“As long as we remain silent, others will tell us what to do.” -Adolf Ratzka

The application process for Paratransit service may include functional evaluation or testing of applicants.

Many of the larger transit systems now require in-person interviews or functional assessments to determine whether a disability prevents the applicant from using the fixed route system. The functional assessment usually involves observation of an applicant attempting to perform functional tasks that simulate a fixed route trip, such as climbing steps, crossing a street, walking measured courses, taking cognitive tests, and other activities.

This added step of approval could replace the appraisal of your chosen referral professional.

Complementary paratransit will always have some people with disabilities who are unable to navigate the fixed route bus and train systems on their own.

And we can agree that  eligibility determination must focuses solely on the person’s functional ability to use the fixed route service.

 Determining ADA Paratransit Eligibility: An Approach, Guidance and Training Materials. Easter Seals Project Action suggest that
“Appropriate professionals” should perform functional assessments. Their examples that are recommend are physical therapists, occupational therapists, or professionals with similar qualifications should conduct physical functional assessments. If assessments are used for people with significant vision loss (legal blindness, the report recommends that “only” Orientation and Mobility Specialists conduct these assessments.

What we may not agree on is that a 30 minute assessment by someone you may or may not have met 35 minute ago knows more about where you can or cannot travel safely than you.

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Georgia Get Out The Disability Vote (GGOTDV)

-Ron Harris, Disability Rights Project Specialist

 disABILITY LINK is committed to GET OUT THE VOTE for the disability community in Georgia  – several studies have shown that 25% of those of us with disabilities choose not to vote in any election…regardless of party affiliations or political persuasions.  Even at this early date, it is hard to deny that the political environment in this country is heating up.  No matter what your party affiliation, no one can deny that the personalities and issues in recent memory have hardly been more opposed and intensely debated than in this upcoming presidential election.

It has been said that all politics is local – let’s examine that idea for a moment.  Aside from the issues and the candidates that are up for election this election year, your choice for President, and his or her party to run the country for the next four years, will affect every aspect of local life in one way or another, through the action or inaction of the executive branch of our government – all decisions from the White House will affect your house.

The one great advantage to think about getting out to vote in the coming year is that there is plenty of time to eliminate all excuses for not voting – let‘s begin eliminating the excuse, “I don’t know where to start” – the Secretary of State of Georgia has an excellent web site that will answer any question you may have and has a handy app. to register on line or to update information that has changed for you since the last time you voted – that web site is www.sos.ga.gov – well that wasn’t so bad!

Let’s try to tackle another excuse, “I don’t know where my voting district is located and where do I vote on Election Day?” – call 888 868 3762, this number is for VOTESMART.ORG and is set up to answer that question for voters.

So there you have it, some of the “Who, What, Where, When, and How” of voting – if you have any further questions you can contact me, Ron Harris directly at disABILITY LINK   at 404 687 8890 x108 – and thanks!

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What’s in a Name?

Terminology means a lot. Especially in Congress. The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights has been renamed to just: the “Subcommittee on the Constitution.” I find this troubling there was a rationalization for the change in name; according to Megan Mitchell, a congressional spokeswoman, “We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights including civil and human rights. We will focus on these rights along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution.” By not speaking about something explicitly (i.e. omitting two very important items from the name of a subcommittee tasked with oversight of those items) it’s a little too easy to forget them.

Has there been a shift in priority? In a time of such conflict and turmoil over civil and human rights, why get rid of those specific names now? I find it troubling, this from a group of our elected officials who can’t agree on ratifying something as dedicated to civil and human rights as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is a convention that, at it’s core, is a promise to not discriminate against people with disabilities. It’s honoring the promise of the ADA (on which the CRPD is heavily based).

Some may think that there is needless concern over this, after all, the subcommittee will be  judged on its actions, not just its name. It just seems there isn’t a lot of accountability. I don’t want to run the risk of my rights as a person with a disability (my civil rights) being jeopardized or eliminated. This is the year that the ADA turns 25, a year where I’m so happy and feel so empowered to see “Disability Rights are Civil Rights” in my office and community, but according to some lawmaker that saying should just shortened to “Rights.” I guess they forgot that the reason we have legislation for civil and human rights is because not all people were included in the constitution originally. The ADA is still young, our rights as a community weren’t codified that long ago.  I think our “representatives” need to remember the struggle that people have gone through to earn the rights and access that a privileged few enjoyed for a long time.

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“You’re Welcome”

Those two words had the ability to simultaneously annoy and confuse me this morning. I got off the bus and was waiting to cross the street when a man pops into my field of vision, grabs my arm and yanks me backwards.  I lost balance and staggered, before I could turn my head at him, mouth agape, he says: “you’re welcome.”

Am I?

Am I, really?

‘Welcome?” For what? Was I supposed to thank him for invading my personal space and accosting me? Maybe if I had actually fallen down he would have thrown me a party (after throwing me to the ground). Aside from being physically forced back out of the blue the part that bothered me was the sense of satisfaction this man had at (in his mind) “saving me.”

I want to be clear: I was standing still. I wasn’t moving, I was on top of the truncated domes waiting on the light. There was nothing to be rescued from, other than air pollution, but you can’t really do anything about that for someone else. What I needed to be rescued from was the patronizing attitude of this guy who felt the need to assault me and then, before I had a chance to curse him out , or (again, in his mind) thank him, proceeds to try and force gratitude from me.

I wasn’t grateful.

I was pissed.

After getting my wits about me all I managed to say (because at that point the walk signal had come one) was: “don’t ever do that again.” I’m sure the man was confused at why I wasn’t falling all over myself to thank him (after all, he had helped the falling part earlier), but I didn’t have time to stand on a street corner and explain that he shouldn’t just grab people (with or without disabilities, but I’m sure he’d never grab someone he viewed as competent). It may have been a lapse of advocacy on my part, but it was early and I had a job to get to.

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Noticing Accessibility

I am a huge fan of movies and my tastes range from family friendly to horror. I am also a huge fan of accessibility. Naturally these two passions overlap from time to time and I am thoroughly pleased when I notice accessibility included in film. Over the weekend I saw the movie Big Hero Six and really enjoyed it, at one point there was a chase scene down a street in the fictional city of San Fransokyo and I saw curb cuts and truncated domes on the corners of the streets. I wish this didn’t make me as happy as it did, I long for a day when seeing these items on a sidewalk will be commonplace and mundane. For now, however, I acknowledge that the inclusion of these items wasn’t an accident, it was intentional because this is an animated film and all of the scenery and characters have to be designed and rendered, so somewhere along the line an animator/illustrator intentionally designed a cityscape that would be inclusive and accessible. Unlike other movies that have these barrier removal devices, the cuts/domes weren’t included for a specific character who needed them (although I would have loved to have seen a featured character with a disability) like in The Theory of Everything, they were just there, because of course people with disabilities live and work in San Fransokyo.  Good job Disney Animation!

Bravo! Now we need more films that feature characters with disabilities played by people with disabilities.

A woman approaching a curb cut with truncated domes in front of her

A curb cut with truncated domes. Photo credit: atnetworkblog.blogspot.con

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Absurd Moment: Universal Access

Some people get a little confused when they encounter a person with a disability, their stress levels go up as they try to figure out how to accommodate someone.  I had this happen just the other day and I was attempting to board a MARTA bus. For those that don’t know, I am blind and use a white cane. I was heading to the bus when I heard the it beeping, not really thinking I go to get on and get smacked by the ramp that the driver decided I needed. Instead of an apology for unfolding part of bus on me I instead get a reprimand “I was trying to put the ramp out so you could get in!” I was still a little confused and shocked at having a bus literally reach out and hit me, so it took a second to formulate my response.  “Why would I need the ramp? I’m not riding the cane!” was the best I could do.

There’s not “one accommodation to rule them all” as far as people with disabilities go, we just need to ensure that people are trained properly and learn how to do courteous things, like ask the person what supports they need and not just assume.  Have you had an experience like that? I’d love to hear it!

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Find What Works for You

“Find what works for you” is my motto for working with people regarding assistive technology (AT). Personally, I’m biased when it comes to technology, I’m Apple fan through and through, mostly because it works for me. Whether it’s the iPhone, iPad or MacBook, I know that I will be able to have access to features that make the device usable, whether is’t VoiceOver reading the screen, Zoom making things larger for or Dictation allowing me to write a letter or text without using the keyboard.

Thanks to Tools for Life, I have been able to try some different devices and experiment with their accessibility and usability, so I can better demonstrate to our consumers.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Microsoft Surface, the Narrator (screen reader) works fairly well with the apps that come installed, but has issues with 3rd party installations, the Magnifier tends to get in the way and doesn’t work the way I’m used to/prefer. It’s a neat experience, and I can definitely see a lot of potential, the fact that you can install full programs on it is very handy and I know a lot of people would like a laptop feel in a tablet.

I’ve also been using the Google Nexus, a tablet that has a great zooming feature, but a less that spectacular screen reader. Getting to learn more about these devices and trying them out first hand has really helped me see the differences of these products. Still, I  can say that the iPad still has the most robust and fleshed out accessibility of any tablet I’ve used. Assistive touch and voice commands make the device great for people with mobility/dexterity disabilities. Plus there are built in switch controls that can be used with a keyboard or separate switch controller, the fact that iOS devices can also interact with your hearing aids and there are subtitle/caption options for videos.

If you want more hands on experience with some of these devices you can always make an appointment to come in, or feel free to attend our 2014 Tablet Showdown on Tuesday, December 16th from 1-3pm in our office.  There will be a brief presentation and then we will have 2 iPads, 2 iPad Minis, 2 Microsoft Surfaces and 2 Google Nexus tablets for hands on demonstration. Hope to see you then!

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