Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Core of Memphis 3.0

Looking for accessibility in the Memphis community

By Tim Wheat
This morning Sandi and I took the Memphis 3.0 tour of the section of Memphis they call “the core.” Memphis 3.0 has begun district planning on January 25, 2018 at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church to update the community on what they had learned about the character of the district. The held a mapping exercise to identify good places, areas of concern and places of opportunity.

inaccessible homeThe bus tour today was intended to follow the mapping of the planning meeting. The concept of using the bus was to actually see some of the assets and opportunities that participants had noted in the mapping exercise. Memphis 3.0 had developed a guide book for the core district with general planning information for the area. The route through the core focused on the medical district and asked us to note where new anchors may be located.

The idea of an anchor is a central part of a community that helps to develop and connect the area. The guide book also asked participants to note parks and public space, pedestrian facilities, site frontages, parking, building intensity and bicycle networks. While all these were present along the route, the missing category was also evident: accessibility.

As the bus turned from Poplar, Sandi pointed out that the bus stop and shelter on the southwest side was impassable for a wheelchair. That was clearly not the only location, but it was clear that the Memphis 3.0 planning was not prioritizing inclusion of our community.

The tour started out on Madison where we could all see the useless trolley tracks just out the front window. The obvious failure of our current administration did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of our Memphis 3.0 guides to how we were all hoping for a beautiful and working city. Despite the obvious negligence right in front of us, we continued the tour with our totally abstract ideas of solutions and improvements.

Memphis 3.0 group
Along the route we saw broken, blocked and impassible sidewalks. We saw inaccessible businesses and Sandi pointed out inaccessible housing and town homes that did not have a requirement to be accessible. We looked out over jam-packed parking lots right next to nearly empty lots. It seemed to show the worst of a transportation system that was not working and the pressure from drivers to take up all available space.

Roger Ekstrom, our tour guide pointed out “lots of pedestrians,” at Pauline and Union. I counted three. But for memphis, three is a lot. Two of the pedestrians, one using a wheelchair, crossed Pauline, but they did not use the crosswalk. I thought it was interesting that with a crosswalk right at the corner, the pedestrians did not use it and crossed about 25 feet from the corner. The irony is that the guy using the wheelchair had to cut back north up the turn lane because there is no curb ramp onto the sidewalk for a long block in front of the Walgreens. He had to get back to the crosswalk along Union Ave. so he could use the curb-ramp.

If you wish to be part of the planning for the future of Memphis. You can find our more at: http://www.memphis3point0.com or call MCIL and we will help you get involved. 
Wheelchair user in traffic

Monday, February 12, 2018

Stop HR 620!

Federal Bill can hurt our civil rights
By Allison Donald
Sen. Harkin an ADA supporter with Bob Kafka of ADAPT
The tireless war on the disabled continues as the US Congress is set to vote on HR 620 this week.  HR 620 is the ADA Education and Reform Act and it will dramatically weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act by delaying requirements for businesses to be accessible for people with disabilities.
The bill would also add many additional burdens for people with disabilities to access a business by requiring them to file a complaint, specifically explain how they violated the law, and address how this is a permanent or temporary fix. H.R. 620 takes away the civil rights of people with disabilities to access the community like other citizens.  
It is troubling that anyone would support a bill that blames people with disabilities for the failure of businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Why are people with disabilities being made the scapegoat for inaccessible places throughout the communities that we live, work, and play?  
If a person with a disability encounters an architectural barrier that prevents her from accessing the business, she has 3 options under the ADA: speak with the business, file a complaint with the Department of Justice, or file a lawsuit as provided under the law.  
The “ADA Education and Reform Act” upends a key provision of the ADA by preventing people with disabilities from immediately going to court to enforce their rights and to press for timely removal of the barrier that impedes access.  Without this critical enforcement mechanism, compliance under the ADA will suffer and people with disabilities will be denied the access to which they are entitled to under the law.
ADAPT fights for equality
Nearly 28 years ago when the Republican President signed the ADA into law, the conservative US Congress had developed a private enforcement system that did not rely on the federal government. However; now with a conservative Congress, and US President, the Republican majority is demanding federal involvement in the private enforcement of the ADA.
This is an attack on our freedom and independence as people with disabilities.  The Americans with Disabilities Act made it possible for me to gain access to places of business where I spend money.  The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it possible for me to get into a building to go to work.  I am able to go out and enjoy my life at sporting events and concerts, because of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The American with Disabilities Act provides a sense of security, because I know my rights are protected and my rights are human rights

This is a call to action for all people with disabilities, because your representatives need to know #HandsoffmyADA

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Can dogs fly?

Delta Airlines and Service Animals on flights

By Christina Clift
Christina Clift
In an ideal world my service animal would fetch the newspaper, bring me the remote control, and always be on his best behavior.  He would always be glad to see me, take himself for a walk, clean up his own fur, never bark at the postal carrier, and obey my every command.  Finally, he would accompany me everywhere I want to go with no difficulty.  With Delta Airline’s new policy, service animals will not be able to accompany their handlers as freely as they did in the past.  No hopping on a last minute flight.

Starting on March 1, 2018 Delta will require 48-hour notice that a service animal will be traveling with you as well as a variety of documentation to prove that your service animal is well behaved and actually a service animal. 

But doesn’t that violate the law? Doesn’t that infringe on the rights of people with disabilities to travel freely? 

Well, the answer is yes and no.  It depends on which law a person is looking at. A Service Animal as Defined by Title II and Title III of the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  states that any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

These tasks can include pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.  Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA.  

Why not?  

Well, it is because the work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to an individual’s disability. It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.  On the other hand, the Air Carrier Act (ACA) broadens the definition of a service animal to include emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy animals.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support. Documentation and 48-hour advance notification can be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.  So under this law, Delta Airlines is well within their right to change policy regarding these service animals.

Things to Know
Which service animals are allowed in the cabin? 

A wide variety of service animals are permitted in the cabin portion of the aircraft flying to and within the United States. Airlines may exclude animals that: 

Are too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin, Pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, Cause a significant disruption of cabin service, or are prohibited from entering a foreign country. 

Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, and spiders.

How do airlines determine whether an animal is a service animal?
Airlines can determine whether an animal is a service animal or pet by:
The credible verbal assurances of an individual with a disability using the animal, Looking for physical indicators such as the presence of a harness or tags, Requiring documentation for psychiatric support animals and emotional support animals, and Observing the behavior of animals. 

What kind of documentation can be required of persons traveling with emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals?
Airlines may require documentation that is not older than one year from the date of your scheduled initial flight that states: 

You have a mental or emotional disability that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM);
You need your emotional support or psychiatric support animal as an accommodation for air travel or for activity at your destination, the individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care, and the licensed health care professional’s credentials.

Tips for Traveling with a Service Animal

At the airport:

  •  If your animal needs to relieve itself, please ask an airport or airline professional for the location of the nearest service animal relief area.
  •  Memphis International Airport has an area to accommodate service animals.

Onboard the aircraft:

  • Your animal must be permitted to accompany you in the space under the seat in front of you.
  • Certain small animals may be permitted to sit on your lap, if it can be done so safely. 
  • Your animal cannot block a space that must remain unobstructed for safety reasons, for example an aisle or access to an emergency exit).
  • An airline is not required to upgrade you to a different class of service to accommodate your animal. 
  • Airlines cannot refuse to allow your animal on board because it makes other passengers or flight crew uncomfortable. 
  • Your animal must behave properly. An animal that engages in disruptive behavior for example barking or snarling, running around, and jumping onto other passengers, etc. without being provoked will not be accepted as a service animal. 
  • For a flight that is scheduled for eight hours or longer, airlines may require documentation stating that your animal will not need to relieve itself, or can do so in a sanitary way. 

Traveling outside of the United States? Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to fly outside of the United States with your service animal. 

·        Foreign airlines operating to and from the United States are only required to accept dogs. 

·        U.S. airlines traveling to foreign countries are subject to the requirements of that foreign country regarding acceptance of service animals; not all countries permit service animals from other foreign countries. 

·        Check to ensure whether your destination country permits your animal and any other requirements to enter and exit legally. 

Encounter A Problem? 

If you believe your rights under the Air Carrier Access Act are being or have been violated, ask to speak with a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). A CRO is the airline’s expert on disability accommodation issues. Airlines are required to make one available to you, at no cost, in person at the airport or by telephone during the times they are  operating.

So what do disability rights organizations think about Delta Airline’s policy?  

The National Federation of the Blind said in a recent press announcement 

“We are particularly troubled by the requirement that guide dog users submit paperwork to Delta forty-eight hours before flying. Travelers without guide dogs are not required to plan their travel forty-eight hours in advance. Furthermore, guide dog users will no longer be able to fly Delta in family, medical, or other emergencies. We believe that this forty-eight hour requirement is both unnecessary and unlawful.”  

The best solution to clearing up the confusion on the definition of what a service animal is will be when changes are made to the ADA.  Until then it’s up to the service animal or support animal handler to educate themselves on the laws that pertain to their four-footed companions and where they can go and your responsibilities.

Friday, February 2, 2018


National Federation of the Blind Engineering Quotient (EQ) Program

Are you or do you know a blind or low-vision teen who wants to spend their summer learning, meeting new people, and having a great adventure? Join the National Federation of the Blind at our NFB EQ program. NFB EQ is a jam-packed week of fun and learning. Participants spend each day engaged in activities designed to strengthen their knowledge of engineering as well as their problem-solving abilities. In the evenings, participants hang out with the 29 other teen participants while exploring the local community and participating in various recreational activities. Throughout the week, participants will forge new friendships while increasing their engineering knowledge, problem-solving abilities, self-confidence, and independence. 



WHO: 30 blind and low-vision teens currently enrolled in grades 9-12 in the United States.

WHAT: A week long summer engineering program for blind and low-vision teens.

WHEN: Participants will travel to Baltimore on July 29 and they will travel back home on August 4.

WHERE: The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

WHY: To meet new people, learn new things, and have an exciting adventure!


HOW MUCH: There is no registration fee for this program. Visit our frequently asked questions web page for more details:


  • To be eligible to apply students must: be enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2017-2018 school year in a school (public, private, charter, residential, or home school) in the United States, be blind or have low-vision, and be available to attend the entire program.
  • Participant's transportation to and from the program will be arranged by the National Federation of the Blind. Students will travel to Baltimore on Sunday and will travel home on the following Saturday.
  • This is a residential program; students will stay in dormitories at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and all meals will be provided.
  •  In the evenings, after the conclusion of the instructional day, students will be engaged in various social and recreational activities.


"NFB EQ gave me more confidence to keep doing what I want--no one can stop me! The program opened my eyes to even more options in the field [of engineering] and it gave me some confidence that I can do some mechanical stuff that I didn't think I could do before." - Michael, Texas

"At the program, I learned that there is accessible equipment--I can use equipment that is close to what sighted people use, like Braille rulers and click rules. At school the tools for measuring in science aren't always accessible to me." 
- Lilly, Alaska

"I increased my drawing skills at NFB EQ. The tactile drawing board helped me, because I could feel what I drew. Visualizations also have gotten easier [going from drawing to model to prototype]. In engineering, you have to picture an idea in your mind and then draw it before you can build it. When you draw it, you can really see how it's going to come together." 
- Trey, Kentucky

"I am amazed at how the people involved in organizing this program made everything so easy for us. From organizing logistics to making sure the schedule was running smoothly for the students--the whole event was very successful. The staff's warmth and attention to detail really eased my mind and made me feel good about leaving my son at the program for the week." 
- Mark (father), North Carolina

"I was looking for a rigorous, highly academic science program that promoted and modeled independence and the National Federation of the Blind was offering everything I was looking for. Still, I was hesitant. What if it wasn't a good use of my students' resources, or what if they weren't safe? My fears were unwarranted, from start to finish. NFB made the health, safety, academic rigor, social experiences, and general well-being of our students paramount. Every detail was professionally planned and handled, ensuring that every moment, for every student, was as meaningful as it could possibly be." 
- Laura (teacher of the visually impaired), Kentucky


Send them to:

(410) 659-9314, extension 2418
National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1712887. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.