Advocate for Independence

November 2023

Flying with a Disability: Local Progress and the Work That Remains

This year, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) announced a program intended for people with hidden/invisible disabilities. By wearing a sunflower lanyard, travelers can signal to airport staff that they need assistance, whether it is a physical accommodation or more patience in terms of time and understanding. “CVG travelers can request a free sunflower lanyard to be mailed to their residence by emailing the airport or by stopping by the information desk on the Baggage Claim level at the airport.” (Local 12 WKRC, 2023)

While it is great that this program exists, and that CVG is being proactive to provide accommodations to disabled people, airports are far from accessible on many levels. Flyers who use a wheelchair consistently report mishandling and ableism by airport staff. Rodney Hodgins who used Air Canada, Kim Harrison who flew with Southwest Airlines, and Lawrence Simmons who was on a Delta flight are just a handful of the wheelchair users who have been impacted by this. When airline staff damage or break someone’s chair, there are life altering consequences for the person’s mobility and security. Read more about what flying is like for wheelchair users.

There is legislation in place to protect people with disabilities from discrimination by airlines called the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which is enforced by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The ACCA applies to all flights that are to, from, or within the U.S. The DOT also maintains a living document on their website that contains an Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights:

  • “The Right to Be Treated with Dignity and Respect.
  • The Right to Receive Information About Services and Aircraft
  • Capabilities and Limitations.
  •  The Right to Receive Information in an Accessible Format.
  • The Right to Accessible Airport Facilities.
  • The Right to Assistance at Airports.
  • The Right to Assistance on the Aircraft.
  • The Right to Travel with an Assistive Device or Service Animal.
  • The Right to Receive Seating Accommodations.
  • The Right to Accessible Aircraft Features.
  • The Right to Resolution of a Disability-Related Issue.”

Disabled people have the right to travel safely and comfortably just like anyone else. Have you ever experienced discrimination at an airport regarding your disability? Email me to share your story in our next newsletter.

OOTF Angel Awards -

The Direct Care Crisis

The Ohio Olmstead Taskforce (OOTF) honored direct care workforce members at the first annual Celebrate Our Carers event. People with disabilities, caregivers, and advocates gathered at the Ohio Statehouse to commemorate the service of direct care providers and to provide education about the direct care workforce crisis. This crisis refers to the lack of caregivers available for hire by those who require those services.

According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), key issues can be identified as barriers in recruiting and retaining direct care workers:

· Poor wages: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, direct care workers were paid a median hourly wage of $14.20 in 2021. According to a report from PHI, in 2020, about two in five direct care workers used public assistance programs; a little over a quarter were enrolled in Medicaid and just under a quarter used nutrition assistance programs. 

·   Lack of benefits: According to the same report, in 2020, less than half had health insurance through their employer or a union (and 13 percent had no health insurance at all). Many do not have paid sick days or family/medical leave.

·    Limited opportunities for career advancement and professional recognition.” (ACL, 2022)

At Celebrate Our Carers, attendees heard directly from consumers of direct care about the impact that carers make in their lives. A testimonial from OOTF’s website states:

“I am a 50-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. I work a full-time job and am very active. Without dedicated, reliable [personal care assistants] PCAs, I would end up in a nursing home and would not be a productive, taxpaying citizen. Thank you to my current PCAs: Charmaine, Pam, Jeannette, and Lyndsey and to my PCA who passed away in April after 24 years of working for me, Sherry.” - Lisa Marn, Lake County

This is a call to action. To engage in advocacy efforts to solve the direct care crisis, visit or

Share your experience with the Direct Care Crisis here:


Cincinnati Wage Discrimination Against People with Developmental Disabilities

Representatives from Cincinnati City Council, Hamilton County Commission and Cincinnati Metro were present at Cincinnati’s State of Disability townhall hosted on September 26th, 2023, by Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD). It was revealed in that meeting that state leaders have not even been aware of the existence of sub-minimum wage programs in Ohio for people with disabilities. Without even discussing the nuance of this issue, we can assert that it is a problem when the people who make decisions on our behalf are not educated on some of the most important issues. How can we count on their advocacy if they do not know what we are experiencing?

At the town hall, LADD asked panelists if they support sub-minimum wage programs in our state, and many panelists reacted with surprise that the programs exist. The programs are known as Section 14(c) programs, and many states outlaw them on the grounds of discrimination. “In Ohio, there are 50 issued or pending permits, and Cincinnati has two: Easterseals Tristate LLC, which employs 76 workers with disabilities on sub-minimum wage, and Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries, which employs 296 workers on sub-minimum wage.” (Fening, 2023)

Some argue that these programs serve a purpose in offering employment options to those who have been denied accommodations from other employers for their disability access needs.

At CILO, we advocate intensely for the consumer’s right to choose. If someone wants to work at a Section 14(c) program, their perspective should be heard. However, I cannot help but feel that the options being suggested by those who are in favor of sub-minimum wage programs are problematic. We should not act as though the only choices for disabled people are to be granted accommodations by an employer or go work for a sub-minimum wage in an accommodating environment. That is why we as advocates exist, to find and create alternative solutions.

Epilepsy Awareness Month

This November, we honor National Epilepsy Awareness Month (NEAM). 3.4 million people in the U.S. live with epilepsy, which is a brain disorder that causes seizures, among other symptoms. This condition does not present the same in every individual. You can read about the different ways that epilepsy can manifest here, and you can sign up here for a free Seizure First Aid Training and Certification from the Epilepsy Foundation.

Those with epilepsy have had a history of advocating for their rights. Misinformation and judgement around what epilepsy is has led to stigma, discrimination, and segregation across centuries. It was not until 1980 that all U.S. states repealed laws prohibiting people with epilepsy from marrying. Strides have been made with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities act and the Affordable Care Act, (ADA) respectively providing protections for people with epilepsy in terms of civil rights and preventing denial of healthcare based on having a pre-existing condition. Despite this progress, people with epilepsy still face discrimination in the workplace. Resources on disclosing epilepsy to an employer and asking for reasonable accommodations can be found here.

It is imperative that we continue advocating to eliminate bias against people with epilepsy, and to lift up those who are taking action. Read an interview with Activist Koral Charles, who raises awareness about epilepsy in the Hispanic community.

The Epilepsy Foundation identifies the following advocacy priorities on their website:


Additional Resources:

Epilepsy Advocacy Network – “works to optimize the life of individuals with epilepsy and seizure disorders by promoting community education and awareness, self-advocacy and empowerment, and help for all individuals to gain access to proper care.”

Voting with a Disability: Self-Advocacy at the Polls

On November 2nd, CILO’s Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist, Dee Henry, and Independent Living Skills Specialist, Jenise Brassell, organized a virtual workshop for the public on voting rights for disabled people and how to advocate for oneself at the polls. We discussed the various accommodations that are available for voters with disabilities, and we addressed issues that still need work. One key issue we identified is the lack of advertisement of accommodations that voters are entitled to, specifically curbside voting, which permits individuals to vote without leaving their vehicle. It is one thing to have accommodations available, it is another thing to ensure that voters with disabilities know that the accommodations exist and how to access them. CILO will continue to work with local Boards of Elections to improve the voting experience for disabled people and promote accessibility as a main priority.

To watch a recording of the training, which includes an ASL interpreter, use this link: Voting with a Disability Self Advocacy at the Polls Meeting Recording 11 2 23 TRIMMED - YouTube (


Disability Q-mmunity: Where Disability and LGBTQ+ Pride Align

CILO is starting a support group and community task force for LGBTQ+ individuals with disabilities in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. Our kickoff meeting will provide an overview of CILO and allow you an opportunity to share feedback on how you would like Disability Q-mmunity to function in terms of peer support and advocacy efforts.

The kickoff event will be hosted on December 12th, 2023, at Treehouse Cincinnati’s location at the Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church.

Please fill out this Google Form or contact Dee Henry directly by email to register for the kickoff and to be notified when we have chosen the start time of the event.

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