTD COO Michael Ford. “We want to stabilize the system, and we don’t want to cut it so much where we’re impacting the system in a negative way.”
Even if the board approves the cuts, RTD says they will not amount to enough to completely eliminate the need for forced overtime. As the process moves forward, public meetings will be held in January and February in each of the 15 districts that make up RTD. The final plan would likely be in front of the board in March and would go into effect in May.
If the plan is a success and RTD is able to add and retain more drivers, well-performing routes that were dropped would then be considered for reinstatement.
The monster snowstorm that pummeled the Denver metro area just days before Thanksgiving strained Littleton’s snowplowing capacity, but advocates say poorly shoveled sidewalks can pose a threat to vulnerable people long after the roads are cleared.
People with mobility issues can find themselves effectively trapped by iced-over walkways, said Julie Reiskin, the executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.
“Shoveling sidewalks means everything” for people with disabilities, said Reiskin, who uses a wheelchair. “A lot of us don’t drive. We use buses, and in many cases after this last storm we couldn’t make it down the block, much less to a bus stop.”
Businesses and absentee landlords seem to be some of the worst offenders, Reiskin said.
“We notice businesses that keep them clear, and we patronize them year-round,” she said.
Reiskin said even some well-meaning shovelers simply scoop out a path as wide as their shovel blade, which doesn’t accommodate wheelchairs or people with walkers.
Shoveling the vast majority of sidewalks in town is the responsibility of adjacent property owners, said David Flaig, Littleton’s landscape manager.
“The law says you’ve got 24 hours after the snowflakes stop falling to get your walk shoveled, and that means all the way to the corner,” Flaig said.
The city is responsible for shoveling about five miles of city-owned sidewalks, many on bridges or around city buildings, Flaig said, but citizens are responsible for many dozens more.
“If you live on a corner, that includes the curb cuts,” Flaig said.
The Thanksgiving storm was especially gnarly because the following days didn’t warm up enough to melt the snow and ice, Flaig said, and while city crews could put down more ice, there are environmental concerns at work.
“We could salt everything like crazy, and it would work, but at the end the South Platte would be about as salty as the South Pacific,” Flaig said.
Snowplows may fling snow and ice right back up on curb cuts, Flaig said, but it’s still residents’ responsibility to make sure they stay clear.
Poorly shoveled sidewalks can spell trouble for blind people, said Dan Burke, the spokesman for Littleton’s Colorado Center for the Blind.
“We teach independence, and that means we’ve got to be out in all kinds of weather,” Burke said. “You can’t be a fair-weather employee. But when we’re out and the sidewalks are jammed, it pushes us into the street, which just isn’t safe. Also, we use curb cuts to know where crosswalks are, and if we can’t find them, it’s easy to end up headed off at a bad angle.”
Poorly shoveled sidewalks are bad news for the elderly, said Diane McClymonds, the executive director of TLC Meals on Wheels, which brings food to homebound seniors.
“It can mean the difference between being able to get to the doctor or not,” McClymonds said. “And in a big storm like this last one, many of our clients aren’t able to shovel that much snow.”
The program always needs volunteers, Jorgensen said. Right now, she’s got 11 volunteer shovelers on the list, but last year she wound up with more than 80 seniors who needed shoveling help.
“It means everything to the folks on our waiting list,” Jorgensen said. “If you can help, get in touch. Your neighbors need you.”
Whether city code enforcement issued any tickets for unshoveled sidewalks after the Thanksgiving storm wasn’t immediately available, said Jennifer Henninger, the city’s community development director, but residents who encounter unshoveled sidewalks can report them to the city through the “SeeClickFix” phone app.
Reiskin, the advocate for people with disabilities, said reporting unshoveled sidewalks doesn’t help much in the moment.
“We’d really like to see cities doing their own enforcement, rather than putting the onus on people out on the street,” Reiskin said. “Reporting violators doesn’t help someone who’s stranded. We just really need people to take this seriously.”
It’s holiday travel time, so here’s a handy checklist before you head to the airport: Got your earphones? A scarf in case it gets cold on the plane? Slip-on shoes for the TSA line? Doctor’s note for your emotional support snake?
Scratch that last one.
In spite of what you may have heard about a wide range of emotional support animals showing up at airports, you won’t find a warm welcome for your snake on board that flight.
Current Department of Transportation rules allow airlines to ban snakes, as well as rodents (sorry, emotional support squirrel), spiders and a few other creatures. But that emotional support cat rubbing his hair all over your black sweater? Or that dog in the next seat who’s begging for your pretzels? They’ve got a ticket to ride. At least for now.
Transportation industry watchers and a slew of interested parties — including disability rights advocates, airlines and service dog providers — are awaiting updated rules from the DOT that will further refine policy around emotional support animals on airplanes. Federal policy changes are expected soon, perhaps before the end of the year. And though no one yet knows exactly what shape the new rules will take, chances are good that it’s about to get a little harder to bring your ESA on board.
Keeping a menagerie of strange animals, not to mention pets masquerading as service animals, off flights seems like a good idea, right? But emotional support animals, in spite of the bad rap they’ve gotten lately, represent an issue that is more complex than it seems.
For some people, like Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors, which provides service dogs to veterans with PTSD and other injuries, stricter DOT rules can’t come soon enough. “Hopefully, it will be an improvement over the current rule,” he says, “which is wide open and not able to contain the number of untrained animals that are showing up on airplanes.”
In Diamond’s view, emotional support animals, which are not required to undergo specific training, don’t belong on flights. “We think only service dogs should be allowed on planes,” he says. “The issue with emotional support animals is that it’s just ripe for abuse.”
That abuse has grabbed plenty of headlines. In recent years, online businesses have emerged selling vests and harnesses for service animals as well as notes from therapists confirming the need for an ESA. Airlines typically require a doctor’s note for an ESA to be allowed to board. In some cases, notes purchased online require that an online questionnaire be filled out to assess need, but the ability to easily buy credentials has led some pet owners to falsely claim ESA status for their animals.
The incentives for cheating go beyond the convenience of being able to bring your animal into off-limits locations; pet travel fees on airlines are typically in the hundreds of dollars. “These are people who just don’t want to pay to get their dogs on the plane,” says Diamond, “and it’s causing a lot of trouble for people with legitimate service dogs.” In fact, he says, the No. 1 problem veterans traveling with his organization’s service dogs report is difficult encounters with ESAs or poorly trained service animals.
Jason Haag, CEO of service dog provider Leashes of Valor, is himself a veteran who suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury and has traveled with his service dog, Axel, for years. He’s in support of a rule change for ESAs too. “Honestly,” he says, “to put any untrained animal in a tube going 500 miles an hour with no exit doesn’t sound like a great idea to me.”
Untrained animals, Haag points out, may cause havoc on a flight by barking, moving around too much or being aggressive with humans or other animals. “Unfortunately, when you have too many animals in an enclosed area and they have not been trained, bad things can happen,” he said.
Airline employees try to maintain space between animals, but because service dogs should ideally be seated in the bulkhead row, ideal distance can be hard to achieve.
Haag and Diamond both support the idea of a national service dog registry, and Diamond has been working for two years to create an optional credential that, much like a parking permit for people who are disabled, could be promoted as a quick, visible assurance that a dog is a service animal. “It would be like TSA Precheck for dogs,” he says, “and make it easier for everyone and much easier to fly.”
Public perception around “fake” service animals has also increased the scrutiny people like Haag receive when they show up with a dog in tow. In 2015, Haag, a retired Marine captain, was flying home to Virginia from California after accepting an award for Axel, who was honored at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. But when an American Airlines employee decided to question whether Axel was a legitimate service dog, Haag was kept from boarding his flight. “I was furious,” he says, “but yet incredibly prepared for what happened. So I know firsthand what it’s like with crazy regulations and people not understanding all of them.”
Petrof points out that, in spite of airline reports that show the numbers of animals on planes is steadily rising, serious issues with ESAs still appear to be relatively few. “We don’t believe there are that many documented cases of problems,” he says. “Instead, it’s really a few high-profile cases that get everyone talking.”
Remember Dexter the Peacock? He sparked plenty of internet outrage in 2018 after his owner tried to take him on board a United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey. (United said no, and promptly tightened its ESA policy.) But Petrof says we don’t need new government intervention against oddities like Dexter. “That peacock has done large volumes of damage,” he says, “and that’s not the problem we have to solve.”
Disabled rights advocates have long held that barriers to access must be kept low in order to promote inclusiveness for people who are already facing considerable obstacles, which is why public access policy severely limits even the questions a person seeking accommodations can be asked.
Requiring a higher standard of proof for ESAs, Petrof says, could become a barrier to travel, especially for disabled people with limited means. “If you need proof beyond a basic doctor’s note,” he says, “depending on what kind of health care you can afford, you may not get to see your psychiatrist more than once per year. And wait times for mental health treatment can be long. You may not be able to satisfy these requirements in time to take a flight. So what it results in is, if you’re poor and disabled, you’re kicked off the plane.”
Not that Petrof is in favor of people scamming the ESA policies to get their pets a free ride: “We’re not trying to protect the people who are abusing the law,” he says, but he doesn’t believe an ESA crackdown is worth potential difficulties for the disabled community. “Folks who need an emotional support animal in order to use the transportation service are faced with having restrictions placed on their ability to travel, just because some people try to play fast and loose with the law.”
Instead, Petrof believes the ESA issue is one for the airlines to solve, on a case-by-case basis. “Once we start changing rules,” he says, “it seems like access for disabled people ends up getting limited. The airlines need to address the dog or animal that is causing a problem. They have a lot to figure out: passengers with allergies, seating, keeping dogs separated. It’s complicated. But honestly, if a dog is sitting quietly at someone’s feet and not bothering anyone, why do we need to know why that dog is there?”
DENVER — The worst of the storm may be over here in Colorado, but it’s leaving behind some icy obstacles for people who are disabled in the Denver metro.
Jaime Lewis knew the storm would leave him stranded for a couple days.
“You hope that you have your refrigerator full and have enough activities at home to keep you busy,” Lewis said.
Lewis is part of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. They work specifically on improving transit policies. On Saturday, he pointed out several icy areas along the sidewalk and crosswalk near 12th and Broadway where he said it would be too difficult to navigate in his wheelchair.
Lewis says he didn’t expect the sidewalks to be this bad four days after the worst of the storm hit the area.
He says there’s still parts of the sidewalk that have made it difficult to run errands, and even get to work.
“I tried to get out yesterday and go down Broadway, and had to be helped by three Samaritans on three separate occasions, because I kept getting stuck,” Lewis said.
“I guess one of the biggest disappointments is when I did enter one of the businesses and asked them why they hadn’t shoveled, I was told it wasn’t their job. So definitely the city is not communicating very well to businesses what their responsibilities are,” he added.
Adjacent property owners are responsible for clearing their sidewalks. Residents have 24 hours after the snow stops, and businesses have 4 hours.
An inspector will issue a warning first—but if they come back, and the snow is still not shoveled, they can issue a $150 fine.
“Sometimes, people will shovel the snow out of the sidewalks, but then they’ll leave all the snow on the curb ramps. And the adjacent property owner is responsible for the curb ramp, too,” said Denver City Council Member Chris Hinds.
Hinds spoke by phone from a local hospital Saturday night after his wheelchair got stuck on a sidewalk Monday night while heading home from a city council meeting.
He was admitted to the ER with a high fever Friday night.
“As it gets colder and wetter, the battery doesn’t hold as much charge. Also trying to get over the snow that was there, over the hills and the terrain, that used up more of the charge,” Hinds sai.
At the time, the property owner wouldn’t have been required to shovel the sidewalk—but Hinds says it still illustrates the importance of efficient snow removal.
“I had a 102.9 fever, and I trace it back to that 45 minutes that I was just sitting there, stranded on the sidewalk,” Hinds said.
Lewis says for some areas, it’s too late to do anything now.
“When you hear excuses, ‘it’s hard ice now.’ Well, you should have shoveled it when you had the chance to,” Lewis said.
He’s hoping the community will be more mindful during Colorado’s next storm.
“It really has to start with the residents having pride. And then the city needs to enforce the rules as they’re stated,” Lewis said.
The East Colfax Community Collective, a newly formed grassroots organization advocating for anti-displacement policies, held a press conference Tuesday ahead of the East Area Plan workshop scheduled this Saturday to voice community concerns and call for more equitable and inclusive engagement with its most vulnerable residents.
Collective leaders highlighted challenges facing renters, refugees and the disabled community in East Colfax. The group wants deeper protections against displacement before Denver’s Community Planning and Development Department (CPD) moves forward with two major development projects.
“Before these developments are built on the backs of these communities — their tax dollars, their homes — we hope to see safeguards in this plan that will give residents some recourse if pledges are not honored, so what is said is actually done,” said Kim Brewer with the group Rename Stapleton.
Specifically, the group called for an expansion of wealth building programs and Section 8 vouchers, along with concrete metrics to prioritize the creation of 30% and below area median income housing, for accommodations for the disabled community, and a more involved and fair engagement process to ensure the East Area Plan meets community needs.
“How does it happen that a city that seems to embrace equity at every chance it gets, clearly and profoundly lacks the ability” to take care of its most vulnerable populations, asked Tim Roberts, president of the East Colfax Neighborhood Association.
“I have been attending meetings organized by CPD regarding the East Area Plan since the summer. The format of those meetings has not allowed for many resident discussions on particular aspects of the plan, and I am not confident that City Planning is actually listening to the residents’ concerns,” said Towanna Henderson, an East Colfax community leader.
“We have invited City Planning to meet with the East Colfax Community Collective to ensure that our voices are heard and to work together to develop an inclusive and equitable process for our residents,” she said.’
As of 2015, according to the East Area Plan Briefing book, East Colfax represents more than a third of Denver’s eastern area of about 33,000 people. Nearly 25% of East Colfax residents are immigrants, and a third of its population speaks a language other English at home.
More than 30% of its families are living in poverty.
The East Planning Area neighborhoods include South Park Hill, Montclair, Hale and East Colfax.
“As a collective, we are committed to bringing our communities to the table,” said Brendan Greene, the collective’s spokesman. “We look forward to having the city join us at our table, meet with the collective, think outside of the box and create the solutions we need to protect our community before
the East Area Plan is finalized.”
Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer said in a statement that more than 300 neighbors have RSVP’d for the East Area Plan workshop and that CPD “expects a full house.”
The workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 23, at Johnson and Wales (1900 Olive St.).