Athletes Persevere During 2014 Winter Paralympic Games

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          From March 7th to the 16th over 600 athletes from 50 different countries participated in the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Athletes competed in four main events including: Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding, Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, and Wheelchair Curling. Skiing events are divided based on how individuals will participate. There are both sitting and standing Alpine skiing events based on the athletes’ level of mobility, as well as a separate category for those who are solely visually impaired. Similar to the Alpine or downhill skiing, Cross-Country Skiing is also divided by athletes who are either sitting or standing.

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Both the Winter and Summer Paralympic Games are organized and run by the International Paralympic Committee or IPC. Founded in 1989 and based in Bonn, Germany, the IPC is run by 200 members and employs over 70 additional individuals from 17 countries. The Committee is composed of a General Assembly (its decision-making body), a Governing Board (an executive body) and a Management Team as well as different Standing Committees responsible for addressing policies to bring to the attention of the entire General Assembly for debate and adoption. The vision of the IPC, as proclaimed on its website, “is to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.” Furthermore, the IPC states that “The Paralympic Movement builds a bridge which links sport with social awareness thus contributing to the development of a more equitable society with respect and equal opportunities for all individuals.”

The title of ‘Paralympic’ games is often misunderstood by many as being related to paraplegia or paralysis.  In fact the prefix ‘para’ is Greek for “alongside” and is meant to represent the games being immediately after or alongside, the Olympic Games. With that clarification in mind, even many of the participating athletes do not have paralysis that would be associated with the term ‘para’. There are a wide range of different types of disabilities present at the games including congenital defects associated with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, there are athletes that lack one or more limbs where they may choose to use prosthetics in the place of amputated limbs, and finally there are those who have suffered paralyzing injuries leading to permanent immobility such as spinal cord injury or stroke.

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The 10 days of sports that began on March 7th culminated into a number of first-time events, including Russia participating in Ice Sledge Hockey, premiering their team for the first time in a Paralympics game. The Russian hockey team proved it was anything but novice after winning the silver medal, behind only the United States who for the first time in Paralympic history won consecutive gold medals, after having won the Hockey Gold medal this year as well as at the 2010 Vancouver Canada Paralympic games. Unique also to this year’s games was the participation and overwhelming perseverance of youth athletes. From 14-year-old Australian snowboarder Ben Tudoope to team USA’s Sledge Hockey athletes Brody Roybal (#4) and Declan Farmer (#6), who are 15 and 16 years of age respectively.

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Every athlete brought with them their own unique story to their competitions which were often described during their events. Take 27-year-old Evan Strong who led the United States sweep in the men’s snowboard cross in the Alpine event category. It was 10 days before his 18th birthday when Evan was broadsided by a white SUV while riding his motorcycle, throwing him 100 feet from his vehicle. He describes coming to after being hit, lying flat on his back on the asphalt some distance away from the crash and looking up to see his left leg laying atop his right shoulder. Remarking on his hospitalization he states, “I remember being in the ICU on my 18th birthday and telling everyone… I will skateboard again”. Having been an avid skateboarder and surfer, Evan in time learned to adapt to his prostheses and eventually took up snowboarding, and with practice, fought his way to Sochi nearly a decade after his accident. Evan took the gold alongside his two American teammates Michael Shea and Keith Gabel winning the Silver and Bronze. This year was the first year of such an event when the IPC “announced [in May 2012] that men’s and women’s snowboard cross for athletes with lower limb impairments would debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games as a part of the alpine skiing program.”

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Also worth note are the Team USA Sledge Hockey athletes who were able to secure their title gained during the Vancouver Paralympics four years ago. The team’s journey to Sochi became the topic of a PBS documentary “Ice Warriors” that travels with the players as they tell their stories and perspective of the adapted sport they have come to love. Nearly 20% of all of the athletes competing in the 2014 Paralympics are military veterans, four of whom are on Sledge Hockey. Rico Roman, Jen Lee, Paul Schaus, and Josh Sweeney give an insightful glimpse on the impact military service has had on their lives but yet none of them seemed to regret the tragedies that befell them.  Anyone who takes a moment to watch this year’s games will notice that this type of courage is pervasive throughout events. So many of the athletes represent a remarkable shift in consciousness that is an essential component to changing the public’s attitude towards those with disabilities away from what some individuals cannot do but rather towards the capabilities and strengths that they contribute to an ever-changing society.

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New York City Advocates Win Historic Federal Lawsuit Over Emergency Planning Deficiencies

Jesse Furman, a federal court judge for the Southern District of New York ruled this month in a class action lawsuit brought by Disability Right Advocates (DRA), a non-profit legal Center, against the city of New York for emergency planning that neglected the needs of over 900,000 city residents with disabilities. DRA represented multiple plaintiffs including The Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID), the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) and individual plaintiffs Gregory D. Bell and Tania Morales. Advocates argued that the City’s emergency plan inadequately addressed the needs of individuals with disabilities during hurricane Irene and super-storm Sandy. The specific areas of concerns brought by plaintiffs argued that New York City ; (1) lacks adequate evacuation plans and capabilities to move individuals with disabilities from high-rise apartments; (2) relied heavily on inaccessible transportation and did not plan for the level of need for wheelchair accessible vehicles for evacuation; (3) shelter plans did not require that the shelter system be sufficiently accessible, architecturally or programmatically, to accommodate people with disabilities in emergency; and (4) did not provide for accessible communications during an emergency, at shelters, and failed to provide adequate information on existing accessible services.

The lawsuit began well before the latest disaster, and stemmed from concerns of how the City handled hurricane Irene. Filed in September of 2011, the plaintiff’s position in the case only strengthened over time as the city was hit by super storm Sandy in 2012 when the exact same concerns became evident once again. Tonia Morales, a plaintiff in the case, is a 26-year-old resident of Brooklyn who uses a wheelchair to get around her apartment. Describing her experience in 2011 she states “During Hurricane Irene, I managed to get to a shelter but there was a locked gate surrounding the wheelchair entrance. I couldn’t get inside. With no place to go and no emergency information about what I should do, I was terrified and forced to return home in the storm.”  The case went to trial in March 2013, the first of its kind in the country. According to DRA “the trial demonstrated that disabled and elderly New Yorkers suffered needlessly in recent hurricanes because of the City’s lack of planning for their needs.”

Plaintiffs also stressed that emergency preparedness was not just critical in regards to physical access and clear communication but also for providing individuals the necessary foresight and knowledge to anticipate and prepare for a variety of emergencies. Some individuals with disabilities are affected in different ways, whether it is the physical need to maneuver one’s self differently, or analyzing and sifting through rapid and difficult to discern information at a moment’s notice. Many witnesses were called to testify, many of whom highlighted these concerns,  including a woman with visual impairment who stated that, “as a result of my blindness and PTSD, I am unable to react as quickly and as easily to new and dangerous situations without accommodations. Because of my disabilities, I need to plan ahead to make sure that my needs would be met during travel and at the shelter.”

Of primary focus in the case was the City’s network of responders, their level of coordination, individual and interactive responsibilities, and their systems of authority and approval. The City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for coordinating the City’s emergency planning and response to emergency situations which includes ‘preparing the City’s emergency plan, conducting trainings and exercises, and overseeing the City’s extensive education and outreach programs.’ Within the OEM exists the Special Needs Coordinator, ‘whose role it is to advocate within OEM for people with special needs and to provide guidance on incorporating the needs of people with disabilities into the City’s emergency plan.’ Aaron Belisle, the Coordinator until August 2012, testified on the importance of incorporating the needs of individuals with disabilities within the emergency plan and exposed several startling facts about OEM. Belisle stated that though he was responsible for making recommendations regarding the City’s core emergency plans, he lacked the authority to reject or approve anything in the final plan. In fact, OEM contains six managerial levels, of which the Special Needs Coordinator is at the lowest. Moreover, the position of the Special Needs Coordinator has no staff, meaning that out of the 200 emergency management employees at the agency, Mr. Belisle is the sole employee at the office whose job specifically includes representing people with disabilities in disaster preparedness.

In his 119 page ruling, Judge Furman acknowledged the difficulties as well as the successes the government has made addressing emergencies as a whole, stating, “planning for, and responding to, emergencies and disasters is a Herculean task, and that, in many-perhaps most-respects, the city has done an outstanding job.” Nonetheless the court acknowledged the failures of the government in the particular field of handling and preparing for disasters as it pertains to individuals with disabilities. Several assertions in the final opinion included; “[that] the city fails to accommodate the communication needs of people with disabilities; sheltering plans do not ensure effective communication with people with disabilities; for some, the ability to meaningfully access the city’s sheltering services also depends on access to electricity. Without electricity, those who, for example, depend on ventilators or power wheelchairs will be less healthy, safe, and independent at a shelter than people without disabilities; [and finally], the city’s provisions of supplies required by people with disabilities, such as accessible costs, solely to  SMNSs (Special Medical Needs Shelters) is impermissible.” The many findings outlined in Judge Furman’s decision will be deliberated by both parties in order to come to an agreement on the plaintiff’s compensation, and more importantly the future policy changes that will be designed and implemented to prevent future violations and potential human harm. For more, go to dralegal.org or read the full opinion on their website @ http://dralegal.org/sites/dralegal.org/files/Grace/159_opinion_and_order.pdf

 

Remembering the Beginning of the End of Discrimination: 40 Years After the Rehab Act

Passed on September 26, 1973, the Rehabilitation Act finally gave citizens of the United States who were living with disabilities, protection from discrimination in all things involving government funding or service. An enormous grassroots mobilization on the part of many students with disabilities throughout the country played a critical role in enshrining such protections within the act. Those efforts formed Section 504 which enforces ‘Nondiscrimination Under Federal Grants’ and states that no ‘qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.’ Amazingly, this section is only one small part of the entire legislation which establishes, sets guidelines for, and funds the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). The RSA is responsible for providing vocational services to individuals with disabilities and provide them the services they need throughout their educational and vocational goals.

The Rehabilitation Act was later consolidated into the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 that provides for a number of workforce development and training programs and is not solely focused on discrimination or disability policy. it is extremely important to mention that the 113th Congress is currently in the midst of negotiating a new and updated reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. Recently, the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) passed its version of a 2013 Workforce Investment Act, entitled Senate Bill 1356 (S. 1356). The new bill updates and revises the 15-year-old law and accommodates for many changes in the structure and environment of vocational rehabilitation as well as how services will be provided in corporation with the RSA and Independent Living Centers.  In the turbulence of current events it is difficult to follow and keep track of so many important topics that may range from how healthcare is provided to when and where our country’s armed services are deployed. This is yet another opportunity for individuals to insure their voices are heard on Capitol Hill. Please join the many advocacy organizations struggling to project their voices of support for a new Workforce Investment Act and the protection of the nondiscrimination values that were enshrined in the Rehabilitation Act 40 years ago today.

Read the rehabilitation act of 1973 as passed: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/thelaw/rehab_act-1973.html

Disaster Preparedness and Disability Awareness

Vigilance is Critical to Independence:
Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

                On the heels of disastrous flooding in Colorado, many in America are reminded once again of the value and importance of being prepared for the unforeseen or unexpected. This is especially true for the 56 million people with disabilities who live in the US (almost 20% of the population). Many of these individuals rely on additional assistance or medical supplies throughout the day to maintain their physical and/or mental well-being. Medical needs vary greatly and can range from individuals with diabetes who require insulin to high-level paralyzed individuals who are completely dependent and rely on around-the-clock 24-hour personal care services, possibly a ventilator depending on their pulmonary strength or condition, urological supplies such as catheters, and a range of mobility devices including an electric wheelchair and transferring equipment. To add to the complexity of the situation, a whopping 48.3% of Americans recorded currently taking prescription medication, and for a conservative measurement, if you were to only consider those taking prescription medications to treat long-term or chronic conditions it still encompasses 34% or about one in every three Americans.

Considering the facts, emergency managers around the country should take very seriously the reality that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing for a catastrophe. Fortunately, there are a handful of federal laws covering the integration of care for individuals with disabilities in the emergency management process, but the reaction on the ground and the implementation and enforcement of these laws has been anything but rapid. The Federal Emergency Management Agency commonly referred to as FEMA, as well as state and local governments are responsible for having plans in place to be prepared to accommodate for the diverse needs of their community. The Department of Justice guidance to governments agencies for adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and other federal disability laws (1988 Stafford Act, 1988 Fair Housing Act Amendments, 1973 Rehabilitation Act, 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1996 Telecommunications Act, and 1968 Architectural Barriers Act) applies to a wide range of emergency management policy and procedures including: preparation, notification, evacuation and transportation, shelter, first aid and medical services, temporary lodging and housing, transitioning back into the community, cleanup, and other disaster related programs, services, and activities. Each of the above laws provides for affirmative obligations and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, and therefore means that any State or Local government (or contractors) providing services below such standards is in violation of federal law. Violations may include but are not limited to: physically inaccessible shelters, failing to provide communications or information material in alternative format (American Sign Language, close captioning, Braille etc.) or prohibiting services based on someone’s use or reliance on a service animal.

The Office of Disability Integration and Coordination or ODIC is the accommodations and compliance arm of FEMA whose stated mission is, “in accordance with federal civil rights laws and regulations, provide guidance, tools, methods and strategies to integrate and coordinate emergency management inclusive of individuals with access and functional needs”. The US is divided into 10 geographic regions, all of which employ a Regional Disability Integration Specialist (RDIS) responsible for coordinating and informing state and local emergency managers on disability integration policy. New York and New Jersey make up Region II under the coordination of James Flemming, who is the region’s RDIS  (James.flemming@dhs.gov).

The purpose of this article is not to teach you what to expect but to simply make clear what the obligations of the government are, to accommodate and provide access to all in the least restrictive setting possible as required under the law, so that you may have a clear expectation of how services should be provided if and when necessary. That said, do not wait and expect for all your needs to be met by an outside entity greeting you at the door when catastrophe strikes. There are numerous things individuals can and should do now to prepare themselves for the future. Not only is preparing for an emergency smart but it empowers individuals to take control and allows them the critical role of determining the trajectory of their future. If you or a family member have a disability, below are a list of things you can do to prepare for an emergency so that you and your loved ones are not left relying on outside help when the time to act comes and the time for preparation has already passed.

  • Stock a basic disaster supply kit.
  • Inventory what you use every day to live independently. Identify the essential things that you will need to be able to survive for 3 to 5 days or longer, if people cannot get to you.
  • Stock these custom essentials in your kit. For example, your kit may contain items such as durable medical equipment, assistive technology, food for special diets, prescription medicines, diabetic supplies, hearing aids and batteries, a TTY, manual wheelchair, and supplies for a service animal.
  • Create a Support Network Plan how you will contact your family members by calling, or emailing, or texting agreed upon friends or relatives if you’re unable to contact each other directly. Let people in your support network know of your emergency plans. Tell them where you keep your emergency supplies. They may be able to assist you in ensuring that your assistive devices will go with you if you have to evacuate your home.
  • Collect Important Information and Phone Numbers. Keep a list of contacts, including family, and friends and list the best way to reach them in an emergency. Keep a list of the local non-profit or community-based organizations that could provide assistance. Maintain a list of phone numbers for your doctors, pharmacy, and the medical facilities you use. Make copies of medical prescriptions and doctors’ orders for assistive devices that you use.  List where you got the devices from and see if your local pharmacy is willing to provide a list of your prescription medicine and devices for you. Make copies of medical insurance cards, Medicare or Medicaid cards, physicians’ contact information, a list of your allergies, and your health history.
  • Plan for Possible Evacuation. During an emergency, be ready to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and choose to go to a shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, personal assistant, and your assistive technology devices.Note that people should only be referred to a medical shelter when they have acute health care needs and would typically be admitted to a hospital.
  • Plan for Power Outages Before They Happen. Before disaster strikes, you may register with your power company. They may alert you when power will be restored in an unplanned outage and before a planned outage. In the event that you cannot be without power, plan for how you will have power backup. If possible, have backup battery, generator or alternate electrical resources.

(go to http://www.ready.gov/individuals-access-functional-needs for more tips and information)

RCAL 30th Anniversary Gala October 24th @ Bearsville Theatre

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Stephanie Perro
Office Administrator
RCAL
845-331-0541 ext. 20
www.rcal.org

RESOURCE CENTER FOR ACCESSIBLE LIVING CELEBRATES 30 YEARS OF SERVICE!

The Resource Center for Accessible Living is proud to announce its 30th anniversary! We will be celebrating this event on October 24th, 2013 at the Bearsville Theatre located in the historic Town of Woodstock. The celebration will include the Beyond the Letter of the Law Awards ceremony, silent auction, dinner buffet with live music and entertainment, as well as special guest speaker Cecelia Tkaczyk. Cocktail hour with cash bar start at 5:30pm.

Please join us in celebrating this event with us! Ticket price is $85 per person and we have sponsorship packages & advertising available!

$250         Ad placement on Ring* & added to website as a “Friend of RCAL”

$500         1 ticket, ad placement on Ring, ad placed on Facebook & website

$1,000      2 tickets, Advertising at the event, name placed  on back of itinerary, year of  advertising in Newsletter (3x annually), ad placement on Ring, ad placement on Facebook & website       

$2,500      5 tickets, table tent sponsor card & advertising as part of “lead up” to gala, name placed on back of itinerary, year of advertising in RCAL Newsletter, ad placement on Ring, ad placement on Facebook & website

$5,000      10 tickets, FREE accessibility consultation of your business ($500 value), table tent sponsor card & advertising as part of “lead up” to gala, name placed on back of itinerary, year of  advertising in Newsletter, ad placement on “Ring”, ad placement on Facebook and website

* Ring refers to a unique bundle of business cards/coupons/advertisements from our sponsors. It is our special gift to all guests. This provides great exposure for your business!  Contact RCAL for more information!

Payments can be made by check or credit card. Invitations are available through RCAL. Please contact Stephanie Perro for more information about sponsorship packaging, advertising and “Ring”. We hope to see you there!

RSVP date October 4th 2013

NYC Suit Over Repetitive & Unaddressed Polling Site Barriers: Update

What began in 2010 as a civil rights lawsuit against the New York Board of Elections on behalf of voters with disabilities has garnered the attention and support of the US Department of Justice. The plaintiffs in the case include the United Spinal Association and Disabled in Action, represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a not-for-profit legal center specializing in these types of high-profile civil suits. The Justice Department’s recent support comes as a reaction to the Board of Elections appeal of the District Court’s decision in 2012. The DOJ supporting Amicus Brief was submitted by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in which it “urges the Court of Appeals to uphold the U.S. District Court’s August and October 2012 orders finding the Board of Elections (BOE) liable for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and ordering the BOE to remedy accessibility barriers at its poll sites throughout the City. “ The brief goes on to argue that, “the district court correctly entered summary judgment in favor of United Spinal based on undisputed evidence of the BOE’s failure to address barriers to access at New York City polling places. These barriers to access included steep ramps, missing handrails or guardrails on ramps, locked or heavy interior doors, blocked interior pathways, and missing signs identifying accessible entrances.”  Surveys taken indicated that 70% of polling sites surveyed in New York City elections between 2008 and 2011 contained barriers.  The most recent survey, taken on the November 2011 general election found one or more access barriers at 84% of the sites surveyed in the city. Staff Attorney for Disability Rights Advocates, Stuart Seaborn expressed gratitude for the Justice Departments support and concluded by reiterating the position they have held throughout the legal battle, stating that “New Yorkers with disabilities deserve an equal voice in our political process and voting at poll sites is a fundamental American ritual that no one should be denied.”

Read he brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit below:

 NYC Court of Appeals

Why Congress Must Reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act

Passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton on August 7, 1998, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) establishes and funds a large scope of employment based programs, entities, and activities geared towards workforce development for individuals throughout the country seeking assistance towards gaining and maintaining viable careers while at the same time guaranteeing them essential protections from discrimination. WIA contains five main titles, each of which covers important provisions in carrying out its primary goals. Title I establishes “Workforce Investment Systems” to create a national network of job and skills training systems focused on providing the unemployed or underemployed (including youth) the proper skill sets necessary for them to hold appropriate and sustainable careers. Much of Bill legislations long-term goals involve spurring economic prosperity and development while maintaining competitiveness in the global market. The first title of WIA designates state Workforce Investment Boards, controlled by the governors and legislature of each state to develop “workforce development areas” responsible for establishing eligibility criteria and success measures for training programs as well as accountability standards for internal checks and oversight. Employment centers were also established in local neighborhoods as “one-stop” delivery systems for those seeking access to core employment services provided by WIA. Services in Title I as well as the whole of WIA are intended to be implemented at the local level where the needs of businesses and the local population can be assessed and best understood. Lastly, this title provides for an array of national programs such as the Job Corps; Native American programs; Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs; Veteran Workforce Investment programs; Youth Councils in every state; National Emergency grants; and other special national projects.

Title II of WIA is referred to as the “Adult Education and Literacy” provision, which focuses on providing adults literacy (reading, writing, and comprehension) training as well as mathematics and technology education necessary for economic self-sufficiency and success in secondary and postsecondary education. This title also specifically focuses on career and education-based goals that support proper parenting and child rearing as well as teaching immigrants a well-developed understanding of the American system of governance and the responsibilities of proper citizenship. Title III reauthorizes the Wagner-Peyser Act (first passed in 1933 under FDR to aid those affected by the Great Depression, eventually helping an estimated 29 million Americans find employment) to require Employment and Job Services provided through the Department of Labor be made part of the “one-stop” delivery system. The Wagner-Peyser reauthorization also creates an employment statistical system initiative that supports formula grants to state workforce agencies to collect and analyze labor market information so that employment trends influenced by WIA and other changes in policies can be measured.

Of the greatest relevance and impact to Independent living Centers, the services they provide and the many individuals with disabilities they serve is Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act that reauthorizes and updates (by amendment) the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This landmark legislation referred to commonly as the “Rehab act” created standards and regulations prohibiting the discrimination of individuals with disabilities in any program, position, or activity receiving direct or indirect federal funds. One of the most widely known parts of the Rehab Act is section 504 which not only bars discrimination but also establishes criteria for creating specialized education plans, or “504 plans” to accommodate the diverse needs of each individual with a disability attending public school. The act also establishes a system of Statewide Independent living Council’s charged with the responsibility of formulating state plans designating how funds from the Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Agencies or RSA will be spent in each state and how money will be disbursed through the states various Independent Living Centers and service providers. Lastly, Title V includes “General Provisions” which among several things gives authority for State unified plans relating to several workforce development programs, and provides incentive grants for States exceeding negotiated performance levels under the Workforce Investment Act, Adult Education Act, and Perkins Vocational Education Act, and transition provisions.

So why reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act?  First and foremost it is important to note that certain programs authorized or reauthorized under the act including the Adult Education and Literacy programs as well as Rehabilitation Act programs were only approved through Fiscal Year 2003 as five-year grants. Additionally, over a decade has passed since the latest adjustments to any workforce programs through which time American have been dealing with the growing impact of the continuation of its longest war in the Middle East and experienced its largest economic downturn since the 1930s. Fortunately the reauthorization of such a program offers a window of opportunity for both Americans and lawmakers to come together and agree on a piece of legislation that crosses partisan lines and allows for the opportunity to adjust and update the country’s largest single source of federal funding for workforce development. It would seem that at a time one our entire society is being affected by so many complicated and diverse problems between economic growth issues and meeting the healthcare needs of families and returning wounded veterans, a system of programs focused on educating and equalizing a 21st century workforce of eager-to-learn and ready-to-train citizens is sorely needed.

Just this past month on July 31, the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions (also referred to as the HELP committee) agreed by a vote of 18 to 3 to support a 2013 Workforce Investment bill (S. 1356) that finally reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act, including the Rehabilitation Act. This has been a long-standing priority of the Independent Living Community and many of its national organizations and networks of advocates around the country due to the particular influence the Rehab Act holds over these organizations. Among many significant changes included in this year’s proposal, is the creation of an Independent living administration (ILA) and relocation of the Independent Living Program from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) in the Department of Education to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL). The separation of the independent living program from the RSA to the ACL under the Department of Health and Human Services creates long sought after autonomy and independence in which the newly formed ILA will be able to function. Outside of the ILA, the current proposal reviews and adjusts certain formulas for programs and grants based on the drastic changes in the last 10 years to our workforce and our school systems. Understandably complicated, the complexity, size, and scope of the Workforce Investment Act should not be understated, and such a vital and influential support system should be given serious consideration by our representatives in Washington DC as to its potential in being the drastically needed lifeline to our economic recovery and a sustainable and competitive 21st-century workforce needed to carry us through to the top of the future.

LETTER: Albany sets up barriers to voting

Dear Editor:

The state Senate has passed a bill (S4088-Golden) authorizing the New York City Board of Elections to use mechanical lever machines in the upcoming election for mayor and the potential runoff election.

Also passed on the same day was a bill (S. 3705-Martins) that completely eliminates the sunset date for the use of these machines, which was only initially put in place to allow time for transitioning to accessible electronic optical scanner machines, which are already available and mandated by law to be used in federal election.

These bills will further stall the implementation of accessible voting machines for local, village and special district elections, essentially depriving individuals with disabilities a private and independent vote.

As a compromise to that bill, Michael Cusick, D-Staten Island, chairman of the Assembly Election Committee, has sponsored A. 7832, which mandates that the these local elections must include an accessible electronic voting machine, as well as expand the runoff election from two weeks after the primary to three weeks to allow more time for election officials to verify ballots.

The issue of election reform is one of my main focuses as the systems advocate at the Resource Center for Accessible Living. Advocates such as myself repeatedly go to and call Albany to influence policymakers. But if we do not have a well-established, informed, interested and involved citizenry, what reason do politicians have to listen if we do not possess a collective influence strong enough to shift the outcome of their election?

As it stands now, the state Legislature still insists on not only maintaining barriers to fair elections, but creating them by passing legislation that implements the use of aged and inaccessible machines for the sake of time and at the expense of excluding voters with disabilities.

KEITH GURGUI

http://www.dailyfreeman.com/articles/2013/06/15/opinion/doc51ba1d6776067047523674.prt

Coming Face-to-Face with the Bogeyman, By Brad Williams

a thorough analysis of the struggle of Americans with disabilities in the workplace at a time where a nation should be doing everything it can to employ its citizens

RCAL finally releases its long-awaited video!

The Resource Center for Accessible Living has been involved in the creation of a video that we hope will portray everything that the center does and what independent living is all about. The day has finally come for its release! Enjoy and feel free to send/share with family and friends through e-mail, Facebook, or twitter, your choice.-Keith

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goDb4R-EN_8