ADVOCATE FOR INDEPENDENCE
Empowering People Through Advocacy


October 2020
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A monthly publication from our Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist,
Patrick Ober, JD, PhD
Hello again, CILO supporters and Disability Advocates! Below is our monthly rundown of legal, policy, and advocacy issues to know and learn about related to people with disabilities and independent living.

This month, we focus on voting accessibility issues for people with disabilities, increasing internet access for people with disabilities, updates on Cincinnati’s public transportation, and highlight how you can take an active role in October’s Disability Employment Awareness Month. 

Voting Accessibility for People with Disabilities will be a CRITICAL Advocacy Issue this Fall

Millions of people every day take accessibility and access to basic life activities for granted. People with disabilities do not. One of the most basic rights and responsibilities as an American is the ability to vote and make your voice heard, however big or small, loud or soft.

However, for people with disabilities, our election system has built barriers blocking their access and ability to vote. In the 2016 election, almost 66% of polling places inspected had at least one barrier for a person with a disability to vote; that number was less than 50% in the 2008 election. Poll workers are found to often lack training on how to accommodate voters with disabilities and their rights when voting. Accessible voting machines are not turned on, or broken, when someone with a disability shows up to vote. People unable to write due to muscular or motor control issues are having their paper registration forms and ballots rejected because of “signature irregularities.”

These barriers have decreased voter participation of people with disabilities over the last 10 years, and COVID-19 issues threaten to create even more barriers to access in the 2020 election. Yet there are now 20% more people with disabilities eligible to vote than there were in 2008, and represent over 16% of all eligible voters! People with disabilities have more of a chance than ever to make a big difference in what issues matter in America, and who will be elected to solve them.

Help someone you know vote and make their voice heard. Help them identify these barriers and figure out ways to overcome them. If someone is having issues voting on Election Day, they can call the Disability Rights Ohio Voter Hotline at either (614) 466-7264 or (800) 282-9181 for assistance and information.

BE AN ADVOCATE for voting accessibility!



Ohio Legal and Policy Issues to Follow
In state legislative news, Ohio politicians have stated they hope to begin legislative debates over establishing broadband internet access as a “public utility,” and require it be accessible to every house in the state. Such a determination could have far-reaching benefits to education, employment, and healthcare. For people with disabilities, internet access can expand opportunities for work, school, and easier access to healthcare services. This access would immediately help people in rural counties that currently have no broadband access, but could also lead to lower costs for obtaining internet access, which would benefit people with disabilities that are already financially strained to obtain needed services to live and work.  


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Community Education Corner

In this final section, we provide some links to articles and information that can help you and your community better understand and appreciate the experiences and lives of people with disabilities. If you have any suggestions for stories to share in future newsletters, please email me!

In transportation news, Cincinnati Metro recently received a national award from the American Public Transit Association for excellence in security and safety of its passengers. Metro received praise for:
-       installing customer-facing monitors that broadcast a live feed of on-board security cameras to promote customer safety and security on board.
-       Utilizing real-time, wireless video monitoring equipment to assist law enforcement in the event of security incidents,
-       Creating and implementing security related programs and partnerships for operator and emergency personnel training.

Metro also announced 19 new buses will be added to its fleet. In addition to the customer-facing monitors, each bus is also equipped with wi-fi, electronics charging ports, and more accessible stop request buttons for passengers using wheelchairs or other mobility devices. As many people with disabilities utilize public transportation as their main source of travel, improving safety and security is a great step towards promoting independent living.

In employment news, Kroger received the Champion of Inclusion Award from the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) for their commitment to diversity and inclusion through employment of people with disabilities. Other companies commended for their efforts to employ and retain workers with disabilities included: FedEx, Giant Eagle, OhioHealth, Walgreens, Aramark, Bob Evans, KeyBank, Levy Restaurants, Meijer Inc, Mercy Health, Procter & Gamble, Sodexo, Speedway, and Staffmark.

Also in employment news, the United States Commission on Civil Rights released a report calling for an end to “sub-minimum” wage policies. These policies, in practice since 1938, allow companies to obtain certificates allowing them to employ people with disabilities but pay them below minimum wage for hourly work. The average wage earned by these workers was $3.34 per hour between 2017-18. Removing these wage policies is an important step in employment equality and removing the stigma of people with disabilities as a lower class of workers and employees.

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month

According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureaus’ American Community Survey in 2017, people with disabilities were about 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed that people without disabilities. Ohio was 27th on the list of states with the smallest employment gap between people with and without disabilities. This means that Ohio still has work to do to provide more competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

If you are employed or an employer, would you consider your company or organization to be a “champion of inclusion?” If not, there are ways you can become a better advocate for inclusion and competitive employment for people with disabilities.
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Please reach out with any comments or questions.

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