Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Disability News

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NJ Bus Company Settles Disability Notice Requirement
CBS 3, Philadelphia - May 29, 2013

The Justice Department it catching a lot of flack these days; maybe they deserve it, maybe they don't. But, it does seem to me like they are pursuing more ADA cases than they used to, and if so, that's a good thing. When it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act, private lawsuits are fairly weak; the biggest hammer belongs to the U.S. Department of Justice. This New Jersey bus line case sounds like a simple example of straight-up discrimination ... imposing an inconvenience exclusively on people with disabilities that isn't imposed on other customers. So it's not complicated, but because of that even more important to highlight by getting the Justice Department treatment.

Ben Yakas, Gothamist - May 29, 2013

This article does a remarkably poor job of explaining exactly what the different sides and constituencies want and don't want here. However, if I'm reading it right, and I'm not being misled, it sounds like the opponents of more elevators are using a cost argument, plus a very familiar and very flimsy fairness argument, to try to stem the tide of bulky, space-consuming, annoying wheelchairs in their nice new station. They aren't quite explicit about their real worry, but they're pretty close.

Tami Luhby, CNNMoney - May 30, 2013

Donna Freedman, MSN Money - June 3, 2013

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A few additional thoughts on the impending end of the world as we know it, when Social Security Disability "runs out of money":

Similar to how the Social Security Retirement system is supposed to work, Disability payments are drawn from a Trust Fund, which is constantly maintained by the Social Security Taxes paid in by workers. The problem is that for awhile, outgoing payments have amounted to more than the Trust Fund collects from wages. 2016 is the latest estimate of when the Trust Fund will essentially run dry.

One advantage of using a Trust Fund is that it takes politics out of the system, for the most part, in most years. Congress doesn't have to decide each and every year how much money to appropriate for Disability Benefits, because it's got it's own funding system. Maybe the really frightening result of the Trust Fund running dry is that Congress will have to make real decisions that people with disabilities will know about, that affect their lived directly, and that mean far more than blandly kindhearted platitudes about people with disabilities that are so easy to speak.

Snark aside, it's a legitimate question. How much of our federal budget should go to help support people with disabilities who can't find, can't get, or can't keep jobs? Assuming that this is a reasonably compassionate country, and that we agree there's some advantage in people with disabilities not starving or living in the streets en masse, how much of our total economy … our Gross National Product … is a reasonable amount to spend?

"Running out of money" doesn't have to mean what it sounds like it means. It just means that due to several factors … the downturn of the economy, a population that's getting proportionally older, maybe more applicant's not taking one "no" for an answer … the old formula may not be the right one anymore. 

It sucks having to ask for money ... to have to argue why we deserve to live decent lives. It's much more empowering to fight for equal access, dignity, on-time paratransit, etc. Galling as it is, we may soon have to make our case that more … a little more perhaps … is worth allocating on basic, bare-bones support, like Disability. As I said yesterday, if we need to make that case, we'd better start doing it now.