Thursday, August 17, 2017

On the Road Again

Drive for Our Lives bus visits Memphis

By Allison Donald
Save My Care is a grassroots community of Americans from all fifty states who have come together as a movement to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and push for positive solutions for our health care challenges.  As a result of their work and the work of countless organizations like the Memphis Center for Independent Living and ADAPT the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act never made it out of the Senate.  The Drive for Our Lives bus tour is a continuation of the Save My Care movement which aims educate and engage in civic outreach to protect our healthcare.   

Allison Donald being interviewed

On Thursday the Drive for Our Lives bus returned to Memphis in front of City Hall with Diana Baker, a nurse, Faith Pollan, Planned Parenthood representative and myself, representing Mid-South ADAPT and MCIL. The program was telling real stories of Tennesseans who have been affected the Affordable Care Act.   

Diane Baker spoke about being a nurse at a rural hospital and the desperate need for them to remain open. Hospitals like the Copper Basin Medical Center in Polk County are at risk of closing due to lack of funding. Copper Basin Medical Center is the only critical access hospital in Polk County, Tenn. Many other rural hospitals across Tennessee will meet this fate and the people who rely on this hospital for medical treatment will suffer because there means of getting help has been forced to close its doors.

This healthcare debate ultimately is about people like Faith Pollan who chose to use the services provided by Planned Parenthood have an abortion and take charge of her own reproductive health.  Planned Parenthood guided her through one of the most difficult decisions a woman may have to make.  It is important for us as disability community to stand with organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Organizations such as this one allow women with disabilities access to care who may not have health insurance and cannot afford some aspects of prenatal care.

In Tennessee people receiving Long Term Supports and Services make up 3% of Medicaid enrollees, but account for 20% of the cost.  The services provided by Medicaid that help people with disabilities live in the community are at risk of being cut severely if law makers choose to constitute block grants.  If we did not have those provision in the Affordable Care Act then we will be forced into nursing and our liberty and freedom as Americans will be taken away.  Mid-South ADAPT and MCIL are working to gather support for the Disability Integration Act (HR 2472) and (S910).  This piece of civil rights legislation will make it a mandate that people with disabilities receive supports and services that allows us to live, work, and play in our respective communities.  We realize that we even though we may have won the battle the fight for our lives is not over.

Michael Heinrich of MCIL leads the rally

If you would like to join us in the fight to protect our healthcare you can visit for more details and to find out where the next stop on the Drive for Our Lives bus tour will be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Total Eclipse Audio Description

Audio Description to Allow the Blind To “See” the Total Eclipse

WASHINGTON, August 10, 2017 — The Audio Description Project, an initiative of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), along with the Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind, the Tennessee School for the Blind and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, announces an opportunity for blind people world-wide to experience the upcoming total eclipse of the sun.

On Monday afternoon, August 21, at exactly 1:27 p.m. (CDT), the Sun above Nashville, TN will disappear from view. The sky will go completely dark. But through the use of succinct, imaginative and vivid language – audio description –the event will be accessible to the millions of people who are blind or have low vision, or anyone who wishes to experience a verbal version of the visual.

Between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. (CDT) on August 21, Dr. Joel Snyder will host “A Total Eclipse — Audio Described!” on ACB Radio.  Snyder, the director of ACB’s Audio Description Project, will present an hour of songs (“Ain’t Got No Sunshine,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Blinded by the Light,” “When The Sun Goes Down,” etc.), interviews and special guests — with the main event being described live from the Tennessee School for the Blind between 1:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. (CDT). Trained audio describer, Nashville-based Julia Cawthon, will describe the eclipse as it happens and provide a vivid “translation” of the visual event into words for the benefit of anyone who tunes in.

“Audio description uses the spoken word to provide access to visual images that would otherwise not be accessible to people who are blind or have low vision,” stated Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind. “Audio describers help make so many aspects of our culture accessible.  We’re delighted to sponsor this program on August 21 and help people experience this important event.”

How to access the broadcast: Go to and select “Click Here to Play.” Then be sure to select the link that opens the player that you use to listen to music or stream internet radio stations. You can also listen on any telephone by dialing (605) 475-8130 and select option 4. If you are using an iOS device such as an iPad or iPhone, install “ACB Link”; open the app, select the radio tab and then tap on the menu button. Select “live streams” and “ACB Radio Interactive,” select the play button and the stream will launch.

Additional information about ACB’s Audio Description Project is available at:

About the American Council of the Blind

The American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization. Its members are blind, visually impaired, and fully sighted individuals who are concerned about the dignity and well-being of blind people throughout the nation.

Formed in 1961, the ACB is one of the largest organizations of blind people in the world, with more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates and a nationwide network of chapters and members spanning the globe.

For more information about the American Council of the Blind, contact: Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1703 N. Beauregard S., Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22311; phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666; or visit the web site,

Director, Audio Description Project
(202) 467-5083
Author of The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and
Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description -
get your copy at
President, Audio Description Associates, LLC 

"The Visual Made Verbal"
6502 Westmoreland Avenue, Takoma Park, MD  20912
Tel: 301 920-0218; Fax: 208 445-0079

For more information about audio description, please visit: 

Director, Audio Description Project
American Council of the Blind -- 202 467-5083
cblogoscan002™ ACB logo id:image004.jpg@01CBED4F.9FF9D220 ADP logo

Donna Wolke
MTSU Physics & Astronomy
Box 71, WPS 220
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Phone 615-898-2130
Fax 615-898-5303

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Friday Game Night

Food, fun and games with the Grey Panthers

By Bobbie Fields
The Grey Panthers Game Night kicked-off last Friday night full of fun, food, music, and games.  The Memphis Center for Independent Living Grey Panthers is a peer-to-peer support Group for the mature crowd. Big thanks to our members for going the extra mile to make the first game night a great event.  It would have never been a success without the help of each member who attended.

Game night at MCIL

The Grey Panthers would like to thank the Direct Service Professionals for volunteering to serve and clean. A special thanks to Ms. Alecia for facilitating the Bingo game.  It was a lot of fun and excitement!

Also the food and drinks were enjoyed by everyone!

Life after 55 does not have to be boring, lonely, or isolated.  You are invited to come out and be a part of our vibrant Grey Panthers. If you would like to know about upcoming events; please contact Ms. Bobbie Fields Co-Facilitator at 901-726-6404 ext. 112 or Mr. Jerry Gamble Co-Facilitator 901-726-6404 ext. 122.

Friday, August 11, 2017

MCIL and Disaster Recovery

MCIL to be part of the Memphis and Shelby County Recovery Initiative

By Tim Wheat
Dale Lane of the City Office for Emergency Management and Rick Keith of Shelby County OEM invited MCIL to be part of the Memphis and Shelby County Recovery Initiative. This idea sprang from the May 27th storms and is intended to collaborate with recovery services for the city and county.
Memphis O E M Communications Center
MCIL along with about 30 groups met in the OEM communications center that is designed to keep emergency responders informed in the event of a city-wide disaster. It was set up like the White House situation room with communications, multiple screens and emergency lap-tops. Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, Hospitality Hub, Deaf Connect and Disability Rights Tennessee were among the groups present along with MLGW, Tennessee state agencies and many city departments.

The focus of the symposium was to assist individuals and families affected by natural disaster, especially those most vulnerable, helping them return to safe, secure and sanitary housing. A natural disaster will consist of the emergency phase followed by response, recovery, mitigation and preparation. Following the crisis, the recovery phase may include many local, state and national resources and will benefit from prior planning and coordination.

The goal of the Recovery Initiative is to build a collaborative network and to communicate effectively following a disaster. The initial goal of the meeting on August 11 was to assist those who may still have needs associated with the May 27th thunderstorm. Continuing to serve as a coalition and prepare for future response and recovery is the long-term goal.

MCIL can certainly help with many parts of the initiative. Most notably is the Center’s ability to understand and advocate for the unique and diverse issues of people with disabilities. Accommodating disability, making physical accessibility possible as well as including sensory, psychiatric and intellectual accommodations is necessary for the Recovery Initiative to be successful.

The OEM reported that more than 800 homes experienced damage in the May storm. They estimate that there are still 500 with unmet needs. This estimate only looks at the structural damage and does not include the human and social harm of the thunderstorm. MCIL noted problems from people in the Memphis area. Topping the list was communication and transportation. People also reported difficulty getting their medications and having access to relief and recovery actions.

The Memphis and Shelby County Recovery Initiative is planning to include disaster case management, communications, construction management, volunteer management, mental health and spiritual care, donations management long-term recovery administration and financial controls. The concept is to create a 501(c)3 non-profit to coordinate the effort among the local participants including MCIL. 

Please check-out our emergency preparedness article for people with disabilities at: 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


In life we all have set-backs

Tim Redd
By Timothy Redd

“You are an Inspiration!”

How many times has someone told you that? For me, it has been my whole life. How do you feel about it?

First, let me say inspiration porn shakes my soul and I find it offensive. Inspiration porn is when you see a person with disability doing something normal with a quote along the lines of “the only disability is a bad attitude,” or something similar. Let me say as a person with a disability sometimes my attitude is bad, and it has nothing to do with a disability but everything to do with be a human being.  We all have a bad day and I’m no exception.

When people tell me I am brave or courageous I don’t know how to take that. In my mind it’s a matter of sink or swim.  I get up every day and go to work like most people and I do what is needed to take care of myself. That is not being brave or courageous. It’s being an adult.

I mentioned earlier that people are always telling me how I am an inspiration to them, these days when it happens I ask the person “Why?”

I still get the occasional you are brave and courageous, but the majority of the time it’s actually because of something I am doing. Yesterday a random Facebook friend messaged me with those famous four word, “You are an inspiration.” Of course I asked why? 

“I have struggled with my weight,” He said, “and reading your posts and seeing your dedication and conviction really moves me…not only that but your courage and passion to speak on things that you think are wrong.”

I was surprised and talked to him more about weight loss. To be honest I had no idea I was inspiring him to take charge of his weight. He let me know he was changing his eating habits and was asking how did I jumpstart my weight loss.

At the beginning of the year after a physical my doctor informed me that my diabetes were progressing and that I would probably have to take insulin injections four times a day. Seeing for myself how diabetes has robbed people of their vision, relegated people to grueling rounds of dialysis three times week, and caused way too many amputations and more. I knew I did not want any of those things to be my story or more importantly I had to change. I developed some poor eating habits and I felt really crappy for just not taking care of myself.

I started reading about better nutrition and went on a low-carb high-protein diet in January and in February I linked up with a trainer. The first training day I felt like the fat guy who did not belong after seeing folks whose bodies looked like they’d been chiseled from rocks. Pushing past my reservations. I made it through my first workout, by the time I got home I was literally hugging the toilet purging out my lunch.

In my mind I thought “I can’t do this,” but I visualized my goal and with the vision I went the next day and the day after that. Slowly the weight started coming off and my glucose levels started decreasing as well. When I first started on the weight machines 30 lbs. was tough. Today, I can bench press 100 lbs.  I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, brittle bones and in spite of it I have realized I am strong.

Today August 7, 2017 I have lost 30 pounds, I’m packing on muscle too, and the greatest accomplishment is that I no longer have to take insulin or metformin for my diabetes. While I am happy about my progress, I am not done so the work continues. This has been an amazing and hard journey. I would not trade it for nothing because it made me recognize my own strength.

I can tell you it starts with getting off the couch and pushing yourself and telling yourself that you can. I never set out on this venture to inspire anyone or even wanted to be an inspiration, my goal was to actualize the vision I have for my life and part of that is fitness. I just want to be great. I never want to be an inspiration on the merit of my disability because a disability does not define or stop my life, but if my journey inspires folks; I hope it inspires them to believe in themselves enough to smash their goals and love themselves enough to know that they matter and are absolutely worth it.

When it comes to speaking out about things I think that we all have a voice and when we see things that just are not right we have to speak out and resist. This past spring, I went on an action with ADAPT. For five days we protested and participated in civil disobedience with the demands to save our Medicaid. Being thrown in an activist group made me see the power of resistance and the importance of speaking up and speaking out.

One of my favorite shows is Luke Cage and the recurring mantra of the show is always forward. In life we all have set-backs, but you have to be pulled backwards in order to go forward and that is what inspires me to keep going. If I inspire people to start anew or decide to keep going, I’m perfectly glad to be a source of inspiration.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Special Needs Trusts

Information from the Arc of the Mid-South

Christina Clift

By Christina Clift
On Thursday, August 3, 2017 I attended a workshop on Special Need Trusts at the Arc of the Mid-South.  The presenter was Deborah K. Brooks, a local lawyer and friend to the disability community. 

First, it is worth noting that the word “special” in Special Need Trust (SNT) does not refer to the person or their disability, but instead the word describes the needs that the trust will be used for.  In some states these trusts are called Supplemental Needs Trusts. 

The next thing to know about Special Needs Trusts is that the funds cannot be used to purchase food or pay rent or a mortgage.  Finally, funds that are withdrawn from the SNT are never payed directly to the person or beneficiary, but they are sent directly to the vender. This blog is not meant to be the holy bible of Special Needs Trusts, for that you would need to hire a lawyer.  The purpose is to hit the highlights.

A Special Needs Trust is used to set aside funds for future care.  This can include transportation, training, assistive technology, clothing, personal care, funeral and burial expenses, legal fees, financial management, and more.  However there are two areas that these funds are not allowed to be used for: purchasing food and paying for housing. The primary reason most people decide to establish a Special Needs Trust is to set money aside so that it is not considered as a countable asset when looking at applying for benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or other means-based programs.  For example, if the person establishing a Special Need Trust receives SSI benefits of $750.00 a month, according to the federal government, the SSI benefits are to be used to pay for food and shelter.

“Parents with children 18 years of age or who are 3-months away from their 18th birthday, must gain either power of attorney or a conservatorship in order to keep making financial and health related decisions for their child,” said Deborah Brooks. “Otherwise, in today’s society, no one has to talk with you about your child.”  

The first type of Special Needs Trust (SNT) is called a first-party SNT.  This means that the money used to open the trust belongs to the individual it is being set up for.  This cannot be money that you have had lying around in a bank account for seven years, but must come from an immediate source of money such as an inheritance or settlement from a lawsuit.  In fact, you have only nine months from the date of receiving the funds to establish the SNT.  It is best when setting up a SNT, to use a corporate trustee rather than a family member due to the complicated nature of the laws governing SNT. 

“The laws controlling Special Needs Trusts are as tough as banking laws,” stated Ms. Brooks. 

Christina Clift

Some of the items that could be purchased using a SNT include clothing, assistive technology, a vehicle, TV, or laptop.  But it cannot be used for dinner at your local steakhouse or a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. 

A first-party SNT can be established either to stand alone or in a pool.  A pool SNT combines hundreds of SNT with smaller monetary value into one large group to gain more from investments.

The next type of SNT is basically the same as a first-party SNT.  The main difference is the source of money that is used to establish it.  In a first-party SNT it is the individual’s funds that are used to start it. However, in a third-party SNT it is someone else’s money that is used to start the trust.  This could be money that a parent, grandparents, or friend sets aside.  Just as in a first-party SNT, the funds cannot be used for food or to pay for housing.  The funds are also sent directly to the vender or to reimburse someone for buying an allowable item.

For example, if the individual’s brother purchases a pair of needed Nike shoes for $150.00, a train ticket for $300.00, and pays rent for December for $500.00, he can only be reimbursed $450.00.  The $500.00 for rent is not reimbursable because it is not an allowable expense. 

What happens to money in Special Needs Trusts if the beneficiary dies?  In order for the state of Tennessee to recoup some of the cost of providing care, they attempt to recover some of the cost by ceasing any remaining assets once that person dies.  This includes a house or remaining funds in a SNT.  For most people, all of the money in the SNT is spent before they die.

The final type of trust is an ABLE account.  ABLE accounts were passed into law by Congress in 2015 and are quite similar to Special Needs Trusts.  However, ABLE accounts can be used to cover housing expenses.  They also are only used for people who were diagnosed with their disability before the age of 26.  They are set up through the Department of Revenue and can only have up to $100,000.00 balance.  If the balance exceeds $100,000.00 the beneficiary’s SSI benefit will be suspended not terminated until the balance is under $100,000.00. Contributions can be made by anyone and cannot exceed $14,000.00 a year.  If you are interested in learning more about ABLE accounts visit

With a little bit of preplanning by families, Special Needs Trusts and ABLE accounts provide a mechanism to qualify for means-based services.  While they are not perfect, they enable people with disabilities to protect money that they otherwise would have to spend-down to qualify for services.  The most important thing to remember is to work with a lawyer when setting a SNT up.

Friday, August 4, 2017

STAC Report for August

More operators and new buses

By Allison Donald
Over the next several months MATA will undergo several changes that will affect the daily operations of MATAplus.  The proposed changes at MATA are designed to improve the riders experience and address on time performance.
Gary Rosenfeld is interim CEO and as soon as the MATA Board of Directors chooses a permanent chief executive, STAC will request a meeting.  The STAC committee wants to foster a relationship of collaboration with the new CEO of MATA instead of being ignored and given lip service as previous administrations have done.

Allison Donald

MATAplus has already began implementing practices in an effort to streamline operations and improve the overall customer service.  La Barbara Houston stated, that Tia Landry the certification coordinator is working to resolve problems before they become an issue during the application process.  As a result, STAC has seen a decrease in appeals request.

La Barbara Houston says her goal is to have a total of seventy-two drivers on the street.  MATAplus currently has sixty drivers and plans to add eight more after their training is completed.  She expects to add nine buses to the fleet in November and December.  The plan is to get away from the buses with lifts in favor of the buses with ramps.  Hiring more drivers and adding more buses to the street will improve on time performance and stop trips being delayed and buses breaking down in the middle of runs.

The dispatching department will be moving to the Hudson Center.  All of the calls concerning both the fixed route and MATAplus will be going to the same place. MATAplus has seven dispatchers and plans to keep two dispatchers in the office until 8:00pm to catch those riders in the evening.  MATAplus will be adding two new dispatchers to cut down on hold times and monitor the voicemail. One dispatcher will specifically be there to answer exact time of arrival calls and handle the voicemails.  

The MATA board voted for the service changes Tuesday.  The new routes are the 280 Airways Express, from Downtown’s Hudson Transit Center to the Airways Transit Center. The 340 Walnut Grove Express, from Downtown to the Agricenter (Express buses will each run six trips a day, three morning and three evening). The 45 Appling Farms, serving business and government office developments in an area between Shelby Farms and Bartlett. The 31 Firestone, replacing service that New Chicago lost in a previous route realignment. The 31 will connect North Memphis to the Memphis Medical District area. 

MATA operator
If you are a MATAplus rider adding these new routes will increase the service area for our community as well, because it allows riders to come back into the MATA service area.
If you have any complaints or comments you can attend the monthly MATA board meeting which is every fourth Monday of the month.  The STAC meeting is also held on the second Friday of the month.  STAC committee and MATAplus will be celebrating the annual driver appreciation luncheon on October 19, 2017 from 11:00 to 3:00.  If you would like to contribute to the event please contact Bobbie Fields or Christina Clift at the Memphis Center for Independent Living at 901-726-6404.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Clift’s Notes: MACCD Makes Plans

The Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities Plans for the Year Ahead

By Christina Clift
Members of the Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities met at the Junior League of Memphis on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 to develop a strategic plan for the year ahead.  Individuals from organizations working with the disability community were also invited to provide input on the MACCD plan. 

Each of the four committees: Education and Employment, Housing and Accessibility, Disability Awareness, and Transportation left with at least two goals that everyone agreed were priority areas for the year ahead.

The morning began with a brief recognition of the contributions made by Louis Patrick who died on June 1, 2017.  Louis served as the first chairperson of the Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities when it was reconstituted in 2009.  He also remained an active member serving as chairperson for the Housing and Accessibility as well as Transportation committee.  Louis worked tirelessly to improve access all over Memphis.  His wife and close friends were present when a proclamation from Mayor Strickland was read and presented extolling his contributions and efforts to make Memphis a city of choice. 
MACCD members finished the day by brainstorming what we’d like to see accomplished by our committees.  Each person regardless of whether they were a member of the MACCD or representing an organization that works with people with disabilities were able to voice their areas of concern.  Since there were more than 20 people present this list became very lengthy.  Next, we all chose our top two priority areas.  The two goals receiving the most votes are the ones each committee will work on over the next year.  It was a very democratic process that took everyone’s opinions into consideration.

The mission of the Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities (MACCD) is to advise the City, in order to ensure equal opportunity and access to programs, services, and facilities for citizens regardless of disability.  Our vision is to make Memphis a city of choice that meets the needs of people with disabilities.  In order to accomplish this the MACCD: serves as a resource for providing and sharing information and education pertaining to the needs of individuals  with disabilities, ensures compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and all applicable legislation, and To dispel myths and remove barriers regarding the capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Louis Patrick

Louis Patrick once said “it’s in the committees where the majority of our real work is done.”  All of the MACCD committees are open for anyone who has an interest to join.  When vacant positions become available, we first look to draft new members from those individuals who serve on our committees.  If you are interested in serving on a committee, want to learn when the meetings are held, or what they are working on, you can contact the committee’s chairperson by using the information below.
  • Education and Employment: Pat Beane beanepm@scsk12.orgg (662) 231-5034 (Co-chair) Judy Creek (901) 517-6063
  • Housing and Accessibility: Rita Tait (502) 777-3983 
  • Disability Awareness: Christina Clift (901) 726-6404 
  • Transportation: Deborah Carter (901) 262-1878 
  • MACCD: Gary Smith (901) 745-7213

The Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities (MACCD) is made up of 21 members who live or work in the city of Memphis and who have demonstrated the desire to improve the lives of people with disabilities.  Fifty-one percent of the MACCD’s members must be a person with a disability.  If you are interested in becoming a member please contact Gary Smith at (901) 745-7213 or via e-mail at

If you would like to follow the MACCD’s progress on making Memphis a city of choice that meets the needs of the disability community, visit our website at  You will not only find minutes from our meetings, but resources available in the community. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Health Care Update

Back to Regular Order

By Allison Donald
The healthcare bill is dead, but that does not mean that the fight for our liberties as Tennesseans with disabilities is over. Last night the Senate voted 49 to 51 to kill the bill that would have cost twenty-two million Americans their healthcare coverage. This has been a contentious debate with people on both sides of the issue volunteering their time, some putting their bodies on the line, and spending time behind bars. As we move forward and the realization that Obamacare is now the law of the land again where do we go from here?

It is time that the lawmakers get back to business and work in a bipartisan manner to fix the real issues of the healthcare marketplace. This country needs to provide supports and services to individuals who need them without undercutting other programs.

“We are not celebrating,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (NY). “We are relieved that millions and millions of people who would have been so drastically hurt by the three proposals put forward would at least retain their healthcare and be able to deal with pre-existing conditions, deal with nursing homes, and opioids that Medicaid paid for we are relieved, but not for ourselves, but for the American people.”

In Tennessee we do not have long to celebrate because both Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker voted in favor of the repeal of Obamacare. Mid-South ADAPT will continue to work alongside other organizations to fight for healthcare justice for Tennesseans. There are thousands of Tennesseans who wake up every without health insurance. There is also a growing problem hospital closings that threaten to put further strain on an already stressed system of healthcare in our state. We also are working to untangle the mess of redetermination that is putting the citizens of Tennessee health coverage at risk.

Mid-South ADAPT continues to educate our community about the Disability Integration Act (HR 2472 and S 910), which makes it a mandate that people with disabilities receive services in their home and community. Mid-South ADAPT will work towards total integration in the community by supporting legislation like T.I.M.E. (Transitioning into Meaningful Employment) (HR 1377) which promotes equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Soon Resistance Summer will come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the work to Free Our People will stop. So for now during this brief intermission I want to say thank you to Senators Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for choosing to vote the will of the people over party.


If you would like to know more about Mid-South ADAPT you can visit or follow us on twitter @southadapt and like our page on Facebook ADAPT 

ADAPT in Washington DC

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Grey Panthers and Memphis History

Exploring Memphis with MCIL’s Grey Panthers

Bobbie Fields
By Bobbie Fields
The Grey Panthers spent a fun filled afternoon at the Benjamin Hooks library on Poplar getting to know all about how politics, race and the press played a major role in some of our cities major events.

The Grey Panthers are a group organized with the Memphis Center for Independent Living to facilitate peer relationships and social interaction for people 55 and older. The Grey Panthers confront issues of dealing with disability, health, finances and civic life.

The keynote speaker for the event was former newspaper man, channel 3 commentator and Author Otis Sanford (Boss Crump and King Willie). His book gives a detailed account of how these men influenced our communities, city and even our way of thinking today.

Racism was a major concern during the turn of the last century in Memphis and Mr. Sanford told the group about many issues 100 years ago. Some of the key players in our city political history were Mayor Henry Loeb, Mayor Wyatt Chandler, and Mayor Robert “Dick” Hackett, Mayor Willie “king” Harrington, The Crumps and The Fords.

Grey Panthers gather at the event

Events like this one is only a small sample of what The Grey Panthers are all about. We try to keep our seniors informed about health issues, our city and community while having fun. If you are age 55 and up we encourage you to come see and listen for yourself. We meet every 2nd Friday of the month from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm at The Memphis Center for Independent Living, 1633 Madison Ave. For more information please contact Jerry Gamble at (901) 726-6404 ext.122 or and Bobbie Fields (901) 726-6404 ext. 112 or

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Elder Abuse

People with disabilities need to know the signs of abuse

Timothy Redd
By Timothy Redd
Today I listened the Senior Zone podcast and learned quite a about elder abuse and justice. The guest on the show was Edwin Walker.  As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging of the Administration on Aging (AoA) within the Administration for Community Living, Edwin L. Walker serves as the chief career official for the federal agency responsible for advocating on behalf of older Americans.

In this capacity, he guides and promotes the development of home and community-based long-term care programs, policies, and services designed to afford older people and their caregivers the ability to age with dignity and independence and to have a broad array of options available for an enhanced quality of life.

Elder abuse is occurs more frequently than you may think and many think it’s a personal problem and don’t want to give involved. This is a humanity issue and one the best thing you do is say something if you see something. Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
  • Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
  • Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person's funds, property, or resources.
  • Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities. Self-neglect is failure to provide for one's own essential needs.
Sen. Tom Harkin and Bob Kafka

Did you know that Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse? Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities Recent studies show that almost half of those with dementia experienced abuse or neglect. Interpersonal violence additionally occurs at disproportionately higher rates among adults with disabilities.

When it comes victims of elderly abuse, their attacker is typically someone who has established a trust relationship with. It is common to find that abused elder feel shamed or may make excuses for their abusers. Here are a few key indicators of abuse and some common forms of abuse:

  • Physical: bruises, broken bones, abrasion, and burns
  • Emotional: Change in alertness, loss of interest in thing once enjoyed, and depression
  • Exploitation: Change in  financial abuse
  • Sexual: bruises in genital region
  • Neglect: Poor hygiene, bedsore, unusual weight loss, unattended medical needs

If you are elderly make sure you have a plan or develop a plan so that your support system will know how you wish to live so that they will recognize if anything is out of the ordinary.

If you observe or suspect elderly abuse call Adult Protective Services. TN Adult Protective service number is 1-888-APS-TENN (1-888-277-8366). If you suspect immediate danger call 911. To find resources and to learn more you may access
Mouth asks, What's happened to our rights?
Steve SAYS: “The federal government has totally abdicated its responsibility for enforcement.
an interview with Steve Gold by Josie Byzek
Editor’s Note: This interview first appeared in Mouth magazine in March 1998. It is amazing to hear the issues that faced the ADA seven years after it was signed. Now, twenty-seven years after the ADA, we are still concerned about the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Stephen F. Gold is the foremost attorney in the disability rights movement. He is co-author, with Diane Coleman, of the Not Dead Yet amicus brief quoted in 1997's Supreme Court decision. As attorney for Idell S. and Helen L., he sued and won against the state of Pennsylvania on grounds of the ADA for segregating people in nursing homes rather than providing them with attendant services in their own homes. He was the attorney in the ADAPT v. Skinner public transportation case as well. Gold is in private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What's the primary problem with the Americans with Disabilities Act?

People don't know their rights.

I am amazed at the number of people with disabilities who do not know what the ADA says, or what the regulations say. I frequently get phone calls from people with disabilities from all over the country who do not understand what the ADA says, or how to use it.

We're talking now about seven years plus since its enactment. That's frightening. The first thing that's got to be done is massive education and advocacy training.

Second, we have to help people enforce [disability rights law] in every conceivable way -- from pro se complaints to street demonstrations. You name it, we ought to be doing it.

People with disabilities have to be perceived as a powerful political entity. With very few exceptions, that is not the case.

I would change the mentality of the disability community to begin to say, 'We're going to get out there and enforce this law.'

Like any other law, if you don't enforce it, it's not worth the price of a pretzel in Philadelphia.

Why is the enforcement of the ADA different from the enforcement of any other civil rights law?

The ADA came about not after a vocal, visible, angry struggle for civil rights. It came about because an elite group thought it should be passed -- paternalistically, in other words. Consequently, there was not equal power in the passage.

The Chambers of Commerce were able to get what they wanted into it, and insurance companies got what they wanted. The movie industry got what it wanted into the ADA, so that you don't have open captioning in movies, or any alternate format. The local government entities got their three cents' worth in.

All the powers that be in our society which clearly have been discriminating in the past and are still discriminating, they all got their ten cents' worth in, or more, during the passage of the ADA, and people with disabilities just didn't have the power to counter that.

The ADA won't even pay for monetary damages for the injury done when civil rights are violated. That's a humongously big compromise on the ADA. I don't know another civil rights statute where a minority whose civil rights are violated cannot get damages for that injury. But the other thing which is really critical is that the only entity that can get damages awarded under the ADA is the U.S. Department of Justice. And Congress even set very specific amounts that they can get.

So two things -- first, it's very paternalistic to set things up that way. Second, and much more critical, is that the DOJ can bring only a very limited number of suits.

We know how backlogged they are, and they just cannot do what needs to be done. If people with disabilities could get compensatory damages when they sue under the ADA, even if those amounts were minimal, that would make it worthwhile to bring the suit.

Then too, if the defendants knew they would have to pay not just to make their store or restaurant accessible, but also to pay damages, they would, on their own, make their businesses accessible.

It's as if the ADA is saying, “If you break this law, the penalty is that you'll have to obey it.”

That's not a big penalty.

What's the best part of the ADA itself?

Just starting right at the top [in the findings of the ADA] Congress says, 'Historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.'

Those findings should be used by people as a trumpet, as a clarion.

Disability rights are trivialized by most people. They are not considered civil rights. The fact that a person using a wheelchair cannot get up two steps into a store is not looked at as a violation of that person's civil rights. Or the fact that people can't get on the bus. Or that movies aren't captioned or that elevators are not braille -- those are not looked on as violations of civil rights. Those are perceived by the public as inconveniences or technological difficulties.

But they are barriers to access and they are, by Congress's definition, civil rights violations. Depending on which label you put on them, a different consequence in our society will follow.

The congressional finding at the opening of the ADA, if used by advocates, by people with disabilities, applies to so many circumstances people face. What that congressional finding does is make access a civil rights issue.

Congress says, 'Individuals with disabilities are a discrete and insular minority faced with restrictions and limitations, subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment, relegated to the position of political powerlessness in our society.'

But violators always say it wasn't intentional...

What Congress found is discrimination in such critical areas as access to services and access to public accommodations. That made those two steps, that curb without a curb cut, violations of civil rights.

Pre-1990 it might have been unintentional. But when Congress passed the law, it became the law. Period.

Can you imagine what this country would have been like seven years after 1964 if we still had bathrooms marked whites only and colored only? I mean, that's segregation, and that's separation, the bathrooms and the water fountains. It's historic. Back in the Fifties, they'd say they weren't discriminating, that's just the way things were!

When Congress in 1964 passed a law saying access must be equal, if the restaurants and bus stations had continued to keep separate bathrooms and separate water fountains, there would have been a bloodbath in this country.

Same thing with women's rights. Can you imagine passing Title IX and seven years later a college says to you or to your daughter, "Well, we have the football team for the boys, and the basketball team for the boys and the baseball team for the boys. We'll get around to giving the girls a swim team sometime."

Women would have gone crazy.

It seems like the ADA works best in employment cases.

Employment? Employment is a losing battle.

Let me tell you an entity that has been cowardly and impotent. Under Section 503 of the Rehab Act, since 1973, every single business that gets a contract with the federal government was supposed to have an affirmative program for hiring persons with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor has never, ever, enforced that.

I'm not talking quotas -- who cares quotas! Go and find out when Boeing gets a federal contract for billions of dollars how many people with disabilities have they hired, how many will they hire, what are they doing. It's not quotas. They have to have an affirmative plan and they have to implement it.

If you go in and Boeing has 60,000 employees and 20 are disabled, that's not an affirmative plan. We're not dickering over the numbers. We're saying that the Department of Labor has not done its job.

The federal government has totally abdicated responsibility for the civil rights of people with disabilities. We see it with the Department of Labor under Sect. 503, we see it with the Department of Transportation in regulating Over-the-Road buses, and with paratransit. The DOT does nothing to enforce the ADA.

We see it with HUD. Each recipient of HUD funds is supposed to have 5% of its houses, the new dwellings, accessible for people with disabilities. We know that doesn't happen. The only agency with the money to go out and look at them and make sure they do it is HUD. HUD doesn't do it in housing, DOT doesn't do it in transportation, DOL doesn't do it in employment.

When historians look at the disability movement from 1973 to 2003, the most shocking thing will be how the federal government totally abdicated its responsibility. Under Title III, people weren't given any teeth to do it. Congress passed the law. The federal agencies are supposed to be enforcing it and they don't.

People can bring a lawsuit. We have that pro se complaint, so people can file their own lawsuit. That was done solely because there are no lawyers who want to do these cases.

But the ADA doesn't call for equal access in all cases. It's program access, right?

That's not what the ADA says. That's a misinterpretation. Let's look at the law.

First, when you use the word 'program' you're in Title II, which applies to government. That term is not involved at all in Title III.

Congress wrote, 'Subject to the division of this Title, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation or be denied the benefits of services, programs or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by such an entity.' DOJ, in its regulations under program accessibility, said basically the same thing that Congress said.

In 1992, you were to look at a government program, service or activity and then, when viewed in its entirety, determine whether it was readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. With any program back then, that concept applies.

But eventually the entire program is supposed to be accessible. No one's ever defined 'eventually' except in the following way: If new construction is done, they have to make the entity accessible. If alterations are done, they have to make the entity accessible.

Let me put it in concrete terms: the lottery. Let's assume that in 1990 there were 1000 lottery outlets in Pennsylvania. When the regulations were promulgated, you had to look at the lottery and say, when viewed in its entirety, is it readily accessible? So you have to say, of that 1000, how many were accessible, and where were they located. You'd have to do a geographical distribution. Let's assume for the moment that 333 were accessible and they were distributed geographically equally, so people could agree that when viewed in its entirety, the lottery was accessible.

Let's assume that in 1993 there were another 100 lottery outlets, so it's up to 1,100. Well, those new 100 all have to be accessible. It's not a case of 'You would think.' They have to be, because you are no longer looking at an existing program; these are not existing outlets, these are new. The 1,000 on January 26, 1992, were existing. But the new ones in 1993, they weren't existing in 1992.

The government has to make sure that when they get new programs on board, those programs are accessible. Not just when they're newly constructed.

Very few people understand Title II program access. If you did a survey, most people would say that if the new 100 lottery outlets in my example were all inaccessible, that would be okay because the program may still be accessible when viewed in its entirety.

Well, if that's the case, then we're never going to get 100 percent accessibility. And Congress intended for us to get to 100 percent accessibility.

Take a homeless shelter that existed in 1992. How do they make the shelter program accessible? One way may be to build a ramp or a lift, another way may be to give vouchers to a hotel. Let's assume they start a shelter in 1995. Well, they just can't start an inaccessible shelter. That's a new program, it was not an existing program in 1992. 'When viewed in its entirety' is limited to existing programs as of January 26, 1992.

Even then, all services must be provided. That point is incredibly widely misunderstood.

You talk a lot about segregation.

The Helen L. lawsuit was intended -- besides getting some people out of nursing homes -- to get people to begin to talk about segregation. Even though Congress talked about segregation, it's rare to hear people with disabilities talk about it.

People who cannot get into that restaurant and eat with me, they're discriminated against, as am I when I can't have lunch with them. When people can't sit next to other people in the movies, or they get put in the back row, that's segregation.

People with disabilities are still segregated, in nursing homes. And I don't do much education law, but I am shocked that we still have schools in this country segregating kids based on disabilities.

People have a right to be segregated if they choose. If people want to go to a school where only deaf people are, or where people only use ASL, they have that right. They cannot be made to do that. Under Title II, the state cannot make them do that. In Title III, it's the private business; the restaurants and stores cannot make themselves inaccessible.

It has to be truly a choice. Sheltered workshops are a great example. If you don't have supported employment, and job coaches, then to say someone wants to choose sheltered workshops -- if that's the only thing that exists, it's not a choice.

Same thing on nursing homes. There's so many people living in nursing homes right now solely because there are no accessible houses, no accessible services such as attendant services. To say that people have chosen segregation -- they may not have any choice. They want to live. They want to just stay alive.

Say you want to go to an art show with other people, who are blind, and the museum says, 'Look, we would be glad to have a special program oriented specifically towards blind folks.' They can do that, but a blind person cannot be made to only go to that. The blind person has a right to go to any other show. And the museum must have reasonable accommodation to that other show so there is equal access.

You say that assisted suicide is against the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Surveys show it. When people with disabilities go to their doctors, doctors cringe; they can't believe someone lives like that.

People with disabilities are not going to be given the same suicide prevention interventions as non-disabled people. That's the more critical point.

If a 30-year-old non-disabled person goes to their doctor and says, 'I just can't go on anymore. I've lost my loved one. My life isn't worth anything. I want assistance in committing suicide,' the doctor would do everything possible to talk him out of it. There would be therapy, counseling, medication. The unstated thing from the doctor's point of view is that the AB's life is valuable.

If a 30-year-old person with a disability comes in, says exactly the same thing, doctors don't provide the same suicide prevention. That's discrimination under the ADA because it's based solely on disability.

If physician-assisted suicide were permitted, the discrimination against people with disabilities would be much worse. Doctors are going to go, subtly or not so subtly, out of their way to urge people with disabilities to off themselves.