Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Social Security PASS Program

Returning to work with a disability

By Tim Redd
Here at MCIL we are constantly out in the community staying abreast of information that can help the community we serve.  August 30, 2016 was no exception, I attended the Social Security Administration Workshop by Dorothy Bailey, Jodie Oakes, and Carolyn Smith, PASS Specialist serving Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. 

You may be wondering what PASS is, we’ll get to that in a second. This workshop focused on how you can receive SSI and or SSID benefits and still work. There are stipulations that apply.

Did you know you can earn up to $1,780 per month if you are under 22 and regularly attending school? Did you know that there is a trial period of nine months that you can work and receive your benefits and there is a not a limit on what you can earn at that time?

I mentioned earlier PASS, it is SSI work incentive plan that stands for “Plan to Achieve Self Support.” Under this plan you can set aside income or an excess resources to pay for things you needed to reach a work goal. This program can benefit someone who wants to be self-supporting by working, in a vocational rehab, or ticket to work program, an SSI beneficiary with income other than SSI, one that receives SSDI and could become eligible for SSI with a PASS.

The information that I have provided is only the tip of the iceberg. Often times we as people with disabilities do not work because we fear that we will lose our benefits, as I have stated there are ways around that. It’s no secret that living on a fixed is very difficult. If you are interested in learning more about getting back to work you may contact social security via the web at  or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213. To learn more about the PASS Program you can speak directly to a PASS agent by calling 1-800-254-9489.

Friday, August 26, 2016

People Power

ADAPT teaches direct action to youth leaders

By Allison Donald
Alison Donald
Sunday April 19, 2015 changed my perspective on the power that I possessed being a person with a disability.  I was marching in line with people from all over the United States and we had come together as a collective force to declare access is a civil right in the streets of Washington DC.  I was nervous and fraught with anticipation, because I had never been a part of anything like this in my life.  

I don’t know if it was the stories that Sher Stewart would share with me about her and Deborah Cunningham’s numerous arrests or Michael Heinrich sitting with me in the capital and explaining to me why this movement is so urgent and necessary, or maybe it was the sense of freedom and belonging I felt, because for once this square peg fit into a round hole.  I was hooked and I knew where I had found a home with ADAPT.  I wanted to learn as much as I could which led me to Rochester, New York to attend the ADAPT Youth Conference August 5th-9th.

I had attended three ADAPT actions, but I was always one of the troops following orders.  I knew this time would be different, because I was going to be forced out of my comfort zone by our teachers Josue Rodriguez, German Parodi, and Nicki.  My specific purpose for being there was to learn the strategies and develop into a community organizer that could lead effectively and efficiently as a representative of the Memphis Center for Independent Living and Mid- South ADAPT.  

The first half of day during the workshop were led by Josue Rodriguez.  The activities he planned for the group were designed to make us challenge ourselves and ask ourselves how we upset the balance of power in such a way that those in power had no choice, but to offer us a seat at the negotiating table.  The highlight for me during those exercises were the mock action we put on in the halls off the center in Rochester.  It was intense and I think Josue was slightly injured, but it was needed to test each individual’s limits.  

After lunch, the focus shifted to the issues that affect so many in our community.  German Parodi and Nicki usually led those spirited discussions.   These conversations offered a welcomed break to the work that was ahead.  One conversation in particular drew the ire of everyone in the room.  German asked “If you could be cured of your disability would you take the chance?” This is not a new debate, but to hear the comments of post ADA babies was invigorating and is proof that this debate will be never ending.

Allison Donald at the ADAPT Youth Leadership training
Each exercise and conversation helped us foster a sense of trust and open the channels of communication among the group of trainees both of which is needed in abundance to strategize, plan and execute a successful action.  As a final test we were given the task of planning an action against an inaccessible restaurant just down the street from where the workshop was being taught.  

We had about twelve hours to identify the target, come up with a viable strategy, and execute so that those individuals in mobility devices would be assured equal access to the establishment.  I was assigned to the negation team, but could enter the building due to the scooter I was riding.  Now that I think about it kind of ironic that why we were there.  

As with every action everything didn’t go as planned, but it followed its own divine design and we ultimately gained the access we came demanding.  At the end of the workshop I was exhausted, but the sleepless nights and ink stained hands were worth it for the sense of accomplishment we felt as community and most importantly the bond we built as a family, because we are the children of the gang of nineteen.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tennessee Access Law paves Way for Guide Dog Users to Seek Justice

Tennessee Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind stands up for its members

By Christina Clift

Christina Clift
Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee traveled to Murfreesboro to support Mr. James Boehm and his guide dog Shep in court. They wanted to send a clear message to Criminal Court Judge McFarland and to former Uber driver, Ms. Douglas that guide dog users were no longer going to let discrimination go unchallenged. 

At 3:30 A.M. on Tuesday August 9, 2016, eight members of the Memphis chapter of the National Federation of the Blind began a three and a half our trip to Murfreesboro to meet members from other chapters and divisions of the NFB of Tennessee. Everyone needed to arrive by 8:00 A.M. at the Rutheford County courthouse in room 102, for the case of Rutheford County verses Ms. Rolonda Douglas. It would be the first case of its kind because instead of being a civil prosecution, this would be a criminal case.

On April 28, 2016, Mr. Boehm and Shep were left stranded at an animal hospital in Murfreesboro, TN. The Uber driver defiantly squealed away, refusing to transport the guide dog team.  

Shep with admirers
“I was distraught and infuriated all at once!” stated Mr. Boehm, who filed a police report with the Rutherford County sheriff’s department. After an investigation, the state Attorney filed charges against Rolonda Douglas for violating the Tennessee Access Law and scheduled her to appear in criminal court on August 9, 2016.  

Similar incidences have happened to other guide dog users and they have not been limited to Uber drivers.  Guide dog users have been denied access to taxis, restaurants, housing complexes, and other public facilities where they are allowed to be. 

On the evening of Friday July 15, 2016 a similar episode happened to Dr. Deborah Carter and her guide dog George.  Since her air conditioning system was out and the temperature outside hovered around 95 degrees she scheduled a ride with Uber to travel from her home in Cordova to a local hotel.   

Her driver stated “It is my right to deny you service.”  He denied her service because she was accompanied by George.  Ironically, there was an article in the Commercial Appeal the next day about Uber’s proposed settlement regarding a lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind.  It outlined the proposed settlement and Uber’s promise to have all of their drivers comply with the law.

Not only does the Americans with Disabilities Act make it clear that people with disabilities have a civil right to be accompanied by a service dog, Tennessee statute 62.7.112 (The Tennessee Access Law) strengthens the ADA by providing criminal penalties for discrimination. As a Class C misdemeanor, violating the civil rights of a disabled person accompanied by a service dog is punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $50.

Dr. Deborah Carter and George
When Ms. Douglas’ name was called to appear in front of the judge, everyone who had traveled to support James Boehm and Shep stood up.  This included Dr. Deborah Carter and George, along with a dozen Federationists.  

“So what option on the screen do you choose,” asked Judge McFarland after calling Ms. Douglas’ case.  

She replied with “What are the charges?” 

After listening to the charges against her, Ms. Douglas chose to reset or continue her case until September 20, 2016 so that she could obtain the services of a lawyer.  She looked slightly terrified as she exited the courtroom.  

Tara Tate stated “that’s the power of what being in the National Federation of the Blind means … we stand up for our members.”

The National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and largest organization of the Blind in the United States. The NFB knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day the NFB raises the expectations of blind people because low expectations are the obstacles between blind people and individuals dreams. You can live the life you want! Blindness is not what holds you back. The Federation provides scholarships to blind students; support for those who are blind or losing their eyesight; advocacy for the blind facing discrimination; and educational programs for the general public on topics of blindness. The NFB is not an organization that speaks on behalf of the blind; we are the Blind speaking for ourselves.

Needless to say, representatives from the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee will once again converge on Murfreesboro on September 20, 2016 to seek justice on behalf of James Boehm and Shep, as well as all other guide dog users.  This case is important because it will send a message to all Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers that it is a criminal act to deny service to people who use service animals in Tennessee.

Text of the law in Tennessee *** Current through the 2016 Session *** 

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED (Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-7-112)
© 2016 by The State of Tennessee
All rights reserved.

Title 62  Professions, Businesses and Trades
Chapter 7  Hotels and Places of Public Accommodation

Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-7-112  (2016)

62-7-112.  Dog guide to be admitted -- Penalties.

  (a)  (1) No proprietor, employee or other person in charge of any place of public accommodation, amusement or recreation, including, but not limited to, any inn, hotel, restaurant, eating house, barber shop, billiard parlor, store, public conveyance on land or water, theater, motion picture house, public educational institution or elevator, shall refuse to permit a blind, physically disabled or deaf or hard of hearing person to enter the place or to make use of the accommodations provided when the accommodations are available, for the reason that the blind, physically disabled or deaf or hard of hearing person is being led or accompanied by a dog guide. A dog guide shall be under the control of its handler. A place of public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a dog guide.

   (2)  (A) No proprietor, employee or other person in charge of any place of public accommodation, amusement or recreation, including, but not limited to, any inn, hotel, restaurant, eating house, barber shop, billiard parlor, store, public conveyance on land or water, theater, motion picture house, public educational institution or elevator, shall refuse to permit a dog guide trainer to enter such place or to make use of the accommodations provided in those places, when the accommodations are available, for the reason that the dog guide trainer is being led or accompanied by a dog guide in training; provided, that the dog guide in training, when led or accompanied by a dog guide trainer, is wearing a harness and is held on a leash by the dog guide trainer or, when led or accompanied by a dog guide trainer, is held on a leash by the dog guide trainer; and provided, further, that the dog guide trainer shall first have presented for inspection credentials issued by an accredited school for training dog guides.

      (B)  (i) For purposes of this section, "dog guide in training" includes dogs being raised for an accredited school for training dog guides; provided, however, that a dog being raised for that purpose is:

            (a) Being held on a leash and is under the control of its raiser or trainer, who shall have available for inspection credentials from the accredited school for which the dog is being raised; and

            (b) Wearing a collar, leash or other appropriate apparel or device that identifies the dog with the accredited school for which it is being raised.

         (ii) "Dog guide in training" also includes the socialization process that occurs with the dog's trainer or raiser prior to the dog's advanced training; provided, that the socialization process is under the authorization of an accredited school.

   (3) A place of public accommodation may ask a person to remove a dog guide or dog guide in training from the premises if:

      (A) The dog guide or dog guide in training is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it; or

      (B) The dog guide or dog guide in training is not housebroken.

(b) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Don't miss the date. Check your voter registration at MCIL.

Tim Wheat at the Memphis polls
The Tennessee State Primary Election is tomorrow, August 4, 2016. MCIL encourages you to vote. The General Election is coming up, make sure you are registered and can vote in that Election.

Upcoming Dates for the General Election:

Election Day: November 8, 2016    

Last day to register to vote: October 11, 2016    

Request an Absentee Ballot by: November 1, 2016  (return the ballot Election Day)    

Early voting begins: October 19, 2016  

Early voting ends: November 3, 2016