29th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Celebrate the ADA 29 (1990-2019) Americans with Disabilities Act - July 26, 2019

29 years ago today, then President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the years right after, the basic structure of the ADA became as familiar to people with disabilities as the backs of our own hands. But nearly 30 years after the law passed, it’s probably a good idea to review what’s actually in it. The Americans with Disabilities Act includes three main sections or “Titles”:

Title I: Employment

* Makes it illegal to deny employment and job benefits because of disability, as long as the disabled person is otherwise able to perform the essential functions of the job.

* Requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable, individual accommodations to disabled employees to enable them to do their jobs.

Title II: State & Local Government

* Requires state and local governments at all levels to make all of their services and programs accessible and provide equal service to people with disabilities.

* Program accessibility can include a combination of physical accessibility and individual supports and modifications to make each program as a whole generally accessible.

Title III: Public Accommodations

* Businesses and organizations that provide goods and services to the public must provide equal service to customers with disabilities.

* Businesses and organizations must make their public facilities physically accessible for all, and provide reasonable individual accommodations as needed to ensure individuals are able to get equal service.

* Accessibility is defined by the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, a set of specific physical standards to ensure a base level of accessibility in all types of facilities.

There is also a Title IV that deals with specific telecommunication services, like TV captioning and telephone relay systems for the deaf. The ADA also set ambitious long-term goals of making all kinds of transportation accessible, including buses and trains. Note that the ADA was designed to complement already existing disability rights laws such as:

For more information on the ADA, try these links:

If you have questions about disability rights and accessibility, you can always call us at the North Country Center for Independence at 518-563-9058.

Action Alert: Act Now to Ensure All Voting Reforms Are Accessible To People With Disabilities!

Action Alert in large white letters on a dark red background

This Action Alert was posted today by the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) ...

The legislature is planning to take up a package of voting reforms on Monday. Among the package of bills is A.780/S.1102, which would implement early voting in New York State. NYAIL strongly supports making it easier to vote by enacting voting reforms like early voting and same day and automatic voter registration, but it is critical that accessibility is prioritized in all of these proposed policies!

As written, the current bill does not ensure full accessibility to voters with disabilities during early voting. It does not require that a ballot marking device be available during early voting. In other states that already have early voting, ballot marking devices have not always been available. It is critical that the state ensure they are available in New York! Other states have not always included BMDs during early voting. This is unacceptable!

Call the Election Law Chairs and the heads of the State Senate and Assembly today and urge them to ensure full accessibility during early voting when they take up A.780/S.1102 on Monday!

Action: CALL TODAY!

  • Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins - 518-455-2585
  • Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie - 518-455-3791
  • Assembly Election Law Chair, Charles Lavine - 518-455-5456
  • Senate Election Law Chair, Zellnor Myrie - 518-455-2431

Say:

"I strongly support making it easier for everyone to vote by implementing early voting, automatic voter registration and same day voter registration, as long as accessibility for voters with disabilities is prioritized in all voting reforms. A.780/S.1102 does not do this. The bill does not mandate a ballot marking device, which allows people to vote privately and independently, be available during early voting. Whenever and wherever elections are held and in whatever format, the State and localities must make all voting accessible to all voters with disabilities, and having a ballot marking device at all polling locations during early voting is an essential part of full accessibility."

Straw Ban Followup ... Action Needed

As previously discussed, the City of Plattsburgh is studying the possibility of a ban on disposable plastic straws. This is part of a growing nationwide trend ... a popular, seemingly simple way to respond the serious problem of mass plastic waste, particularly in the world's oceans.

The problem is that many people with disabilities rely on plastic straws to be able to drink, at home and in restaurants in the community. The North Country disability community needs to speak up now, and make sure that whatever ordinance is passed does not unduly burden disabled people, either by making access to straws more difficult and expensive, or by socially stigmatizing their use.

Click below to read more about what banning plastic straws means for people with disabilities:

The Problem With Banning Plastic Straws

City councilors have said they will take the needs of people with disabilities into account, and they are currently gathering feedback on the idea through an online survey. Please take a few minutes to fill out the City's survey on banning plastic straws. Click here to take the survey, it will close on September 30.

The Problem With Banning Plastic Straws

Photo of five different colored bendy plastic straws
The City of Plattsburgh has been asked to institute a ban of disposable plastic straws, and several Council members are open to discussing it in a way that could lead to some kind of official ban.

Elizabeth Izzo, Sun Community News - August 8, 2018

This is part of a growing nation-wide trend ... a popular, seemingly simple way to respond the serious problem of mass plastic waste, particularly in the world's oceans. However, one important consideration has been consistently overlooked, and when brought up, has been largely dismissed, sometimes rather harshly.

The problem with banning plastic straws is that many people with significant physical disabilities depend on them to drink liquids every day. It is a basic and indispensable accessibility tool, with no replacement currently available that is durable, safe, and affordable. The disability community has spent the last several weeks trying to inform people about this problem, and help craft good-faith solutions that address the environmental problem while meeting the needs of people with disabilities.

One solution that might work for Plattsburgh is instead of banning plastic straws completely, to ban restaurants from handing them out without being asked ... while at the same time allowing them to continue to carry plastic straws for any customer to request.

It would be important to allow this "on request" provision not just for disabled people -- because having to make a “special” request stigmatizes disabled people. Some servers might be nice about it, but others might think it’s okay to question the disabled customer, or act like it’s lazy, selfish choice, or an annoyance. Disabled people are often treated poorly when they have to ask for special assistance, or even legally required and sensible accommodations. Even using handicapped parking can subject us to glares if we don’t “look disabled enough.”

As for using alternative types of straws:


Just about all alternative currently available have problems. Paper straws break down with hot beverages. Metal and other rigid material straws can cause injury. The reason some disabled people need straws is that they have difficulty controlling their hand and head movements. If a plastic straw pokes you in the face because of twitch or tremor, it’s no big deal. If a metal straw pokes you it can hurt you. Some people also bite down on the straw to control it, and a metal straw is bad for that, while plastic straws both give and hold up. And straws that bend are often critical. In fact, plastic bendy straws were originally invented for hospitals, for patients who couldn’t drink independently from a cup.

This all sounds very nit picky and particular to people who don’t have this kind of disability, but they are real issues.

It’s not just about disabled people who may be customers already, it’s that a straw ban becomes yet another barrier, a reason why a significantly disabled person might choose to stay at home, because being “out” in the community is just that little bit more uncomfortable. It’s another way to feel unwelcome, like a “problem.”

That’s not a social condition Plattsburgh should be contributing to.

We are asking that anyone who can talk about direct experience of using plastic straws for disability-related reasons let us know if they are willing to speak out on this proposal and possible alternatives. You can contact us through our website: www.ncci-online.com, or by calling us at 518-563-9058.

For further reading on this issue:

Karin Hitselberger, Washington Post - July 12, 2018

Alice Wong, Eater - July 19, 2018

Maria Godoy, National Public Radio - July 11, 2018

National Disability Voter Registration Week

Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power! RevUp! Make the Disability Vote Count!

Do you have a disability? Does someone in your family of voting age have a disability? Are you registered to vote? Are they registered to vote?

The deadline to register in New York State for the November 6, 2018 Midterm Election is October 12, 2018.

For more information or to register, call the North Country Center for Independence at 518-563-9058.


Important things to know about voting and people with disabilities:

  • People with any kind of disability can register to vote, as long as they are U.S. citizens of voting age, 18 or older. Cognitive or mental disabilities do not disqualify someone from voting, unless an individual been ruled legally ineligible. Election officials and poll workers alone cannot determine a disabled person’s eligibility to vote.
  • Disabled adults who are under legal guardianship may or may not be eligible to vote, depending on the terms of their guardianship. If you are not sure, you should find out. Guardianship terms can be changed if necessary to specifically allow an otherwise eligible person with disabilities who is under guardianship to vote.
  • Polling places should be physically accessible, and have voting mechanisms that are accessible to blind, visually impaired, and physically impaired people. Some disabled people may, if they choose, request a mail-in absentee ballot, but that does not lessen the obligation for polling sites to be accessible.
  • If transportation is an issue, and you want to vote, it’s best to make arrangements well ahead of election day.
  • You may be asked to provide identification at your polling site. A driver’s license, passport, or non-driver ID will suffice.
  • If you have any difficulty voting, or anyone tries to prevent you from voting, call your Board of Elections: Clinton Co. 518-565-4740, Essex Co. 518-873-3474, Franklin Co. 518-481-1663.
Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse of Rutgers University have been studying voting participation among people with disabilities over the last few elections. Their most recent report, looking at 2016 voting, included some key findings:

About 16 million Americans with disabilities voted in 2016.

68.3% of voting age people with disabilities were registered to vote in 2016, compared to 70.6% of non-disabled people, a 2.3% registration gap. 82% of registered disabled voters actually voted, compared with 88% of non-disabled registered voters, a 6% gap in voting participation.

Kruse and Schur found that while voting by disabled people increased from 2008 to 2012, the voting rate for people with disabilities actually went down in 2016.

Spring Accessibility Month

Spring Accessibility Month

This May, 2018 is Spring Accessibility Month at the North Country Center for Independence!

What Is It?

Our goal will be to rate the accessibility of at least 20 local restaurants, and post the results on the NCCI website, alongside restaurant accessibility ratings we have already done. We know we can do it, but we need your help!

Call, email, or stop by for a visit, and we will assign you a list of 5 restaurants in the Plattsburgh area to visit and assess. The focus here is on accessibility for people with disabilities, and we are asking you to rate each place on the following criteria:

_ _ _ _ _ Parking
_ _ _ _ _ Entrance
_ _ _ _ _ Restrooms
_ _ _ _ _ Interior
_ _ _ _ _ Signage

You will give each category a star rating, from 0 (worst) to 5 (best). This will enable people with disabilities and their families to plan where they can visit, and also provide practical feedback to restaurants that could be made more accessible. You can also add brief written notes on aspects of each restaurant that are welcoming to disabled customers or that create specific barriers.

About Accessibility

People with disabilities face literal, physical barriers to independence every day. Restaurants, stores, offices, and other public facilities that aren't properly accessible are failing to provide equal service, and it has a real impact on disabled peoples' ability to live independently and productively in their communities. Additionally, they may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that has required equal service and physical accessibility for over 25 years.

On the other hand, places that are accessible help sustain independence and community mobility, and the more of them there are, the more accessible and welcoming our community is to people with disabilities and their families, including visitors.

With your help, we can document businesses that are and are not accessible, and make that information freely available for anyone who wants to know. As more places in our area get rated, the more information we will have for residents and visitors with disabilities.

Getting Started

All you have to do is contact us in one of the following ways:
  • Call us at 518-563-9058 and ask for John Farley, our Accessibility Consultant.
  • Email John at john@ncci-online.com
  • Stop by the NCCI office at 102 Sharron Avenue in Plattsburgh, NY.
We will give you a list of restaurants to visit, and a simple guide to measuring the accessibility of public facilities. It's easy to do, and it's a great service for the North Country disability community.

Action Alert: Fully Fund Access To Home

ACTION ALERT in large white capital letters on a dark red background

Call Governor Cuomo today to ensure $10 million in funding for Access to Home
is included in the New York State budget!

Inaccessible housing is one of the biggest barriers for people seeking to live in the community. Unfortunately, our existing home modification program, Access To Home, has been severely underfunded at a mere $1 million for the past several years. This has left many parts of the state unserved, and has resulted in years long waiting lists. The Governor has also vetoed the Visitability Tax Credit three times, which would have provided a tax credit to help people afford to retrofit their homes. The Governor needs to hear from the disability community that he can't keep ignoring the need for home modifications!

Further, as the State invests in programs such as Open Doors and the Olmstead Housing subsidy, which are designed to help people leave institutions or prevent unwanted and unnecessary institutionalization, it needs to provide funding for home modifications to enhance these efforts.

NYAIL is urging Governor Cuomo to include $10 million in funding for Access To Home, to help homeowners and renters alike get the home modifications they need to live in the community.

All centers hear from people who need accessible housing. We need you to identify those people and work with them to contact Governor Cuomo and their local legislators.

ACTION:


Background:

Access to Home is an important program administered by NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) that provides funding for home modifications to allow people with disabilities and older New Yorkers to stay in their homes and out of costly institutions. For many people, the addition of a ramp to their front door makes the difference between being able to leave the house and being homebound. The Independent Living community advocated vigorously for the State to create Access to Home to help alleviate the housing crisis for people with disabilities in New York by assisting low and middle-income individuals and families to make home modifications. Yet, Access to Home was cut by 75% several years ago under this administration. Ever since, Access to Home has been funded at a mere $1 million statewide, leaving many parts of the state without the program and resulting in years long waiting lists. While the State did allocate $19.6 million over three years to the program in the 2015-16 SFY from the J.P. Morgan settlement funds, those funds were limited to veterans with disabilities. This meant that the vast majority of low income families who needed home modifications to remain at home, couldn't access them, despite the increase in funding to a similar program.


Further, in his most recent veto message for the Visitability Tax Credit bill, Governor Cuomo cites Access To Home as the way the state supports people who need home modifications. However, unless you are a veteran, you likely can't get assistance in a timely manner from Access To Home. Access to Home requires significantly more funding to come close to meeting the need of people in this state to modify their home to make them accessible.

This Action Alert is issued by the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL).

Urge Governor Cuomo to Sign the Visitability Tax Credit Bill into Law!

ACTION ALERT in all capital letters, white, against a dark red background

The Visitability Tax Credit bill (A.5950/S.2411) was delivered to Governor Cuomo today for his action. He now has 10 days to sign it into law or veto. This bill would provide homeowners with a tax credit of up to $2,750 to renovate their home to make it more universally visitable, or to go toward the cost of developing a universally visitable home.

ACTION:

Call Governor Cuomo today at # 518-474-8390 and urge him to sign the visitability tax credit bill, A.5950/S.2411, into law.

Say "I am calling to urge Governor Cuomo to sign the Visitability Tax Credit bill (A.5950/S.2411) into law. This tax credit is needed to help people with disabilities and older New Yorkers with the costs of making their homes more accessible and would allow people to age in place"

Background:

The disability community has long advocated for New York to increase the accessible housing stock across the State by incentivizing the use of "visitability" design standards. This includes basic accessible features, including:

One no-step entrance
An accessible path to the door
Hallways and doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair
An accessible bathroom on the first floor

Due to the high cost of home modifications, many people cannot afford to make changes to their homes to make them more accessible, or to move to a more accessible home. Most prefer to remain at home rather than move to nursing facilities or different, more accessible housing as their needs change. However, many are forced out because their homes are no longer safe or practical for them to live in. This tax credit will help to ensure that people with disabilities and older New Yorkers are able to afford these modifications and remain in their homes.

The NYS legislature passed similar legislation in 2015 and 2016. Governor Cuomo vetoed this legislation twice, indicating his support for the concept, but stating it had to be done in the context of the Budget. Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo didn't include this in his proposed Executive Budget. It has now passed the legislature for a third year in a row and is on the Governor's desk for action.

Previous vetoes indicated that there was a need to better understand the cost estimates for such a program. For this reason, the sponsors included a $1 million cap per year in aggregate. As the program would now be considered a pilot project, the State has five years to determine whether this cap is sufficient to meet the needs of the population. Further, the State can simply include the $1 million in the 2018-19 State Budget since it would not take effect until January 1, 2018, or after.

Fall Accessibility Month ... Wrap-Up and Results

Fall Accessibility Month sign, with illustration of a person in a wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and an orange colored maple leaf

September is just about over, and so is Fall Accessibility Month. Our first month focusing on doing online business accessibility ratings has produced some good results. As of today, the following Plattsburgh restaurants have been accessibility rated on the AbleRoad website. Click the links to see the detailed ratings:

Starbucks
4 1/2 Stars
359 Route 3
Plattsburgh

Latitude 44 Bistro
4 Stars
5131 US Avenue
Plattsburgh

Burger King
4 Stars
305 Cornelia Street
Plattsburgh

Below Deli
3 1/2 Stars
37 Bridge Street
Plattsburgh

Our House Bistro
3 1/2 Stars
15 Bridge Street
Plattsburgh

DeLish By Irises
3 1/2 Stars
24 City Hall Place
Plattsburgh

Pizza Hut
2 1/2 Stars
5069 US Avenue
Plattsburgh

Irises Cafe & Wine Bar
1 Star
20 City Hall Place
Plattsburgh

This is a good start, but there are still 72 restaurants in the Plattsburgh area that need accessibility ratings. This is a long-term project, and in January, 2017 will be the first Winter Accessibility Month.

In the meantime, you can still help us by registering for free at AbleRoad, looking up unrated restaurants in the 12901 Zip Code, and giving star ratings the restaurants you visit.

Start by visiting AbleRoad and getting set up to add accessibility ratings. Or, you can call, (518-563-9058), or stop by NCCI and ask for a list of restaurants to rate.

September is Fall Accessibility Month!

Fall Accessibility Month sign, with illustration of a person in a wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and an orange colored maple leaf

Accessibility is a little like the weather. Everyone complains about it, at least in the disability community, but even we rarely do anything about it.

Do you see places around the North Country that aren't as accessible as they should be for people with disabilities? Would you like to do something useful to address the problem?

If you have a smartphone and / or access to a computer with an internet connection, we invite you to join our special effort this month to document the accessibility features of businesses in North Country ... starting with restaurants in the Plattsburgh area.

The first step is to download the AbleRoad app, or visit the AbleRoad website, and set up a free account. This will enable you to look up any business in the area and enter a star rating of its accessibility in regard to parking, approach and entry, counters and tables, restrooms, etc. These ratings will then be viewable by people with disabilities who want to know which businesses are accessible, which are not, and which have some accessible features but also some barriers.

For another overview of AbleRoad, watch this video:



Once you register with AbleRoad, call, email, or visit NCCI and we will give you a list of 5 restaurants to visit If you are ready to help, we will give you a list of 5 restaurants to visit. After you rate each place's accessibility using AbleRoad, let us know you are finished, so we can keep track of our progress. We can also give you another list of 5 restaurants if you want to keep going. And of course, you can also give accessibility ratings of any businesses you vist in your everyday. Each business rated in AbleRoad gives us a clearer picture of what's accessible and what isn't in the North Country.

To get started:

Call us at 518-563-9058
Or visit NCCI at 80 Sharron Avenue in Plattsburgh

Join us, and let's see how much we can get done in September!