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Dear CCDC Members:
I have long admired the work of the National Federation of the Blind. I have been at a loss for words and thinking about what to say that is meaningful in light of all that is going on. I still have not found the right words, but the message from the president of NFB is important and I think this is relevant for all disability groups.
Julie Reiskin, CCDC Executive Director
From Mark A. Riccobono, President, National Federation of the Blind
I write this message to you as the elected President of the National Federation of the Blind. I also write it to you as an American who is struggling this week. I call upon members of our organization to recognize the solidarity we share as blind people and that the value we place on love within our movement is needed more today than at any other time in our history.
I watched the horrific video shot by a brave seventeen-year-old of the killing of George Floyd, a citizen of our great nation. Before I watched the video, I wondered what I could do and how I could contribute to healing the pain. I had no answers. After I watched the video, I realized I still did not have the answers and I was sad, angry, scared, frustrated, and without hope. Then I realized that we share tools in the National Federation of the Blind that can help. We can not look away and we need to share what we know from our experience in this people’s movement.
Our movement has been sustained for the purpose of serving as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of the nation to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind. While racial equality in our nation is not within our mission, we also recognize that blindness affects all races and that the society we live within has an impact on our membership.
The Federation’s Code of Conduct specifically emphasizes our commitments to diversity. In short “We respect differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross-section of society…In promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity also requires the individual to struggle with unfamiliar ideas.” This week, I have been struggling to comprehend the fear and anger that black members of my Federation family are experiencing. I do not, and never can have the authentic lived experience that you have, but yet I am also completely outraged by the hate and injustice that fell upon George Floyd on Monday. I recognize there are many centuries of painful layers wrapped up in that moment. I recognize that George is neither the first nor the last in a chain of injustices that need to be addressed. I want you to know I stand with you in facing the injustice that persists against you because of the color of your skin. I want you to know that I love you and I struggle with not being able to fully know your pain and fear. I want you to know I am prepared to be guided by you as to how I can make a difference. I cannot say that I have not become desensitized in times past, but I can tell you I will never turn away again.
While our organization is dedicated to advancing the rights of blind people, we should not act as though race does not exist. As our chapters attempt to do business, as we urge our members to take up our priorities, we should recognize that thousands of our members are impacted by the painful realizations of this week. As a people’s movement, we cannot pretend that our people only have one characteristic. Now is the time to let each member know we love them and we recognize their hurt. Now is also the time for us to recognize, as individuals, that we carry implicit bias learned from the society around us, and to seek the training that will enhance our awareness. Now is the time to give love to our black members so that we might learn how we can do better in building the understanding that powers the organized blind movement.
Now is not the time for us to use our organizational communication tools to offer position statements about the activities playing out on the streets of our nation. it is easy to write messages and posts of solidarity without having a true understanding of the issues. It is easy to suggest that we share the concerns of our black members. The harder thing for us to do is to consciously listen and seek understanding while supporting others in their pain and frustration. The Federation has never been known for merely doing what is easy. The priority today is to ensure all of our black members know they are welcomed and loved in this movement. In fact, we should extend that same truth to any others who feel the real pain sweeping our nation. Please do not use organizational assets to enter the dialogue around race. That is not our purpose as an organization and we may unintentionally make it worse. We need to continue to coordinate messaging and to be guided by the wisdom of our diversity and inclusion committee. As leaders of our movement, we should also be conscious that our public posts may be misunderstood as representing the Federation. Our personal feelings and misunderstanding around the death of George Floyd, the protests sweeping our nation, and the underlying systemic discrimination may hurt and divide members of the organization. We cannot let that happen and we must be careful as leaders not to add to the pain our members are experiencing. As it relates to our public messaging, let us stay focused on the priorities of the organized blind movement. As it comes to our cherished friends, let our priority be to reach out personally to listen and offer our hands in support.
I have had the opportunity to gather virtually with some of our top black leadersa group who will continue to guide my actions related to these issues. I asked them for wisdom and love in finding ways that I could guide our membership during this trying time in our nation. Their message was clear. Our movement is built on love and love always conquers hate. The Federation family needs to shine a light for the rest of the nation by continuing to demonstrate that the love, and solidarity, that we share with each other in this movement makes all the difference. They also noted that our organization has always valued civil disobedience and the persistent pursuit of equality. They urged that we continue to pray for peace, justice, and equality. I could not agree more with these friends I have been blessed to learn from in our movement. Furthermore, I am thankful that we have a movement that provides us a meaningful opportunity to know people whose lived experience is so different from our own while sharing a common bond as blind people.
In the National Federation of the Blind, we know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future. Blindness is the thing that brings us together but it is not the thing that makes us want to stay together. That, in a word, is love. We have love in our movement and we strengthen it by giving it. We have some wisdom and we strengthen it by continuing to seek greater understanding. We need more of both love and wisdom at every opportunity. Let’s continue to share love, hope, and determination with each other so that together we transform our dreams into reality. One of those dreams still left to be transformed is that of a nation where we can join together regardless of our unique characteristics. That is a dream I am struggling to help my own children understand so they may do better than I in making it come true. I speak for all of our national board members when I say we sincerely believe that the love and togetherness demonstrated in our movement can go a long way in contributing to that dream. It can be hard to remember that in this moment when so many of us are hurting, angry, frustrated, and scared. Let us continue to support each other in the Federation family. Let us avoid the harmful language that will only serve to divide us in this time. Let us go forward together, love one another, and change the world for the better.
Mark A. Riccobono
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:
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
No, you cannot. You can ask why they cannot wear a mask, but it is irrelevant. You do not need to let them in.
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.
That is irrelevant. Whether an individual is an individual with a disability is a legal definition, not a medical diagnosis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
“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
“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
“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
As many of us know, Memorial Day (formally known as “Decoration Day”) exists for the purpose of remembering, i.e., memorializing, those brave human beings who have died and fallen in combat to protect true and real liberties of this Great Nation! To all of them, so many of whom returned to our country as people with disabilities, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, many veterans with disabilities are housed (basically warehoused) in veterans’ homes and are dying from the current pandemic at rates far higher than the general population of humans who have the ability to shelter at home. To those great veterans with disabilities and others warehoused in these institutions without any reprieve, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, the current pandemic affects everyone in ways that none of us could ever imagine. However, people with disabilities who remain the most vulnerable population across the globe and yet who fight for justice with incredible courage and tenacity, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, ADAPT, certainly one of the greatest and most powerful leaders in the disability rights community dating back to 1983 in Colorado with its roots dating back to 1973, when 19 young people with disabilities incarcerated in nursing homes for most of their lives, said no more and moved into their own apartments. Once in the community with other human beings, they realized there were many barriers — inaccessible public transportation, restaurants, stores, and so many other places. In discussing ADAPT, we cannot forget Wade Blank, a champion of social justice and social change who worked at Heritage House, the place of incarceration where our 19 friends and colleagues with disabilities (many who are no longer with us) were trapped against their will, who helped them in their insistence that they be in their homes and not nursing homes. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, so many people who are currently warehoused in nursing homes across this country and those who work in those nursing homes are dying at a rate far higher than the rest of us were able to shelter in our own homes as a result this pandemic and the fact that no assistance appears to be being provided. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, ADAPT went on to challenge Denver’s Regional Transportation District (“RTD”), the largest “public” bus system now including light rail and commuter rail services in the Denver metropolitan area. Of course, RTD did not think the “public” included people with disabilities. After countless meetings and negotiations between ADAPT members with disabilities and RTD that went nowhere the now-famous “Gang of 19” staged a two-day protest blocking one of the busiest intersections in downtown Denver of Colfax and Broadway, people with disabilities blocked buses with their bodies, getting out of their wheelchairs and lying in the street. This action eventually led to RTD making all of its buses have wheelchair lifts. Denver was the first city in the United States to do so as a direct result of this protest. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, ADAPT and so many people with disabilities, in the great tradition of protest movements for civil rights of Black people, women, the LGTB community and so many other human beings who sought equal treatment and civil rights under the law, those people with disabilities crawled up the United States Capitol steps, many abandoning their wheelchairs behind them in order to demonstrate the struggle of inaccessibility and unequal treatment to get Congress and President George H.W. Bush to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (“CCDC”) was formed by people with disabilities in 1990 bring the promises of the ADA to and ensure they were enforced in Colorado. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, CCDC, and solidarity with so many like-minded disability rights advocates and activists across the country and worldwide, with its mission to ensure social justice for people with disabilities of all kinds, has made major changes on the impact of the lives of people with disabilities in Colorado and throughout the nation. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, attorneys across the country and those who work for CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program have spent decades of our lives devoted to the simple principle that people with disabilities are people entitled to the same liberty and justice enjoyed by all human beings. It does not always take a village to solve a problem even though that is a good approach; often, unfortunately, it takes a lawsuit! On behalf of CCDC and all of the hundreds and maybe thousands of attorneys who understand that simple principle, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, CCDC in solidarity with disability rights groups throughout the country, are steering people with disabilities and those in power in the right direction, recognizing the humanity and quality of all people to maintain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the face of this pandemic that is killing us for reasons that make no sense. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, there are people in this country who seek to take advantage of those accommodations that are necessary in order to provide equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, but we reject and have exposed and stopped your inhumane attempts to do so. The last thing anybody claims they ever want to be is a person with a disability, but so many non-disabled people are willing to try to take advantage of the necessary accommodations people with disabilities need for equality. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, there people today in this country who claim to have a disability as the reason for not wearing a mask to protect the health and safety of all of us, those with disabilities and those without. There may be legitimate disability-related reasons for not wearing a mask, but to those of you who are doing so illegitimately, we shame you. What you’re doing is despicable and will not be tolerated. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, “The economic shutdown related to COVID-19 has complicated the lives of Colorado people with disabilities, who find their routines upset, their jobs at risk and their quest for affordable, accessible housing more difficult.” On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
As many of us know, on this Memorial Day, often-called the unofficial “First Day of Summer,” “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around!”[Lyrics from “Life During Wartime.”© David Byrne, 1979. Talking Heads, Fear of Music album and featured in the 1984 film Stop Making Sense] Our friends, our loved ones and our colleagues are dying in large numbers. The death toll in the United States will most likely reach 100,000 as of the end of this hallowed Memorial Day! On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!
— Kevin W. Williams, Civil Rights Legal Program Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. Permission to share and distribute widely because we need to remember and continue in the proud tradition of disability rights activists all over the world and fix this calamity as soon as possible and save ourselves! We SHALL overcome!
As a frequent traveler who uses a power wheelchair I have a different perspective of luck…
On Monday I was in Grand Junction for work with our amazing Rocky Mountain Health Plans Member Advisory Group –Tuesday morning I met with a couple of our CCDC members and was ready for my bus ride home—destined to leave around 1:20 pm. The plan was to get home at reasonable hour as I had to leave early today (Wednesday) to go to Charleston South Carolina for Legal Services Corporation meetings.
I was SO excited because Greyhound finally printed tickets that have a little wheelchair on them when one indicates that they will be traveling with a wheelchair. It took years for busses to be accessible at all, then it was even more years for them allow us cripples to buy tickets on line like everyone else. Until now the tickets would not print in a way that showed wheelchair access was needed. Leaving Denver is never a problem but every time I was to leave Grand Junction I had the same problem—the guy at the station would always tell me I “did it wrong” in terms of buying the ticket, tell me that I may or may not be able to get on the bus—that I would have to see if they had room. This was always a huge stress. When he would “allow” me on the bus it was always the local which stops four times, never the express for which I had bought a ticket.
So—I was thrilled to have an express ticket with a little wheelchair picture –he could not deny me now!!! As I was getting ready to head over I noticed a new feature on the Greyhound website called “track my bus”. I decided to check it out—just for fun. My excitement ended when I saw the bus was 4 hours late.
I remembered there was the local route, the one I am usually forced to ride. I go to the station (after a stop at my favorite candy store—they have a great licorice selection) and ask if I can get on the local. I acknowledge my ticket is for the express and show him the ticket with the wheelchair—to my surprise he is nicer (maybe the letter from our legal program had something to do with it). He says “if the lift works” I can get on the bus that will be on time—that will get me back to Denver at 6:30 instead of 5:40 but well before 11 pm which is when my scheduled bus will arrive.
I bite my tongue and do not say that the lift better be working and that they are supposed to check them regularly whether or not they have a passenger reserved ..and soon he tells me yes, I can get on this bus. I get on and am pleasantly surprised by a wonderful driver who actually tells me that there is a rest stop in Vail and asks me if I will want to get out!!! WOW—that almost never happens. Wheelchair users are not supposed to need to use a bathroom or eat while traveling. I actually do not need to get out but really appreciate the offer. Then to make it even better he takes control of the bus and requires people to be quiet so I can get work done and do not have to listen to other people’s music, children, or cell phone related drama.
Can it get any better????
We cruise along—pick up people in Glenwood, Vail, Frisco, watch a great sunset, mountain scenery, and life is good. Then we get to Georgetown and the bus sputters out. After a few futile tries to get it going again the driver announces that we are having mechanical problems. Immediately some grumbling….”you are not getting my business again” says someone from the back. Really—I think—how many of us who travel Greyhound have a ton of other options? I keep my mouth shut.
The driver tries to tell us that it will take some time but people decide that a bus should arrive in one hour—I knew that was not going to happen and tried to say so. People stay relatively calm—I wonder if they will be able to use the lift to get me out. The driver has to argue with Greyhound management somewhere to send a rescue bus. After several phone calls he succeeds or so we think.
Greyhound does not send a rescue bus –but instead sends a mechanic who is tasked with trying to fix a bus, in the dark, in the rain, on a highway. Yeah—right. As we get to two hours people begin freaking out. It is not too cold but not warm either—one definitely needs a coat on inside the bus and it gets colder with people going in and out for smoke breaks. Several people start complaining loudly—and a couple start talking about how horrible this is and that “there are two handicapped people on the bus” and it is “negligent” that we are left without heat. I guess I am one of the two –another guy is an amputee who has a manual wheelchair stored below the bus (his choice—there is room for two chairs). I am about to protest but think better of it. I figured that they would not send a new bus but instead have the bus that was four hours later stop and get us—and I knew that bus would be full —so realized maybe a mood on the bus of concern for us would be in our best interest. If they are so concerned that they have to scream about it then they could not possibly justify the replacement bus refusing to allow us on—right?
Keeping my mouth shut in these situations is not a strong point and I am mildly impressed with my restraint. People were resigned to missing their connections—but there were busses leaving at midnight they could catch. A couple poor souls had flights to catch that they were not going to make. I felt badly for them. As people got more worked up—the mechanic worked in futility outside. Our driver was terrific, he remained calm. We all realized it was not his fault. However the complaining continued and people started getting each other escalated. Eventually someone decided they were going to call the police. They did –the cops asked what he wanted them to do—he said he wanted them to bring us a space heater for the bus….right then another bus pulled up. I was correct and it was that other bus that was four hours late. That driver was NOT in a good mood.
Everyone except my fellow cripple, a couple guys and I get on the other bus. One person comes back to tell us the bus is really crowded. I worry…and wonder out loud if I will get on the bus. “They have to let you on—they can’t just leave you” says the able bodied guy who was waiting. I did not respond but thought of a colleague who was left for almost 24 hours in a rural mountain town while several busses went by and claimed to not have room—despite his prepaid ticket. The nice driver finally came to me and said quietly—lets get you off this bus and I will make it work. We get me off—and I wait outside while he goes in and talks to the second driver—they are in there a long time—and finally he comes out with a smile—VICTORY. I get on the bus and we are in business—several hours later but in business. While others are pleased to finally be on a moving bus I am ecstatic.
I guess this means we have not in fact arrived—as a disability rights advocate it should be that exciting that I was not left on a mountain road or on a broken bus. However I am still pleased that the other passengers were at least concerned and not arguing for us to be left or forming a little angry anti cripple mob—something that has happened in the past and that feels awful. So—maybe we have made some progress—others understood we had a right to be on the bus!
In fact, we have made a lot of progress. It was not too long ago when not every bus had a lift and when it would have been impossible for both busses to have a lift at all. In those days there was a strict 48 hour advance notice even for emergencies. People, including me, were regularly stranded in all sorts of places. The bottom line is that stuff happens when one travels. For people with disabilities when all we have to deal with is the “stuff” that happens to everyone it is a wonderful day! The two “handicapped” people on the bus were the two that had the easiest time managing the disruption because to us inclusion—even inclusion in disruption—was wonderful. The ADA does not guarantee us that things will always work—it does not guarantee us jobs, happiness or anything other than a level playing field to have the same experiences as everyone else. When that happen’s it still feels like a stroke of luck.
April 10, 2020
The Chanda Plan Foundation was created when founder, Chanda Hinton’s life was saved by integrative therapies. On her deathbed, at a scant 59 lbs. she was desperate to try anything. Through integrative therapies, Chanda regained her health and felt more alive than she ever had since that life-changing day when she became a quadriplegic. Why in 10 years had integrative therapies not been recommended? Why wasn’t anybody talking about the benefits?
These questions and Chanda’s life-saving outcome fueled the start of the foundation and the mission of improving the quality of life for persons with physical disabilities through direct services and systemic change to access integrative therapies. Listen to Chanda explain the ground-breaking work they are doing!
The Chanda Center for Health: A look at integrated Healthcare
April 23, 2020
Webinar Panelists: Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH Director, Center for Bioethics and Humanities, Julie Reiskin, LCSW, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, Govind Persad, JD, PhD, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. Moderator: Daniel Goldberg, JD, PhD, Center for Bioethics and Humanities.
This event was made possible by the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities Holocaust Genocide and Bioethics Program which is funded by the William S. Silvers, MD Endowment Fund, the Rose Community Foundation, and JEWISHcolorado.
Crisis Triage and People with Disabilities: Historical Lessons for a Time of Covid
April 4, 2020
Kristen Castor grew up with a disability, and she will tell you if she wasn’t able to do absolutely everything by herself without assistance, she wasn’t going to get anywhere. Well, Kristen has gone many places – from being bussed to a “flat” school, graduating high school, attending college, travel in Europe, and then joining the peace corps, her life experiences are truly amazing. Listen to Kristen share the birth of the civil rights movement in Colorado from someone who was there.
Disability Power in Colorado since 1975 with Kristen Castor
April 17, 2020
Learn from Susan Niner, former Deputy Director at the Colorado Division of Housing while she discusses low-income housing options, the impact COVID-19 on housing options, as well as reasonable accommodations.
Housing Webinar with Susan Niner
Listen to Brenda Mosby’s talk about her journey through Vocational Rehabilitation as she went from an unemployed newly blind individual to her Master’s degree as a vocational rehab counselor – all through the local DVR. Learn how you can benefit too.
How to Get the Most Out of DVR Part 1
How to Get the Most Out of DVR Part 2
Join Louise Vaughn, Director of HR for Arc Thrift, talk about interviewing and people with disabilities: what are the parts of an interview, how do you handle needing to ask for an accommodation, how do you interview people with disabilities, and so much more. The Arc employs more than 350 people with disabilities – come and learn from the expert.
Interview Tools for People with Disabilities
CCDC Probate Lawyer, Chris Brock talks about the critical documents you need to ensure your medical choices are adhered to. He explains what they are, which are important, and how you can put them in place.
Wills and Advanced Directives
Denver artist Raverro Stinnett was at Union Station after attending a LoDo art opening, waiting for a train home early on the morning of April 20, 2018, when he was confronted by four security officers who threatened him and challenged him to a fight. Two of the guards, employed by contractor Allied Universal Security Services, led him to a bathroom and brutally assaulted him while another kept watch; all three later pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Stinnett was left with permanent brain injuries that, according to a lawsuit filed last week, “have completely upended his life.”
From Julie Reiskin, Executive Director
For Colorado to actually implement the most critical areas of flexibility requested, meet the needs of the Medicaid providers that include rural hospitals, personal care workers, people that provide direct support to those with cognitive disabilities, and other essential needs the FMAP needs to be at least 12%. Therefore, we need our federally elected officials to actively fight for an increased FMAP in the next stimulus package currently in the work. It must be at least 12%. At the very least we need money that goes to the states to help with Medicaid costs.
This is NOT a partisan issue. Medicaid Helps ALL of Colorado. This could be a life and death issue for elderly and disabled Coloradans but will also affect many others including everyone who has either lost their job or has reduced hours.
Everyone should contact BOTH Senators and the Representative for YOUR area. You should say that you want the package to include 12% FMAP or any other way to get money to state governments and why you care about Medicaid. Include that you are a voter, and know and speak to many other voters!! Share this request with others.
CCDC’s own Kristen Castor was interviewed as part of the following news report. Follow the link to read the entire article. Kristen’s section is below
Non-attorney advocate with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, based in Pueblo
On Her Work With The Organization
My primary responsibility is to represent people who are appealing Medicaid denials at the administrative law judge level with the state. And then I do a lot of miscellaneous organizing things. Right now there’s a lot, because we’re trying to get our own membership informed about the virus, the precautions they can take and the benefits that they have.
Interestingly enough, most of the people with disabilities that we serve live below the poverty level. So, anything that deals with poverty often crosses over with what we need to look at for our population.
On Supports And Challenges Due To COVID-19
I’ve been so worried about people being stuck in their homes and not able to get food. That just terrifies me. I think people with severe disabilities or possibly very elderly people are at high risk of that happening. And so far, the city [of Pueblo] has just responded by creating more networks and trying to help that particular population.
[We’ve been discussing] the fear that if you need medical help outside of your disability, that you will be triaged, and basically murdered. That’s the fear we live with that constantly. And the reason is because all of us, if we have a severe disability and lived with it for a number of years, all of us have been told to our faces by various people that we should not be alive. I’ve been told that.
We’ve been fighting for the right to live in the community for the last 40 years. So every time we go around with a threat like this, we’re thinking, ‘Oh my god, I fought all my life to stay independent, and now I might lose it with a pen stroke.’ And people with disabilities, we’re just that–we’re people. It doesn’t mean we can’t contribute.
DENVER, April 9, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee developed Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) after collaboration with experts and communities. Governor Polis has authorized the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to enact the standards when or if necessary.
The Colorado Cross Disability Coalition (CCDC), The Arc of Colorado, and over 140 organizations thank Gov. Jared Polis for ensuring that people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations receive equitable care under the CSC during the COVID-19 epidemic and other crisis situations.
THE FOLLOWING PROVIDES AND EXPLANATION OF THE LEGAL BACKGROUND REGARDING DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION THAT MAY OCCUR BY PLASMA CENTERS, INCLUDING CSL PLASMA:
According to their website, CSL Plasma states the following with respect to “Who Can Donate?”
Anyone in good health, 18 or older, who weighs at least 110 lbs, have had no tattoos or piercings within the last 12 months, meets our eligibility and screening requirements, has valid identification and a permanent address is eligible to donate plasma.
To maintain high health standards, a member of our medical staff gives every potential donor a screening examination, and gathers medical history information. This is for the donor’s safety as well as the quality of the product that will be made from plasma, and we assure the utmost respect to donor privacy.
Both the requirements regarding “good health” and the required “screening examination” may very well discriminate against people with disabilities, even though they may have been put in place with the best of intentions. These phrases often serve as buzzwords for disability discrimination. For example, what does “good health” mean and who gets to decide? Also, as explained below, “screening examinations” may screen out letting people with disabilities donate plasma even when an individual’s disability has nothing to do with the ability to provide a plasma donation safely.
Plasma centers like CSL Plasma are places of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (“CADA”) and are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of disability. As such, CSL Plasma cannot refuse to allow you (if you are an individual with the disability) to donate and receive payment for doing so on the basis of disability except under very limited circumstances. If you have already contacted a CSL Plasma center in the past and have been denied the ability to donate plasma based solely on the basis of your disability or if you call now to try to make a donation, here are some key things to remember:
No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who ow/ns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.
Both Title III of the ADA and the CADA apply to the owners of public accommodations and/or businesses that lease a place of public accommodation or operate a place of public accommodation, although the CADA refers to “any person” who discriminates whereas the ADA only applies to entities that discriminate, not persons. You should also be aware that Title III of the ADA prohibits an entity from engaging in contractual, licensing or other arrangements that result in discrimination on the basis of disability as well. The CADA is intended to apply all of the same standards and defenses as the ADA. As a result, it is possible, for example, that the CADA incorporates standards pertaining to contractual licensing and other arrangements that result in discrimination. Title III of the ADA prohibits many forms of discrimination some of which are very direct and others are much more subtle.
And now for some minutia or “getting in the weeds” of ADA Title III and CADA claims:
An individual or class of individuals on the basis of disability cannot be denied the equal opportunity to participate in plasma donation; nor can an individual or entity like CSL Plasma use “standards or criteria or methods of administration” that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability or perpetuate the discrimination of others (for example, a standard that prohibited all people who are blind or deaf or who have any other form of disability that is not specifically related to the individual’s ability to donate plasma). Title III also prohibits imposing “application of eligibility criteria ” that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with the disability or any class of individual with disabilities from participating in plasma donation and prohibits failing to “make reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures” when such modifications are necessary to afford an individual with disabilities and equal opportunity to participate in plasma donation or due to a failure to “provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services” (like sign language interpreters if necessary for effective indication) in order to participate in plasma donation. Modifications of policies, practices and procedures under Title III of the ADA may also include requiring that a plasma center not discriminate against an individual with the disability who uses a service animal. Under the CADA, an individual with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal and even a trainer of a or an individual with the disability accompanied by an animal that is being trained to be a service animal is permitted to have the service animal in or service animal in training in any place of public accommodation.
In addition, plasma centers are required to be fully accessible to people with disabilities if they are newly constructed facilities under the ADA if they have been altered or renovated in a significant way, and they must remove architectural and communication barriers when doing so is readily achievable which means without difficulty or expense (like installing accessible parking spaces and ensuring that equipment and rooms are made accessible when doing so is not complicated or expensive). The CADA also addresses design and construction issues with respect to the requirements that it be construed to apply the same standards and defenses available under the ADA reference above and also in its remedial provisions.
For people with mobility disabilities, there is specific guidance issued jointly by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (“Joint Guidance”). This guidance addresses requirements related to the accessibility of medical equipment and also the need to accommodate individuals with such disabilities. See “Americans with Disabilities Act: Access To Ethical Care for Individuals With Mobility Disabilities.” Here are just some examples that relate directly to this guidance as well as prohibitions set forth in the policies of plasma clinics regarding transferring individuals with mobility disabilities:
Staff should be protected from injury, but that doesn’t justify refusing to provide equal medical services to individuals with disabilities. The medical provider can protect his or her staff from injury by providing accessible equipment, such as an adjustable exam table and/or a ceiling or floor based patient lift, and training on proper patient handling techniques as necessary to provide equal medical services to a patient with a disability. (See Part 4 [of the document] for more information on this equipment.)
To provide medical services in an accessible manner, the medical provider and staff will likely need to receive training. This training will need to address how to operate the accessible equipment, how to assist with transfers and positioning of individuals with disabilities, and how not to discriminate against individuals with disabilities. Local or national disability organizations may be able to provide training for your staff.
Therefore, it might very well be considered discrimination on the basis of disability if a plasma clinic has a policy or standard that requires an individual who uses a wheelchair who wishes to donate plasma to be able to transfer herself to a device such as an examination table or chair used for plasma donation independently and without any assistance from the staff working at the plasma center.
Furthermore, it is very important that plasma centers do not discriminate on the basis of myths, fears, and stereotypes associated with disabilities as often occurs with respect to people with cognitive or psychiatric disabilities. Therefore, if a plasma center prevented someone during its screening process from donating plasma because of fears or stereotypes related to the individual due to a condition that causes muscle spasms, seizures or psychiatric disorders, all of these actions may constitute discrimination under Title III. Likewise, if a plasma center refused to allow someone to be a plasma donor because the individual had a psychiatric disability based on a fear that the individual might attempt to donate plasma without having taken his or her medications might very well constitute discrimination on the basis of disability.
There are exceptions to all of the forms of discrimination that are prohibited under Title III of the ADA set forth above, but they are very limited. For example, if allowing the individual to donate plasma would cause an “undue burden to the plasma center, or if the individual somehow constituted a direct threat to the health or safety of others even if the behavior that caused that direct threat was related to disability and could not be accommodated reasonably, the plasma center may refuse to allow the individual to donate plasma. Even when a plasma center falls under the ADA provisions addressing newly designed and constructed facilities, there might be an exception for full and complete accessibility if it is structurally impracticable to make the facility accessible and in compliance with the requirements for the Standards for Accessible Design. There may be other disability-related reasons why an individual might not be able to donate plasma (for example, if an individual had some blood-related disease that would interfere with providing plasma, this might constitute an exception). Nevertheless, as said, the exceptions are very limited. As an example of the limitations on the exceptions, making a determination as to whether allowing an individual with a disability to donate plasma constitutes an undue burden for the facility at issue, many considerations must be made like determining resources and capabilities of any parent company involved with the facility in question. Another example relates to the structural impracticability defense related to designing instruction. A public accommodation like a plasma center would have to prove that the conditions under which the facility was built made it almost nearly impossible to build it in for compliance with the ADA if it falls under the newly designed and constructed facilities provisions.
Therefore, as set forth in Part 1 of this Alert, please let us know if you have experienced discrimination on the basis of your disability by CSL Plasma, or, as set forth in Part 2 of this Alert if you wish to contact CSL Plasma and donate plasma, and you experience discrimination on the basis of disability as a result, please do contact Kara Gillon at the email address or telephone number listed in Part 1 of this Alert.
 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(f) (defines “public accommodation” to include the office of a healthcare provider or other service establishment); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-601(1)(defines “place of public accommodation” to mean a place of business engaged in sales to the public and any place offering services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to the public, including but not limited to any business offering sales to the public or public facility of any kind whether indoor or outdoor); Levorsen v. Octapharma Plasma, Inc., 828 F.3d 1227, 1234 (10th Cir. 2016) (holding that a similar plasma donation center is a public accommodation under the ADA).
 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-601(2)(a) (referencing the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability by any “person” defined elsewhere in the statute, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-301(5)(a), as including limited liability companies, partnerships, associations, corporations and other entities similar to those identified in Title III of the ADA).
 42 U.S.C. § 12182(1)(A)(i)-(iii).
 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-802(4); Colo. Code Regs. § 708-1:60.
 Id. §§ (b)(1)(A)(1) & (b)(1)(D).
 Id. §§ (b)(2)(A)(i)-(iii).
 28 C.F.R. § 36 302(c)(1).
 Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 24-34-803(1)(a) & (2)(a) & 24-34-804(1). Both the ADA and the CADA place some limitations on the use of a service animal (and/or under the CADA a service animal in training). 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.302(c)(2), (4), (5) (the animal must be in the control of its handler, the animal must be housebroken and public accommodations are not responsible for the care or supervision of service animals); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-803(4)(requiring that a service animal or a service animal in training must be under the custody or control of the individual wh the disability or the trainer).
 42 U.S.C. §§ 12183 (applicable to new construction and alterations) & 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv) (applicable to the requirement of existing facilities — those designed and constructed before the enactment of the ADA — to remove structural and communication barriers when doing so is readily achievable).
 Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 24-34-802(b)-(c).
 A similar analysis would be applied to a blood donation center or plasma donation center.
 The guidance provides direct contact information for the ADA Website and the US Department of Justice as well.
 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, app. C at 706 (a person who is not allowed into a public accommodation because of the myths, fears, and stereotypes associated with disabilities would be protected under the ADA as would an individual who was denied services because the public accommodation feared a psychological condition constituting a disability might result in problems if the individual was not medicated properly).