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Category: Sound Off! Blog

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.

Curb Cuts and Captions

Written by Nina Endler of Boulder, CO
July, 2020

Earlier this year, something happened in my neighborhood of 1960s ranches, split levels, and tri-levels that I wished had been there while my children were growing up. (For the record, they’re 19 and 22.)

Image of President George H.W. Bush with Evan J. Kemp, Jr., then the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (pictured next to President Bush seated in his motorized wheelchair) and Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr., often called the “Godfather of the ADA,” an American activist and advocate for people with disabilities and co-founder of the American
(For the uninitiated, that’s President Bush the Elder signing the Americans with Disabilities Act – ADA – on July 26, 1990.)

In the first part of a year that marks 30 years since this happened -my neighborhood, in which the trees now tower over the houses at long last received these: curb cuts!

picture of curb cuts at an intersection
A curb cut is a solid (usually concrete) ramp graded down from the top surface of a sidewalk to the surface of an adjoining street.

How nice it would have been to have these while I was pushing a baby jogger, while my daughters were learning to ride bikes, while…

But wait, that’s not their intended purpose – that’s not their raison d’etre.

They are, however probably the best example of universal design, of something that was done so more of us could participate and which those of us who were already participating also benefit from. With them, my neighbors who are now pushing baby joggers no longer need to carefully navigate going down and then up each curb. Children who are now learning to ride bikes no longer need to stop, get off their bike, and then get back on. Walking and wheeling through the neighborhood is now more seamless. Something for which the wheels (pun intended) were set in motion 30 years ago is benefiting significantly more people than was initially intended.

Recently, the state chapter of the union I belong to held a webinar and after it was over, emailed the link to its membership. I received this email on my phone, clicked on the link, and, as I do when captions don’t automatically come up, searched for a way to turn them on. As the displays are different on different devices, and willing to give the state chapter of my union the benefit of the doubt, I figured that the captions didn’t display on smaller devices such as phones. Since I wasn’t near my larger devices at the time, and as I had also seen a social media post about the webinar, I inquired on the post about the availability of captions. The state contact apologized “that wasn’t accommodated on this webinar. I realize that is not ok and we will correct for future webinars.”

It has now been 30 years since the first President Bush signed the ADA. Let’s stop thinking of captions as an accommodation. Let’s stop thinking of things like curb cuts and captions as accommodations and start thinking of them as universal design. Let’s eliminate the perception of curb cuts and captions as being “for those who need them.” Just as people who are currently pushing baby joggers and children who are currently learning to ride a bike in my neighborhood are benefiting from the new curb cuts, here’s a starter list of how people with typical hearing benefit from captions.

  • You’re insomniac and you want to watch a video you’ve been meaning to watch while remaining in bed. The person next to you, who has typical hearing is sleeping.
  • You’re in a noisy area and you can’t find your earbuds.
  • You went to work outside of a coffee shop and left your AirPods at home.
  • You’re parallel-working with a family member at the table and you want to be able to listen for an anticipated delivery so you don’t put anything in your ears.
  • You don’t have either AirPods or earbuds and the noise of your device interferes with the concentration of the other person in the room who’s reading a book.

Because captions are still thought of as an accommodation rather than as universal design, OTTO Health didn’t include captions in their telehealth platform. Because captions are still thought of as an accommodation rather than as universal design, Zoom does not offer live captions that anyone can turn on with the click of a button. Because captions are still thought of as an accommodation rather than as universal design, I can’t follow a YouTube video that doesn’t have the CC icon in the lower right corner.

Let’s stop thinking of things like curb cuts and captions as accommodations and start thinking of them as what they really are – a universal design that everyone benefits from. With universal design, webinars wouldn’t be filmed, online platforms wouldn’t be made and YouTube videos wouldn’t be posted without captions. And someone with typical hearing can watch the recording of a webinar in bed while they’re insomniac and not wake up the person sleeping next to them.

CCDC will never forget Representative John Lewis, Our mentor and teacher — WE LOST A GREAT ONE!

Tribute was written by Kevin W. Williams, Legal Program Director,
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Civil Rights Legal Program

Image of Congressman John Robert Lewis, official Congressional photo.
Image of Congressman John Robert Lewis, official Congressional photo.

“We are one people with one family. We’ll live in the same house . . . and through books, through information, we must find a way to say to people that we must lay down the burden of hate. For hate is too heavy a burden to bear.”* – Rep. John Lewis (All quotations throughout this CCDC Memorial blog are the words of John Lewis himself unless otherwise noted).

This tribute allows John Lewis to speak for himself in the humble yet powerful way only he could.

Image of young John Lewis as he proudly crosses Edmund Pettus Bridge, leading the March on Bloody Sunday to secure voting rights for Black Americans in the state of Alabama. Photo from “There’s a better way to honor John Lewis than renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge” AL.com, Alabama.
Image of young John Lewis as he proudly crosses Edmund Pettus Bridge, leading the March on Bloody Sunday to secure voting rights for Black Americans in the state of Alabama. Photo from “There’s a better way to honor John Lewis than renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge” AL.com, Alabama.

The disability rights movement owes an enormous debt of gratitude to John Lewis, who died on July 17, 2020. His was indeed a life well-lived. He was our teacher and demonstrated why, in so many ways, “Black Lives Matter!” Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle referred to him as the “Conscience of the Congress,” and Congress will never be the same without him. His life, his perspective, his commitment stayed with him until the day he died. We need and miss him, especially now, and always will.

In 1961, John Lewis became one of the original 13 Freedom Riders; the group made up of seven black and six white Americans. They were determined to ride from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans in an integrated fashion. Much of this work was attributed to his involvement with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Congress of Racial Equality. He and the other Freedom Riders were severely beaten and jailed as they entered the southern states.

“We were determined not to let any act of violence keep us from our goal. We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back.”*

The disability community took all of its cues from John Lewis when shutting down the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver, Colorado. The Gang of 19 threw themselves out of their wheelchairs and blocked buses overnight on the busiest street in Denver – Colfax Avenue between Broadway and Lincoln. The Gang of 19 was responsible for forcing RTD to be the first transportation system in the country to install wheelchair lifts on its buses. All of the tactics for making this happen can be attributed to the work of John Lewis.

Denied the right to vote, he and the other marchers refused to give up! Even as he led the march (literally — he was at the front of the line) across the bridge, at which point the Alabama State Patrol took a billy club to his head before arresting him. John Lewis, following in the steps of Dr. Martin Luther King, understood and believed in the theory of nonviolent protest. He and those with him demonstrated to this country and the world that those who are willing to risk everything (their bodies, arrest, and even death) without using violence have great power to show the oppressor. Despite repeated attempts to stop the protesters from attaining the same rights enjoyed by all others, they just kept coming back. The message was and, as we have seen with the latest “Black Lives Matter” marches and protests, is powerful. For a while, the nonviolent protest strategies used by John Lewis changed the hearts and minds of many – but not all. And he lived just long enough to see how his efforts and those he orchestrated can still be taken away. Meaning the fight goes on, and we must be prepared to continue. 

Indeed, the disability rights movement would not have existed without an understanding of how John Lewis and those of like mind showed this country what injustice looks like and why it can not be tolerated.

“You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.”*

“I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.”*

CCDC also sees the involvement of young people with disabilities as a top priority as we navigate through very uncertain times – viewing the progress we have made and seeing what is left for us to do or do over again.

“I say to people today, you must be prepared if you believe in something. If you believe in something, you have to go for it. As individuals, we may not live to see the end.”*

“Never give up. Never give in. Never become hostile . . . HATE is too big a burden to bear.”*

Image of the young, Black student, Anne Moody “sitting-in” at an “All Whites” lunch counter being taunted and tormented by many young white people expressing disapproval. Photo courtesy of the Jackson Free Press.
Image of the young, Black student, Anne Moody “sitting-in” at an “All Whites” lunch counter being taunted and tormented by many young white people expressing disapproval. Photo courtesy of the Jackson Free Press.

Lewis earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University after graduating from The American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. As a student and member of the Nashville Student Movement, he was responsible for organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters.

When you see something that is not right, not fear, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”*

In 1961, Lewis, as one of the Freedom Riders, was beaten by angry mobs, arrested, and at times, taken to jail.

We were determined not to let any act of violence keep us from our goal. We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back,” Lewis said towards the end of his life regarding his perseverance following the acts of violence.*

Images of John Lewis being arrested during nonviolent protests. The picture on the left courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine “John Lewis’ Arrest Records are Finally Uncovered Smart News.”
Images of John Lewis being arrested during nonviolent protests.
Image courtesy of The Tennesseen, “John Lewis recalls being carried out of sit-in.”
Image courtesy of The Tennesseen, “John Lewis recalls being carried out of sit-in.” Pictures courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine “John Lewis’ Arrest Records are Finally Uncovered Smart News.”

In 1963, he became the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the youngest chairman ever to have led the organization that focused solely upon enforcing the civil rights of Black Americans through the use of nonviolent protest. Before that, he was an active participant in the Nashville Student Movement, whose first mission was to desegregate lunch counters, which were ultimately successful.

“Some of us give a little blood for the right to participate in the democratic process.”*

Many reports state that before becoming a United States Representative, John Lewis was arrested and beaten 40 times during non-violent protests and five times after his election. Despite all of the mistreatment, terrible beatings, arrests for engaging in activity already protected by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the United States Constitution (like voting), Lewis had this to say:

“If you’re not hopeful and optimistic, then you give up. You have to take the long hard look and just believe that if you’re consistent, you will succeed.”*

Image of 23-year-old John Morris speaking at the March on Washington for Jobs in Freedom on August 28, 1963, the same day as the famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King. Photo courtesy of the Washington Post “At the 1963 March on Washington, civil rights leaders asked John Lewis to tone his speech down.”
Image of 23-year-old John Morris speaking at the March on Washington for Jobs in Freedom on August 28, 1963, the same day as the famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King. Photo courtesy of the Washington Post “At the 1963 March on Washington, civil rights leaders asked John Lewis to tone his speech down.”

John Lewis was also the youngest speaker during the March on Washington in 1963. He was asked to tone down his speech for being “too radical.”

Photo of sit-in protest staged by Congressman John Lewis for the purpose of getting the Senate to pass gun control legislation courtesy of CNN.com Democrats and House sit-in protest over gun control;”
Photo of sit-in protest staged by Congressman John Lewis for the purpose of getting the Senate to pass gun control legislation courtesy of CNN.com Democrats and House sit-in protest over gun control;”
Sit-in protest by disability rights advocates at the office of Sen. Cory Gardner (pictured are Carrie Ann Lucas and other prominent activists in the disability community) courtesy of the Washington Examiner “Protesters arrested at Sen. Cory Gardner’s office after two-day sit-in protesting healthcare bill.
Sit-in protest by disability rights advocates at the office of Sen. Cory Gardner (pictured are Carrie Ann Lucas and other prominent activists in the disability community) courtesy of the Washington Examiner “Protesters arrested at Sen. Cory Gardner’s office after two-day sit-in protesting healthcare bill.

Many of the strategies and decision-making that went into the protests organized in large part by John Lewis and SNCC were then used by those in the disability rights movement that created organizations like ADAPT and CCDC. The sit-in protests were continued by John Lewis even when he was a member of the House of Representatives. This purpose and meaning behind this particular method of protesting certainly have not been lost on the disability civil rights community.

John Lewis did go on to become the United States Congressional Representative from the Fifth District of the state of Georgia from January 3, 1987, until his death on July 17, 2020. His legislative accomplishments are too many to list, as well as his achievements before becoming a member of Congress.

“If someone had told me in 1963 that one day I would be in Congress, I would’ve said, ‘you’re crazy. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”*

Not only did John Lewis become a Congressman for the Fifth District of Georgia, but he also served 16 terms in that position. He eventually became the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight for the House of Representatives Committee and Ways in Means, the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the senior chief deputy whip in the Democratic caucus.

In these roles, Representative Lewis accomplished a great deal for not only the Black Community but for all people — the human community.

The disability community and everyone who works for the social justice of all people and recognize as John Lewis did —

“[We] really believe that all of us, as Americans . . . we all need to be treated like fellow human beings.”*

Image of Congressman John Lewis receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in 2011, as seen in Fortune magazine article “Congressman John Lewis Says Cancer is His Latest Battle.” Carolyn Kaster|Credit: AP. Copyright: AP2011.
Image of Congressman John Lewis receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in 2011, as seen in Fortune magazine article “Congressman John Lewis Says Cancer is His Latest Battle.” Carolyn Kaster|Credit: AP. Copyright: AP2011.

Unfortunately, the “Conscience of the Congress” is now gone. Fortunately, he survived his pancreatic cancer just long enough to see the creation of the “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and watch those who have been protesting racial injustice and police brutality against Black Americans throughout the country grow to a massive scale.

John Lewis observing Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., where the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” are painted in large yellow letters on 16th St. in Washington, D.C. John Lewis wearing a facial mask and a baseball cap that reads “1619,” courtesy of “How the Black Lives Matter generation remembers John Lewis,” KSTP.com
John Lewis observing Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., where the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” are painted in large yellow letters on 16th St. in Washington, D.C. John Lewis wearing a facial mask and a baseball cap that reads “1619,” courtesy of “How the Black Lives Matter generation remembers John Lewis,” KSTP.com
Washington, DC. Mayor Muriel Bowser and John Lewis wearing facial masks and standing on the letters of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” painted on 16th St. in Washington, D.C. courtesy of “Civil rights icon John Lewis calls Black Lives Matter mural 'a powerful work of art' during a visit with DC mayor.”
Washington, DC. Mayor Muriel Bowser and John Lewis wearing facial masks and standing on the letters of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” painted on 16th St. in Washington, D.C. courtesy of “Civil rights icon John Lewis calls Black Lives Matter mural ‘a powerful work of art’ during a visit with DC mayor.”

A champion of justice, a believer in peaceful and nonviolent resistance, a fellow human being standing against the oppression of anyone, and one of the few genuinely decent human beings, John Lewis will be missed. Nevertheless, the young activist individuals who joined the House of Representatives in 2018 are there in no small part due to the legacy of John Lewis.  At this critical time in American history, we must all follow Lewis’s words of wisdom and continue our commitment to social justice for all people, including people with disabilities. Rest assured, CCDC will carry on fighting – just as the “Conscience of the Congress” did and expected others to do as well.

2034: The OASI exhausts its asset reserves (if treated separately)

Social Security is actually comprised of two trusts:

  • The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust, which provides payouts to retired workers and survivors of deceased workers; and
  • The Disability Insurance (DI) trust, which supplies payments to workers that are long-term disabled.

When the Trustees examine the long-term outlook for Social Security, they hypothetically combine the financials of these two trusts into one (known as the OASDI). But if these two trusts were examined individually, the OASI is in far greater danger of exhausting its asset reserves sooner. Based on the latest report, the OASI is expected to deplete its asset reserves by 2034, at which point benefit cuts would become necessary to sustain solvency.

Read the full article here.

Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition stands with the Black Lives Matters movement to bear witness to the pain of centuries of racial oppression, inequity and white supremacy intensified by recent brutal actions including but not limited to the murder of George Floyd, the flaunting of white privilege by Amy Cooper, and the recent executions of Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.    The anger is righteous and fueled by the exacerbation of racial disparities played out in the lacking response to the novel Coronavirus and some of the racist “dog whistle” rhetoric that goes with how we talk about “underlying conditions” which often involves victim-blaming rather than calling out oppressive policies of racism that permeates our health care systems.

This is not to disregard all of the cumulative behaviors/actions of the past.  The oppressive policies of racism (both their design and how we carry them out explicitly and implicitly) permeate life in America and around the world, including the disability community.  All of us who have benefited from our whiteness has a responsibility to actively engage in dismantling those systems. There are things white people can do and we must do so without making it about us.  We must work together with our brothers and sisters in communities of color.  Organizations led by marginalized communities must work against systemic racism. This is true for us even when disability is not the main issue. 

So, why is CCDC saying anything?   Because race and disability work together.  People of color, particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous people are more likely to have disabilities.   Every factual indicator of disparity including health outcomes, education, employment, accumulation of wealth, the likelihood of being in a congregate setting including prison, jail, nursing facility, or homeless shelter, rises when you mix race and disability.   People of color live with the constant stress of racism.  This “toxic stress” causes many health conditions that can lead to disability.   While there are no publicly know indications that the recent murder victims had disabilities many previous well-known victims did including Freddie Gray and Eric Garner. Moreover, Black people and other people of color are an important part of our organization.  But this must go beyond disability.  Our mission is to advocate for social justice and that includes being an ally even when disability is not part of the picture and even when it is not on the front pages.  We must support organizations led by people of color and show up when invited and make offers to assist when we know of a need or understand the issues.  It is up to all of us to dismantle the societal structures that got us to this place.   We must do our own internal work as an organization and community to build a culture of equity, diversity, inclusiveness, and belonging, and at the same time work on systems issues.  We need to increase the numbers of people of color throughout our organization and movement, especially in leadership positions.  We must do this work every day and honor the goals set out in our strategic plan that integrate racial equity into all of our work.

“I still have not found the right words.”

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


Please see and share our website on disability-specific issues related to COVID 19 in Colorado
Sincerely,
Julie Reiskin,  Executive Director
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
1385 S. Colorado Blvd. Suite 610-A   Denver*, CO 80222
Organizational Line 303-839-1775
If you do not have a seat at the table it is likely you are on the menu Elizabeth Warren (D).
Get involved in politics as if your life depends on it because it does!  Justin Dart (R)
*Denver is on the occupied land of the Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne people
NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US — EVER

Lawsuit Adds Pressure on RTD to Drop Union Station Rule Changes

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.”

Continue to Westword Article

Calming Ourselves & Building Our Power

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

To ensure better outcomes for our community during this unprecedented time, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition is being proactive, compassionate, and conscious in our response to COVID-19.

Please review the following related to our business operations effective immediately and ways you can support our community:

  • Office Operations: CCDC staff will work remotely and will continue to be reachable through email and phone. Our office remains open, however, there will be very limited staff present during normal business hours. We do not encourage external visitors at this time. CCDC staff is prohibited from attending gatherings of 20 or more people. Additionally, internal and external meetings will be postponed or rescheduled as phone calls or via the online Zoom platform, when possible. All in-state and out-of-state business travel have been suspended.
  • Upcoming events: All community gatherings and events hosted by CCDC through April will be rescheduled for a later date, if possible. Any event already scheduled after May will remain scheduled at this point including our ADA 30th Anniversary Celebration in July. We will continually assess the situation and review recommendations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and make changes as necessary.
  • How you can support: In this environment of social distancing closures and racist attacks, community needs are shifting by the hour. CCDC acknowledges many members of our community may not have access to food, basic needs, paid family leave, health care, child care, and other valuable resources. Our community regularly experiences social isolation as well. Therefore our community is more likely to be negatively impacted during a public health crisis. This is a time for kindness. Here is how you can help. We highly encourage our volunteers and donors to consider volunteering or making a donation to our direct impact community partners including Mile High United Way, Denver Homeless Out Loud, Asian Pacific Development Center and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
  • Resources from us to you: During any time of crisis, misinformation and rumors can cause fear and unnecessary anxiety. This resource page provides quick links and references to answer many of your questions and calm your concerns. This resource page will be updated every day so you can expect the most up to date information.
  • Government resources you can trust: While we are often the ones saying not to trust the government on some issues, in this particular subject, the government sites are the most accurate. Specifically:

NOTE: If you encounter inaccessible documents, videos without captions, no ASL interpreters, or any other form of disability discrimination in relation to COVID-19, please send us an email at COVID@ccdconline.org. We will take action if necessary.

If you have any other questions or concerns regarding CCDC’s response to COVID-19, email us at COVID@ccdconline.org and a staff member will reply as quickly as possible.

Stay well and remember nothing about us, without us.
In solidarity,
Your Friends at CCDC

Nothing About Us Without Us…Ever!
CCDCONLINE.ORG
CCDC is a member of OneStrongVoice.org

PUPPIES AND PONIES AND PEACOCKS, OH MY!

The Distinctions between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Written by Andrew Montoya

Most people like animals of all sorts. I mean, what’s not to like about their furry faces, precocious personalities, and constant companionship? People love their animals so much, in fact, that Colorado has become increasingly “pet-friendly,” with restaurants placing water bowls in patio areas and carrying menu items intended for pets, and other establishments like stores and office buildings permitting animals where they once were forbidden.Picture of two labrador retrievers, one yellow and one black, sitting near a white brick wall, with both dogs looking at the camera. Behind the dogs, hung on the wall, is a nicely framed sign reading "DOGS WELCOME" in large white, friendly text, with the notation below "Water & Biscuits Available" below in a smaller font. Usually, those animals are dogs, but there has been a marked increase in recent years of other types of animals accompanying folks in public, including snakes and lizards, birds both large and small, and other mammals more often seen at the Stock Show or Denver Zoo. Although there are some safety and sanitary guidelines that prohibit pet-friendly policies, generally restaurants, stores, and other such spots are permitted to allow animals if they so desire. Nevertheless, for some folks, that’s just not good enough. Some of those people have discovered that claiming a disability and purchasing a cute little vest or tag with words like “service animal” or “assistance dog” can not only get their four-legged friends in the door but also can save on things like fees and deposits. Meanwhile, websites boast that, for a low, one-time fee, people can purchase vests, tags, and even letters from medical professionals substantiating the claimed disability. That is, of course, not to say there aren’t legitimate service animal and emotional support animal users who also might have such vests, tags and documentation (even though vests, tags and documentation aren’t required under the law), but the proliferation of online shops has caused many to begin to question service animal users, especially those with invisible disabilities, and has led to conflict between inadequately trained pets and highly trained service animals. That conflict, coupled with the rise of news reports of atypical emotional support animals (or ESAs), such as peacocks and squirrels, being taken on airplanes, has even led to proposals for new laws and new rules at both the state and federal levels.

The legal landscape related to service animals and ESAs is reasonably straightforward, though there are a few twists and turns to keep in mind. As the nation’s preeminent disability rights law, let’s start with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The ADA applies in three specific areas: Title I applies to employment; Title II applies to most governmental entities; and Title III applies to private, non-governmentally owned or operated businesses open to the public. The Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”) applies to housing. Finally, the Air Carriers Access Act (“ACAA”) applies to air travel, but not to airports themselves. Although there are other disability rights laws that may impact service animals, emotional support animals and other pets, including the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, those are the big three with respect to our zoological brethren. The key things to remember are that each of these laws only protects the rights of individuals with disabilities who need the animal for a particular reason. Also, each of these laws requires reasonable accommodations or modifications to policies, practices and procedures that would otherwise prohibit animals.

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog—and only a dog—that is specially trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability. The ADA regulations also permit miniature horses as a reasonable modification, but dogs are the only specifically identified service animals. Picture of a white miniature horse wearing a white vest that features patches, one of which clearly reads "THERAPY HORSE."Under the ADA, service dogs are permitted to accompany individuals with disabilities in most situations with very limited exceptions, such as sterile operating rooms in hospitals, and are exempt from many fees often associated with pets, such as hotel fees and deposits. In addition, under the ADA, a public entity under Title II and an operator of the place of public accommodation under Title III are only permitted to ask two questions about an animal: (a) whether the animal is a service animal and (b) what tasks the animal performs for the person with a disability. If the answers to both of those questions are yes, then the service animal must be permitted. Moreover, those public entities and places of public accommodation are prohibited from asking for proof of the person’s disability or proof of the animal’s status or training. Although an individual with a disability may have to prove disability if the individual brings a claim or lawsuit later alleging discrimination because of the denial of a service animal, at the time the individual with a disability visits a place of public accommodation or public building operated by a public entity, the ADA only requires answers to these two questions.

Both the FHAA and ACAA, on the other hand, recognize the right of an individual with a disability to have ESAs, and both laws permit a much greater variety of animals than just dogs (or miniature horses). ESAs provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, and neither of these two laws requires the animal to have specialized training. Picture of a live turkey on an airplane seat, looking at the camera with its beak partially open, and with a person's arm partially around its back. There is also a man sitting in a seat in the row behind the turkey with a slightly confused look on his face.Both laws also often exempt individuals with disabilities with ESAs from many fees associated with pets. To take a slightly deeper dive, much like how the ADA recognizes miniature horses as reasonable modifications, the FHAA also views service animals and emotional support animals as reasonable accommodations. That is, housing providers are required to modify their “no animals” policies to permit both service and emotional support animals for people with disabilities. Although such housing providers may request evidence of the claimed disability if it is not obvious, there are not many regulations or requirements related to animals under the FHAA.

The ACAA, by contrast, has some hoops for travelers to jump through, including requirements that the passenger provide very specific documentation related to the disability and the animal. The ACAA also specifically permits air carriers from prohibiting snakes, ferrets, rodents and spiders, and other animals that are too large to fit safely in the cabin.

Now get ready for the twists and turns, as we walk through a hypothetical scenario. A college student, let’s call him Michael, has an emotional support dog, Rex, that lives with him in his apartment. Michael travels to another city for a vacation. Michael is permitted to keep Rex in his apartment pursuant to the FHAA, but Michael has to put Rex in a crate in order to travel in a cab to Union Station in Denver because Rex isn’t a service animal and that cab is covered by Title III of the ADA. Michael can take Rex out of the crate once at Union Station, however, because Union Station is “pet-friendly.” Picture of a small white dog using the Pet Relief Area at Denver International Airport, which is a small room with high quality astroturf, a large fake rock and a small trash can on the ground, and a large photographic mural on the back wall of a person and dog atop the snowy mountain peaks.Once the A Line train arrives to take Michael and Rex to DIA, Michael again has to put Rex back in the crate for the trip. DIA, however, is also “pet-friendly,” so once at the airport, Michael frees Rex again and stops at one of the airport’s new $100,000+ pet relief areas to give Rex a much-needed pit stop. After washing up, Michael decides to stop off at one of DIA’s many restaurants for a quick bite to eat. Unfortunately, though, that restaurant doesn’t permit non-service animals, so it’s back in the crate for poor Rex. After packing up a doggy bag, it’s off to the terminal for Michael and out of the crate once again for Rex.

Rex can stay out of the crate while on the plane because Rex is a documented ESA and is neither an unusual type of animal nor too large. However, once in the air, Rex begins to get a bit jumpy and starts barking at another passenger’s emotional support rabbit, so the flight crew asks Michael to crate Rex until he calms down, which, fortunately, doesn’t take long. A short while later, Michael and Rex land in their destination city and head off to rent a car to drive to their hotel. The rental car company, however, has a sign on the door that reads “service animals only,” so Michael puts Rex back in the crate while he goes inside. The desk agent, however, says that she is allergic to dogs and requires Michael to leave Rex outside entirely, commenting that there will be a significant cleaning fee when Michael returns the car if there is any dog hair left inside as well. Suffice it to say, Michael and Rex leave pretty quickly, without renting a car. Michael then pulls up a rideshare app and orders a vehicle.  The driver shows up but, upon seeing Rex, says “no dogs” and drives away. A kind passerby who saw what happened informs Michael that there is a city bus that goes within a couple of blocks of his hotel, so Michael sticks Rex back in the crate and hops on board. Michael is able to uncrate Rex for the walk to the hotel but puts him back in the crate to check in. Unfortunately, Michael didn’t realize that the hotel charged an extra $50 per night as a pet deposit, which renders him broke for the remainder of his trip.Picture of a small white dog lying down with dollar bills fanned out in front of it.

As that hypothetical illustrates, the patchwork of legal obligations from place to place varies a lot, making it pretty difficult to determine what animals are permitted where (and why). It’s easy to see, though, why some people try to pass off their pets as ESAs. Even though ESAs aren’t permitted everywhere, they are permitted in more places than pets (despite the current “pet-friendly” trend) and sometimes without a fee. Contrasting poor Michael’s and Rex’s experiences with those of a service dog user, who is permitted to keep the dog in all of these places Michael and Rex visited (and without being subject to any additional fees), it’s also easy to see why some people claim untrained animals and ESAs as actual service dogs. Although it is easy to understand why folks do this, it’s equally important to understand why doing so is harmful to real service animals and ESAs.

Service animals are critical supports for people with disabilities, allowing for greater independence with an awesome companion in tow. True service animals are generally very well-trained and very well-behaved, so much so that you might not even notice that the dog is there unless it is needed. A guide dog for an individual who is blind and a dog trained to assist an individual who uses a wheelchair to pick things up and assist with opening doors are examples of commonly used service animals. Picture of a man sitting in a manual wheelchair overlooking water with a yellow laborador wearing a blue vest with patches, sitting next to him, also looking out over the water.ESAs and pets, on the other hand, often do not receive the level of training that service animals do, and can exhibit less than appropriate behaviors. Things like excessive barking or jumping up (unless these are signals the dog uses to alert their handlers) and attempting to eat from a table can be enough to give the general public pause and put questions in their minds about other ESAs and service animals they may encounter in the future. Inadequately trained animals also can cause significant harm to service animals by interfering with, distracting, or even attacking trained animals. Although there is liability under Colorado state law for attacks on service animals, those sorts of attacks have caused some people with disabilities to have to retire their service animals early, costing them thousands of dollars and potentially months of independence until a different animal is located. And even then, the service animal user is left hoping that the same fate doesn’t befall the new dog. Because of all of the potential harms that can occur to true service animals, even by inadequately trained ESAs, the “pet-friendly” trend can be somewhat alarming. Screen clipping of patches reading "THERAPY DOG" that available at chewy.com for $10.99 for a set of two.What’s more alarming, though, is the proliferation of websites offering certifications, credentials, letters from medical professionals (who have never personally interacted with the “patient”), and vests for a modest one-time fee. Despite efforts at both the state and federal levels to curb such abuses, these efforts have yet to produce results. It appears inevitable that more restrictions are coming for air carriers, as the Department of Transportation issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on February 5, 2020, related to animals on airplanes. The Colorado Legislature was also considering additional protections for people with disabilities and their service animals and ESAs, but it is unclear whether those efforts will gain traction. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon all of us pet owners, ESA companions and service animal users to keep all of our fuzzy friends safe and happy. As much as your own Rex might give you those infamous puppy dog eyes, unless Rex is an adequately trained pup, it might be best to just leave him home because failing to do so could result in thousands of dollars in liability, but more importantly, in a person with a disability losing their best friend and their independence.

New Landscape Assessment Examines Community Organizing in Colorado

The Colorado Trust is pleased to share a landscape assessment of community organizing in Colorado. The assessment was conducted to better understand the priority issues of community organizing groups or organizations, their approaches to community organizing, and the unique challenges they face.

This report provides information on where organizing is taking place across the state, who is being organized and around what issues. Characteristics of groups and organizations engaged in community organizing are shared, as well as information on tactics and strategies used, and leadership and governance structures. It also highlights the perspectives and expressed needs of community organizers across Colorado, as well as their successes and challenges in doing this work.

The assessment was conducted by AMGB Consulting from September to November of 2019. Three hundred and thirty community organizing groups or organizations were identified, 181 completed a survey and 40 staff members or organizers participated in an interview or focus group. While the assessment was successful in identifying organizing efforts in urban and rural areas across Colorado, it should be noted that it does not include data from all community organizing groups that are active in the state.

Please contact Abby Bohannan or Mayra Gonzales of AMBG Consulting with any questions about the landscape assessment. For information on advocacy grantmaking at The Colorado Trust, including our new Building and Bridging Power strategy—which will support the work of organizing people and building policy infrastructure (letters of intent are being accepted through Feb. 7, 2020)—please contact Noelle Dorward, advocacy and policy partner at The Colorado Trust.

Amtrak Asks 2 People Who Use Wheelchairs To Pay $25,000 For A Ride

Accessible Travel Services

“Our goal is to provide safe, efficient and comfortable service to all of our passengers. We are pleased to provide additional services to passengers with disabilities, and we have worked to make our facilities more accessible to customers with disabilities.”

The above is a direct quote from the Amtrack website on the Accessible Travel Services page.

The following article is what that reality looked like for two passengers are reported on January 17, 2020, by Joseph Shapiro, Correspondent, NPR Investigations.

“It costs just $16 to buy a one-way ticket on the Amtrak train from Chicago to Bloomington, Ill., unless you’re the two people who use wheelchairs and tried to buy tickets recently. They were told their tickets will cost not $16 — but $25,000.” (Click to read the full NPR article.)


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