Volume 03 | March 2018
Your monthly news & updates
A note from Matt....
While the national conversation has been debating whether gun control or mental illness is the cause for the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas H.S., we have completely left children with disabilities out of the conversation. What services are they receiving? How do we address the stigma that is going to be directed against them as potential threats?  
words written disability rights are civil rights.
A note from DIG....
Disability Independence Group is proud to welcome Stephanie Langer as part of our team. DIG is rolling out a comprehensive new range of services to holistically serve the legal needs of persons with disabilities. In the past four years, DIG has focused its efforts on encouraging opportunities for persons with disabilities by representation of victims of discrimination as well as providing training to ensure safe interactions between law enforcement and persons with disabilities. However, in doing so, we have found that many opportunities for persons with disabilities are limited by the lack of basic lack of knowledge of all of the services and opportunities that are available for persons with disabilities.  Stephanie will bring in new areas of practice to expand our efforts to assist persons with disabilities in areas such as education, social security disability, benefits, guardianships, guardianship alternatives, trusts and financial planning.

Stephanie brings a wealth of experience with her to DIG. She has been practicing law since 1998. She began her legal career in the Miami Dade County State Attorney’s Office as an Assistant State Attorney. Stephanie has been litigating education cases since 2006. Stephanie spent two years as a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center with a focus on education cases. In May of 2014, Stephanie opened Langer Law, P.A. focusing on education, guardianship, benefits appeals, special needs trusts and estate planning for families with children with disabilities. Stephanie is admitted to practice law in Florida, Georgia, New York and New Jersey. She is also permitted to appear in the U.S. District Court in Florida’s Southern and Middle Districts. Stephanie attended college at Syracuse University in New York (’90) and law school at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. (’98). Stephanie was also a U.S. Congressional Page for Congressman Claude Pepper in 1988, and selected to work for Senator Bill Bradley’s PAC, Participation 2000 in 1994.
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DIG's work in other's words...
This month, I am not submitting my own article, but would like to present two articles by others. One is about Arnaldo Rios-Soto, the other, about recent developments in assistance animal issues.

The first article is from Eric Garcia, and Autistic reporter who is a contributor at NOS magazine, a news and commentary source for thought and analysis about neurodiversity culture and representation. 

Eric’s article, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ARNALDO RIOS?, provides an update of Arnaldo’s status and difficulty in finding services in the community that meets his needs. UM/NSU Card director, Dr. Michael Allessandri, was quoted as stating that the “The national landscape as it pertains for people with disabilities broadly is very bleak.” Persons without comprehensive Medicaid waivers often do not have their needs met in the community setting. 

However, I am very happy to say that Arnaldo is doing very well in his new home in the Orlando area, and we look forward to continuing to ensure that his needs are met.

The second article was in The Intercept, an award-winning news organization dedicated to the kind of reporting those disclosures required: fearless, adversarial journalism entitled Donald Trump’s Civil Rights Office for Housing has found the real problem, Pets. Rachel M. Cohen tackled the issue that dogs the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development more than ensuring that the discrimination in housing is eradicated, and that your life’s opportunities should not be dictated by zip code – the abuse of emotional support animals in housing! While there is no end to the fakakta mishegoss at Ben Carson’s HUD, the results when it comes head-to-head with an emotional support peacock is pure feathery-fireworks!

Bottom line, mental illness is pervasive in society, and it’s a person with a disability’s prerogative to treat his or her disability as he or she deems appropriate. As I stated for the article, “As a society we treat medication, like Xanax or Prozac, as a more acceptable response to anxiety and depression, even though the costs are so much more and the efficacy may not be as much. .. Just as you wouldn’t ask someone, “Does your Prozac really help you?” — you shouldn’t be arguing with someone about if their dog really does provide them with mental and emotional support. The person with the disability should be the one in charge of their own health and the way they care for themselves. And as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else, an accommodation should be made.”

Yes, there is fraud, but do you really want to throw out the cat with the kitty litter?
Out and About with DIG

Supper Social Dinner
April 9, 2018, 6:30 pm
California Pizza Kitchen in Coral Gables

April 24-27, 2018
Tampa, FL

GAL Disabilities Training Conference
May 2-4, 2018
Orlando, FL

Supper Social Dinner
May 7, 2018, 6:30 pm
California Pizza Kitchen in Coral Gables

Family Cafe
June 15-17, 2018
Orlando, FL

DIG in the News

February 27, 2018, Teachers wanted Nikolas Cruz transferred to alternative school with mental health services, Brett Murphy and Maria Perez, Naples Daily News

March 6, 2018 - Bethesda settles lawsuit with deaf over use of remote interpreters, Jane Musgrave, Palm Beach Post

March 14, 2017, Whatever Happened to Arnaldo Rios, Eric Garcia, NOS Magazine

Yare, standing and holding a pink birthday cake with yellow flowers.
Happy Birthday Yare.
Lucy laying on the carpet wearing a blue and white flower Hawaiian shirt.
Lucy on a Friday afternoon at the office.
Lucy and Matt being interviewed by a reporter for a tv story.
Matt and Lucy being interviewed for a story about dogs.
Kids Crusaders Corner
Julie will be back soon.
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Miami Inclusion Alliance
S tart by Believing Day is celebrated every year. This is a day that provides an opportunity for communities across the country, and around the world, to unify with a single voice for those who have been the victims of sexual violence. The message is “ We hear you, and we are here to help “.

The hashtag is #StartbyBelieving

This new movement started in 2015, in Utah, when their state legislature established an annual event around this message. The movement asks that we all learn to support a victim and improve our professional and personal reactions when a victim needs our help.

When someone tells you they were raped or sexually assaulted, knowing how to respond is critical. A negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face no consequences for their crimes.

Start by Believing asks all of us to make a personal pledge to:

Start by believing when someone tells you they were raped or sexually assaulted
Support survivors on the road to justice and healing.

Help end the silence

Knowing what to say to a victim is very hard, so the movement offers the following suggestions to help you be supportive and let a victim know you believe them:

You might say:

“I’m sorry this happened, I am here for you.”

“You can tell me as much, or as little as you want.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“I’m glad you told me. I’m so proud of you.”
“What can I do to support you?”

“I can stay with you tonight. Would that help?”

“Do you want me to go with you to the hospital or police station?”

You notice there are no “why” questions.
Even with the best of intentions, “why” questions can sound accusatory and make survivors blame themselves.

This movement asks all of us the spread the word that sexual assault isn’t something anyone should go through alone and if you know a victim, listen to them and use the three little words that can make all the difference, “I believe you”.

 If you are interested in learning more go to www.StartbyBelieving.org.    
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If you are interested in volunteering please contact Sharon Langer at sharon@justdigit.org
Lucille's Wall
By: Lucy
DIGgin’ the Corporate Run
In last month’s newsletter I informed you that DIG was participating in the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run for the first time ever! In this month’s newsletter I am excited to announce that there will be seven people on DIG’s team.
The lineup, in no particular order, is as follows-
In the number one spot, we have the Team Captain and Executive Director of DIG, Debbie Dietz.

As the second member, we have DIG’s newest lawyer, Stephanie Langer.

Despite not having made an appearance in a newsletter in months, Lisa Goodman will be the third member of DIG’s team.

For the fourth member, we have DIG’s secret weapon, Yarelys Mirabal.
DIG’s newest advocate, Mercy Menjivar, will be the fifth member of DIG’s team.
She might be a part-time employee but Estefania Re is giving her full effort as the sixth member of DIG’s team.

Last, but certainty not least , Claudia Romero, DIG’s Intern, will be seventh member of this team.

Wish us luck! “Us” as in DIG because even though I have the privilege of writing about this I am not permitted to attend given that I do not provide a service to a companion.
Matt sitting at his desk with Lucy the dog.
Like our Facebook Pages
DIG Facebook Page - General DIG information
Deaf Alice Facebook Page - Issues related to the Deaf Community

Kids Crusaders Facebook Page - Issues related to medically fragile and medically complex children and their families

Animal Partners Facebook Page - Issues related to service animals and emotional support animals
Benefits Information
Lesly will be back next month.
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Education Information
Are you ready for your annual IEP meeting?

It’s that time of year again. Every spring, schools dust off your child’s cumulative folder and gear up to conduct their annual review of your child’s individualized education plan (IEP). Are you ready?
Districts are required to review a student’s IEP annually. While the plan can and should be reviewed more often, the law only requires that districts review the plan once year and invite the parents to this meeting. For most families this is the only time they get to speak to the IEP team. For some families, it is the only time they are hearing from the teachers and service providers regarding how their child is doing in school. 

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The View from Here
“They call me disabled. I called myself differently able.” – Muniba Mazari

I have recently been inspired by the LA Rollettes’ “Be Boundless” campaign. You may have seen it online. This group of beautiful ladies who dance, empower women and, oh yeah, all happen to be in wheelchairs, began their “Be Boundless” campaign after noticing how often they hear the term “wheelchair bound” and how they feel that they are anything but “bound” to their chairs. In their words, “ Our goals, dreams, aspirations and abilities reach far outside just what we can do while sitting in our chairs. We. Are. Boundless.”

I couldn’t agree with them more. I hate the term “wheelchair bound.” After everything I’ve been through, there really isn’t much that bothers me these days, except for when I hear that term. It makes my skin crawl. I hear it on the news, I read it in magazines, I see it on social media. “Wheelchair bound” evokes this image of someone who is tied to their chair, which definitely does not describe me or anyone I know. It also implies someone who is weak or restricted in some way. I have to tell you this couldn’t be further from the case. My wheelchair is the means by which I get around; it doesn’t define who I am and it certainly does not restrict me from living my life.

Head shot of Justine
The Wallet Card Project
The wallet card is a tool for young adults or adults to use when they come into contact with law enforcement; either a 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.

The Wallet Card Project is a collaboration with DIG, CGPD, and UM-NSU CARD.
Wheels & Heels
Lorinda will be back next month.
Lorinda in front of a cabinet in her home.
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Follow us on Twitter @dislaw
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Follow us on Twitter @justdigit
Shop Amazon Smile
When you shop Amazon Smile, you can support our organization.
Supper Social Club
Join us for dinner and conversation at California Pizza Kitchen in Coral Gables.

April 9, 2018, at 6:30pm

May 7, 2018, at 6:30pm

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Dragonfly Training
Watch out for our new training program called Dragonfly.

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Follow us on Instagram
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Your 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 a mugs, journals, etc.

Disability Independence Group | Phone: 305-669-2822 | Fax: 304-441-4181