April 8, 2019
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update


With record unemployment, it is now the time to invest in the employment for our community.  Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion about what is going on at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC).  Former Commissioner Carr discusses these issues in his latest blog.  While the Administration has committed millions in new funding for MRC, they also have instituted new restrictions without the usually well publicized public hearings.

There was a large media focus on accessible transportation this week.  United Airlines apparently needs a refresher on what Deaf means.  We also have a link to a remarkable editorial about philanthropy.  We will wait and watch for real change.  
Until next week, happy reading. 

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
DPC Guest Editorial:  The Changing Face of MRC  

Today we link to a blog post by former MRC Commissioner and current DPC Legislative Liaison Charles Carr.  You can read it here

We would note that as of now Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) has or has not implemented the Order of Selection, depending to whom advocates talk.  It is currently waiving the $1,000 spending cap if requested, but both policies remain on the books.

At a time of record low unemployment these policies are disturbing and short-sighted.  Now is the time to attack the large unemployment rate confronting our community.  These days $1,000 on employment training is laughable.  In 1980, MRC limited college students to $1,100 per semester, plus books.   According to http://www.in2013dollars.com/1980-dollars-in-2018, it would take $304 now to buy what $100 bought in 1980.  Let that sink in.

We are also highly disturbed that money is being sent from MRC to the former Career Centers.  They have had a disturbing history of not serving our community effectively.  
Community News:  Big Week for Accessible Transportation Stories

There were three, count 'em, three stories this week about accessible transportation.  So we are going to bunch them together.  

First, WBUR had a story Advocates Say MBTA Riders Need Accessibility Now Not Later.  It did a good job outlining the accessibility barriers which still need to be addressed.  It is also notable that the some of the advocates quoted were from Livable Streets and WalkBoston, groups not viewed as traditional "disability organizations".  This demonstrates that accessibility effects all of us.

The other two remaining articles examine on demand response transportation services such as Uber, Lyft and taxi service and expanding paratransit services.  According to the Boston Globe, "The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority on Monday announced a new program to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles that ride-hail companies have for passengers with disabilities who are eligible for the T's door-to-door service, the Ride."  You can read the story here .  Having used Uber's accessible vehicles on more than two dozen occasions for private trips, I can tell you service has been excellent with only a couple of minor slip-ups.

The DPC has long advocated expanding the usage of taxis and other private transportation options to enhance and improve paratransit services, and potentially lower the cost of these services.

Not to be outdone, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette had an article More Wheelchair-accessible Taxis Urged for Worcester.  The article featured a picture of and quotes from Easter Seal Vice President and DPC Treasurer Joe Bellil.  Despite being a city of nearly 200,000 people, Worcester lacks accessible transportation options.
Net News:  What Part of Deaf Don't You Understand

Picture of at least 10 airport workers with wheelchairs waiting at an airport gate.  Photo by Brendan Decker

A photo of 10 to 12 airport workers wearing blue shirts and dark vests with wheelchairs waiting at an airport gate with a United Airlines sign.  Photo by Brendan Decker on Facebook.  They are waiting for a Deaf track team arriving for the The 12th Berg/Seeger Track & Field Classic will be hosted by California School for the Deaf in Fremont on Saturday, April 6, 2019.  Really!!!
Community News:  MCDHH Announces Visor Card Project
The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) has announced the upcoming distribution of a visor card to assist Deaf motorists interactions with public safety officials.  You can see more here.
Net News:  Real Equity Means Including People with Disabilities in Philanthropy   

In a remarkable editorial in the Chronicle of Philanthropy Rich Besser CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Darren Walker, CEO of the Ford Foundation call for the inclusion of people with disabilities in foundation funding and works.  Foundations have come under criticism for not funding disability organizations.  You can read it here.
Calendar:  PCA Public Listening Sessions

MassHealth is hosting two public listening sessions on Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Program enhancements. 

Where Pittsfield Public Library, Berkshire Athenaeum - Auditorium, One Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield, MA 02101

When: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 10:00 A.M. - Noon

Where:   Springfield City Library, Mason Square Branch, Community Room, 765 State Street, Springfield, MA 01109

When: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 2:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M.

MassHealth is requesting advance registration for the Springfield session.

More information on the potential enhancement please see here.

Elise Emerson, MBA, MSW
Director of Policy and Program Development
Office of Long Term Services and Supports, MassHealth
Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Calendar:  Preserving the Right to Parent: Custody Issues for Survivors with Disabilities  

When:  April 16, 2019, 2:00 P.M. - 3:30 P.M. ET

About this Webinar

Survivors of domestic violence face barriers within the family court and child welfare systems. When a parent is a survivor with a disability, the odds of losing custody of their child(ren) increase exponentially. As of 2012, 35 states still listed disability as grounds for termination of parental rights even without evidence of abuse or neglect. This webinar will provide an overview of some of the unique difficulties survivors with disabilities may face in child custody and welfare cases - and provide suggestions for improvements to the system to ensure that survivors with disabilities are not separated from their children because of their disability.

Presenter:  Robyn Powell

Closed captioning and American Sign Language interpreting will be provided for all webinars in this series. Please note that these features are not available when using the Adobe Connect mobile application. 
Calendar:  Braille Exploration

When:  When: April 16, 18 and 19 2019, 10:00 A.M. - 2:00 P.M.

Location: TBA

For middle and high school students who are blind or low vision

Join Our Space Our Place, Inc. and add another tool to your Independence

Are you curious about Braille?

Have people told you that Braille is something you should learn?

Join this Braille Exploration program
  • Learn the alphabet
  • Learn the numbers
    • Learn Grade 1 Braille
    • Explore ways of using Braille in your everyday life
Taught by a certified TVI

Light breakfast and lunch provided.

To register:

Our Space Our Place, Inc.
Phone: (617) 459-4084
email president@ourspaceourplace.org
Calendar:  Webinar - Using an ABLE Account to Support Youth from Transition to Independent Living

Thursday, April 25, 2019 - 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. ET

An ABLE account offers an opportunity for qualified individuals with disabilities to save for a better life experience without jeopardizing means-tested benefits. The savings in an ABLE account may be used, tax-free, for a variety of qualified disability expenses (QDE), many of which are transition-related and may improve individual outcomes.

The purpose of this webinar is to educate individuals with disabilities, their families, providers and advocates on how establishing and using an ABLE account can provide options and choices to improve the life trajectory of transition age youth. This webinar will address:
  • How is "transition age youth" defined?
  • How is "transition" defined?
  • How can an ABLE account help?
  • Best practices to consider.

The webinar will be moderated by Miranda Kennedy, Director, ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC). Panelists include:

  • Marlene Ulisky, Disability Benefits Expert, ANRC
  • Transition age ABLE account owners
  • Parents of ABLE account owners 

In order to prepare for the webinar, we recommend that you review the following:

Register for this webinar.

Please note: Real-time captioning will be provided for this webinar. For other accommodation requests, questions about the webinar, or the registration process, please contact us at info@ablenrc.org.

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