Monday, May 23, 2016

Renter's Rights

Fair Housing training for people with disabilities

By Christina Clift
Christina Clift
On May 20, 2016 the Shelby County Office of Code Enforcement in partnership with the Memphis Area Legal Services Fair Housing Center held a workshop to inform the public about renter’s rights. During the two hour workshop the presenter provided information about the Fair Housing Act, The Memphis Fair Housing Ordinance, and more.

Both the Fair Housing Act and Memphis Fair Housing Ordinance provide protections against discrimination towards individuals with disabilities and other protected groups of individuals. The Fair Housing Center provided an understandable explanation and examples of what a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification.

A reasonable accommodation is a change to an existing policy or practice. This means that if a person with a visual disability needed information regarding their rent or other issues that would normally be provided in print the accommodation would be to have that electronically communicated to them so that they could access it. A reasonable modification is a change to the existing structure of a facility. For example adding a ramp so that an apartment is accessible or adding grab bars to a bathroom.

When requesting either a reasonable accommodation or modification, it is important to put it in writing. The accommodation or modification must be requested based on how it would impact their disability. These requests must be reasonable and must not create a financial hardship for the landlord. If you are unsure about whether or not you’ve been treated fairly by your landlord or have been denied a reasonable accommodation or modification, you can call the Memphis Area Legal Services Fair Housing Center for assistance at (901) 432-4663.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Memphis Job Fair and Summit

MCIL works to coordinate information for people with disabilities looking for work.


MCIL Job Fair
(May 18, 2016 ) The Memphis Center for Independent Living participated in the Job Fair and Educational Summit for Veterans and People with Disabilities sponsored by the Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities (MACCD) on Wednesday, May 18 at the Kroc Center in Memphis. Hundreds of people with disabilities participated in the summit that consisted of four informational sessions and a keynote presentation by Stephanie Jones and Veverly Edwards. Christina Clift of MCIL is the chair of the Disability Awareness Committee of MACCD. Ms. Clift made closing remarks and received an accommodation from Antonio Adams of the City of Memphis.

There were over seventy-five employers with booths looking for workers. The Kroc Center gym was filled with people from 9:00 to noon searching for the right job. The Disability summit began at 10:00 and divided up into four breakout sessions throughout the day. Charles Henderson facilitated a breakout session on "Maximizing Your Job Search Through Social Media," and Tyler Rudd of the Toastmasters covered "How to Speak Well During an Interview." Sarah Kassas facilitated a "Resource Round-up" and Hope Johnson, a Work Incentives Coordinator, spoke about "How to Make Your Disability Benefits Work for You."

The Disability Summit included a catered lunch by Corky's BBQ and featured Veverly Edwards and her daughter Robin speaking about how disability has impacted their lives. Attendance at the entire event was not counted, but there were hundreds of people at the Kroc Center with parking spilling out of the overflow parking. The Summit ran until 2:00 in the afternoon.

MCIL Job Fair

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Healthcare Task Force

People absent from the round table

Tennessee 3 star task force at the University of Memphis

The Three-Star Healthcare Task Force met the public at the University of Memphis on Monday for a “round-table” that allowed few people to speak. The Task Force was created by Speaker Beth Harwell to address the Legislature overlooking the issue of Medicaid Expansion in the state of Tennessee. Rep. Karen Camper on the Committee said that they are hearing from people before they meet with the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in June.

The public did not have a chance to speak until the very end of the two hour discussion. The final statement came from Diane Cameron who has a daughter in the gap and questioned why the approved Insure Tennessee is not the guide the Task Force is using. The irony of the “round table” is that the Committee Chair asked questions of some individual who had no real understanding of healthcare the community need; and is likely the only individual in the US who did not know Emergency Rooms had an obligation to stabilize people. Yet, much of the task force time was devoted to this individual who represented the National Federation of Independent Businesses and he was unsure of how his organization stood on the Medicaid Expansion issue.

There was little guidance to the discussion. The Memphis Chamber of Commerce was clear that the Tennessee Legislature’s failure to act had cost billions of investment dollars and thousands of jobs. He said that healthcare is the number one concern for business that are considering to come to Memphis and our community strangely is young with chronic health issues.

The committee chair at one point quipped that “an advantage of waiting is that the data and what CMS will approve is better now.” The advantage he sees is that the state of Tennessee has lost about $4 billion but has the experience of other states to plan what Tennessee will do. The sad fact is that Tennessee could have expanded Medicaid brought the money into the state, improved jobs and saved Tennesseans lives, and still over the years contemplated changes to the program.

Marion Bacon spoke near the end and praised Deborah Cunningham and Sandi Klink of the Memphis Center for Independent Living for having faith in her to work and advocate. Marion said she just graduated from Southwest Community College and is an example of success if we invest in our community with healthcare.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fair Housing Rights

Disabilities and Reasonable Accommodations

Free Housing seminar at the Code Enforcement training room for landlords and tenants. 

May 20, 2016, 9:AM to Noon
6465 Mullins Station Road, Memphis, TN 38134

People at a training
The seminar is designed to give you a brief detailed synopsis of the fair housing laws and what your rights are as a citizen. 

If you have questions or to RSVP you may call or email L. Mario Moton at 901-222-76141;; TTY 901-222-2301. Para mas informacion en Espanol, por favor llame al 901-222-4289

Presented by the Shelby County Department of Housing and Memphis Area Legal Services.

Friday, May 6, 2016

MATAplus Takes “Same-Day” Reservations

Director Steven Fields says “Call at 9:AM and you may get a ride that afternoon or evening.”

MATA operator and bus
By Tim Wheat
At the May 5, Specialized Transportation Advisory Committee meeting Interim Director Steven Fields said that MATAplus had begun to take same-day reservations and provide rides THAT DAY.  STAC members were surprised and skeptical of the explanation by the MATAplus head administrator. Many felt that it was simply that the Director did not know the basics of the paratransit service and all the STAC members noted that they had not ever heard of the same-day offer and had no personal experience with a same-day reservation or ride.

The MATAplus report also showed that 2,367 people apparently got this service in April, 2,369 people were reportedly given same-day service in March and only 40 in February of 2016. Compared to total service, MATAplus is claiming in these reports that about one-in-five paratransit trips are actually same-day.

At the STAC meeting in March, Mr. Fields described the “Same Day Service” that MATAplus reports as the people who were put on a waiting list. He explained at the meeting two months ago that the “Same Day Service” were people who had called up to three in advance for a ride, but were informed of the availability of a ride on the day of the service.

However, the interim head of MATAplus was adamant that they were providing same-day service. Mr. Fields said that an eligible MATAplus user could call early in the day and would have an 80% chance of being able to ride later that day. He said that MATAplus offered this to be more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

MATA route map
The ADA does not require same-day service, but none of the STAC members corrected the head of MATAplus. Last month at the STAC meeting, Steven Fields had failed to define a “trip denial,” a central idea in compliance with the ADA and an item that is obviously misreported each month by MATA.

Both the MATAplus Rider’s Guide and the MATA website explain MATAplus as a reservation for next-day service. An MCIL employee even called to ask the MATAplus reservationist for a same-day trip and they were told that MATAplus does not make same-day reservations.

Although the announcement dominated the STAC meeting, in reality the misunderstandings materially harm any progress for the system. MATA does not report how many people asked for same-day service and were denied. They do not appropriately report or understand trip denials. They have policy and procedure that they are not informing Memphis customers about and most critically, the administration has little or no understanding of the responsibilities of a paratransit system.
MCIL asked that MATAplus undertake creating a new Rider’s Guide which Mr. Fields agreed they needed; however, he would not set any kind of timeline. The current riders do not have a guide and MATAplus has programs that obviously MATA staff and administration do not understand. Not making a commitment to inform customers is ignoring MATA’s responsibilities.

MATAplus did announce a “chat line” that may be used for quick communication with MATAplus. Mr. Fields warned everyone that it was chat and not text. He cautioned people not to message MATAplus and not wait for a response. Try it out: 901-443-2225

MATAplus also announced that they would begin to enforce a no-show policy in June. The no-show policy puts the responsibility for cancelling rides on MATAplus rider at least one-hour before the scheduled ride. Throughout this month Steven Fields said that MATAplus would inform riders if they had a no-show and would remind them of their responsibility to cancel in advance.

The STAC committee will hear individual’s appeals when a rider feels they were given a “no-show” unfairly. If you feel you should not have been given a no-show, please make a complaint at MATA by calling. Following is information from the MATA website on how to make a complaint: PHONE: (901) 522-9175

Riders First - Customer Feedback 1370 Levee Road Memphis, Tennessee 38108

MATA administration

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Health Care Task Force in Memphis

Plan to be at the hearing on Monday, May 9

People sign up for Get Covered AmericaShort Notice - Just released yesterday, the House Health Care Task Force has been scheduled for next week - Monday, May 9, from 3 to 5:PM. The meeting will be on the campus of the University of Memphis in the third-floor Fountain View Room of the University Center, 499 University Street, Memphis, TN 38111.

Speaker Harwell’s Healthcare Task Force is hearing testimony about a proposed alternative to Insure Tennessee for coverage of those currently in the Medicaid gap. Those in the gap are mostly working people who cannot afford premiums of health insurance.  The Task Force is hearing testimony on a replacement plan for Insure Tennessee to provide access to affordable health care for the 280,000 people in the gap in Tennessee.

This two hour hearing for all of the region of West Tennessee, including the City of Memphis is clearly not enough. However, this may be the only opportunity for people in west Tennessee to hear testimony on the issue. Make plans to be at the hearing if you can.

Office of Representative Cameron Sexton, Chairman (615) 741-2343