Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Why are you staring at me?

By Allison Donald
I can’t remember the last time I gave a damn about someone staring at me in public because of my disability.  If someone is staring at me while I am grocery shopping, at the mall, or having lunch with my coworkers it has more to do with them than it does with me. 
Allison Donald

I have grown to accept and embrace my uniqueness and you should too.  People with disabilities do not deserved to be stared at while in public simply, because we have body parts that work differently. 

I do realize that not every person with a disability is as comfortable in their skin as I am, which makes it extremely difficult to deal with a stranger staring while you are going about your life.  Some people can’t help themselves. There is always going to be someone who is gawking at you with a confused look on their face wondering what happened to you. Sometimes people have asked me if I were an accident. 

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me these questions I would be able to pay off my student loan.  I find these questions invade my space. They are rude and presumptuous.  Frankly, if you are not family or a close friend the reason why I am a person with a disability is none of your business.

The rudeness and stares from typical people gets on my nerves. It also makes me and other individuals with a disabilities feel like we are someone who is to be pitied. Or for that matter, people who see me as an inspiration, bothers me even more. 

Are you staring, because you don’t know how you would deal with being a person who is visually impaired or a wheelchair user? Are you staring, because you can’t believe that a person with a disability is living, working, and playing in the community just like other people and you are inspired by my very presence? 

I don’t feel I have to explain myself and other people with a disabilities shouldn’t either. Because you want to stare a hole through us we a too busy living our lives.

Instead of staring, take a minute to come up to me and introduce yourself and I will do the same. After all that is how conversations begin.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Facts about housing and people with disabilities

A New Report shows the difficulty of housing for people with disabilities

The Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force have released a new report, Priced Out: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities, documenting the housing affordability crisis experienced by the lowest-income people with disabilities across the United States. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides income to people with significant and long-term disabilities who have extremely low incomes and savings.

Activist with sign: We are HOPE

• In 2016, the average annual income of a single individual receiving SSI payments was $9,156 — equal to only 20% of the national median income for a one-person household and about 22% below the 2016 federal poverty level.

• The national average rent for a modest one-bedroom rental unit was $861, equal to 113% of the national average monthly income of a one-person SSI household. This finding confirms that, in 2016, it was virtually impossible for a single adult receiving SSI to obtain decent and safe housing in the community without rental assistance.

• In Tennessee there are 125,127 SSI recipients who get a monthly payment of $733. That puts the average one-bedroom apartment rent at 87% of the individual's income. 

• The national average rent for a studio/efficiency unit in 2016 was $752, equal to 99% of monthly SSI. In 13 states and the District of Columbia, areas with the highest housing costs, the average studio/ efficiency rent exceeded 100% of SSI income.

• Often, statewide average one-bedroom rents were higher than monthly SSI payments, including: The District of Columbia (206%), Hawaii (188%), Maryland (167%), New Jersey (151%), New York (145%), Virginia (139%), California (138%), Massachusetts (133%), Delaware (125%), Washington (123%), Illinois (122%), Colorado (117%), New Hampshire (117%), Florida (116%), Connecticut (114%), Oregon (113%), Vermont (113%), Rhode Island (108%), Texas (103%), and Pennsylvania (103%).

• In four states — New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont — and the District of Columbia, one-bedroom rents exceeded 100% of SSI in every single housing market area. More than 163,000 people with disabilities receiving SSI lived in these areas in 2016.

• In 220 housing market areas across 40 states, one-bedroom rents exceeded 100% of monthly SSI. Rents for modest rental units in 26 of these areas exceeded 150% of SSI.

• As a result of this housing affordability crisis, millions of non-elderly people with disabilities reside in homeless shelters, public institutions, nursing homes, unsafe and overcrowded board and care homes, at home with aging parents, or in segregated group quarters.

• Learn more at

Here in the Memphis area the most important thing we can ask for housing programs to include preferences for people with disabilities. Espicially a preference for helping people coming out of institutions will be a huge savings of our support funding. We can also save by helping people with disabilities to get housing and stay out of expensive institutions. MCIL will continue to demand this and to work for coverage by Medicaid and other sources for services that support successful tenancy. When people with disabilities and older Americans can get the services they need in their own homes, the funding recycles in the community rather than funneled out-of-state.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Rescinds 25 Guidance Documents

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, December 21, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Rescinds 25 Guidance Documents

Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that, pursuant to Executive Order 13777 and his November memorandum prohibiting certain guidance documents, he is rescinding 25 such documents that were unnecessary, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper.

In making the announcement, the Attorney General said:

“Last month, I ended the longstanding abuse of issuing rules by simply publishing a letter or posting a web page. Congress has provided for a regulatory process in statute, and we are going to follow it. This is good government and prevents confusing the public with improper and wrong advice.”

“Therefore, any guidance that is outdated, used to circumvent the regulatory process, or that improperly goes beyond what is provided for in statutes or regulation should not be given effect. That is why today, we are ending 25 examples of improper or unnecessary guidance documents identified by our Regulatory Reform Task Force led by our Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.  We will continue to look for other examples to rescind, and we will uphold the rule of law.”

In March, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13777, which calls for agencies to establish Regulatory Reform Task Forces, chaired by a Regulatory Reform Officer, to identify existing regulations for potential repeal, replacement, or modification. The Department of Justice Task Force, chaired by Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, began its work in May.

On November 17, the Attorney General issued a memorandum prohibiting DOJ components from using guidance documents to circumvent the rulemaking process and directed Associate Attorney General Brand to work with components to identify guidance documents that should be repealed, replaced, or modified.

The Task Force has already identified 25 guidance documents for repeal and is continuing its review of existing guidance documents to repeal, replace, or modify.

The list of 25 guidance documents that DOJ has withdrawn in 2017 is as follows:
  1. ATF Procedure 75-4.
  2. Industry Circular 75-10.
  3. ATF Ruling 85-3.
  4. Industry Circular 85-3.
  5. ATF Ruling 2001-1.
  6. ATF Ruling 2004-1.
  7. Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative Guidelines (2013). 
  8. Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Guidelines (2013). 
  9. Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants Program Guidance Manual (2007).
  10. Advisory for Recipients of Financial Assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice on Levying Fines and Fees on Juveniles (January 2017).
  11. Dear Colleague Letter on Enforcement of Fines and Fees (March 2016).
  12. ADA Myths and Facts (1995).
  13. Common ADA Problems at Newly Constructed Lodging Facilities (November 1999).
  14. Title II Highlights (last updated 2008).
  15. Title III Highlights (last updated 2008).
  16. Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business (July 1996).
  17. ADA Business Brief: Service Animals (April 2002).
  18. Prior Joint Statement of the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Group Homes, Local Land Use, and the Fair Housing Act (August 18, 1999).
  19. Letter to Alain Baudry, Esq., with standards for conducting internal audit in a non-discriminatory fashion (December 4, 2009).
  20. Letter to Esmeralda Zendejas on how to determine whether lawful permanent residents are protected against citizenship status discrimination (May 30, 2012).
  21. Common ADA Errors and Omissions in New Construction and Alterations (June 1997).
  22. Common Questions: Readily Achievable Barrier Removal and Design Details: Van Accessible Parking Spaces (August 1996).
  23. Website guidance on bailing-out procedures under section 4(b) and section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (2004). 
  24. Americans with Disabilities Act Questions and Answers (May 2002).
  25. Statement of the Department of Justice on Application of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C. to State and Local Governments' Employment Service Systems for Individuals with Disabilities (October 31, 2016).
Office of the Attorney General Press Release Number: 17-1469 Updated December 22, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Transportation Changes

Be involved with transportation improvement in Memphis

Allison Donald

By Allison Donald
The Memphis Bus Riders' Union (MBRU) has been working diligently to get back the Crosstown 31 route, as well as asking for extended service hours on the weekends.  The campaign was largely successful because of community involvement.  If progress is going to continue, the disability community must get involved with the Memphis Bus Riders’ Union so that our issues with accessibility and MATAplus can be properly addressed and resolved.

The 31 Crosstown (Firestone) route is not the only change that will effect riders.  The changes from December 10 will impact the 7 Air Park, 11 Frayser/Raleigh, 12 Florida, 40 Wolfchase, 47 Shelby Farms, 56 Lamar, and 77 West Memphis bus routes. MATAplus is impacted by the fixed-route service changes; they will only operate at the same times and within three-quarters of a mile of the fixed-route.
Ms. Bobbie Fields has been riding MATAplus for more than thirty years.  Ms. Fields lives along the 7 Air Park bus route, and due to the changes MATA has made service has stopped on Sundays and limited travel times on Monday through Saturday.  

“I have to find alternative transportation on Saturdays, she said.  “The inconsistencies of when I am able to travel and where and how. It is clearly noted on my profile the type of vehicle that is needed to accommodate my trips.”  

Ms. Fields’ experience with MATAplus is all too common. We must get involved and stay informed and engaged about the changes that effect our ability to travel in Memphis as people with disabilities.

For more information, visit the MATA website at: or call the MATA Call Center hotline at 901-274-6282. Information specialists are available to assist with schedules and routing information from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday - Friday and from 7:30 am to 4 pm on Saturday. Please note that the MATA Call Center hours may vary on observed holidays.

If you     live in or near one of these areas and you ride MATAplus please call ahead at 901-722-7171 and listen to the prompt until you get the reservation line to find out if you are still within the service area.  Memphis Bus Riders Union meeting are held every second Saturday of the month from 12:00 to 200pm at the Cossitt Library.