Empowering People Through Advocacy

March 2022
A publication from our Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist,
Patrick Ober, J.D., Ph.D.
Hello again, CILO supporters and Disability Advocates! Below is our current highlight of advocacy and policy issues to know and learn about related to people with disabilities and independent living.

Accessibility is a buzzword many people may know but not really understand what it looks like or how it is created in our society. This month, the Advocate for Independence Newsletter will highlight progress made for accessibility as well as continued struggles that for people with disabilities continue to face in having an accessible and inclusive life in our communities. If you are someone who has thought “how can I do more to advocate for the needs of people with disabilities?”, this issue is for you!

Accessibility at Cincinnati Bars and Restaurants -

Are They Violating the ADA?

Independent living means being able to enjoy things, places, and events in the community. For millions of people, being able to go out to a bar, restaurant, or nightclub is a Annually, Americans spend around $20-30 billion at bars and restaurants. Holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, for example, are times when people flock to pubs and bars to celebrate the day. In fact, according to a recent study from WalletHub, Cincinnati is the 16th best city in the United States to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

But for people that use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, going to a bar or restaurant is extremely difficult, if not impossible, because the building is not accessible, even though federal law clearly states the opposite. The Americans with Disabilities Act “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public.” That last part – private places that welcomes members of the public – means places like hotels, restaurants and bars cannot prohibit access to people with disabilities. This means those buildings need to have:

  • Entrances at least 36 inches wide with no steps to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility devices;
  • Checkout counters no higher than 36 inches so people in those devices can access the counters;
  • Wheelchair-accessible tables in restaurants; and
  • Accessible menus for guests who have vision impairments
  • And more.

Going out to eat and drink is something many of us sorely missed when businesses were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that people are returning to going out socially, EVERYONE needs to be able to go out and enjoy a good meal or a drink with friends and family. For example, a new bar in Over-the-Rhine, Alcove (opened by the folks at Madtree Brewing), have designed the space and its staff to be accessible to and inclusive for people with different disabilities. This type of intentional work shows accessibility can and should be incorporated into all businesses, but sadly is often forgotten about and not enforced by the city. As a result, this is an…….


CILO is actively advocating that Cincinnati-area restaurants and bars be more accessible to people with disabilities, and we need your assistance to help us. HAVE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW had trouble with physical access to a bar, restaurant, or a similar social/recreational business in Cincinnati? If so, please contact us and tell us about it. Our advocacy is powerful when we can identify which places need to make accessibility changes and people that want these changes to happen. The more stories we can share, the more success we can have getting changes made!

PLEASE contact Patrick Ober, Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist, with your stories: Email or by phone: 513-241-8046

Accessible Transportation in Southwest Ohio

During 2021, CILO was a member of a project team of public transit officials and human service agency representatives across southwest Ohio. This group worked together to identify the barriers to accessible transportation for people with disabilities (commonly referred to as “paratransit”) and develop strategies to improve the coordination of paratransit and on-demand services in the Greater Cincinnati Region. This worked resulted in the creation of the “Greater Cincinnati Region Paratransit Coordination Plan.” This plan was This plan was presented to and applauded by the entire SORTA/Cincinnati Metro Board of Directors in December 2021, and work has already begun to implement some of the recommendations! Hopefully over the next year or two, we will see southwest Ohio transit agencies unveil new collaborations and partnerships that make it easier for people to use paratransit across the region to get where they need to go safely, quickly, and accessibly.

Speaking of Cincinnati Metro, they have been working on a new “Mobility On-Demand” service to expand its service area and provide another opportunity for people with disabilities to access public transportation that have been previously unable to do so. Currently, Metro provides two types of bus service: 1) fixed routes with predetermined stops and destinations and 2) on-demand, shared-ride paratransit service (Access) for people with disabilities that prevent them from using Metro fixed-route service.

With Mobility On-Demand, Metro will offer an additional on-demand option that is more flexible and aims to cater more closely to people’s needs when existing fixed routes are not practical or accessible. During the winter of 2021-22, an online survey and public forums were conducted where people could provide input as to the places around Cincinnati that they would use an on-demand service so Metro could identify the geographic zones that the service would be most useful. This summer and fall 2022, Metro will be conducting pilot programs to test out different service models, which may ultimately resemble the Uber or Lyft model of short route, point-to-point transportation for riders. Check out the Metro website for updates on the “Mobility on Demand” plan and CILO will also provide updates as they come out! 

Accessible Products

As we mentioned in our August 2021 AFI Newsletter, 1 in 5 American adults (about 64 million people) have some form of a disability, and 35% of those adults are “working age” (between 16-64 years old), about 22.4 million people. Those millions of working age Americans with disabilities both need accessible products and services, and possess about $490 billion dollars in disposable income in the United States alone, and $8 trillion dollars worldwide. Over the last few years, more and more companies are recognizing the need for more accessible products and are creating and selling clothes, toys, tools, beauty products that are easier to use for people with disabilities. But with all these products entering the market, people with disabilities often have few people who can provide them feedback and insight as to whether a product will work for them.

To help people determine which products are truly accessible and worth the purchase, USA Today has launched an accessibility category on its consumer product review website, Reviewed. The site provides “in-depth product insights for adaptive products, assistive technology and accessible design for people with disabilities and their caregivers.” The site has reviewed products like infant carriers for parents who use wheelchairs, comfortable kids clothing brands that don’t have itchy seams or tags, skincare products for those that can only use one hand, and more.

As Sarah Kovac, the accessibility editor at Reviewed and someone who has who has dexterity issues due to arthrogryposis says, “a good accessibility product can be the difference between independence and relying on others to survive.” If you or someone you know is in need of an accessible product, check out Reviewed and see if they have a review of a product that might work for you!

Accessible Sports in Cincinnati

Adaptive and unified sports continue to gain popularity in the Cincinnati area, which gives amazing opportunities for both children and adults with different disabilities to play sports, as well as attend sporting events. As we enter the spring and summer months, find ways to get out and try a new sport, improve your health, fitness, and enjoy playing and competing with others!

  • One of the hidden gems in Cincinnati is the Special Olympics Unified Summer Softball League. This league, which was created more than 20 years ago, features 6-8 softball teams of people with and without disabilities that play on Tuesdays in the summer at the Oskamp Baseball Fields on the West Side of Cincinnati. Anyone who enjoys playing softball aged 17 and older is invited to join and play. If you or someone you know may be interested in joining the league, please reach out to Hamilton County Special Olympics staff for more information.

  • If you are more of a baseball fan, there is also an option for you! a new team has been created for youth with autism and other disabilities, aged 15 and up, to build physical fitness, develop their baseball skills, and eventually play other teams around the region. The Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO) originated in Dallas, Ga, and there are currently around ABO across the country. Recently, Bill Fenbers and others started a team for the Cincinnati, northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana areas named the Tri-State Continentals. Right now the Continentals are only team locally that is operating, but there are hopes that additional teams will pop up in the region soon. For now, the team will likely focus on calisthenics, getting players in shape, active, and work on baseball skills and strategies. The Continentals will begin practicing in Batavia on April 24, and anyone interested in joining can visit the ABO website for the Continentals.

  • For children and teens with blindness or a visual impairment, accessible sports are also available in Cincinnati! The Clovernook Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and a few other community partners have collaborated to provide an Adaptive Sports Program that provides access and opportunity for those individuals to learn and develop their skills in tennis, boxing, skiing, rock climbing, and more!

  • Finally, for basketball fans that use wheelchairs out there, there are a few opportunities to get involved in basketball leagues around the region. The Cincinnati Recreation Commission’s division of Therapeutic Recreation has a wheelchair basketball team, the Cincinnati Royals, has an adult wheelchair basketball team that competes in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA). Cincinnati also has another team, the Cincinnati Dragons, that are run by the Greater Cincinnati Adapted Sports Club. They too participate in the NWBA, and have teams for both youth/teens, as well as adults. The varsity team for the Dragons are no joke – they won the 2021 NWBA Varsity National Championship with an undefeated 28-0 record against teams across the United States!!

Thanks for reading!
Be on the lookout for our next newsletter in May, and please contact
Patrick Ober, Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist, by email or
by phone 513-241-8046 with any questions or advocacy needs!

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