TO: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
FROM: Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
RE: HB19-1225 and SB 19-191
I am writing on behalf of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) to ask for your support of HB19-1225 and SB 19-191. CCDC is Colorado’s largest disability-led membership organization. Our mission is to advocate for social justice on behalf of people with all types of disabilities (cross-disability).
CCDC strongly believes and states in our strategic plan that people with disabilities must have both rights and responsibilities. Much of policy work is geared towards creating systems that enable people to engage in the full responsibilities of citizenship. We have made great strides in Colorado, but have a long way to go. Because of the many systemic injustices and barriers faced by people with disabilities, our community is disproportionately affected by poverty, lack of education, and unemployment. These systemic barriers are reversing, but very slowly.
One example is that since 2014 we have had the ability to buy into Medicaid while still being able to engage in competitive employment, and earn and save money. Since having this option the percentage of people with disabilities working full-time and full-year increased from 26-29% (as of 2017 the last year with available data). Therefore we still have more than 70% of people with disabilities are NOT employed full time and full year. Those not able to take advantage of this great program, or those still scarred by years or even decades of being told that work is impossible and savings constitutes some sort of fraud remain in poverty and often are reliant on programs that do not allow them to ever accumulate more than $2000 in all assets combined in any one month. If someone gets an SSDI check of $1200 this means that they could never have more than $800 in the bank.
Because of systemic discrimination, people with disabilities are dramatically overrepresented at every stage in the criminal justice system. Jail is no exception. People in jail are 4 times more likely to have disabilities than people in the general population, and more than half of people in jail have psychiatric disabilities. The injustice of these disparities are heightened in the pretrial conext, where presumptively innocent people may have their lives derailed from pretrial detention for a crime they did not commit or which is so minor that they would never even receive jail as s sentence. I share this to explain why HB 19-1225 and SB 19-191 is so important for people with disabilities.
When someone is detained pending trial a plethora of other problems can occur that are exacerbated by living with a disability.
In some housing situations, particularly assisted living, if one is gone more than a limited number of days one can lose their place. Then the person is not only facing criminal charges, but is now experiencing homelessness. Replacement housing for low-income people with disabilities is very unlikely..especially if there is some sort of criminal record.
Many people with disabilities are living in deep poverty. There is no extra money and they balance every month trying to manage. Fees involved in the criminal justice system add up quickly and if they pay, this is likely to cause the individual to not pay rent, utilities or other bills. Often they will give up services such as their phone, which then removes all of their data, reminder systems, etc. They then are not able to be reached and often get in more trouble for missing deadlines and appearance dates. For people unable to physically write, or those with cognitive disabilities who may have been trained using specialized apps to manage information are particularly hard hit. Finally, people often skimp on food and eat what is cheap, which causes secondary health issues OR they are forced to skip psychiatric medication because they do not have food to take with the meds.
Often when people are kept in jail too long due to problems releasing people after they have posted bond people have other problems. They miss scheduled medications, people who use oxygen may run out. Some people may require oxygen only at night but if they are kept in jail overnight a medical visit is required before the jail can provide oxygen if the individual has none. People in supervised living situations have curfews. Sometimes people are released so late that there is no public transportation. Because jails cannot give family or friends a specific (or even approximate) time, arranging for transportation home is a problem.
Unfortunately, poor people often have many debts. Once someone is involved with the criminal justice system they start incurring fees and fines. This can include fees for taking “classes”, fines for missing said classes, fees for “therapy” groups, and various other charges. When one is again arrested, any fees applied to the new bond should not be taken to address anything else.
HB1225 and SB191 are both smartly aimed at safely and smartly decreasing our pretrial population, in which people with disabilities are hugely overrepresented. Our support of this bill in no way implies that we think people with disabilities should not be held accountable if they commit a crime. What we do want, is a system that will have the punishment be proportional to the crime. Too often we see people with punishments that far exceed the crime. People with disabilities who are arrested should have to answer for their crimes (if they actually committed the crime) but that process should not cause someone to forever lose their housing, cause severe medical complications, or destabilize the person completely.
We believe HB19-1225 and SB 19-191 will help make justice more just in Colorado for the community that we represent and request your support.
One year ago today, the Department of Justice reached an agreement with the City and County of Denver (“City”) under Project Civic Access (“PCA”), the Department’s initiative to ensure that cities, towns, and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). That agreement covers accessibility to numerous programs, services, activities and facilities throughout Denver. The agreement specifically addresses Law Enforcement and Effective Communication, Polling Places, Emergency Management Procedures and Policies, Physical Changes to Emergency Shelters, Web-Based Services and Programs, New Construction, Alterations and Physical Changes to Facilities, Programs for Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse. Many of the deadlines for compliance occurred today, one year after the effective date of the agreement. Click on these links to review the DOJ Press Release and for the DOJ Settlement Agreement. Also, attached is a PDF version of the Agreement with all of the one-year deadlines highlighted.
The Settlement Agreement contains one error in that it states that “On January 20, 2016, Denver and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center [“CREEC”] reached a separate agreement addressing accessible sidewalks and curb ramps in Denver.” It is correct that CREEC with the assistance of CCDC reached a class action settlement agreement with the City regarding curb ramps, but sidewalks were not addressed. Click on the link to review the Curb Ramp Settlement Agreement. Click on the link here to see CREEC’s Website. This Settlement Agreement provides for comprehensive curb ramp replacement throughout the City. CCDC is unaware of why the issue of sidewalks was excluded from the DOJ Settlement Agreement with the City because the case involving curb ramps was never intended to address sidewalks and was approved by the court as a class-action settlement on September 9, 2016 before the DOJ Settlement Agreement. Click the link here to review the Order Granting Final Approval of Settlement. The rules and regulations that apply to curb ramps are different from those that apply to sidewalks.
With respect to sidewalks, according to a recent article published in the Denverite, the City has launched a project to install sidewalks where they don’t exist and make additional sidewalk repairs. At this time, CCDC does not have additional information regarding the sidewalk project. Click on the link here to see the Denverite article regarding sidewalks.
According to the Denver Office of Disability Rights’ (“DODR”) website, “The Denver Office of Disability Rights coordinates the City and County of Denver’s efforts to ensure compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Our role is to ensure that all City services and programs are accessible to people with disabilities.” Information is provided on the DODR website regarding curb ramp renovations and installation and the City’s plan for sidewalks and transportation. The DODR is also listed as the agency to which all notifications or communications under the DOJ Settlement Agreement are to be made. Click here for the link for the Denver Office of Disability Rights. The address and other contact information for the DODR is:
Denver Office of Disability Rights
201 W Colfax, Dept 1102
Denver, CO 80202
Legal Program Director
CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program
CCDC held a listening tour around the state in 2018. Please find the report here…if you want the exhibits and the presentation used during the tour please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are not posting it because even though the information about “what is happening next” was accurate at the time, it has already changed. We are attaching the handout we gave about how to determine the validity of news sources.
We are still seeking feedback and would love your feedback on this report.
CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program Director, Kevin Williams, was featured on KDVR’s Monday night broadcast in remembrance of President George H.W. Bush.
“President Bush said himself the greatest thing he did during the course of his presidency was to sign the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Kevin said during the interview.
Click here for the full story.
CCDC wishes congratulations to our new Governor Jared Polis and looks forward to working with this new administration. Our expectations of a new governor are clear and doable. We look forward to advancing the rights of people with disabilities so that we can show our capabilities as full citizens. This means a dramatic increase in the number of people with disabilities who are employed. This means a dramatic improvement in the high school graduation of students with disabilities and making sure that students go to college or some sort of vocational program. This means a government that values people with disabilities by having high expectations and providing appropriate supports. This means a government that involves us at every level…on boards, commissions, as employees in state agencies, and on the transition team. Governor-Elect Polis stated last night that his administration will be inclusive. We expect to be part of this inclusion and to have disability representation in historic proportions and stand ready to help make that happen.
CCDC congratulates all of the representatives and senators that won their seats as well and we look forward to working with all of you on these same goals.
We will be solidifying legislative priorities for the next two years soon but among them will surely be:
1) Increasing protection for renters such as statewide source of income discrimination protection and habitability laws.
2) Extending the Mediciad Buy-In for Working Adults with Disabilities to people over the age of 65 and for more than 10 days in between jobs, even if we have to use state funds. With the federal government giving the states carte blanche we should be able to get approval.
3) Getting safety protections for people living in host homes.
4) Consumer direction for all HCBS services.
5) Improving our case management systems, especially transition from institutions.
We will be focusing on money for solid transportation that has a focus on transit and affordable housing that is inclusive of everyone including those with very low income. We will be working on increased accountability around behavioral health and overall health care in the Medicaid program.
On a federal level with the Democrats having a majority in the house, we will be holding Congresswoman DeGette accountable for her promises to us to fix the Electronic Visit Verification mess and exempt consumer direction and family caregivers. We will also expect help with improved access to quality complex rehab equipment (power wheelchairs) including accountability for repairs.
While Colorado definitely went blue, this does not mean that CCDC will stop working with our Republican allies. We have always been and always will be a bipartisan organization. Our issues cross both parties. Disability does not discriminate.
CCDC was very proud of the VERY STRONG voter turnout in the disability community. Approximately 90% of our members had already voted before Monday and we are sure the rest voted Monday or Tuesday. Voting is the first step of realizing NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US.
In past years, CCDC always had a policy that people with disabilities should show up at their polls and vote in person. That way, the general public could be made aware of our presence in the important electoral process. In those days we had all sorts of issues with accessibility of polling places. Just getting to the polling place was often difficult. There were issues around accessible parking. Certainly, there were issues regarding the accessibility of the polling machines themselves, making them inaccessible to a large number of people with disabilities. As we probably all recall, many lawsuits have been filed and are still filed related to these issues.
Of course, the times, they are a-changin’. Now, it is far more common to vote by mail or drop your ballot off at a ballot box. The mail makes me nervous, so I went to my local ballot box. Of course, I took someone with me, a camera, a tape measure and other devices because I was certain that the ballot box would not comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (“Standards”). Courts have ruled that compliance with the Standards equals compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I don’t understand why I would have been so skeptical.
I was amazed and surprised when I approached my ballot box. First, there was a designated accessible parking space within close proximity to the box. It is clear that they marked this space off specifically for this purpose. The ballot box itself met all of the specifications for reach ranges and other accessibility requirements under the Standards.
I am not sure exactly how this system works for those who are blind or those who have limited hand function (although it does not break any secrecy or confidentiality violations if someone else drops it in the box for you), and I need to investigate that matter further, but the box itself was fantastic. It is a pleasure to be able to vote with such ease.
I apologize to those of you who have seen the ridiculous pictures of me voting that have circulated throughout many media, but here are some more.
-Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director
Everyone that works in the realm of disabled parking knows that we have a problem…there are too many placards out there –7 for each legitimate user at latest estimate. People often assume that the abuse is due to everyone wanting the “good spaces” that are close to the building. That may be a desirable feature, but a much more desirable feature is that in some jurisdictions, people with a placard or disability plates do not need to pay for parking. As parking becomes more expensive and harder to find, the temptation to use a disability placard inappropriately grows.
Why is disabled parking free? It stems from the fact that often governments and parking lot owners do not make the payment system accessible to all. To be accessible it must be something that one can reach even if one uses a wheelchair or is of short stature. It also has to be accessible to someone without use of fingers or hands. Lowered meters with phone payment options are available in other cities but Colorado has not widely adopted this requirement. The ideal situation would be accessible meters so people with disabilities can park where everyone else parks and pay like anyone else. Equality means doing what everyone else does….even paying for parking. However, until the method of payment is accessible, payment cannot be required.
Only a small subset of people that require accessible parking actually have a problem using a meter. People that use wheelchairs and are unable to stand at all cannot use a meter. People with no hand use or finger coordination cannot use most meters. People of short stature cannot reach meters. Most others with disabilities can use meters. Anyone who simply cannot walk a long distance, people that use wheelchairs but can stand, and people with one good hand can all use a meter.
HB 18-1285 Remuneration-Exempt Disability Parking Placard was an attempt to create a second specialized placard to distinguish individuals who truly cannot use a meter so only those individuals would be eligible for free parking in accessible spaces. Others would still be able to park close, use the wide spaces, etc., but would be expected to pay in metered zones.
Individuals will be qualified for the new placard for the following reasons
Unfortunately this definition excludes one group of people unable to reach a meter. CCDC lobbied for a modification of the 3rd qualifier above to read “Ability to reach or access a parking meter due to disability”. However our proposed amendment to make the bill accomplish the goal was rejected.
This law is permissive meaning that local governments are free to enact it or not. CCDC believes that it would be discriminatory to give free parking to only some people that cannot reach a meter based not on function but on whether or not they use a wheelchair. Some people that use wheelchairs can stand. Some people have wheelchairs that elevate their seats. On the other hand others walk but due to small size are not able to reach a meter or pay slots. Because the Americans’ with Disabilities Act requires state and local governments to avoid discrimination, even though this is a state law, local governments could be at risk for litigation if they implement the law as written. The ADA is a federal law and federal law supersedes state law.
We do not know at this time if any municipalities are planning to use this new provision. Below are some frequently asked questions about the law:
When will the Law go into effect? January 1st 2019
Will the new law cover the entire State? Yes, each municipality will decide whether or not they will change their rules to match the new law.
How can I get a new placard? You do not need a new placard, but an additional placard. There is no application for this additional placard at this time. Information on obtaining and renewing a placard or plate is here.
That is likely the same place the new applications will be when they are ready.
What are the rules about disabled parking? The state has a brochure outlining the rules.
If you have strong feelings about whether or not your local government should implement this law reach out to your city council or county commission. CCDC believes the idea is right but that it must apply to ALL disability types that cannot reach or use a meter. As a cross-disability organization we cannot support leaving out one disability type. We also believe there should be an “other” category to account for some condition that no one has thought of that might not fit on any list. The exemption from payment should be based on disability related function-the inability to use meters or pay structures.
CCDC also has concerns about education and outreach to the disability community. The bill was silent on this matter and we are concerned that if this is implemented in a community the people that are used to free parking would not know that they need to get a new placard. There must be adequate outreach to affected individuals with adequate time for them to obtain the secondary placard. We are also concerned about how people that use plates and do not use (and cannot use) placards will be accommodated in this process.
CCDC agrees that there is a problem with abuse, and believes that the free parking is a major culprit of the abuse. CCDC would rather see enforcement of pay structures including but not limited to meters that are simply accessible to all drivers and that allows all drivers to take responsibility for payment.