Monday, March 24, 2014

Photo Of The Day

African-American man in full body armor sitting in a wheelchair
From the Howlingblaster Tumblr blog, via Thalensis.


Stella Young, ABC Radio “Ramp Up” - March 24, 2014

This is another brilliant and emotionally resonant article by Stella Young, a radio journalist at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She describes the dual pain of exclusion caused by inaccessible places. We are robbed of the experience that is inaccessible, and at the same time, we are placed in a no-win situation where one way or another, a social wedge will be driven once again between ourselves and our non-disabled friends. She also underscores how failing to consider accessibility is much more than just an oversight, more than a minor detail. In the most practical sense, that little bit of thoughtlessness produce a literal exclusion. That it is unintended makes no difference. That is a key to understanding ableism.

Albany ADAPT Protest Update

Advocacy topic icon
My local Center for Independent Living, the North Country Center for Independence, posted an update on their Facebook page, from the Albany, NY ADAPT action at the New York State Nurses Association I wrote about yesterday. I’ll just quote the whole message sent out from the protest:
"The ADAPT activists who have occupied the offices of the New York State Nurses Association appreciate the outpouring of support from the disability community and others across the nation. It has been over 100 hours since members of NYS ADAPT started the occupation of the NYSNA offices because the union opposes amending the Nurse Practice Act to allow attendants to do health related tasks. Throughout the occupation, we have negotiated with the nurses union in good faith to get their support for nurse delegation so people who need assistance with health-related tasks - including medication administration, ventilator care, assistance with catheters, suppositories and feeding tubes - can get that assistance in the community from attendants."
"By allowing advanced home health aides to do health related tasks, New York State will be able to implement the Community First Choice (CFC) Option. This Medicaid State Plan Option would assure that any individual eligible for institutional placement is able to access services and supports to live in the community. Under CFC, NYS would receive additional federal funding and would significantly expand the services and supports for people with disabilities living independently. Additionally, after expanding the availability of services, it is estimated that CFC at full implementation would generate an extra $340 million a year, every year."
"On Wednesday, when we first arrived at NYSNA, there was significant disagreement about the provision of assistance with health related tasks, and we were concerned that NYSNA’s advocacy was focused on preventing people with disabilities from getting assistance with key health related tasks to live independently. We explained that full implementation of the Community First Choice Option means that no person with a disability should be forced into an institution because they cannot get assistance with health related tasks."
"Through our negotiations, we secured a statement from NYSNA supporting the rights of all New Yorkers to be independent in their own homes, and the rights to any and all care needed to maintain that independence. In that same statement, NYSNA said that “To be clear, NYSNA fully supports the implementation of the Community First Choice program.” NYSNA also proposed alternative legislative language amending NYS education law to allow advanced home health aides to do health related tasks. We are now being told that NYSNA’s language creates a contradiction between education law that would authorize nurse delegation and the Nurse Practice Act in health law that precludes this."
"We are not union lobbyists or lawyers; nor are we governmental officials or legislators. We are people with disabilities who want to secure our civil right to live in freedom in the community. We are also activists, and we will hold the union, legislature and our governmental officials accountable."
"We have fought for 24 years to secure the right to live in the community rather than be forced into institutions. We will not wait any longer, so NYS ADAPT is continuing our occupation of the NYSNA offices."
"Because of the legal problems that appear to be created by NYSNA's proposed language, NYS ADAPT demands that NYSNA immediately provide a compelling legal analysis demonstrating that their language does not - in fact - create a contradiction between health and education law. If NYSNA is unable to provide such a compelling legal argument, it must agree to address the contradiction by supporting the addition of a “notwithstanding clause” to their language or support an amendment to the Nurse Practice Act."
"NYS ADAPT further demands that the New York State Assembly Democrats ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities by supporting budget language that authorizes advanced home health aides to do health related tasks, and if necessary, amends the Nurse Practice Act in order to fully implement the Community First Choice Option, end the Medicaid institutional bias, and FREE OUR PEOPLE!"
Some of the folks from the North Country Center for Independence are planning to join the protest for awhile tomorrow. I’m hoping they’ll send some photos and Tweets.

The New 7% Hiring Goal

Lauren Weber, The Wall Street Journal - March 18, 2014

There is hardly a word in the national press about the new U.S. Labor Department rules going into effect today, requiring companies with federal contracts to aim for 7% of their employees having disabilities, and 8% being veterans. I have seen some stories in random local outlets, but the The Wall Street Journal seems to be the only major news organization taking any time at all to cover this. At first that concerned me, because The Wall Street Journal is fairly conservative and has a pro-business outlook. However, I think that actually helps in this case because while the tone of the article isn’t what I’d call hostile, it does raise some sensible questions. For instance:

- Employers will need to ask all of their employees whether they have a disability, so they can be counted toward the 7% goal. Will that conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from digging for details on employees disabilities, and protects employees’ right to not disclose disabilities? It seems like it will be fine for employees to ask, in a general way, if employees have a disability, and the employees won’t be obligated to answer. And “answering” seems to amount to nothing more than Yes or No, no details required. Still, it may take quite awhile for everyone to get comfortable with the question itself, and the idea of counting the number of employees with disabilities at all.

- Some employees who actually do have qualifying disabilities might not think of themselves as "disabled", and won't be counted. This is one of those instances when the lack of consensus about what "disability" is, and what terms are preferred, actually could get in the way of a valuable policy.

- 7% sounds like a high goal, but that's only 3-4 people in workplace of 50 employees. The WSJ article speculates that many companies may already be in compliance, and I tend to agree. That's fine, but since the new goal is supposed to increase employment of people with disabilities, maybe the goal is too modest.

Of course even on paper, this is just a goal, not a requirement or quota. From one point of view, this suggests that the new rules are purely symbolic, possibly a futile gesture.

On the other hand, I think this is one of those rare cases when "awareness" is more than just a platitude. If nothing else, the new rules will make both employers and employees a bit more aware of various aspects of disability and employment. Hopefully it will also produce enough data to figure out whether 7% is reasonable employment goal, or if it's too high or too low. Accurate statistics across all qualifying businesses might also help distinguish between those that really are open to workers with disabilities, and those that might try to parlay a few "heartwarming" hires into some kind of Good Samaratin image.

The rules may also give disabled people looking for work a different feeling about their disabilities. At whatever point during the application process they feel comfortable, they can mention their disability as a potential positive, not something to explain away or minimize.