Your monthly news & updates
A note from Matt....
I hope everyone is safe during this time. Unfortunately, the pandemic is the most dangerous to many people who live with disabilities. As such, it is important to be tested and stay home; and for those who are not at-risk, take precautions and wear masks for those who may be at risk. In South Florida, we have fought to ensure that persons with disabilities and seniors without transportation can be tested at home. If you have a disability and cannot travel to a testing area, the following are numbers to call to get at-home testing:

Miami-Dade - 305-499-8767

Broward - 954-357-9500

Palm Beach - 561-712-6400

If you have a disability, and cannot get county services because of your disability, please call us, and we can try to help.
matt and lucy the dog on the floor with lucy kissing matt
Disability Stigma to be argued at the Florida Supreme Court
photo of the supreme court of florida looking at the entrance
On June 4, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on changes to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, and these arguments will be presented live on Facebook and will be captioned.

Since 1986, the Florida Bar rules maintained two classes of membership for practicing attorneys, the first is a membership in good standing, and the other is a conditional membership for attorneys with a “prior history of drug, alcohol, or psychological problems” who are subject to “conditions of probation.”  The identities of those who are subject to this second class membership, and the contents of their conditions of probation are confidential, and not subject to disclosure to employers or the public; nonetheless, the fact that these lawyers have a past (or current) disability categorized as a quasi-criminal condition that subjects them to a probationary status is demeaning and entirely unnecessary. Second class membership unequivocally connotes inferiority and probation also carries of stigma of punishment for bad acts. Members of the Florida Bar submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Florida to abolish this rule, and create a separate rule that allows the Supreme Court to regulate the admission of lawyers who have a current substance abuse disorder or mental illness that may put the public at risk. Matthew W. Dietz of Disability Independence Group, drafted the petitioner’s brief on behalf of the petitioners. Arguing with Matt Dietz will be two members of the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors, Wayne LaRue Smith, and Ron Ponzoli, with personal stories of the effects of these rules, as well as counsel from the Florida Bar.

Validity of local human rights ordinance to be argued at the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Orlando

On June 15, 2020, the Fifth District Court of Appeal will hear Yanes v. OC Food & Beverage LLC, a case which will decide whether local anti-discrimination ordinances are valid in light of the Florida Civil Rights Act. In Florida, there are state and federal protections against discrimination against persons because of their race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. However, over 25 counties and municipalities have expanded these protections to include protected statuses such as source of income, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran’s status, and victims of domestic violence. Additionally, these ordinances also provide additional remedies, such as expanding the type of facility that such protections would apply to and creating an immediate remedy for violations.

In this case, Ms. Yanes and Ms. Smith wanted to go to a gentlemen’s club in Orlando named Rachels, and were told that they could not enter into the facility because they were not accompanied by a gentleman. It was based upon conceptions that women who were not accompanied by men at these facilities are prostitutes. Ms. Yanes and Ms. Smith sued under the local, Orange County, anti-discrimination ordinance to immediately stop this practice. The circuit court found that the local ordinances enacted by the county commissioners of Orange County were preempted by the Florida Civil Rights Act.

Matthew Dietz will be arguing the case on behalf of Ms. Yanes and Ms. Smith. In addition to many municipalities that filed friend of the court (amicus curiae) briefs, Equality Florida, the Impact Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Anti-Defamation League, the ACLU of Florida, Freedom for All Americans, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, League of Women Voters of Florida, Legal Aid at Work, and the Zebra Coalition filed an amicus curiae brief because of the importance of these ordinances to all Floridians.
Out and About with DIG
FIU Embrace Training - SSDI Benefits
May 30, 2020
Virtual Training

Supper Social Club
June 1, 2020
Virtual - Meeting with Commissioner Levine Cava

FIU Embrace Training - COVID-19 Update
June 6, 2020
Virtual Training

Family Cafe - ATVFL
June 8, 2020
Virtual Training

AAPD- Power: The Disability Vote
June 22-23, 2020
Virtual Event

DIG in the News
Pictures
a rooster sitting out in front of the office gate at DIG.
Meet Ron the new guard rooster at DIG.
screenshot of an ipad showing square boxes of zoom participants.
The daily DIG 4pm office meetings by zoom.
DIG in! for Equal Justice.
It is that time of the year when attorneys must strive to satisfy their professional responsibility to provide pro bono service. We are hoping that this year you will
DIG in! for Equal Justice and make at least a $350.00 contribution to:


This will satisfy your responsibility and help us continue to: 


Guaranty   the rights of all persons with disabilities equal opportunity to live in the community by educating and advocating for their rights.

Fight   discrimination in employment against persons with disabilities, and work with employers and governments to ensure that persons with disabilities have adequate job opportunities.

Ensure   that persons with disabilities have safe interactions with law enforcement through  The WALLET CARD PROJECT   .  This is DIG’s signature efforts in conjunction with police departments to heighten the awareness and communication between law enforcement and people with disabilities.    


Your  $350.00   or more contribution will satisfy The Florida Bar Rules of Professional Responsibility to provide pro bono legal services.

Please make you tax deductible donation using this  link   ,

or mail a check to: 
Disability Independence Group Inc.
2990 SW 35 Avenue    
Miami, FL 33133    
Miami Inclusion Alliance (MIA)
Miami Inclusion Alliance is a unique collaboration that contains four partners, DIG, MUJER, Dade Legal Aid and Miami-Dade County’s Family Justice Center called CVAC. We have been working at the intersection of abuse and disability since 2015. Our success has been significant and I attribute that to the fact that this is a TRUE collaboration. Successful collaboration does not come easy and I want to share with you some of the key factors that contribute to a successful collaboration.
I want to share this information with you now, because I believe we are seeing the need for, the challenges to, and yet the power of, successful collaboration as we navigate this unique moment in time.

Here are seven Key Factors:

A SHARED UNDERSTANDING, VALUES, AND VISION- recognizing differences and then finding common ground is the bedrock to developing a shared vision

APPROPRIATE CROSS-SECTION OF MEMBERS- you need many different voices, expertise and influence to be successful.

INVOLVEMENT OF STAFF AT ALL LEVELS OF THE ORGANIZATION- this ensures acceptance and support.

CLEAR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES- so all can know their role and can held accountable.

OPEN AND FREQUENT COMMUNICATION- this prevents misunderstanding, builds relationships and ensures everyone is on the same page.

CLEAR DECISION-MAKING AUTHORITY AND PROCESS- we used the consensus model to reach decisions and it is highly recommended for a successful collaboration.

MUTUAL RESPECT, UNDERSTANDING, AND TRUST- this is the most important factor to a successful collaboration. Open and honest discussions lead to successful outcomes.

The Miami Inclusion Alliance incorporated all 7 factors in our work and I believe it has led us to greater success.

If you would like to receive more information please contact me at sharon@justdigit.org
The View from Here
I don’t think of the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” – Anne Frank

Self-isolation officially began for me around St. Patrick’s Day. In mid-March I chose to stop going to physical therapy and I chose to stop having my physical therapist come to our home three days a week. I cancelled dinner plans with my friends and lunch plans with my Mom and Dad. I chose to stay home, as many of us did, due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus. They were difficult decisions to make, but for those of us living with a disability, we have been here before. And for many of us, this life of isolation during the spread of the Coronavirus isn’t so different from our life before we had ever heard the words COVID-19.

I’ve heard and read a lot of this lately, “ We are all in the same boat. ” I don’t think this is even remotely true. We may all, currently, be weathering the same storm, but we are all certainly not in the same boat. For some, the past few months have been a positive time spent with family, away from the hustle and bustle of real life. For others, however, this has been a difficult time of loneliness and isolation from the outside world.

For someone like me, living with a disability, it reminds me of the isolation I felt when I first came home from the hospital after my spinal cord injury. The first few months I was home, I didn’t have a wheelchair ramp yet to exit and enter my home; I didn’t have hand controls yet in my car to drive on my own. I had no idea there was a life for me outside of this house living with a disability. I couldn’t even go out to the mailbox because of the steps outside of my front door. As many of us are now, I was stuck inside my home.

I’m reminded, now, of the ways I tried to stay positive while being so isolated. Finding a daily routine became the most important thing. I incorporated exercise into my daily routine, first just from my wheelchair, then, once I got a standing frame, I was able to safely exercise standing. It helped me to set goals for myself, for that day, for the upcoming week or month. It gave me purpose, which in turn, helped me stay positive. Now that I’m once again isolated, I’ve reverted back to a lot of those routines I developed when I first came home from the hospital. It’s a familiar feeling and I’m grateful that I’ve been here before and learned the lessons I did back then. I can only hope that sharing some of this with you, will help those who may be living in isolation every day, with or without the fear of the Coronavirus. 

As the world begins to re-open this week, we will each emerge in our own time, having weathered the storm in much different ways over the past few months. After all of this is all said and done, I hope that we all come out of this with a more heightened understanding and appreciation for each other’s separate journeys, realizing that we are not alone, even if we are in isolation.

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” – Anne Frank
Head shot of Justine
Benefits Information
WIPA program and 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?
Community Work Incentives Coordinators, CWICs, address employment barriers by educating beneficiaries and their advocates/professionals and supporting the various federal and state work incentives
      Counseling beneficiaries to understand in their individual situation
       SSA benefits
       Healthcare
       Housing and work incentives
       Other federal and state benefits and incentives

Community Work incentives Coordinator can provide thorough, timely and accurate information, a variety of benefit scenarios, and facilitate the beneficiary to make informed choices about work, benefits, and financial stability and as a result the SSA beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities will be able to:
      Develop economic security and the ability to support oneself and/or family
      Develop assets and achieve financial goals and
      Achieve a higher socioeconomic status

If you are one of the many SSDI or SSI disability beneficiaries who want to work, a WIPA project can help you understand the employment supports that are available to you and enable you to make informed choices about work and achieving financial independence. For additional questions please call your local WIPA project at 305 453 3491.
head shot of Lesly
Lucy is learning how to attend Zoom Meetings. She is still not sure she likes them.....
Lucy with a sign in her mouth that says all guests must be approved by the dog.
lucy the dog standing on the conference room table with her head tilted looking at the tv.
Lucy trying to find the rest of the person behind the television.
lucy the dog fast asleep on the conference room table.
Lucy tired of all the zoom meetings.
We are still accepting wallet card applications however, we will not send the wallet cards out until our office is open again.
The Wallet Card Project
The wallet card is a tool to be used by a teenager or an adult with a disability. Currently, we have developed cards for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Intellectual Disabilities.
ATVFL
Access The Vote Florida
Meetings will be every Friday at 11am.

CALL-IN INFORMATION
 
Toll Free Call: (888) 585-9008
 
Conference Room No.: 133-116-452(#)
Educational Information
If you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, uncertain, stressed or anxious, you are not alone. I promise. For those of us with school aged children, this time can best be described as challenging. Things are very uncertain. Will schools reopen in the fall? Will there be summer programs? Is my child falling behind since schools closed? Are my children, mentally, doing ok? Am I ok? Am I failing my children? Am I doing enough? Now imagine, you have a child with a disability. Parents of children with disabilities always have additional challenges. It is just normal for them to be creative and problem solvers and in my humble opinion, warrior parents. So, during this time, it is not surprising that parents with children with disabilities have been asked to carry the heaviest load. This is much being asked of parents who are engaged in “distance learning” i.e. teaching their children at home with little to no support from the school districts. This is exponentially true for families with children with disabilities who normally rely on the school districts to provide support to educate their children. Without these supports, all families are struggling to find a new normal. This is especially true for students with disabilities. I recently read an article that captured my feelings perfectly. It was a blog post by Julie Lythcott-Haims. I do not know Julie and I am not sure how I was added to her listserv, but this is what she wrote and it has stuck with me ever since I read it. She writes:  

A few days ago, I almost cried while on a Zoom call with other authors of parenting books. One spoke of teachers who are at their breaking point. Another said parents are threatening to pull kids out of school rather than go forward with virtual learning. A third talked about K-12 schools being forced to make excruciating fiscal decisions. I’m not an economist, but I don’t think you have to be one to appreciate how every variable within the economy is interdependent and how millions of individual decisions lead to macro consequences. Not gonna lie to you—I am worried about what is going to happen to our economy and to our schools. I said as much to these fellow experts. Everyone nodded. Then everyone lingered in silence. One said  It’s hard to be counted on to offer advice to others while being so unsure ourselves.  More nods and silence. It was long past time to end the call, but we didn’t want to let go of each other. 

We are all feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. Whether you are a parent or a professional or both we are all being required to give advice, provide support and have the answers in these uncertain times. So, I will say again and again that you are not alone. No one, and I mean no one, has the answers. I have been looking. There is no one right thing, one right way or one best practice. It is ok if you do not have all the answers. It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to be human.  
head of stephanie langer holding a business file and wearing a black and white polkadot shirt.
Supper Social Club - CANCELLED
black rectangle box outlined with a yellow line and the words Supper social club in the box in white
Your Upward Journey
The cover of the book Your Upward Journey by Patricia Bochi
In a nutshell, Your Upward Journey:

It is Easier Than You Think!, a three-part project (book, self-help seminars and merchandise sale).