October 23, 2017
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update


We have a crowded newsletter this week.  We have six news articles for your reading pleasure.  Interestingly, several of them revolve around big business and their increasing efforts to sell products and services to people with disabilities.  Not only sell their services and products but make them accessible.  What a concept.

What produces this change?  Many times it involves a family member or friend with a disability that helps increase the awareness of those around them.  Curiously, another article points out that some businesses still hold on to the old methods of fighting and run away from our business.  One other article makes us wonder if our currency will ever be accessible to people who are blind.  By the time the Treasury achieves accessibility we may be a cashless society. 
As always happy reading.

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
Net News:  New Film Being Produced by Chris Cooper and Marianne Leone Cooper at ReelAbilities

The Coopers had a son with cerebral palsy who passed away twelve years ago.  Because of their son, they understand that people with disabilities have real talents that are often ignored by society.  As a result, they are producing a new movie directed by Dan Habib, entitled "Intelligent Lives". The film will be one of the featured films this year at ReelAbilities: Boston.  You can see an interview with the Coopers here.
Net News:  Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing  

Clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger has released a new line of clothing called Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive.  It is interesting that at least two or three mainstream clothing companies have moved into production of adaptive products including Zappos and Nike.  You can see the Hilfiger products here.
Net News:  Microsoft CEO Discusses Son with Disabilities and Importance of Accessibility

In an insightful blog post on LinkedIn, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussed how his family's lives changed when his son was born with a disability.  He also discusses accessibility initiatives at Microsoft.  You can read it here.
Net News: Secretary DeVos Rescinds 72 Documents Outlining Rights of Disabled

In what can only be described as disconcerting, the Department of Education has rescinding 72 documents which provide guidance to school departments, across the country, on the rights of students with disabilities.  The Department described the documents as "being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective - 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)."    You can read about it here.
Net News:  Congressional Attacks on ADA Putting Internet Accessibility in Crosshairs

Advocates should recall that, on September 7, the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, legislation that would significantly impair the enforceability of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. H.R. 620 would require an individual with a disability who encounters an architectural barrier in any public accommodation -¬ places such as restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores, entertainment facilities, and more -¬ to give the owner of such establishment a technically precise written notice of the barrier encountered and at least six months to resolve the issue before proceeding with court action.

Disability rights advocates argue that H.R. 620 needlessly extends the quarter century worth of notice which facilities operators have had since the original implementation of the ADA and that the bill would unconscionably encourage operators to wait for a complaint before making facilities accessible rather than affirmatively ensuring accessibility as a matter of course.

The House has yet to bring H.R. 620 to the floor for a vote, and there has not been any formal Senate action taken or companion legislation introduced. However, while the language of H.R. 620 is currently restricted to architectural barriers, advocates fear that the legislation is poised to be expanded to include the ADA's applicability to the internet.

Advocates will remember that the Obama administration failed to make any meaningful progress on the issuance of federal regulations that would eliminate any doubt about the ADA's applicability to the internet, especially concerning online-only places of public accommodation and the specific technical standards that website operators should employ to ensure accessibility. Citing this regulatory vacuum, some California-based credit unions have been pressuring their congressional delegation to make a formal written request to the Trump administration to proceed with rule making. In response, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has recently been joined by a growing roster of members of the House in the transmittal of such a letter, while a Senate letter to the administration is still under consideration. Although advocates have been urging the issuance of unambiguous and strong regulations dealing with internet accessibility and the ADA for years, many advocates now fear that the current regulatory environment might yield incomplete, weak, or compromising rules that could set the cause of online access back dramatically.

Not content with simply stirring the regulatory pot with the aid of Congress, the Credit Union National Association most recently issued a formal written call to Congress itself urging law makers to expand the so-called ADA notification efforts currently in play on the Hill, and specifically H.R. 620, to address both architectural and cyber barriers. Advocates are very concerned that the current Congress may be fertile ground indeed for such appeals. A recent article outlining a number of credit union and web accessibility cases in Virginia may help explain how this issue has gained attention (see a link to the article below).

These dynamics have been playing out over a period in which the ADA generally seems to be increasingly under attack. One recent court case may breathe life into the notion that telephone access is a perfectly acceptable alternative for businesses to offer instead of internet accessibility (see a link to a blog post about this case below). Yet another recent court decision holding that a major movie theater chain must offer interpreter services to a deafblind patron is sparking plenty of vitriol from at least one commenter opining in Forbes magazine (see a link to the Forbes anti-ADA screed below).

However, prominent public figures are also weighing in with their own positive perspectives about the ADA and the dangers of weakening it (see the compelling piece penned by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) linked to below).

Advocates who have heretofore been dismissing the ADA notification efforts in Congress as only being relevant to those people with disabilities experiencing physical barriers would now do well to reevaluate and respond with renewed commitment to these evolving legislative dynamics. An attack on the ADA is an attack on all people with disabilities, regardless of the particulars, but in this instance, the potential risks to the vision loss community are unmistakable.

The message is simple: When reaching out to your House and Senate members, tell them to say NO to any effort to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act in any way, shape or form. Tell them that Congress needs to get to work on the myriad and very real challenges facing our country and that making it harder for people with disabilities to enforce their civil and human rights to live, learn, work and fully participate in American life is most assuredly not one of them. Tell them to oppose H.R. 620 and any other legislation that may emerge in the House or Senate that proposes to weaken or otherwise amend the ADA in any manner whatsoever.

To contact your House and Senate members, use the following links:
For further information, contact:
Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy, AFB
(202) 469-6833
Net News:  Audio of Appeal Court Arguments  Concerning U.S. Currency

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) presented oral arguments on the morning of October 19th before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.   The arguments are part of  ACB's appeal concerning a recent District Court ruling that upheld last year's determination by the Department of Treasury to push back the first accessible U.S. currency to 2026, almost double the anticipated projected time from when ACB won its case against the government in 2008. 

The hearing focused on concerns raised by the Department of Treasury's inability to provide an adequate solution that provides meaningful access within a reasonable timeline.
ACB will continue to update members on the progress of the current appeal before the Court.
Calendar: White Cane Safety Day at the State House

When:  Monday, October 23, 2017, 10:00 A.M. - Noon

Where:  Grand Hall, Massachusetts State House, Boston, 
24 Beacon St., Boston 02133 

Ride Drop drop off area at 126 Bowdoin St. 

October 15 is White Cane Safety Day. This year's State House celebration will take place on Monday, October 23, (see below for more details.)

Please Come to Celebrate
International White Cane Day
Celebrate the independence of white canes and raise public awareness of the White Cane Law!

Show Your Independence!

White Cane & Guide Dog Users Bring Family, Friends, Orientation & Mobility Specialists, Vision Professionals, and Others to raise White Cane Awareness!

For more information on this Celebration or to request an accommodation, contact the Orientation and Mobility, Department at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
617-626-7581 or 800-392-6450 x626-7581 before 10/10/17

Massachusetts White Cane Law: General Law Chapter 90 Section 14A Stop for White Cane and Dog Guide Users at Street Crossings-It's the LAW!
Calendar: Getting Involved in Local Government: An Interactive Workshop on Title II of the ADA

When:  Tuesday, October 24th, from 2 - 4 pm

Where:  Boston City Hall, 5th Floor 

This event aims to break down barriers that keep people with disabilities from participating in civic processes.

Some of the interactive activities will include:
* Register to vote
* Try out a voting booth
* Demo the the AUTOmark machine
* Learn ways to testify at a hearing
* Find your polling place
* Meet your City Councilor
* Speak to City Officials about disability concerns
* Apply to serve on a City Board or Commission
* And lots more!

This event is free and open to all, although it will be especially valuable for individuals with disabilities, elders, family members, transition-age youth (ages 18-24), disabled veterans, immigrants & new residents of Boston, professionals in the disability field, and anyone else who is involved with the disability community!

I'd like to ask you to send the attached flyer to your contact lists - we're hoping for a great turnout!

Thank you.

Commissioner Kristen McCosh
Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities
617.635.3682 (w)
617.635.2541 (tty)
617.635.2726 (fax)
Calendar:  World of Careers

When:  Thursday, November 16, 10:00 A.M. - 2:30 P.M.

Where:  District Hall, 75 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02210

Our Space Our Place and its partners are very excited to announce the World of Careers Workshop.

Cost: Free

This workshop is for students and adults with disabilities who want to know more about the types of jobs in the working world and who want to figure out how to use their interests and experiences to get a job.
Attend the World of Careers workshop and learn
  • About the many types of jobs which exists
  • Meet people working today and ask them questions about how they got their job and what they do every day at work and
  • Work together with others to find out how your interests and skills can assist you to find a job
Light breakfast and lunch will be available.

Please let us know about your accommodation needs by Thursday October 26, 2017

To get more information:
Call: (617) 459-4084
Email: President@ourspaceourplace.org
To register for World of Careers workshop

Reader's digest- Partners for Sight Foundation
Boston Center for Blind Children

Our Space Our Place, Inc.
Calendar: Award Winning Film Unrest

When:  Sunday, November 12, 2017, 2:00 - 4:30 P.M.

Where:   Regent Theatre,  7 Medford St., Arlington, MA

Sundance Film Festival and Boston Globe Award winning film Unrest.

Spread the word! Our organization is co-sponsoring an important film event on November 12th. We hope our members and their friends will attend. It's a select screening of UNREST, a Sundance Film Festival and Boston Globe award-winning love story about a mystery disease: ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). 

"When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down by a fever that leaves her bedridden, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story as she fights a disease that medicine forgot." The film is beautifully made, winning awards and addresses both women's issues and disability rights. Join us for the film UNREST on November 12, 2017, 2-4:30 pm, at the historic 500-seat Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington, MA.

"Riveting......equal parts medical mystery, science lesson, political advocacy primer and even a love story."
- The San Francisco Chronicle

Additional media attention for UNREST: NPR's Science Friday, Cosmopolitan magazine, the Today Show with Megyn Kelly, The New York Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and PBS's Tavis Smiley.

Film trailer here ( www.unrest.film/trailer)

Purchase tickets here 


Jennifer Brea is an active Harvard PhD student about to marry the love of her life when suddenly her body starts failing her. Hoping to shed light on her strange symptoms, Jennifer grabs a camera and films the darkest moments unfolding before her eyes as she is derailed by M.E. (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a mysterious illness some still believe is "all in your head." This film is an intimate, artful and unflinching look at severe chronic illness and, ultimately, a study on love and compassion. It invites scientists to ask new questions and medical providers to reflect on how they can best support patients and caregivers grappling with any lifelong illness for which there are no clear answers. 
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