April 19, 2016
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update

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Hello.  I hope you had a wonderful weekend and Patriots Day.  

In the editorial this week, I write about what I see as an emerging threat against the Americans with Disabilities Act.   

The calendar has two upcoming events, at the State House, supporting the rights of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.  There's item about a big victory for the blind community and Netflix.  There's  a story which could portend badly for people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid,

As always  good reading.

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
Editorial: "Religious Liberty" Is a Threat to Disability Rights

I was at a Red Sox game a long time ago.  A woman smiled and said, "If you prayed more you could walk."  The statement was delivered in such a matter of fact manner, it was as if she was telling me the time.  Unfortunately, this would not be the last time someone tried to "heal me" and remove my need for a wheelchair.

Recently, I have thought about this event as I watched the spread of "religious liberty" proposals being presented in various state legislatures.  While the current proposals have theoretically targeted individuals who are transgendered, they represent a profound threat to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and disability rights. 

The "religious liberty" bills, that have passed or been proposed, have not required any proof of one's belief system.  Only a statement that serving someone violates their private code of ethics.  These laws allow the business owner or public official to override public accommodation laws.  It is key to remember that public accommodation laws came about because of segregated businesses and public services.  In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.

When Congress passed the ADA in 1990, they relied on the concept of public accommodations as the entire basis of Title III, and for much of Title II, government services.  If religious liberty is allowed to trump public accommodations then all of Title III of the ADA will not be worth the paper on which it is written.  Prior to this wave of zealotry, the primary threat to the ADA appeared to be "libertarians", like Rand Paul, who protest telling businesses whom they must serve or allow into their shops.

This new wave is far more insidious and dangerous.

Remember, religious organizations are already exempt from the ADA.  Under a recent federal court ruling religious schools are now exempt from the ADA and serving children with disabilities.  But, the latest wave of laws is not about churches or religious groups.  They are about private businesses and public services

How long will it be before someone claims they don't want to build a ramp, because they believe people with disabilities should walk?  Or denying service to someone who has seizures because they are possessed by the devil?  Or serving food to someone with AIDS because it could infect them?

Rest assured the ADA is about to be confronted with a major threat to its very existence.  It is arriving in sheep's clothing.  It is couched as a minor correction to a Supreme Court that overreached.  It is a well cloaked, destructive force.


John Winske
Calendar: REV UP! 
Register! Educate! Vote!

When:  Wednesday, April 27, 2016,  10:00 am - 3:30 pm

Where:  Suffolk University Law School,  Sergeant Hall Function Room, 1st floor, 120 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108

Join us for an Election Assistance Commission Public Meeting followed by a REV UP Strategy Meeting

2016 is a national election year. The goal of this meeting is the creation of a strategy on how to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated on the candidates and issues, and to the polls on Election Day, November 8, 2016.

Register by April 20, 2016

Register Online, or contact Amanda if you have any questions.

mail@dlc-ma.org or 617-723-8455 x 123
Calendar: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Constituent Day 

When:  Thursday, April 28, 2016, 10:00 A.M. - Noon

Where:  Massachusetts State House

Awards for Outstanding Advocate, Organization and Service Providers, legislators who have supported the D/HH community will be recognized. 

Hosted by the MCDHH Statewide Advisory Council of the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Calendar:  Deaf Grassroots Movement National Deaf Rally

When:  Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 9:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M.

Where: Massachusetts State House

The Deaf Grassroots Movement of Massachusetts (DGM-MA) will join a nationwide effort to raise awareness and increase political pressure to address the inequality and injustice that Deaf people continue to face. DGM-MA is hosting a "National Deaf Rally" on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 from 9AM - 4PM.

For the first time, community activists, advocates and allies from across the nation will gather together at the State House and adjoining Boston Commons. Last year Deaf activists and allies held a National Deaf Rally in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. on Labor Day weekend. This year's event in Boston will be similar and focus on educating the public about:

a) The need to provide American Sign Language (ASL) access and resources to Deaf, Deafblind, Hard of Hearing infants with multiple needs from birth to age five and their families to prevent language deprivation. This type of education encourages lifetime skills in both English literacy and ASL mastery.

b) The need for equal employment opportunities and the prevention of workplace discrimination against Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing people.

c) The need for qualified American Sign Language (ASL), certified Deaf interpreters (CDI) and Deafblind interpreters to provide equal communication access. The increasing use of video remote interpreting (VRI) and video relay services (VRS) with unqualified interpreters in situations when it is entirely inappropriate and even dangerous, such as in hospitals, is a civil rights issue.

d) The need for improved mental health and substance abuse services to support Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing individuals, statewide and nationally.

DGM-MA deeply appreciates the resources and services by the agencies currently serving the Deaf community in this state. However, these agencies are severely underfunded, and more advocacy work and education is needed to support them.

The rally will include cultural information and feature American Sign Language stories, poetry, and games to represent the overall Deaf community life and convey its strengths and struggles.

Contact Information:

Cheryl M. Quintal at CMQuintal@gmail.com
Patrick "Pax" McCarthy at infodgmma@gmail.com

Deaf Grassroots Movement Website: http://www.tdgm2015.org/
Calendar:  World Premiere Screening of "Healing Voices"

When:  Friday, April 29, 2016,  Noon - 4:00 p.m.

Where:  The Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138

You are invited to be a part of the grass roots, non-theatrical release of HEALING VOICES, a social action documentary that asks the question: What are we talking about when we talk about 'mental illness'.

Doors open at 12:00 pm for a light lunch
Screening starts promptly at 1:00 pm

Following the movie there will be a discussion about the
role of peers with:

Robert Rousseau, M.Div., MA, CPS
Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator,  Senior WHAM Trainer,  CCAR Trained Recovery Coach TOT and  Director of Peer Recovery Services,   FHR, Inc.

 ** This event is free and open to the public but space is limited. You must RSVP to attend this event **  

Please Note:  Out of consideration for people with environmental illness and/or multiple chemical sensitivity, please refrain from using perfume or other scented products.
 
RSVP and request accommodations by April 22, 2016
CART will be provided

Register Online, or contact Amanda if you have any questions at   mail@dlc-ma.org or 617-723-8455 x 123

Presented by The Disability Law Center, in collaboration with The Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities and Digital Eyes Film
Advocacy Victory : Netflix to Enhance Access for Customers Who Are Blind
  
In a first-of-its-kind settlement, advocates for people who are blind have reached an agreement with Netflix to make accessible the movies and videos offered through the Netflix video streaming and DVD rental subscriptions. The settlement provides that Netflix will make its video content accessible by adding a new technology called "audio description" as a feature that blind customers can activate so they can more fully understand and enjoy the movie and video experience.

The settlement was reached between Netflix and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). The Massachusetts-based Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) and Robert Baran, an individual who is blind, were also parties to the settlement. These blind advocacy organizations and Mr. Baran were represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national non-profit legal center.

Netflix provides one of the nation's most popular online streaming and DVD rental services, offering convenient and affordable video entertainment, including original content, to millions of Americans.

Under the agreement, Netflix will provide audio description for many popular titles in its streaming and disc rental libraries. Audio description technology lets blind people know what is happening in scenes without dialogue or scenes with significant visual elements via an audio description track that contains narration of the visual elements that is synchronized with the show or movie. Television and movie studios will create the audio description tracks and provide them to Netflix. Without audio description, blind individuals do not know what is happening in scenes without dialogue and can misinterpret the meaning of other scenes. Under the settlement, Netflix will also provide audio description for the "Netflix Original" shows that Netflix has begun distributing such as "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black."

Under the agreement, Netflix will also make its website and mobile applications accessible to individuals who are blind and use screen-reading software to navigate websites and apps. Screen-reading software is an interface between people who are blind or low vision and computers and/or mobile applications. The software creates an audio version of text and images that appear on a screen that it reads aloud to a user. The user then controls the computer or mobile device by pressing keys or tapping on a mobile application. With the changes Netflix is making, users who are blind or low vision will be able to independently use the Netflix website and mobile applications.

This agreement is the first-of-its-kind to provide screen-reader and audio access to users who are blind or low vision. These improvements will provide people who are blind or low vision with unparalleled access to online video entertainment services currently enjoyed by millions of Americans. Millions of Americans identify as having a visual disability.

Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind, commented, "We applaud Netflix for working with us to enhance access to its services for people who are blind. Our goal is to expand the availability of Netflix's services to the blind community and to increase the availability of audio described film and television programming. Movies and television are a central pillar of American culture. As television and movies are increasingly delivered through streaming and home delivery services, ensuring that the blind community receives access to this content is critical to ensure that people who are blind are integrated into modern society."

Attorney Rebecca Williford of Disability Rights Advocates explains, "This is a great example of technology promoting greater accessibility and inclusiveness for people with disabilities. We hope that the outcome of our collaboration with Netflix will serve as a model for others in the online video entertainment industry."

A copy of the settlement agreement is available at www.dralegal.org.
Net News:  Bill Seeks Social Security Benefit for Caregivers

My best friend and PCA Liz is always reminding me that as caregivers, women are often punished with lower Social Security benefits when they retire.  Now some relief may be on the way.  The Disability Scoop is reporting that under a proposed "Social Security Caregiver Credit Act"  people who leave jobs or limit their hours to care for a relative would be able to continue accruing credits with Social Security.   You can read more here.
Net News: New Policy for Children's Affects Poor Children

In what could be a prelude of things to come for people with disabilities in the Commonwealth, the Boston Globe reported this week how many networks or Accountable Care Organizations (ACO's) are cutting off access for children on MassHealth to Children's Hospital.  As MassHealth rolls out ACO's for all recipients over the next couple of years, one of the big questions is "Will people have access to their specialists if they are not part of the network?"  The need to control cost may mean that ACO's may require people to only see providers in their controlled networks.  You can read more here.
Net News: A Phone for Your Emergency Preparedness Kit 

The DPC has been a big proponent of people with disabilities having a "Go Kit" for emergencies.  A kit is a bag which has all of your supplies, medicines and other materials needed for three days if you had to leave your home because of a natural disaster or other event.  Now comes word of a cell phone that runs on two AA batteries and cost only $59.99.  The annual service charge is only $25 per year.  Certainly a good item to keep in a bag in case you needed it.   You can read about it here. 
In This Issue
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