Expanding Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

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Newsletter - Volume #2        February 2016
A Note from Matt ...
FEAR should never be a barrier to full community integration ---  At Disability Independence Group, we have been fighting in the Courts and the Florida Legislature to ensure that persons with disabilities are not victimized or bullied.  Our laws must be strong and inclusive, and enforcement must be comprehensive.  In this edition of our newsletter, we describe our efforts to expand protections against hate for persons with disabilities, our groundbreaking victory for Karl Hunt to stay in his home, the growth of The Wallet Card TM Project, and research into domestic violence in the community of persons with disabilities.  Thanks for your support in tearing down barriers and building bridges.
DIG in the News
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February 16, 2016 CBS4 - Paradise Lost? The Matheson Hammocks Park Battle
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featuredarticleLegislation: Fear should Not be a Barrier to Full Community Integration.

On August 18, 2015, Carl Starke, an Autistic man, was shot by three teenagers who were casing the Wal-Mart parking lot for cars to steal; they spotted Carl in the parking lot, and followed him home. They somehow noticed that he had a disability - he was marked as a "soft target". The plan was to steal his car, but when he arrived home at the condominium development where he lived with his mother, they shot him dead. [i] 
This week, the Florida Legislature is considering renaming a particular section of the hate-crime law to "Carl's Law" to memorialize Carl Starke. According to Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Johns) the law is being changed -to honor Carl's life and build awareness of Florida's increased penalties for crimes committed against people with disabilities to help prevent future tragedies.
House Bill 387, as drafted, is well meaning, but, it merely removes provisions on disability-based hate crimes from Florida's existing hate crimes law - §775.085 - and inserts this language into a new statutory provision. Disability Independence Group is opposing this bill because it fails to protect persons with disabilities and it continues time-worn stereotypes that persons with disabilities are all "incapacitated."

[i] The information about the life and tragic death of Carl Starke was obtained through news reports and his obituary.

  Click here to read more
Out and About with DIG
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4-1-16      Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, Baltimore, MD 
4-28-16      ABC's of Emotional Support Animals, Orlando, FL
9-9-16 ABC's of Emotional Support Animals, Tallahassee, FL
2016 DRBA West Coast Conference, Los Angeles, CA
DIG staff and interns sitting at the conference room table watched a video on Ed Roberts.
DIG lunch and learn 1-25-16
Matt and the other speakers at the 2-16-16 LGBT Discrimination Event on Miami Beach
LGBT Discrimination Event on Miami Beach 2-16-16
Lester Langer sitting and smiling with a birthday cake and presents in front of him celebrating his 70th birthday.
Ret. Judge Langer --  70th Birthday 2-17-16
Matt and friends at the University Center Club_ Tallahassee_ January 2016
University Center Club    Tallahassee,  FL

Karl Hunt smiling and wearing a superman t-shirt
litigationLitigation: Karl Hunt -- Superhero of Fair Housing
By: Matthew Dietz

In November of 2014, I described a horrible incident where a property management company attempted to evict Karl Hunt, and his mother Dyan, from their home of six years. On February 18, 2016, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an
opinion finding that Karl and Dyan are protected from discrimination due to assumptions or stereotypes about Karl's disability and that he should not be treated any differently from any other person because of his disability.

In 2012, Karl, a 23 year old man who lives with Down Syndrome, spent his day at his home in Reflections at West Palm Beach where he listened to Disney sing-a-long and Pokémon songs on his headphones while his mother worked. During the day, the property manager would constantly yell at Karl and demand that he leave the pool area or the community room, and unbeknownst to his mother, Karl was used to perform tasks around the development, such as cleaning bathrooms, taking out the trash, and other jobs in the community, without being paid.

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kidscrusadersKids Crusaders Corner
By: Julie Fioravanti 

Nick has also been working really hard in physical therapy trying to regain his inability to bear weight after his surgery 4 years ago. He's made amazing progress.
We will be back next month with another story.
four pictures of Nick doing physical therapy and smiling.
(I just had to share it)

Stolen from a fellow SPECIAL NEEDS Mom, feel free to steal it from me!! ♥♥♥  
*also applies to dads*
Mamas*** you know who I'm talkin' about!  PRAYERS, SUPER Strength and LOTS OF hugs ;)

Click here to read the 13 reasons
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dvDomestic Violence

Florida's proposed legislation for victims of domestic violence 2016
Last month I discussed the impact being a victim of domestic violence can have on someone who has a job. The loss of days and productivity are great and can effect someone's ability to keep their job, especially if they are an hourly wage earner. The new proposed legislation would help. In order to get a legal restraining order for protection under the current law, you must go in person to one of the locations that issue temporary injunctions and then later appear in person in Court at a final hearing. This requires traveling to a courthouse and many hours of wait time, causing most to lose at least two days from work, if not more.  
The proposed legislation SB 988 would create several pilot projects throughout the State that will allow victims to file for protection electronically and testify at final hearings by video conference from remote locations. These pilots would be evaluated and if successful may lead to a new procedure throughout the State. Miami- Dade County is 60 miles across with limited public transportation. I believe this will be a great help for victims with limited means and access to transportation and I hope that if the legislation passes, Miami-Dade will be one of the selected pilots. If you have any questions email me at Sharon@justdigit.org

If you are interested in volunteering please contact Sharon Langer at sharon@justdigit.org
The Wallet Card Logo.  A blue hexagon with the words the wallet card in the hexagon.
walletcardThe Wallet Card Project

The wallet card is a tool for young adults to use when they come into contact with law enforcement; either as 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.

Click here to sign up for a wallet card

The Wallet Card Project is a collaboration with DIG, CGPD, and UM-NSU CARD.
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leslyTicket to Work and WIPA what that means?

Many working aged individuals with disabilities (ages 18-64) are not working. The reasons vary, but for some it's a fear of "If I start working, will my benefits be taken away from me?" The truth is:  No. People with disabilities can work without losing their financial security or health care benefits. There are many programs available that make it possible to still collect benefits while working. Here is a brief overview of a few programs available.

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance? What can WIPA do for you?
For more information call the TTW help line at 1-866-968-7842 / 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday from 8:00AM - 8:00PM EST. For general inquiries, you may e-mail   support@chooseworkttw.net or check TTW website http://www.chooseworkttw.net. 
Click here to read more 
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lisaAbstinence Only Education in Florida
By: Lisa Goodman
and Merlie Fleurizard
Researched by Hitham Eldaher

Sexual education is not the same thing as teaching sex. Giving people the tools to know about their body, informing them of what could happen if they are sexually active, and providing them with information about how to prevent an unintended result is not the same as encouraging someone to become sexually active.
Currently, the United States has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world.
  • People ages 15 to 24 are acquiring half of all new sexually transmitted infections.
  • One in four girls will become pregnant at least once before her 20th birthday.[1]
  • 9.8 million adolescents acquire a sexually transmitted infection each year from risky sexual behavior despite the fact that half of U.S. states require that abstinence-only education be stressed.[2]
The statistics are undeniable and something needs change with the way children are taught about sexual education. The staggering numbers in the US indicate that abstinence only education has been ineffective in preventing unintended teenage pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections among adolescents.

[1] Futterman, L. (2016, January 19). Sex Education More Than a Necessity. Miami Herald, p. 17SE.
[2] Id.
Israel and Lorinda
lorindaArticle Disability Integration Act - Untying the Institutional Bias

2016 is an exciting year for disability rights. It's the first time in a long time that major federal legislation is on the horizon to positively support the independent lifestyle of individuals with
disabilities who require long-term care assistance. While different for each person, long-term care refers to the need of continual and regular assistance with personal needs. Help getting dressed, using the restroom, brushing one's hair & teeth, showering, meal prep and getting ready for the day, all encompass long-term care needs that are common. Many people with various disabilities - including myself - are willing and eager to participate in their communities but need help with their
activities of daily living every single day. The key to integration in many situations is to ensure we get the services we need without restriction.

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Logo for the fair housing video series.
The cover of the book Your Upward Journey by Patricia Bochi
patuYour 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 as mugs, journals etc.


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penguinA Parcel of Penguins


For more information about DIG and to find out how you can be involved, please call or email our executive director, Debbie Dietz at 305-669-2822 or  debbie@justdigit.org. 
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Disability Independence Group, Inc.

Thank you to the organizations that support our projects.

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  Disability Independence Group, Inc. | 305-669-2822 | info@justdigit.org | www.justdigit.org