April 29, 2019
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update

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I received many emails this week about my tribute to Denise Karuth.  Thank you so much for the outpouring of support and sympathy. You can learn more about Denise in  her obituary in the Boston Globe here.  

In this week's editorial, I ask if the Baker Administration is starting to chip away at our civil rights.

We have a new group of events in our calendar section and a warning about utility vendors.
 
Until next week, happy reading. 

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
DPC Editorial: Is the Baker Administration Obstructing Our Civil Rights?

Governor Baker is very popular in Massachusetts.  His record has been one of a moderate on social issues, while remaining conservative on fiscal issues.  Thus far it has been a winning combination and it has not negatively impacted our community too much.  But now there is smoke from burning embers in the arena of our civil rights.

Before his death, Tom Hopkins was engaged in a battle to issue new Architectural Access Board (AAB) regulations.  The Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) has been hindering the release of the regulations which took more than seven years to develop.   Governor Baker has quietly rolled back many regulations and instructed all agencies not to issue new ones.

Since Tom's passing, there has been a battle behind the scenes between advocates and the DPL leadership on the appointment of Tom's replacement.  Advocates and members of the AAB believe that the Board has the responsibility of hiring the next Executive Director.  DPL has insisted they hold the right to choose the next Executive Director of the AAB.

Last week, the AAB refused an offer to appoint two members of the search committee when they learned that the committee would have five members.  Thus the Board members would have been in the minority.  Without an empowered Access Board and a highly qualified Executive Director our civil rights could be eviscerated. 

On another front this week, the Massport Board of Directors, with the Governor's blessing voted to force Uber and Lyft to drop off and pick up passengers from a location in the central garage, rather than curbside.  The Board voted, for now, to allow curbside service in the early morning hours between 4 A.M. and 10 A.M.  The Board also voted to work with a cross-disability advocates to develop rules exempting people with disabilities.  Working with us after the decision has been made is a throw back to the pre-ADA days.  About Us, By Us means we are at the table when the policy is made not when the die has been cast.

This clumsy policy development means airport staff, most likely State Police Officers will be deciding who has to traipse up to a half a mile through the airport unaided, and who has the privilege of being served curbside.  Police are traditionally poorly equipped to judge who has a disability and who does not.  This is especially true when diagnosing hidden disabilities like epilepsy, heart conditions, strokes and arthritis.  This policy would seem to violate the ADA on it's face and almost certainly in it's implementation.

There may not be flames visible yet, but our civil rights are beginning to feel like they are in serious jeopardy. 

John Winske
Net News:  In Tennessee "A Budget that Does What Conservatives Do."
  
According to the Nashville Tennessean the Tennessee House had voted to fully fund at $27 million the Katie Beckett waiver program, which covers medical treatment for children with severe disabilities to live with their families.  Tennessee is the last state in the country to adopt the Medicaid program, which was developed in 1982.  However, the State Senate allocated only $15.6 million to cover roughly 300 of the 3,300 children who could benefit from the program.

Instead of covering the full cost, "The Senate is calling for $23.4 million in cuts to the state's professional privilege tax, reducing from $400 to $300 the annual fee paid by doctors, lawyers, engineers, lobbyists and individuals in a number of other professions."

"Speaking to reporters Thursday, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally described it as "'a budget that does what conservatives do.""  Gotta love family values!
Community News:  Warning About Utility Supply Companies

The following information is from GBLS Attorney, Alexa Rosenbloom. We are sharing this important info with you to help you give the low-income families and individuals you work with a heads up. 

See also 4/13/19 Boston Globe Yvonne Abraham column which underscores this scam!
______________________________

If any energy company representative calls your client, shows up at their door, or approaches them in a store parking lot offering to save them money on gas and electric bills, strongly urge your client to turn them away.

In 1997 the state deregulated the electric utility market and allowed for a competitive supply. The traditional utility companies-National Grid, Eversource, Unitil, still deliver the electricity and send out bills but the supplier can be another company (known as a competitive energy supply company or CES). Examples of such companies are SFE Energy, Provider Power, and Xoom Energy, among many others.

While competition sounds like a good thing, in reality it has not been. As the AG's office has found, Massachusetts consumers in the competitive supply market paid $176.8 million more than they would have paid if they had received electric supply from their electric company during the two-year period from July 2015 to June 2017. Moreover, low-income customers make up a disproportionately large share of the competitive supply market and have lost even more from competitive supply than other consumers.

Not only are low-income customers losing more from this industry, they are being targeted along with people of color and immigrants. The CES companies are using aggressive and deceptive sales tactics to sign up these individuals, sometimes without their even knowing so. For example, they are going door-to-door and pressuring vulnerable consumers into contracts based on misinformation and false promises of lower prices. Worse, they are making it extremely (and expensive) for consumers to get out of their contracts.

Please make sure the individuals and families you work with are on the lookout for unscrupulous solicitors.

If someone comes to an individual or family's door asking to look at their utility bill, they are almost definitely from an alternative supplier rather than from a traditional utility company and your clients should be very wary.

Households that think they may already have been switched should look at their bill (it'll have a spot where it lists a customer's supplier) or contact their utility company to ask. If you learn of any low income households who have been affected in any way by this industry (pressured to switch, have switched, etc.), you can take the following steps:

· Refer the family or individual to Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), which is currently open to taking cases in their service area. Call GBLS' main number: 617-371-1234

· If outside of the GBLS main service area, have the family or individual contact your local Legal Services or call the Department of Public Utilities: DPU's main number is (617) 305-3500

For more information (but not for direct client referral), contact Alexa at: ARosenbloom@gbls.org.

Patricia Baker
pbaker@mlri.org
@PatMLRI (follow me!)
Mass Law Reform Institute
Direct Line: 857-241-1728
Fax Line: 617-357-0777
Calendar: Abuse at Fernald, the MetFern Cemetery Presented by Students From Gann Academy 

When:  Monday, April 29, 2019, 7:00 - 9:00 P.M.

Where:  Price Center, 27 Christina Street, Newton Highlands   ( near the corners of Needham, Oak and Christina Streets, enter the building from the parking lot on Christina Street)

The Metro Regional Citizen's Advisory Council of the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services
invites the public to attend a presentation by students of Gann Academy, Waltham.

The Gann Academy 11th grade US History students have dedicated their year to learning about and teaching others about the community of people that lived in the Fernald School, the Met State Hospital and were buried in the MetFern Cemetery in Waltham. Our goal is to try to understand how institutions like the Fernald School could have been built and to think more clearly about how we can be a more inclusive society. 

We then are going to share our learnings with the broader community with new wayside markers at the MetFern Cemetery and with a book that commemorates and honors the lives of the people who are buried there.

We urge you to attend to learn how people with disabilities were abused and disrespected through the years and fortunately how current attitudes have changed to promoting independence and self-fulfillment and quality care for those who have disabilities. Hear how this group of students has changed the ultimate disrespect to several hundred individuals from two state institutions.

Come to honor these students and their accomplishments.

Please share this invitation with all individuals and groups whom you think might be interested.

More about the program can be found here.
Calendar:  Tenth Annual Diversity Job Fair

When:  Thursday, May 16, 2019, 11:00 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.

Where:  Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA  02476

The Town of Arlington's Commission on Disability and
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

Invite you to join us.

COME AND MEET WITH EMPLOYERS!
Museum of Science, CVS, Kayem Foods, State Of Mass Human Resources, MASS DOT/MBTA, RHD, ACE Employment, Enterprise Rental Car, Cambridge Health Alliance, Goodwill, VPNE PARKING, McLean Hospital, MassPort, Maximus, New York Life, Partners Healthcare, Perkins School for the Blind, Allied Universal, Enterprise Rental Car, International Shoppes
AND MANY MORE!

Parking Information

On-street parking is available in the front of Town Hall on Massachusetts Avenue and on Academy Street (which borders the Town Hall).

If you need an interpreter or an accommodation please contact Gregory.Ames@mrc.state.ma.us
Calendar:  My Ombudsman Program DeafBlind Information Sessions

Dates and Locations

1) May 21st at 1pm to 3:30pm - Center for Living and Working (CLW), 484 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608

2) May 23rd at 12:30pm to 3pm - DEAF, Inc., 215 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA 02134

3) May 29th at 10:00am-1:00pm - MRC 21 Spring Street, Unit 2, Taunton, MA 02780

4) May 31st 12:30pm - 3pm - Stavros ILC, 227 Berkshire Avenue, Springfield, MA 01109

Lori Siedman, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ombudsman, is coming to Taunton, Boston, Worcester and Springfield areas to share about the My Ombudsman program!

Please RSVP to Lori Siedman before Friday, May 10, 2019 if you are planning to attend so we can secure DeafBlind interpreters and/or CART for you!

To request DeafBlind interpreter or CART, please contact Lori Siedman at LSiedman@myombudsman.org or 339-224-6831 by Friday, May 10, 2019.
Calendar:  Community Training on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities 

When:  Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 1:00 P.M. - 2:30 P.M.

Where:  Boston City Hall,  5th Floor, Piemonte Room
One City Hall Sq,   Boston, MA 02201

The Boston disability community is invited to join the Boston Disability Commission and the Massachusetts Office on Disability for a training on preparing ahead of an emergency. Attendees will learn how they can personally prepare, how local agencies prepare, and will have the opportunity to meet and ask questions of local first responders.

The goal of this training is to ensure that people with disabilities are prepared in times of emergency.

Attendees will also receive an "Emergency Go Pack" with essential items that might be needed during an emergency.

This event is wheelchair accessible. ASL and CART available upon request.

For accommodation requests please contact Evan George at 617-979-7313 or RSVP online by May 7, 2019.

If you would like to attend, please pre-register for this training
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