You will not find restaurant reviews on the CCDC blog often, and almost never by me, but today is different. CCDC took the members of our legislative team who were available to lunch today at Pizzability at 250 Steele Street to thank them for their many hours of tireless work this session. They were an admirable team and deserved more than lunch. However, lunch and our undying gratitude are what we can provide. Our amazing community organizer Dawn Howard chose the location.
Like most restaurants in Cherry Creek North, it is physically small. Unlike any other restaurant in that area where I have eaten, I did not feel in the way—even when I was objectively in the way. In any space, when a bunch of us come in at the busy hour we can be..well…in the way. It only takes a couple of wheelchairs, never mind some canes, walkers, dogs, and general klutziness to make us seem like we are taking over. When we are doing an action that is exactly what we want, but when we go to eat out, whether individually or in a small group we do not want to feel as if our mere presence is an inconvenience. So today we show up and our presence overwhelms the place both physically and logistically. Yet we are greeted with warmth and genuine pleasure that we are there. When I was objectively in the way blocking an aisle no one bumped into me, no one asked me to move, no one gave me “the look”. No employee rushed to serve me quickly for the purpose of getting me out of the way.
Most of our crew had ordered but there were three of us left when I arrived. The bill for three lunches in Cherry Creek North came to $16. The food was good. Most significant for me is that they had Gelato—I saw that and forgot about pizza. The slices that my colleagues ate looked terrific. They were big, and hot and had many varieties. Salads were an option also and non-alcoholic drinks appeared to be free with the pizza. They had some alcohol for sale as well…soon they will have pairing suggestions.
As you might guess by the name, this is a restaurant that sells mostly pizza and most of the employees are people with disabilities, particularly people who appeared to have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most of the customers eating there today appeared to have disabilities as well.
My personal food tastes are more in line with other places in Cherry Creek North. Earlier this week I had an hour in between meetings in that part of town and went somewhere else. The food I like (and admit it is kind of ridiculous food) is more like an overpriced salad with things like goat cheese, grapes, and cranberries. I had that with unsweetened tea (trying to be good diet wise) and while the food was delicious, and there was much more physical space in this place than at Pizzability, I felt completely in the way the entire time I was there. It was uncomfortable. While no one was rude or even unkind it was my presence was made people uncomfortable. I had to ask several people to move to get to a space to eat. I actually considered getting it to go even though it was raining and cold that day. I am sure the people in this restaurant (staff and customers) would have been relieved had I just taken the food to go. Today, when some of choose to sit outside at the tables (it was probably 60 degrees and felt lovely) they asked repeatedly if we were sure we were comfortable and offered to move things around if we preferred to be inside. The offer was made in a manner that showed respect and that they valued our business.
There were other cool features. The menus are paper and you circle what you wanted and write your name. Accessible for Deaf folks and people that do not speak English, do not read, etc. Some work would be required to make it accessible for blind folks (there is a menu online). There was a “sensory corner” with various objects. Each plate was different and they were painted by artists from the Access Gallery (an art gallery for disabled artists).
There did appear to be someone without a visible disability running things and the way she talked there was a training component for employees. (I learned later on their facebook page that this is indeed a training program)The employees were working hard and seemed happy, and the work is real work that valued employees do in restaurants every day. If part of the goal is to train workers for “integrated” jobs, I am sure that will work. However, some employees may want to stay and be around others with disabilities. Maybe some will become supervisors or trainers. Maybe some will prefer to keep doing the great job they are doing today.
Is this segregated? Maybe? Not sure that it matters because it is a choice. Doing a good job and being paid for work, and continuing to learn and improve at one’s job is what adults do in our society. Other groups have businesses that are primarily run by and serve specific communities. They do not eschew customers from outside groups but they cater to their own communities. This is how disenfranchized communities build economic power. There are “pink pages” advertising gay-owned businesses. There are Latinx and Black Chambers. Why not promote and support more disability-run/disability positive businesses? Non-disabled people can work and eat there but the atmosphere and culture stay disability positive. Just like as a white person I can go to eatery owned, staffed, and patronized mostly by people of color. I am welcome to show up but not to inappropriately take over the culture of the place (as white people often want to do). Communities of color started and continue these businesses because there is an economic and cultural need for spaces that do not have to bend to the dominant culture. That is cultural pride, not involuntary segregation. We need to start understanding the difference.
We need businesses like this in our community..that is by and for our people. Where non-disabled allies are welcomed but where our disability culture and our vibe will stay the dominant feeling. We need to stop defining success by how much we interact with people who do not have disabilities.
I know that I preferred eating lunch in a disability positive environment, among not only my peers/colleagues with disabilities but among other customers and employees with disabilities. I would rather eat in a place where I feel comfortable and welcome than in a place where I am obviously in the way. The next time I happen to have an hour in between meetings in Cherry Creek North, Pizzability will get my business! I encourage you all to do the same. I am sure they will also welcome those of you without disabilities too.
CCDC wishes congratulations to our new Governor Jared Polis and looks forward to working with this new administration. Our expectations of a new governor are clear and doable. We look forward to advancing the rights of people with disabilities so that we can show our capabilities as full citizens. This means a dramatic increase in the number of people with disabilities who are employed. This means a dramatic improvement in the high school graduation of students with disabilities and making sure that students go to college or some sort of vocational program. This means a government that values people with disabilities by having high expectations and providing appropriate supports. This means a government that involves us at every level…on boards, commissions, as employees in state agencies, and on the transition team. Governor-Elect Polis stated last night that his administration will be inclusive. We expect to be part of this inclusion and to have disability representation in historic proportions and stand ready to help make that happen.
CCDC congratulates all of the representatives and senators that won their seats as well and we look forward to working with all of you on these same goals.
We will be solidifying legislative priorities for the next two years soon but among them will surely be:
1) Increasing protection for renters such as statewide source of income discrimination protection and habitability laws.
2) Extending the Mediciad Buy-In for Working Adults with Disabilities to people over the age of 65 and for more than 10 days in between jobs, even if we have to use state funds. With the federal government giving the states carte blanche we should be able to get approval.
3) Getting safety protections for people living in host homes.
4) Consumer direction for all HCBS services.
5) Improving our case management systems, especially transition from institutions.
We will be focusing on money for solid transportation that has a focus on transit and affordable housing that is inclusive of everyone including those with very low income. We will be working on increased accountability around behavioral health and overall health care in the Medicaid program.
On a federal level with the Democrats having a majority in the house, we will be holding Congresswoman DeGette accountable for her promises to us to fix the Electronic Visit Verification mess and exempt consumer direction and family caregivers. We will also expect help with improved access to quality complex rehab equipment (power wheelchairs) including accountability for repairs.
While Colorado definitely went blue, this does not mean that CCDC will stop working with our Republican allies. We have always been and always will be a bipartisan organization. Our issues cross both parties. Disability does not discriminate.
CCDC was very proud of the VERY STRONG voter turnout in the disability community. Approximately 90% of our members had already voted before Monday and we are sure the rest voted Monday or Tuesday. Voting is the first step of realizing NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US.
Despite a plethora of resources dedicated to case management, there is no true single case management system for those with high needs. There are fragments in some systems for some issues but they do not address holistic needs. There are case management systems that are really gatekeepers for government programs. Gatekeeping has its place but it is different than case management. Despite the many areas where case management is covered (even just in the Medicaid system) there has never been a process whereby the stakeholders and government get together to at least have dialogue, if not answer the following questions:
1) Who needs what level of care management across systems? What percent are likely permanent needs?
2) What are the specific tasks needed and how much time will this take on average?
3) What are the qualifications to do these tasks?
4) What are the quality measures to assess the performance of these tasks?
5) What is the cost to perform these tasks including maximum caseload size.
6) What are the total resources now dedicated to all case management?
7) What case management are we doing now that is not useful, not necessary, or could be done at a lower level?
8) How do we create a plan to take our current system and transform to a system that provides intensive case management where appropriate and reduces services where there is no benefit?
Case management is needed in the following situations:
*People with a serious but temporary medical condition or new illness, such as cancer for help accessing and coordinating medical and other resources.
*People with long-term disabilities who are unable to do their own case management and who have no family able to assist. This must be comprehensive and include non-medical issues even the mundane daily life activities that can overwhelm some people. Even dealing with a utility company or a landlord can require assistance for people with some disabilities.
Some individuals could learn to do more of their own management with teaching (or have a family member able to take over with some training) and others will need this high level over a lifetime.
This is not a huge number of people, but the lack of case management causes them to spend a lot of time in crisis and use emergency resources from multiple organizations. Case management of this type is labor intensive and requires a very low caseload and high level of training.
Below is our letter, please submit your own comments by MONDAY 10/15/18 at www.regulations.gov
October 12, 2018
Office of the General Counsel, Rules Docket Clerk
US Department of Housing & Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, SW Room 10276
Washington, DC 20410-0001
Submitted electronically via www.regulations.gov
RE: Docket No. FR-6123-A-01
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing on behalf of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) in response to the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: AFFH Streamlining and Enhancements, published in the Federal Register on August 16, 2018. CCDC is the largest statewide disability organization that is run by and for people with all types of disabilities (cross-disability). We recently did a listening tour across Colorado. We had eleven events and all but two were outside of the Denver metro area. In every community housing emerged as the number one problem for people with disabilities. While affordability is a problem for everyone in Colorado, people with disabilities deal with discrimination, safety, and habitability concerns as well. Too often people with disabilities are terrified to report discrimination or unsafe conditions due to fear of retaliation. ANY weakening of existing standards can be devastating to people with disabilities. If anything, requirements for affirmatively furthering fair housing should be strengthened and enforcement should be enhanced. More than 50% of those considered “chronically homeless” in Denver have disabilities (both physical and psychiatric) according to rent point in time studies.
CCDC strongly supports HUD’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation and we urge HUD not to revoke or rewrite it. Rather, HUD should immediately resume implementation of the 2015 rule and dedicate the necessary department resources for effective implementation and enforcement of the rule. With AFFH compliance, we expect significant positive impacts on the communities we serve, and nearby communities whose interests intersect with ours. Failure to enforce AFFH causes our most vulnerable members of the community to suffer in unsafe conditions and often leads to homelessness. We find that as people become homeless, they are not able to escape and it soon becomes chronic. American’s disabled deserve better than this. Many of those suffering from housing discrimination are veterans that have served our country. Our advocacy coordinator, who is a disabled veteran, reports that veterans who require reasonable accommodations often face housing discrimination. This discrimination can increase the symptoms of their disabilities. Those that serve our country and acquired a disability as a result of their service deserve a housing agency that will enforce regulations created to assure fair treatment.
Historically, and despite the fair housing requirements of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, we have seen little improvement in the patterns of residential segregation and the resulting imbalances in community investment and inequities in access to jobs, education, transit and other life opportunities. We believe that the AFFH rule is the first significant step made toward real change and must be promptly reinstated for the following reasons:
The 2015 rule represents a wait—far too long—of 47 years for clarity on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provisions of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The 2015 rule was the result of a massive use of federal resources, and at least 6 years of deliberation by HUD, along with significant input from a diverse array of stakeholders. Additionally, the rule was field tested in 74 jurisdictions. The initiation of another rulemaking process would be a waste of HUD resources and the tax dollars of the American people. Rather than exhaust additional resources on rewriting the rule, HUD should use those resources to enforce the 2015 rule which was not sufficiently implemented by HUD.
Until the 2015 rule, jurisdictions around the nation operated at a status quo established in 1968 due to insufficient guidance and enforcement on the AFFH regulation. It often required legal actions by private citizens or organizations to compel jurisdictions to take meaningful steps to further fair housing. Understandably, it will therefore require some time for jurisdictions to adapt to new expectations. The 2015 rule was an investment in our nation’s commitment to Civil Rights, and like any big investment, the highest costs are upfront. HUD cannot retreat from the steps it took to address segregation, discrimination, and disinvestment. American veterans and those with disabilities deserve better from our government.
In response to the 8 questions put forth by HUD in its ANPR, below are a few of the many reasons the 2015 rule should be reinstated:
Public Participation – The 2015 rule requires a level of community engagement that jurisdictions previously were not required to and did not employ. The new AFFH rule requires jurisdictions to design their public participation process to include people of all demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds, with a focus on those most impacted by segregation and inequitable community investment. This type of public participation is emblematic of the most basic principles of democracy and demonstrates a commitment to the values of democracy.
Data Collection – The 2015 rule ensures that community development decisions are rooted in an honest assessment of patterns of segregation, housing needs, and access to place-based opportunities. The HUD provided data offers a minimum standard of data collection that, when combined with local data and local input, allows for the sound development of measureable goals and benchmarks to move the needle on critical issues. Decisions should be made using data, not rumors or blogs.
Goals & Metrics—The 2015 rule requires jurisdictions to define explicit goals and metrics to measure progress toward the goals developed. This is a foundational requirement of meaningful community planning and governance. Goals should be set, and progress should be measured on an annual basis. This greatly enhances the ability of HUD and community stakeholders to hold local jurisdictions accountable to timely goal implementation. We measure what matters and AFFH must matter if we truly value all Americans.
Accountability – The 2015 rule creates requirements for HUD to review, approve of, and monitor Assessments of Fair Housing. This creates a strong incentive for jurisdictions to comply because the receipt of HUD funding is clearly tied to compliance with fair housing laws. These enhanced accountability measures will incentivize jurisdictions to comply with, and allow HUD to enforce, a 50-year-old federal legal requirement enacted into law by a democratically elected body of Congress.
For all of the reasons listed herein, and because our communities have long suffered unjust and immutable segregation and the resulting inequities in life outcomes, CCDC urges HUD to take immediate action to fully reinstate the 2015 rule and uphold its commitment to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.
Julie Reiskin, Executive Director
This testimony was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org in support of a rule change that will be heard by the Board on August 3rd in Durango. For information about the board meeting see https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdhs-boards-committees-collaboration/state-board-human-services
To Human Services Board:
From: Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, CCDC
RE: Support for Aid to Needy Disabled Rule Package
Dear Members of the Human Services Board:
I am writing as the director of the largest statewide, disability-run, disability rights organization in Colorado in full support of the AND rule package…and to encourage you to continue with reforms to better support clients that need this program. Our friends from the Southwest Independent Living Center, the Colorado Center for Law and Policy and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will also be testifying and this letter is a supplement to their direct testimony.
Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND) is the program for the poorest of the poor, the most severely disabled with the fewest resources. People on AND are living so far below the poverty level they are not even on the radar. AND was meant to be a bridge between the time one becomes disabled and the time one can get on some sort of permanent disability benefits. It is also meant for those with disabilities that last between 6 and 12 months—making the person unable to work for a long time but not eligible for Social Security. Sadly, for some who are unable to navigate the complicated Social Security process, AND ends up as their only means of support for too long. The disability community, provider organizations, and some state agencies have tried to create programs to help this group of citizens whose disabilities are of a nature that make complying with rules, deadlines and procedures as impossible for them as walking up a flight of stairs is for someone whose legs are paralyzed. Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to fund a support program that serves all in need.
Even when it is a temporary solution, the system still needs to work with an understanding that one is always in a desperate situation to even apply for AND. To be considered one must have NO income, no savings, and no support. It is such as a small amount of money that if people have other options they will take those other options. When someone is waiting for SSI or SSDI and they accept AND the funds have to be paid back when the client receives his or her backpayment. Given that these individuals are already saddled with debt, both formal and informal, people do not sign up for this program when there are other options. Moreover, applying for ANY disability benefit is a humiliating and demoralizing experience, even when everyone involved is kind (which sadly is not always the case). One must tell strangers about extremely personal details, over and over again. One must confront the fact that one cannot do easy tasks that are considered natural for all adults in our society. One has to admit that one cannot support oneself or loved ones (if there are any left). Applying for benefits is one more loss, often part of a cascade of defeat. It is imperative that the Board understand the backdrop against which our fellow citizens are applying. Sensitivity training should include trauma informed care as well as an understanding about grief and loss and the disability process. While disability is NOT a tragedy, the systems that we encounter early in our disability journey do create trauma and find people at their lowest point, when they are still believing that disability is a tragedy.
CCDC strongly supports the following proposed changes for the following reasons:
People have been working on this for a long time, and there has been a lot of engagement in this process. Please pass these rules and continue to work on ways to make the AND benefit easier for those in such desperate need to receive. As a state we are compassionate people and need not make it harder for people at what is often the lowest point of one’s life.
I am willing to answer any questions but my colleagues who will be at the meeting will be in the best position to answer direct questions at the meeting.
Julie Reiskin, LCSW
Written by Lucinda Rowe July 26, 2018
ADA Day is significant to my family but most of all to my daughter. Estrella was born prematurely weighing one pound. She was diagnosed with severe Cerebral Palsy at a month old. Continue reading “HAPPY ADA DAY to all of you!”