Former US Congressman Tony Coelho Calls for YOUR support for US ratification of Disability Rights Treaty
Yes, the following message below from Tony Coelho very much applies to the culturally Deaf community, also. The original Americans with Disabilities Act, of course, helped give Deaf Americans better access to land line telephones via the TTY relay service (20 years ago) and the video relay service (today). The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among other issues, protects the right of Deaf people and people with disabilities to have access to information and communication. It specifically refers to signed languages in several different articles. More information about the CRPD, including its full text, is at http://www.un.org/disabilities. For information on CRPD ratification efforts in the US, please visit http://www.usicd.org.
A Message from the Honorable Tony Coelho on the Occasion of the ADA’s 20th Birthday
On this 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have much to be proud of as a community. A little more than twenty years ago, we embarked on a historic journey in advancing civil rights for Americans with disabilities. We came together with one voice, putting aside our political and other differences, to work toward this cause, and we were joined by our partners in Congress, who put aside their differences to do the same. And this unity and bipartisan spirit both within our community and in Congress led to our success. We could not fully imagine then the profound impact our civil rights struggle and work to pass the ADA would have for people with disabilities around the world. Today, inspired by the ADA, our brothers and sisters in scores of countries have worked to pass their own pioneering legislation to protect and promote their inherent human and civil rights.
What’s more, the world community came together at the United Nations at the start of this century and did something that is changing the world. They worked to create international law recognizing, protecting, and promoting the rights of all people with disabilities-the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Americans with disabilities joined them in this effort, sharing our experience with the ADA to strengthen the provisions of this human rights legislation. The disability rights movement now encompasses a global community.
But our work to strengthen and implement the promise of equal rights for people with disabilities at home and abroad remains unfinished. We have no doubt created a pillar of domestic law, but we must now work to ensure that the United States remains a global leader in the disability rights arena by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which President Obama signed last July. Ratifying this landmark treaty will not only advance the promise of the ADA at home, it will give the disability rights movement a new vigor abroad with the clear message that the United States affirms the inherent dignity and human rights of all people with disabilities.
I am excited by the energy and enthusiasm of USICD in working toward CRPD ratification. I want to thank USICD President, Marca Bristo, and our Executive Director, David Morrissey, for their leadership in this effort. I ask you to join with me in supporting USICD in the important effort of making CRPD ratification in the United States a reality. When the Obama Administration completes its review and submits the CRPD to the U.S. Senate for its consent for ratification, we must come together as the American disability community and proclaim “Yes to Ratification.” Today, 88 countries have already ratified the CRPD. By joining in this community, we can share our great expertise and leadership in furtherance of the democratic values enshrined in the CRPD. The CRPD is good for people with disabilities, good for America, and good for the world.
Let us take this opportunity to deliver our unified message to the U.S. Senate. Please sign on to a letter prepared by USICD to Senators Kerry and Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to indicate your support for the CRPD. Please follow this link to sign on.
Tony CoelhoRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Change for People with Disabilities and Deaf People: Time to Email Obama!
On November 4, 2008, millions of Deaf people and people with disabilities across the United States and around the world joined our non-disabled peers in watching the United States election results. Obama supporters cheered or wept to learn that the next US president would be Obama. Then we cheered or wept again when Obama mentioned people with disabilities in his acceptance speech. History was made–not only for America, not only for Black people, not only for Kenya and all of Africa, not only for Indigenous peoples, but also for people with disabilities.
But we cannot afford to allow the moment to end here. Whether we supported Obama, McCain, or another candidate, we all know there is far too much work ahead before we can say, “Yes, we have made real change for people with disabilities.”
It is time for people with disabilities, our loved ones, our neighbors, and colleagues to join together, across ideological divides, to reach out to Obama. We should all send an email to Kareem Dale, Obama’s National Disability Vote Director (at firstname.lastname@example.org), WITH COPIES TO Anne Hayes, a volunteer on the Obama Disability Policy Committee (at email@example.com).
First, we should thank Obama — and also Kareem Dale — for mentioning people with disabilities in Obama’s acceptance speech on November 4. Ensure that they understand how much it matters simply for us to be included. How did you feel when Obama mentioned us? Share your story.
Second, we should tell Obama and Kareem Dale that we are aware of Obama’s disability platform. He promised to increase educational opportunities; end discrimination; increase employment opportunities; and support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities. And he promised to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first international, legally-binding human rights treaty for people with disabilities. Tell Obama and Kareem Dale that we are ready to call Obama to account if he fails us. But more importantly, we are ready to work with him for change for people with disabilities.
It is important to send your disability-related emails to BOTH Kareem Dale AND Anne Hayes (firstname.lastname@example.org AND email@example.com) between now and inauguration day. Kareem Dale’s email address may change between now and January 20, 2009. Anne Hayes can help ensure that emails sent to Kareem Dale are not lost during this time of transition.
Both Kareem Dale and others who have worked on disability issues within the Obama campaign are ready to receive YOUR emails on disability-related issues for US President-elect Obama. Emails are welcome from across the United States and around the world. If you are a US citizen, then please say so in your email.
Learn more about Obama’s plan for people with disabilities at: http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/disabilities/
Yes, the video is captioned. And if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can download Obama’s Full Plan for people with disabilities in PDF format (62 Kb).
Read Obama’s acceptance speech at: http://www.barackobama.com/2008/11/04/remarks_of_presidentelect_bara.php
Want to read someone else’s letter to Obama before you write your own? Come to: http://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/thank_you_obama_disabilities/
Learn more about the CRPD at http://ratifynow.org/ratifynow-faq/
If you wish to contact Obama’s staff on some topic other than disability, then you can send an email via his web page at http://www.change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople
Please circulate this email freely, or post this at your own blog or web site.
This text was first posted at http://wecando.wordpress.com/2008/11/07/disabilities-email-obama/ The most updated version will be here, so please consult before cross-posting.
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“It is the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, DISABLED and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”
–President-Elect Barack Obama
Acceptance speech, November 4, 2008; emphasis added
This 31-second video shows very vividly exactly what it is like to try reading lips when the other person just doesn’t understand that things like looking away, mumbling, covering their mouth or SHOUTING just don’t help:
The next time I have problems with a hearing person who Doesn’t Get It, I plan to them this link and see if it helps.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I know some people in the Deaf community are deeply committed to rescuing deaf dogs and deaf cats. Sadly, some humans refuse to take in these animals because they’re convinced it takes more work to look after deaf companion animals. Sometimes they may even end up destroyed because no one takes them in.
But, deaf companion animals are not the only ones to face a world that misunderstands them or underestimates their ability to enjoy life. Many disabilities do not impact ability to enjoy life or protect one’s personal safety any more than being deaf. But companion humans sometimes destroy cats or dogs with minor disabilities because they mistakenly assume they can’t possibly be happy any more.
Go watch this video here to learn about one really adorable, fun-loving cat who happens to have motor control difficulties. It does not have any audio commentary, just visuals and captions/subtitles:
I’m not involved in any way with the animal rescue scene. But seeing this video makes me wonder if the people invested in rescuing deaf animals should perhaps consider coordinating their efforts with people who want to rescue other animals with various disabilities. Maybe by working together, a coordinated effort could end up identifying and rescuing more animals than you could rescue on your own. (For example, if the deaf rescue group found a blind animal, they could refer it to a group of people working to rescue blind animals, and the blind animal rescue group could do the same when they find a deaf animal, and so forth.)
While I’m on it, here’s a cute story: Before I drifted out of contact with her, I had a friend with a speech impairment who used to have a dog. This was an ordinary dog who barked in an ordinary doggy way with everyone–except with my friend. With her, he developed a special, soundless bark: he opened and closed his mouth in the same way as when he barked, but without any sound. Only when he saw her, not with anyone who could speak. My friend always found this hilarious (and I found it adorable!)
Anyone have any adorable deaf or disabled animal stories to share? Share below!
[Side Note: Anyone who bothers to look around this blog after seeing this post will see I don't maintain it much any more. That's because most of my blogging energy these days goes into my other blog, We Can Do, which focuses on people with disabilities in developing nations, particularly in relation to poverty, human rights, and international development issues. But there's stuff here at ReunifyGally on the ADA Restoration Act, which is still a current issue even if I don't have as much time to write about it. Happy exploring.]Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Will these changes threaten our rights as Deaf US citizens, or will they help protect them? Well, it’s a mixed bag: some changes will actually help, but others will set us back decades. Either way, I urge people to be involved. Educate yourself by following the links provided below. Write your comments and submit them to the US Department of Justice and to DREDF (NOT to me). And BLOG ABOUT THIS (or vlog) to encourage other people to do the same.
ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
From the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
and other disability rights attorneys and advocates
Department of Justice Proposes Vast Changes in ADA Regulations
YOUR COMMENTS URGENTLY NEEDED!
Please forward this alert widely
The deadline for comments is August 18, 2008.
TO SEE DRAFT COMMENTS, visit http://www.dredf.org/DOJ_NPRM
The Department of Justice recently issued major proposed revisions to its regulations implementing Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Some of DOJ’s changes are excellent, and urgently needed. It is important that the disability community laud these, to support DOJ against industry attack. Good proposals include adoption of the new 2004 ADAAG, stronger hotel reservation and ticketing provisions, recognition of psychiatric service animals, additional companion seating in theaters and stadiums, and stronger provisions for effective communication for people with hearing, visual, and speech disabilities.
However, there are also many draconian changes that would radically reduce the rights of people with disabilities. For example, DOJ proposes:
• A significant weakening of the readily achievable barrier removal requirement for public accommodations;
• A significant reduction of elements required to be accessible in state and local government facilities;
• An exemption for all existing facilities from the new recreation and playground rules;
• and many others.
DOJ must receive a flood of comments from the disability community in favor of a strong, comprehensive ADA. Comments must defend the principle of individual, case-by-case assessment, which DOJ is largely abandoning in favor of many blanket reductions. We must remind DOJ that the ADA is already carefully crafted to take the needs of covered entities into account, and that reductions to our civil rights would be a devastating blow to our daily lives.
Extensive draft comments, by topic, are available on the DREDF website to help you write your own comments — click here. The list of topics is also below. The website also has information about how to file your comments, as well as tips on commenting and a link to the proposed regulations.
Important: Your comments will have the most impact if you revise our drafts to add your own thoughts, and especially your own personal experiences or those of friends, family, colleagues or clients with disabilities.
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD: SEND IN YOUR COMMENTS!
TOPICS IN THE DOJ PROPOSALS ARE:
• Safe Harbor
▪ One-percent (1%) safe harbor for barrier removal in existing facilities for qualified small businesses
▪ “Reasonable number but at least one” in program access under Title II
▪ Exemption for facilities that allegedly comply with the 1991 ADAAG
▪ Path of travel
• Definition of “existing facility”
• Comments on the Regulatory Impact Analysis
• Title II Complaint Process
• Communications; auxiliary aids and services
• Service animals
• Hotel reservations policies
• Seating and ticketing in assembly areas
• Medical care facilities
• Wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices
• Prisons, jails and the Prison Litigation Reform Act
• Social service agencies, residential facilities, transient lodging, and dormitories
• Recreation Facilities and Play Areas
▪ Recreation facilities and Play areas (General Comments)
▪ Saunas and steam rooms
▪ Swimming pools
▪ Exercise equipment
▪ Team player and seating areas
▪ Areas of sport activity
▪ Boating and fishing
▪ Miniature Golf
▪ Topics not addressed
• Questions concerning specific 2004 ADAAG Standards
▪ General comments
▪ Side reach
▪ Water closet clearances in single-user toilet rooms with in-swinging doors
▪ Accessible routes to stages
▪ Accessible attorney areas and witness stands
▪ Assistive listening system
▪ Accessible routes to golf tees and greens
• Work Areas
• Maintenance of accessible features
• Examinations and courses
• Triggering Date
The deadline for comments is August 18, 2008.
TO SEE DRAFT COMMENTS, visit http://www.dredf.org/DOJ_NPRM
[Thank you to Rosaline Crawford for her comment below; I have now revised the introductory paragraph accordingly.]Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
No, none of the participating blog posts specifically focus on Deaf issues (sorry, ran out of time to write one), but several are still very much relevant for Deaf people who are fighting to protect their own human rights.
From Australia … from the USA … from India … from New Zealand … from Fiji … from the Philippines …
Writers and bloggers from around the world joined together to help celebrate and promote the first legally binding international human rights instrument to protect the rights of people with disabilities — the international disability rights treaty, called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
They celebrated by writing blog posts for the RatifyNow CRPD Blog Swarm 2008, which can now be read at
What did they write about? Some of the topics include …
… The story of one advocate who watched the birth of the CRPD among grassroots advocates with disabilities and others in the 1990s …
… How the CRPD could deliver new hope for people in India with mental disabilities …
… How the CRPD represents an evolution from the charity/medical model of disability to the social or human rights-based model …
… How the CRPD could make travel go a little more smoothly for tourists with disabilities …
… Why the CRPD matters for people who use personal assistance services or who are seeking the freedom to explore their own sexual expression …
… An allegorical tale about farmers, spoons, and plows: Why the CRPD is well worth celebrating and why our work isn’t done just because the CRPD is about to take full legal force …
… And more …
All at the RatifyNow CRPD Blog Swarm 2008, and all available by following the link to:
Celebrate and learn about the CRPD through the RatifyNow CRPD Blog Swarm 2008.
Then invite other people to do the same. Please circulate this notice or post it at your blog or web site — with, of course, a link to the blog swarm atRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Ever been frustrated that Sidekick does not have all the features you would like to have as a deaf person? (Or as a deaf-blind person, or a person with other disabilities?) Been frustrated that there aren’t more companies with a “data-only” plan? Wish there were more phones out there with the features that deaf people really need, like an easy-to-type-on interface? Want to see better cell-phone features and services for Deaf-Blind people?
Personally, one feature I’d like to see is the capability of plugging a keyboard into my cell phone. The current keyboard on the Sidekick is okay for SHORT typing. But I refuse to kill my thumbs by typing long messages. And I just don’t do live conversations because thumb typing is so much slower than touch typing. But I would LIKE to be able to do these things. The capability to plug in a light, portable, folding keyboard would give me so much liberation.
Maybe this isn’t a feature you want to see, but maybe there are other things that are very important to you as a deaf consumer.
Well, one research center is gathering information and feedback from all consumers with all disabilities WHETHER OR NOT YOU CURRENTLY HAVE A CELL PHONE. (One of their very important questions is — if you don’t have a cell phone now, why not? If you don’t have a cell phone right now, then this is your chance to explain why.) This information will be used in part to help develop better wireless technologies for deaf people and for people with all disabilities.
If you wish to see past results from their survey, you can read them at:
You can participate in the survey yourself (it takes maybe about 15 minutes) at:
This is your chance to MAKE THE NEEDS OF DEAF CONSUMERS HEARD. (Or the needs of consumers with disabilities in general.) I also hope that deaf-blind people will use the chance to make the needs of deaf-blind consumers known.
If you are very interested in this area, then at the end of the survey you also have the option to express interest in participating in future focus groups or other opportunities to share your feedback as a deaf consumer (or consumer with other disabilities). (Of course you don’t have to do this if you don’t want. You can just fill the survey and be done with it.)
Are there any deaf-blind people reading this?
I’m hailing all deaf-blind people especially because I am sure that deaf-blind people must run into enormous barriers in accessing cell phones. This survey could be your opportunity to express your views.
Remember that you do NOT need to own a cell phone in order to participate in this survey. If you don’t own one because current cell phones are not accessible, then you can say that.
You can also use the comments areas in the survey to suggest features, etc., that would be helpful to you as a deaf-blind person. What design features would make it possible for you to use a cell phone? Tell the people running the survey!
I’m guessing that probably not very many other deaf-blind people have participated in the survey so far. That makes it especially important to recruit more deaf-blind people. If you have any friends who are Deaf-Blind, please do alert them to the survey.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 22 so far )
Someone recently left two comments elsewhere on this blog asking for help dealing with an alleged case of discrimination against himself as a hard of hearing student. A school he wanted to attend refused to provide him with an interpreter (I assume sign language interpreter though he doesn’t say).
Can anyone reading this please help advise Keith Lausch on what he can do to help himself? His email address is provided below. Please also leave a comment here so others can benefit from your advice.
i need help my self im hard of hearing and i been goin to school in riverside and the school called the fab school and to learn how to weld and build sand car and rock clawer so i been goin that school and they wont provide me an interperter so how can i find someone to file complaint against school and they didnt realize that alot of deaf people who live in riverside area so right now im having hard time goin that school so i need help who should i contact is anyone can tell me how and e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a problem that I been goin to riverside school and the school called ” the fab school” is to learn how basic to weld and bending the pipe, notcher and more stuff so anyway i ask and request for an interperter and they refuse to provide me one and how can I file complaint that school and they didnt realize that in riverside area had alot of deaf community in that area so who can i albe to contact lawyer but who ?? and what they told me that they didnt break the law well which they did cause I never had one in that class and they say i was the first deaf in that class well not my problem i need interpter so i can understand what they saying in the class here my e mail email@example.com
Unfair Precedent Ties Hands of Sympathetic Court: Why McMullin’s Case Highlights Need for ADA Restoration Act
Even some courts say that past court interpretations of the American with Disabilities Act are wrong and unfair to deaf people and people with disabilities. But even courts that are sympathetic to deaf and disability rights are saying they cannot judge ADA cases in a fair manner because past court interpretations “tie their hands.” They have to obey court precedent even when they think that precedent is unfair.
When even sympathetic courts rule against disabled employees, despite their own agreement that the employee has experienced discrimination, that’s when you know it’s time for a legislative fix. And that’s why we need the ADA Restoration Act to force courts to define “disability” the way it was meant to be defined in the first place.
Read the story below for one example of why we need the ADA Restoration Act–even when the court is on our side. This story is taken from text prepared by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).
Court: D. Wyoming 2004
Michael McMullin has lived and worked as a law enforcement officer in Wyoming his entire adult life. In 1973, he started his career as an officer with the Casper, Wyoming Police Department. Thirteen years into that job, Michael started experiencing symptoms of depression, including insomnia and severe sleep deprivation. After struggling with these symptoms for a few years – during which he periodically got only 2-3 hours of sleep a night – Michael became suicidal and sought medical leave and assistance. His physician referred him to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed Michael with clinical depression and prescribed medication to treat his depression, insomnia, and sleep deprivation. This treatment controlled Michael’s symptoms and he was able to return to work after five months of medical leave.
Michael stayed with the Casper Police Department for another 8 years, receiving numerous awards and commendations. In 1996, Michael left Casper and moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming where he was hired by the Capitol Police Department to provide security and protection to the Wyoming Governor and First Family. At the time of his hiring, Michael told the Capitol Police Department about his clinical depression, and asked that he not be assigned regularly to the graveyard shift. Michael successfully served as a security officer for the Governor for five years, until 2001, when he decided to apply for a job as a court security officer at the federal building in Cheyenne.
Michael again disclosed his clinical depression when he applied for employment and was assured that – as long as his depression was under control and treated with medication – it would not pose an obstacle to employment as a court security officer. Michael took the required pre-employment medical examination and answered questions about his medical history and use of medication. The examining physician found that Michael could perform the job without limitation, and Michael started working as a court security officer.
Michael performed the job without any complaints from supervisors until another doctor reviewed his medical files and decided that he was “not medically qualified” because of his depression and use of medication.(41) Michael was suspended without pay, and was then medically disqualified from working as a court security officer. Michael filed an internal appeal, providing his previous employment evaluations – including those from the State of Wyoming – and letters from doctors stating that he was fully capable of performing law enforcement duties. After his internal appeal was denied, Michael decided to challenge his medical disqualification and filed claims of disability discrimination under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
After firing him because of his clinical depression, his employers argued that Michael’s depression did not qualify as a “disability” under federal law, even though it was the admitted basis for its termination decision.
The court agreed.
Because Michael’s medication successfully managed his symptoms, his depression was not disabling enough. With regard to his history of sleep deprivation and insomnia, the court decided that
“sleep deprivation which results in a plaintiff getting only two to three hours of sleep per night is not “severe” enough to constitute a substantial limitation on the major life activity of sleeping.”
As for limitations on his ability to work, the court found that – while he had been excluded from working as a court security officer – Michael was still able to perform other jobs and, therefore, was not substantially limited in his ability to work.(43) Even though his depression had prevented him from working in the past, the “five month period in which [Michael] actually missed work in 1988 was of limited duration; this weighs against a finding of substantial limitation.”(44) Finally, his employers had not “regarded” Michael as disabled because they had only barred him from “a single job rather than a class of jobs.”(45)
Because “[t]he definition of disability is the same for claims under either the ADA or Rehabilitation Act,” the court dismissed Michael’s disability discrimination claims under both laws. As a result, his employers’ decision to rescind their initial medical clearance and to ignore Michael’s 30 years of law enforcement experience went unchallenged.
The court recognized the unfairness of this result, but said that its hands were tied by current interpretations of the law, noting that,
“[t]his is one of the rare, but not unheard of, cases in which many of the plaintiff’s claims are favored by equity, but foreclosed by the law.”
(41) McMullin v. Ashcroft, 337 F. Supp. 2d 1281, 1287, 1297 (D. Wyo. 2004).
(42) Id. at 1297.
(43) Id. at 1296.
(44) Id. at 1297.
(45) Id. at 1298.
(46) Id. at 1286.
This is the last in a series of posts about ADA court cases that help highlight the need for the ADA Restoration Act. Catch up with all the rest:
The introduction to CCD’s text is posted at ReunifyGally in the entry entitled “Real People, Real Stories: Why We Need ADA Restoration.”
Also see the first case story I posted, entitled “Thinking isn’t a Major Life Activity, Say Courts.”
The second case story is in the entry entitled “Where is Todd’s Day in Court?“
The third case story is entitled “Qualified to Work = Disqualification for ADA Protection“
The fourth is “Give Orr a Break.”
The fifth is “Doing Good Work? You’re Fired!.”
The sixth is “Why Everybody Loses Without the ADA Restoration Act.
The seventh is “A Hearing Woman, But a Deaf Story“.
PLEASE make an ASL vlog (or a written blog, if you like) on the ADA Restoration Act! If you do, I’d be delighted to link to you!
CCD has compiled an excellent collection of materials on the ADA and on the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, so it’s well worth following their link to www.c-c-d.org/ada. If you’re still new to the subject, this can help you understand why the ADA Restoration Act is critical to pass and why we should all be involved.
See my continually-updated list of blog entries from all over the web about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, always available from the top navigation bar at “On the ADA Restoration Act.”
See examples of specific court cases that have served to undermine the spirit and intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act: click on “ADA Court Cases” under “categories” in the right-hand navigation bar.
Also, don’t miss these links: One group of activists has posted a short list of simple ideas of things you can do to help get the Restoration Act passed. And do check out the ADA Restoration Blog for updates. Or browse through background information on the ADA Restoration Act. Or contact your legislators. It is particularly important to write letters to your senators.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
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