Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Make your Meeting Accessible

Information website details access ideas for meetings and public events.

Christina Clift of MCILBy Christina Clift
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that individuals with disabilities control more than 200 billion dollars in discretionary spending and believe that number underestimates their true buying power because disclosing a disability is voluntary.  However, according to the last census in 2010 there are more than 57.6 million people with disabilities living in the U.S.  For individuals wanting to plan the perfect cocktail party, conference, or other types of public events, it is important to include everyone.  After all, social media can often make or break an event and people will spend their money where they can find someone who can best accommodate their needs. 

The Accessible Meeting Guide will help you get started down the right path.  The information in the guide will help you plan an event that will be accessible to most people with disabilities.  It addresses items such as site selection, seating arrangements, preregistering for an event, providing accommodations for people who are blind or deaf, and food.  While most of the information might seem like common sense, for individuals who do not have a disability it can provide a check list to ensure a successful event.

The guide is easy to navigate. It provides logical sections to assist you in finding the information you need.  One interesting section entitled “Invisible Wounds, Emerging Promising Practices” discusses how to make an event accessible to veterans or survivors of a trauma by a few simple steps: providing advanced notice of strobe lights, fireworks, or other loud components, providing seats versus standing to provide more organization, have seats close to exits for those who cannot handle large crowds, and most importantly educate volunteers or staff on how to handle persons with disabilities who may attend. 

Another interesting tip under the section entitled “Personal Assistance and Service Animals” states that you should ask people with service animals not to treat their animal with pesticides for fleas or groom them with fragranced products.  I thought this was unusual because who wants to sit by a smelly service animal during an event.  Often, many owners give their service animal a bath before such events just for that reason.  Finally, the guide wraps up by providing tips for both attendees and presenters.  If you would like to fully read this guide or use it to help you plan for an upcoming event go to www.adahospitality.org.  

People sitting around a table at a meeting

Monday, March 28, 2016

Townhall on Transit

 Citizens for Better Service aim at problems with MATA

By Christina Clift
Bus operator beshide a MATA bus
On Saturday, March 26, 2016, from 2:00-4:00 PM, Citizens for Better Service held a town hall meeting at the Cossett Library to discuss the experiences of riders of both the Memphis Area Transit Authority’s (MATA) fixed route and paratransit systems.  While members of MATA’s board of commissioners and the Memphis City Council were invited to the event, none of them were in attendance.  

Representatives from the Memphis Bus Riders Union, Memphis Center for Independent Living, Shelby County Schools, and members of the public spoke about the problems they face every day while riding with MATA.  Audience members spoke about how route cuts affect people getting and keeping jobs.  For example, people working on Presidents Island will no longer be able to get to work if the fifteen bus route is cut.  

“MATAplus drivers deserve equal pay for equal work,” said Christina Clift of the Memphis Center for Independent Living. “By equalizing pay, MATA will eliminate the separation between MATA’s divisions and create a better system for all.” 

While no board members or City Council representatives were present, MATA did send Alvin Pearson, Scarlett Ponder, and Gary Dupper.  They took notes about the concerns of audience participants and promised to follow up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fair Housing for People with Disabilities

Memphis Fair Housing Center offers free help

The Benjamin Hooks Public Library
The 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act extends the civil rights protection of the Fair Housing Act to people with disabilities much like the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. To further our mission to fully integrate people with disabilities, MCIL worked with the Urban Institute on a national study that was published last June on “Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs.”

The study found:
  • Providers are less likely to respond to homeseekers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • People who use wheelchairs are more likely to be denied appointments to view rental housing.
  • People who use wheelchairs are less likely to be told about or shown units that are suitable.
  • Housing providers fail to provide a clear response or explicitly deny a quarter of the homeseekers who request a reasonable modification.

MCIL was proud to take part in this national survey but it is most important that you take action if you feel you have been discriminated against. It is illegal to deny housing to a person because of a disability or creating different terms and conditions for a person with a disability. The 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act requires renters to make some reasonable modifications for people with disabilities and renters must make reasonable accommodations to policies and practices.  

People with disabilities do face discrimination and you may need help with determining if you are protected, what is illegal and what the law requires. The Memphis Fair Housing Center offers assistance for free each month at the Benjamin Hooks Main Public Library. Each third Tuesday of the month at 3030 Poplar you can meet with an attorney from the Memphis Fair Housing Center.

The Memphis Fair housing Center investigates complaints of discrimination because of a mental or physical disability. You may contact the Memphis Fair Housing Center at: 901-432-4663. MFHC is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Friday, March 4, 2016

MATA Specialized Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting

MATAplus Application, Rider's Guide and Monthly Operation Report

By Tim Wheat

MATA operator and bus
The STAC Meeting did not have a quorum but the Memphis Center for Independent Living was able to submit a draft of an accessible MATAplus Application for the new Acting Director to consider. MCIL has made clear that the current MATAplus Application is not accessible because it is only presented as a paper document and MATA staff do not assist people to complete or understand the application.

MATA’s paratransit service, called MATAplus, provides transportation to people who cannot access the MATA system because of a disability. The irony is that MATAplus is the service for people with disabilities; yet they do not make their application in accessible and usable formats. Many would-be patrons cannot because of a disability read print. 

The ADA makes typical services available to people with disabilities so everyone may participate equally in the community. MATA’s failure to provide equal access often means that organizations like the Memphis Center for Independent Living must be involved to make the accommodations that MATA does not.

More importantly MATA’s failure to accommodate their customers reinforces the stigma that people with disabilities are dependent on others for equal access to the community. MATA’s error is hurtful to our community and a violation of the civil rights of individuals who apply for MATAplus.

MATA route map
The MCIL draft takes the MATA format and makes is more informative to the applicant. Most importantly, the MCIL draft has removed the questions about “conditional eligibility” because MATA does not limit eligibility. The result is that the questions deal mostly with why a person cannot, because of their disability, functionally use the fixed-route. The determination is not based on a diagnosis, but the pragmatic barriers that prevent someone from using the typical bus system. 

MATA presented the STAC members with “Revision 8” of the MATAplus Rider’s Guide. This is an important document that explains how to use the system. MATA does not put this vital information on the MATA website, but MCIL will publish the document as soon as we can scan and study the new Rider’s Guide.

Additionally MATA has some basic information about the system performance that they have passed on to MCIL. This “Monthly Operation Report” we will analyze and publish here on the MCIL Journal next week.

You may learn more about what the ADA requires from the US Department of Justice guidance at: http://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm    

If you need assistance with the MATAplus Application, please visit the Memphis Center for Independent Living or call 901-726-6404.

Analysis of the MCIL Federal Report

Each year MCIL submits a federal "704" report

By Tim Wheat

The Memphis Center for Independent Living’s federal 704 Report does not have a wide reach outside our federal funders and state network, but it can say a lot about our Center. Following is my analysis of the major areas in the 704 report.

Subpart A deals with Administrative data and is a breakdown of where the money comes from. This reporting year the MCIL overall income is down .06% from the 2014 total. This fall is mostly due to the end of the Urban Institute survey. The donations total is also down, but revenue from other resources is up.
The Total Income graph shows a .06% fall from 2014 this year. MCIL income grew from 2012 to 2014.The Total Income graph shows a .06% fall from 2014 this year. MCIL income grew from 2012 to 2014.

MCIL will report an overall drop in consumers this year in the federal report. From a high of 394 in 2013 to 360 last year and 309 for this reporting period.
From a high of 394 in 2013 to 360 last year and 309 for this reporting period.

However; over this same period of time, MCIL has shown a steady rise in New Consumers served in the reporting period and a decline in “carry over” consumers from year-to-year.

The decline in “carryover consumers” is a healthy decline. It shows that staff are beginning a Consumer Service Record (CSR) with a consumer and assisting them followed by closing the CSR. Some of our CSRs go back a long way, but the staff is working to only keep open records on people who are actively working on a goal.
Looking back at the past 704 reports shows that MCIL has progressively improved the number of consumers closed with completed goals. Looking back at the past 704 reports shows that MCIL has progressively improved the number of consumers closed with completed goals.

MCIL is reporting a .05% decline in Information and Referral over the past year and only 209 fewer than 2012. This mild decrease may be a result of updated address list.
MCIL is reporting a .05% decline in Information and Referral over the past year and only 209 fewer than 2012.Looking at just this year’s report, the 704 can provide a snapshot MCIL consumers. This year’s report shows a steady increase from our outreach efforts and an increase in the number of people served that do not fall into the major demographics of African American and Caucasian.

The pie chart shows 76.4% African American; 19.7% Caucasian; 1.3% Hispanic/Latino; 0.32% Asian. The 2012 report showed 98% of MCIL consumers were in the two major demographics, this year African American and Caucasian consumers make up 96% of the consumers.
The pie chart shows 76.4% African American; 19.7% Caucasian; 1.3% Hispanic/Latino; 0.32% Asian.

Likewise, this reporting period shows that MCIL served a variety of people with disabilities. The largest category served was physical disability, 40%. Multiple disabilities includes consumers who state more than one disability and could include any combination of types of disabilities. More than one quarter of MCIL consumers reported multiple disabilities. Vision with nearly 14%, cognitive at 11% and the other categories had less than 10%. 
40% had physical disabilities, vision with nearly 14%, cognitive at 11% and the other categories had less than 10%.

Our 704 report will also show that MCIL serves mostly people who live in Shelby County. Our outreach has been successful, and MCIL will report we serve people with disabilities from De Soto and Marshall Counties in Mississippi; Crittenden County in Arkansas as well as Tipton and Fayette Counties in Tennessee.
Read the Federal MCIL "704" Report