Expanding Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

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Newsletter - Volume #3 March 2016
A Note from Matt ...
"We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color." - Maya Angelou
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 If diversity is a rich tapestry, than neurodiversity is the glitter and the differences in the bright colors in the yarn. To apply stereotypes to those who are Autistic, or living with Down syndrome, ADHD, or any other cognitive, intellectual, developmental, emotional or learning disability is purely failing to appreciate the contributions that everyone should and does make in our community. To exclude a person solely because of one's neurodiversity, in the legal profession or in any profession, is failing to see the rich color of our community.
Beautiful skeins of wool from Susan Silverstein she blended herself from a Saskatoon Sunset.
Beautiful skeins of wool from Susan Silverstein she blended herself from a Saskatoon Sunset.
DIG in the News
February 23, 2016, www.photographyisnotacrime.com , Illinois Cop Tells Disabled Man Photography is a Crime, Refuse to Take IA Report
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February 25, 2016, Iheartdogs.com, Breaking News: School Bans Disabled Boy's Service Dog Because He's A Pit Bull, http://iheartdogs.com/breaking-news-school-bans-disabled-boys-service-dog-because-hes-a-pit-bull/
March 4, 2016, Tampa Bay Times, Legislators strengthen penalties for hate crimes against people with mental and physical disabilities, http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/legislators-add-mental-and-physical-disabilities-to-hate-crimes-law/2267944
March 4, 2016, Bradenton Herald, Florida Legislature adds mental and physical disabilities to hate crimes law, http://www.bradenton.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article64059472.html
March 4, 2016, Miami Herald- naked politics, Legislature strengthens penalties for mental and physical disabilities in hate crimes law, http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2016/03/legislature-adds-mental-and-physical-disabilities-to-hate-crimes-law.html
March 8, 2016, Haitian Law Students, Sam Rony, Social Engineer, http://haitianlawstudents.com/2016/03/08/my-interest/
March 15, 2016, 3PlayMedia, FEDEX GROUND SUED BY EEOC, NAD FOR ADA VIOLATION, http://www.3playmedia.com/2016/03/15/fedex-ground-sued-by-eeoc-nad-for-ada-violation/
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featuredarticleThe Legal Profession's Mental Health Issue is a Suppressed Epidemic.
By: Matthew Dietz

One of the most time-worn quotes in describing the law school experience, is the law school dean telling incoming fist-year law students, "Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won't be here by the end of the year." For me, it involved treating law school like a full time job, which included spending most Saturday nights in front of my books and a computer listening to Saturday Night with the 70's on the radio, and knowing that my classmates were doing the same thing. When we did get together, it usually involved turning our minds off and having a couple of beers. After law school, I got a job that had 2,000 billable hours and weekend and night "face time" as an expectation - but, of course, not a requirement.
As a new lawyer, the emphasis is to focus on career development, and the life tenet of "Work Hard, Play Hard" is taken to heart. A balanced life is only considered for later in life, and wellness is not good for advancement to partner. Twenty years later, balance is not achieved, and anxiety as well as management of that anxiety is a way of life.

Click here to read more
Leilani Ganser at the Oregon Capitol on the house of representatives floor
  feature2Housing Accommodations at Reed College
By: Leilani Ganser

My name is Leilani Ganser. I am a first year at Reed and I have been disabled since I was 14.
I have a rare disease called CRMO, or Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis, wherein my own immune system attacks my bones as if they were a growing cancer. As a result of this disease, my hips and spinal cord have lesions all over them, causing severe daily pain, loss of mobility, and in my case, the beginning stages of MS as my immune system began attacking the myelination of my nerves. In a couple incidents, the attacks have gotten so severe that I have lost vision or feeling on one side of my body.

Click here to read more
Out and About with DIG
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4-1-16      Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, Baltimore, MD 
Florida Fair Housing Summit
ABC's of Emotional Support Animals, Orlando, FL
4-29-16      Florida GAL Conference, Orlando, FL 
Small Business ADA Summit, Hallandale Beach, FL 
6-4-16  Guardianship Training, Miami, FL 
May 2016  FHA 1st Design & Construction Training, Miami, FL 
June 2016  NFHA Conference, Washington, DC 
July 2016  47th Annual Autism Society Conference, New Orleans, LA

Sept. 2016  Child Protection Summit, Orlando, FL 
9-9-16 ABC's of Emotional Support Animals, Tallahassee, FL
2016 DRBA West Coast Conference, Los Angeles, CA
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DIG Lunch and Learn -- 2
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Murphee our new office dog
litigationLitigation: The Legal Basics of How to Make Housing Accessible for your Disability
By: Matthew Dietz

At Disability Independence Group, we often get inquiries from persons with disabilities regarding complaints related to persons with disabilities that need something installed in their home or property to assist with his or her disability. The first misconception is that these issues are part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but accessibility in housing is part of the Fair Housing Act . But there are many misconceptions regarding what is available and how to ask or whether they need to ask for permission for the change.

My home does not have grab bars in the bathroom, has steps, or otherwise not accessible for a person with a disability.  Does it need to be under the Fair Housing Act?


What kind of structural changes can I ask for under the Fair Housing Act? 


Who pays for the change?


      Who is responsible for maintaining the structural modification? 


Is the owner/tenant with a disability responsible for restoring the premises to the original condition?


How do you ask for structural modification?


What responses can a housing provider give, and what are the replies to those responses:


Do structural modifications include assignments of parking spaces, service or emotional support animals, provisions of information in alternate formats (i.e. braille, sign language interpreters, etc...)


Does this apply in dormitories and other housing that is part of a school or other type of facility?


      How do I complain?

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kidscrusadersKids Crusaders Corner
By: Julie Fioravanti 

Welcome back to Kids Crusaders Corner! We managed to have a rather mild winter here in Upstate NY and we are happy to welcome spring. This month DIG is talking about Mental Health, and as a parent to a child with a disability, I can say there are so many emotions that we parents deal with that are different than most. While we still have moments of sheer joy and happiness, these are outnumbered by moments of anger, guilt, confusion, frustration, sadness, jealousy, fear, and grief (just to name a few). I have been on my journey with my son for almost 25 years now, and I can tell you that I can easily cycle through all of these emotions multiple times in any given day. I have spent more hours than I care to count in therapy sessions, have taken more prescription medications than I care to admit to anyone, and have had more nights where no matter how hard I try, my mind just won't rest. It's the pure raw emotion of feeling your deepest pain and greatest joy in a single heartbeat.
So this month, I would like to introduce you to an amazing mother and an incredibly talented writer and share with you the piece that she wrote. Her name is Elizabeth Foster and she has a 4 year old son named Noah. Noah has a diagnosis of spastic quad cerebral palsy. Elizabeth touched so many hearts the day that she posted this in a private Facebook group. It was a day that we all felt connected and her words resonated throughout the group. Here is her piece entitled "Waters".

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dvDomestic Violence

In honor of National Teen Dating Awareness and Prevention Month, President Obama affirmed that it is a basic human right to be free from violence and abuse. That right is the same for teens as well as adults. There is a lot of conversation these days about teenage dating violence both in high school and college. More than 1 in 10 high school students surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse from a dating partner.
The statistics for youth with disabilities is even higher. We rarely see any specific information on our youth with disabilities nor is the conversation focused on this subset of the population that is so much more vulnerable. According to ACL (Administration for Community Living), more than 1 in 5 young people with disabilities, between the ages of 12 and 19, report experiencing physical abuse or sexual assault. This number is more than twice the rate of youth without a disability.
We need to learn more about these vulnerable youth and create a safety net for them. Until folks know about the problem there will be no uprising to find a solution. If you are reading this article, do some of your own research and if you have any solutions please let me know.   sharon@justdigit.org
If you are interested in volunteering please contact Sharon Langer at sharon@justdigit.org
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walletcardThe Wallet Card Project

The wallet card is a tool for young adults to use when they come into contact with law enforcement; either as a victim, a witness, or as a potential suspect.

The wallet card will help to clarify any interaction with law enforcement so that the behavior of the person with a disability is not misinterpreted as suspicious or as criminal behavior.

Click here to sign up for a wallet card

The Wallet Card Project is a collaboration with DIG, CGPD, and UM-NSU CARD.
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lesly WIPA Program & SSA Beneficiaries with Psychiatric Disabilities

A large portion of beneficiaries who could potentially receive WIPA services are individuals with mental health diagnoses. There is a high rate of unemployment/underemployment of this population.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security Income (SSI) both provide needed financial assistance to many people in the United States who have mental health conditions. The two programs are run by the US Social Security Administration (SSA). SSDI provides monthly income to individuals who are limited in their ability to work because of a physical or mental disability. Currently almost nine million individuals receive SSDI, and as of 2013, 35.2% of recipients qualify for disability based on a mental health condition.

85% of people with Mental Illness want to work but are afraid to lose their disability status and healthcare

 How WIPA can help you?

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lisaWomen's History Month
"... Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well." - President Jimmy Carter

As many of you may know, March is women's history month. In 1987, Congress declared March to be Women's History Month to help teach people about women's history. As a tribute to such, DIG would like to take this time to shed some light on the following women:

Israel and Lorinda

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Mental health encompasses a person's psychological and emotional well-being. It takes into consideration how a person handles stress, their level of self-esteem, along with their overall attitude towards their future. Life is unpredictable and can easily become overwhelming - especially if you have a disability. Maintaining positive mental health and coping with daily stressors is key to living an active and independent lifestyle.
Balancing daily activities while also depending on the assistance of a caregiver can be a challenge. Worrying about whether or not one's PCA will show up in the morning, if transportation will be on time, along with the plethora of extra considerations a person with a disability faces daily can take a toll on their mental health. Personally, I battle with fatigue that can very quickly drag me down and completely destruct my day - if I let it. Instead of sitting back and allowing challenges to destroy my ability to be independent, I use various meditation techniques to help quiet and balance my mind. This in turn helps me focus on what's important, let go of what I can't control, and live a fulfilling, joyful life every single day.

What is Meditation?

Types of Meditation

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The cover of the book Your Upward Journey by Patricia Bochi
patuYour Upward Journey

In a nutshell, Your Upward Journey: It Is Easier Than You Think!, is a three-part project (book, self-help seminars and merchandise sale). I intend to promote the book through self-help seminars and sale of merchandise, such as mugs, journals etc.


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penguinA Parcel of Penguins


For more information about DIG and to find out how you can be involved, please call or email our executive director, Debbie Dietz at 305-669-2822 or  debbie@justdigit.org. 
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Disability Independence Group, Inc.

Thank you to the organizations that support our projects.

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  Disability Independence Group, Inc. | 305-669-2822 | info@justdigit.org | www.justdigit.org