Making your home and property accessible for persons with disabilities following a hurricane



By Matthew Dietz

In times of disasters, most people focus on rebuilding, increasing accessibility for persons with disabilities does not register as important or necessary.  However, not only are accessible alterations required by law, they are frequently covered by most insurance policies as compliance with code or ordinance of law.  The failure to include disability related modifications is due to a lack of knowledge of the existence and requirements of modifications on the part of insurance adjusters.

Law and Ordinance Coverage

Many insurance policies contain law and ordinance coverage, which is an additional coverage for property holders that pay additional amounts which may be required because of a requirement to comply with a law or a building code.  Two examples are as follows:

Policy Example 1: When the dwelling covered under Coverage A – DWELLING is damaged by a Loss Insured we will pay for the increased cost to repair or rebuild the physically damaged portion of the dwelling caused by the enforcement of a building, zoning or land use ordinance or law if the enforcement is directly caused by the same Loss Insured and the requirement is in effect at the time the Loss Insured occurs.

Policy Example 2: With respect to the building that has sustained covered direct physical damage, we will pay the increased cost to:

 (1) Repair or reconstruct damaged portions of that building; and/or

 (2) Reconstruct or remodel undamaged portions of that building, whether or not demolition is required; when the increased cost is a consequence of enforcement of the minimum requirements of the ordinance or law.

Most property insurance adjusters are aware of changes required by local code and while some local codes have accessibility requirements; however, most adjusters are not aware of the requirements of disability rights laws.  Further, accessibility updates may not be required when the damage is not over a certain percentage of the property.  Improvements required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are included within law and ordinance coverage, and when any element of property is altered, the alteration is required to comply with these laws.

Modifications for owners or residents of single family homes or apartments. 

Under the Fair Housing Act, a resident in a property is entitled to have a necessary modification for his or her disability if the resident pays for the modification.  To the extent that a request is made under the Fair Housing Act, the requested modification is required by law.   However, when a property, or part of a property is destroyed, insurance should pay for the regular costs to replace the property, and the tenant is only required to pay the additional costs associated with the structural changes that would be over and above the cost of the original design.

Example 1:  The entry to a home was destroyed, and the home had steps, which were covered by a plywood ramp that the tenant used to enter or leave his home.  If the entry to the home was required to be replaced, the insurance company would be required to pay for a permanent ramp if it was the same amount to replace the existing steps and the plywood ramp.

Example 2:  A bathroom suffered extreme damages and needed to be repaired.  A lavatory with a removable base could be installed to provide increased maneuverability, instead of a fixed base cabinet.  If it is done at the same price, then there would no additional charge above the insurance.  However, if the bathtub needed to be replaced, and the tenant wanted a roll-in shower, the tenant would be responsible for the difference in the cost between a bathtub and a roll in shower.

It is important to note that the modifications are not limited to the residents, but also to family members, guests, or visitors who may need a modification for their needs as well.  The only caveat, is that for modifications to the interior of the premises, a renter may be required to pay to restore the element in the interior of the unit to its original condition, where it is reasonable to do so.  (It would be reasonable to remove grab bars, or a cabinet, while it would not be reasonable to narrow doors that are widened, or exchange a bath for a shower.)

The failure to allow for reasonable modifications by insurers may also subject an insurer to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 3605 and 24 CFR 100.70 for providing such insurance differently because of one’s disability-related needs.

Modifications for owners or managers of housing that receives federal financial assistance, such as HUD subsidized housing, public housing authorities, and student housing.

Federally-funded housing has the obligation to ensure that all alterations are fully accessible.  To the extent that the building is an older building, and does not have fully accessible units, than the property owner or manager has an obligation to ensure that five percent of the units in the facility are fully accessible.  The standard for accessibility for housing facilities is under the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS).  The Checklist for accessible properties and accessible units are available on the HUD website.

However, the obligations of a recipient of federal financed entities is not limited to when a natural disaster strikes. The property owner or manager has an obligation to modify the property at the request of a resident at any time, as long as the request is not an undue burden or a fundamental alteration.  However, in times of natural disasters, and due to the availability of financial assistance through insurance, a property manager may not claim undue burden for extensive modifications, such as installing a roll in shower, extended ramps, lifts, taking down walls or doors, replacing stoves or refrigerators, or the like.

Modifications for public accommodations, such as private businesses, stores, food service establishments, or places of lodging.

 The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that all alterations comply with the standards for new construction under the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.  To the extent that a primary area is altered, the path of travel to the altered area and the bathrooms, and other elements must also be accessible. 42 U.S.C. § 12183.

For example, in 1998, a lightning bolt struck Mercersburg School in Pennsylvania and destroyed its roof and damaged units of its residence hall.  Mercersburg made a claim on their insurance policy to upgrade the damaged portion to comply with the ADA, and purchased additional coverage to demolish and renovate portions of the property to comply with the law.   The Court determined that the insurer was obligated to pay any post-fire renovations that “were mandated by the ADA” and did not require an official to enforce the law by issuing a citation — all that it required was evidence that the renovation or modification was necessary under the law. Regents of Mercersburg Coll. v. Republic Franklin Ins. Co., 458 F.3d 159, 171 (3d Cir. 2006).

To the extent that an area of the facility has not been damaged and covered by insurance, the entity would be responsible to remove architectural barriers where the removal of such barriers is readily achievable. This is a lower standard than the requirements than what is required for new construction and alterations, but it still must ensure that a person with a disability has equal use and enjoyment of the premises to the extent that such modifications are within the financial means of the facility owner.  Small business owners are entitled to a yearly disability access tax credit to improve accessibility, and should take advantage of this benefit to ensure that everyone has the ability to be a part of the community.





Deaf Inmates Will Receive Services in Miami-Dade Jails


Disability Independence Group and Disability Rights Florida Resolve Lawsuit against Miami Dade Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to Provide Services to Deaf Inmates

Miami FL, October 19th, 2016, Disability Independence Group, a jailcellnon-profit organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, and Disability Rights Florida, Florida’s federally-funded Protection and Advocacy organization, have resolved a lawsuit concerning Miami-Dade County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Miami-Dade County) over its systemic failure to comply with federal measures intended to protect individuals with disabilities processed and incarcerated at their locations throughout the County. Upon filing the case, Miami-Dade County endeavored to resolve the matter to ensure that deaf inmates do not suffer from discrimination in the jails.

The case came about because of the experiences of numerous individuals who are Deaf who have faced discrimination in Miami-Dade County jails.  The Complaint recounts the ordeals of two individuals who are Deaf who have suffered directly from Miami-Dade County’s failure to comply with the federal laws intended to protect such individuals.  As a result of non-compliance with disability rights laws, Deaf prisoners are not provided adequate access to communication with their family and lawyers, adequate medical services, and may be assaulted and victimized without recourse.  This follows a nationwide trend as several disability rights groups have filed similar lawsuits.

Joel Martos is a profoundly Deaf individual who communicates primarily using American Sign Language (ASL) which is his native language.  He relies on ASL interpreters and other auxiliary aids to communicate with individuals who do not use sign language.  Throughout a period of more than three years of incarceration, Miami-Dade County failed to provide Mr. Martos with even the most basic communication accommodations.  He was denied accommodations beginning at intake, underwent medical tests and psychological examinations without any communication and was denied other programs in the jail.  Because Mr. Martos was unable to communicate, he had no understanding of programs available or conditions of probation and had no meaningful contact with family, friends or lawyers.

Joshua Santuche is a profoundly Deaf individual who also communicates using ASL.  Mr. Santuche was arrested in October 2015 and was not provided with an interpreter upon arrival at Miami-Dade County jail.  Mr. Santuche attempted to communicate with officers through hand gestures that he was Deaf and needed an interpreter, but was ignored by some officers and ridiculed by others. At no point was Mr. Santuche provided with a videophone or any other means of communication to contact an attorney, a bail bondsman, or his family.  At his bond hearing, no ASL interpreter was provided.  Had Mr. Santuche’s mother not been available and present at the hearing to interpret for him using what she refers to as “survival sign language”, Mr. Santuche would have remained incarcerated.  At the majority of subsequent hearings at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, no ASL interpreter had been provided despite Miami-Dade County having ample knowledge and time to secure one.

“This settlement ensures that Deaf inmates will be treated fairly.  Like hearing inmates, Deaf inmates will be able to communicate with their lawyers and families, not be subject to discipline or medical examinations without a full understanding, and will not be victimized by other inmates.” said Matthew W. Dietz, Litigation Director of Disability Independence Group, “Without communication, a Deaf inmate is required to become invisible, to avoid confrontation, to avoid medical need, to avoid rehabilitative services, to avoid recreational services, and wait endlessly in isolation for the incarceration to end.”

“As Florida’s Protection and Advocacy organization, we have a responsibility to ensure that the rights and dignity of individuals with disabilities are being respected,” said Molly J. Paris, Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Florida. “The law requires that individuals who are Deaf are properly accommodated and are afforded the opportunity to communicate so that instances of unnecessary incarceration or re-incarceration are avoided.”

dadecountyjail_pretrial_detention_centerThe Settlement requires Miami-Dade to timely provide qualified interpreters for all programs and services of the jails, including: booking, intake process, at classification hearings, medical or psychological treatment, disciplinary hearings, religious services, educational classes, Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or the equivalent, and interactions with staff that implicate an inmates’ due process rights.  It also provides access to and use of video relay phones and TTYs (communication device that allows the typing of messages), and repairs and replacement batteries for hearing aids and cochlear processors.  The county employees will receive training regarding the needs of and effective communication with the Deaf, and procedures for identifying and providing accommodations to Deaf inmates.

The Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Matthew Dietz from Disability Independence Group and David A. Boyer and Molly J. Paris from Disability Rights Florida.

For more copies of the Complaint and the Settlement Agreement, please click the links.

Disability Rights Florida was founded in 1977 as the statewide designated protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities in the State of Florida. It has been advocating for access to services, education, employment, independence, and the elimination of abuse and neglect for over 35 years.

 Disability Independence Group is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes recruitment, education and employment of persons with disabilities thereby improving their lives through competitive employment and financial stability; and through the changing of society’s perception of person with disabilities.  

Litigation Article: Can a Woman with No Arms Ride a Roller Coaster?


By Matthew Dietz

      Many people have a gut response to this question.  Jessica Cox filed an administrative complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations claiming that she was excluded from every single ride at Universal Studios Orlando because she was born without arms, and she was not able to continually grasp the restraints with at least one hand.  Jessica believed that the restrictions on all of the rides were not based on actual risks, but instead, based upon stereotypes of what she can or cannot do.

 Jessica is 25116_n81015jessicacoxcockpitcourtesyrgbfa classic overachiever in every sense of the word, and in relation to any person, able bodied or disabled.  She is the first armless person in aviation history to earn a pilot’s certificate, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a psychology degree from the University of Arizona, and motivational speaker.  She also does everything that “typical normates” can do, other than, according to her doctor, brush her hair.  She is the unstoppable force, and does not take “can’t” or “no” as an answer. ( )

So when this unstoppable force went to Universal Studios, she thought she thought she was going to have clear skies, but instead, she ran into turbulence.  According to Jessica Cox’s blog ( ):

Patrick and I were in Florida for the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival in November. We had an extra day, so we decided to go to Universal Orlando because we both love theme park rides. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of going on rides at Universal Studios Hollywood with my brother and sister. I loved the E.T. Adventure and Jurassic Park rides and seeing Jaws on the Studio Tour.

That morning, we were so excited that we were there 30 minutes before opening. At the gate was a sign that said, “People with Disabilities, Go to Guest Services,” so we made our way there as soon as the gate opened.

At Guest Services, they issued me a special disability pass and a rider’s guide for people with disabilities. Without any discussion, we took these, and made our way to the first ride, the “Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit” roller coaster. The Rider’s Guide, as well as Universal Studios’ website, had the following notes on the ride:

“This ride employs safety restraints which may not accommodate certain people due to their body shape or size”. It went on to describe a number of requirements including that the rider be able to “continuously grasp with at least one upper extremity.”

When we arrived at the ride, it was obvious from the seat display that the mentioned restrictions applied to my particular condition of being armless, and so I insisted that Patrick go on the ride while I waited for him on a nearby bench. “I’ll just go on the next one,” I thought to myself.

I was mistaken. As we looked at the rider’s guide, we became increasingly dismayed. We checked the rides one by one, and discovered that seemingly every single one, even the gentle kiddie rides, were deemed unsuitable for a person like me.

We were excited when we saw that the “Shrek 4-D” ride listed no restrictions for amputees. Shrek 4-D is a theater-style ride described in the rider’s guide as “involving loud noises, strobes, fog effects, and sudden movement, which could aggravate certain medical conditions. Stationary seating is available…” Finally, I would get my chance. As we waited in line, an attendant came up to me and told me that I had to sit on a stationary seat in the front row. Without arguing, we made our way to the front row and I sat on a stationary seat. When the ride was finished, Patrick turned to me and said he could not understand why I could not be in a moving seat considering how simple the movement was. There was not even a seatbelt in the moving seats.

We decided to pay Guest Services a visit, and asked to speak to the manager. A lady told us that she would be happy to refund the price of our tickets and register our concerns in their computer system. At that point, the manager walked over, and I explained that my main frustration is not just about the restrictions.

I understood that these are manufacturer-imposed restrictions and that the theme park could not do anything about that. I was frustrated that the theme park was being advertised as a welcoming environment when my experience of being excluded just demonstrated that it is not. People like me would benefit from being better informed about the park’s policies on disabilities so that we could find better use of our time. Not knowing that I could not go on the rides, I chose to spend my one free day Florida at Universal Orlando, only to find out—after paying for tickets and entering the park—that I would be sitting on a bench the whole time.

I fully understand that safety is, as it should be, the utmost priority. It is understandable that I am restricted from a roller coaster ride, but there was really no reason for me to be kept from a moving seat in a theater. Due to the park’s broad restrictions, I was effectively discriminated against. How is it possible to be in a country that will allow a woman without arms to fly an airplane and yet be prevented from going on amusement park rides?

I felt ignored, unseen, not taken into account. I know from experience that this often how people with disabilities in developing countries feel, but it was jarring to feel this way in the U.S. in 2015.

At Universal, I was no longer the first armless pilot who flies a plane with her feet. I was back on the playground at my pre-school, standing on the sidelines, watching the other kids play. I remembered wanting so much to do everything else the other children were allowed to do. I wanted to climb up that 12-foot slide that towered high above everything else, but the playground monitors were afraid I would fall off the ladder. I wanted to run as fast as I could but everyone told me to slow down. They wanted to protect me, but they limited me.

Considering how much the advocacy for people with disabilities has grown, it is disheartening to note that the evolution in this particular case has been towards exclusion rather than inclusion. I am saddened to think that children with disabilities born after my generation may never have the magical experience of a theme park ride.

As soon as I was back home, I made a follow-up call to Universal Studios. I was promised that my concerns would be documented, because they are feedback-based company. However, I was also told that their policies are cut and dried and are there for safety reasons. Basically, I was told that nothing could be done.

Last month, Jessica’s story appeared throughout the nation.  See  The news coverage brought out two very different attitudes about whether Jessica could be able to have an opportunity to go on the amusement rides, and there were many comments that demonstrated the general public’s perception of disability:

  • If someone without the ability to “continuously grasp” fell out of a ride at Universal you can bet Universal would be sued by that person (if he or she survived) or the surviving loved ones if the person did not survive. … Sometimes you just have to face the fact that Life is not fair and move on.
  • Sorry, but these people need to get over it, they can’t be a police officer or a fire/rescue person either.
  • And she would sue if she got injured on the rides. It’s not about what she can and cannot do it’s about how the rides are designed and what a person needs to be able to be safe on the rides.
  • As I feel bad for her condition however, there are policies put in place for a reason and bending the rules based on the personal accomplishments of an individual is far more discriminative.
  • If she flies a plane, it has been modified. If she has a black belt, the criteria was different to accommodate her. It would be criminal to allow her on a roller coaster. They would have to have a special car made just for those like her. That’s really what the lawsuit is about, through support from ADA shake down lawyers.
  • Sorry for the lady, but, she obviously cannot do everything that someone with arms and hands can. Some of those rides generate violent force. Had she gotten hurt she’d be suing for that. We all have our limitations and have to accept them.
  • There have been several incidents this summer of people falling out of rides and being killed or injured. Universal Studios has every right to try to minimize its liability. If she got on a ride and was thrown off or fell off, she would be trying to sue Universal! Just because she thinks she can do everything doesn’t mean she can.
  • Hun, it sounds like you didn’t give them notice and their policy is very clear. It’s a safety issue. Instead of pulling the discrimination card because according to their policy you have to be able to grasp the harness with an upper extremity aka an arm. Fight for the safety harnesses to be more welcome to others but not discrimination. They were within their right and refunded you

The generalized assumptions are always that there is a reason for the limitations, and if the rationale for the changes are related to safety, then they must have an adequate rationale.  Persons with disabilities, like many other minorities, live in a patriarchal system where persons without disabilities attempt to dictate rules and norms.  In this way, persons with disabilities, as a class, are no different from other societal classes, such as gender, race, class or caste where the dominant population creahyperspace-mountain-2tes rules or structures to limit the rights of others.   So, the underlying question is why – is there a basis for the limitation, or is it merely the stereotypical perceptions of ability.  After reviewing the comments above, the same assumptions or statements could be made about a woman who would like to wrestle or play football.

Rides were not always restricted to persons without arms.  The restrictions started after 2011, when Sgt. James Hackemer – an Iraq War veteran who lost his legs and one hip in combat — flew out of the “Ride of Steel” at New York’s Darien Lake Theme Park, and died. Authorities said he and a family member checked with the park about safety instructions before he got on the ride.  After this accident, theme parks restricted rides to those persons who had both one leg and one hand.  The hand was to grasp and hold the restraints.  Further, only some of the parks have adopted this limitation, and this limitation is not universal. For example, Disney parks does not have this limitation, and Jessica is able to go on Disney rides without limitations.

The validity of this limitations is suspect when the limitation is questioned.  None of these parks have tests to determine the extent of a grip required, and persons who have hands, but limited or no grip, are not barred from going on a ride due to this standard.  There are many disabilities where a person is unable to grasp a safety restraint, such as those who have multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy (including ALS), quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, arthritis, or other similar disability which affects the ability to hold on to a restraint device.  Further, there are many cognitive disabilities that may hinder someone’s understanding to hold onto the safety restraint, such as a developmental or intellectual disability. Further, even without any disabilities, it is common that many folks do not hold on to the restraints.  Lastly, I have never seen a sign at any amusement parks that says “PLEASE HOLD ON TO THE RESTRAINTS!”

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits this type of discrimination by deeming eligibility criteria not shown to be necessary as unlawful, by defining discrimination as:

imposition or application of eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or any class of individuals with disabilities from fully and equally enjoying any goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations, unless such criteria can be shown to be necessary for the provision of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations being offered;

Further, providing limitations on safety are also allowed, but the limitations must be based on real risks, and not assumptions or stereotypes.  The ADA regulations provide as follows:

(b) Safety. A public accommodation may impose legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation. Safety requirements must be based on actual risks and not on mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about individuals with disabilities.

               According to the safety regulations promulgated by the industry experts, the ASTM standards, the guidelines for restrictions are based on a suitability assessment based on an anthropometric factors that relate age and physical size.  This focuses on the measurements of the human body as compared to the design of the ride.   For example, rides have seats and restraints that have features such as contours, dividers, bolsters or other forms and shapes that aid in preventing patrons from sliding longitudinally or laterally outside of the restraint area.   When a person does not have a body size or shape that does not fit within the designed contours, then that person has a danger of sliding out of the seat.

               For a person of short stature, or does not have thighs or hips that can fit within the restraint area, a limitation may be permissible and based on risks. All persons must fit into the restraint area, disabled or able bodied. However, with arms, it may be different.

               Each time that I have ever been to an amusement park, I have always seen riders of roller coasters wave their arms in the air like they don’t care.  Jessica Cox was featured in the Channel 4 Paralympics “We’re the Superhumans” trailer that has almost seven million views on Youtube .  The premise of the video was “Yes I can”.    The premise of the Americans with Disabilities Act is that society must tear down barriers that are solely due to prejudice and antiquated attitudes.

No Wheelchair Users Allowed in a Miami Beach Condo!

siler poodle

Litigation: Siler v. Abbott House Condo

By: Matthew Dietz

Rachel Siler was looking forward to moving to Miami Beach in April 2016.  Rachel went to art school in Chicago and after graduating from college she started working in the Independent Living and Disability Rights Movements. Aside from this passion she has also represented the disability community within the Occupy and Anti-war Movements. When she isn’t fighting for social justice she enjoys reading, antiquing and designing.

 For the past thirteen years, she had lived in cold and windy Chicago working at Chicago’s Access Living, assisting people with disabilities and a coordinator of Chicago ADAPT, an organization that has dedicated disability rights activists that engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.  She found a job as an independent living specialist at the Center for Independent Living of South Florida and was ready to move to sunny Miami Beach.

As a wheelchair user herself, Rachel knew what she needed in order to live independently in Miami Beach.  She needed to live near to public transportation, a safe surrounding area, a building with an elevator, a residence that was affordable and accessible, and adequate green space so that her service animal, Minty could be walked.   Before moving down to Florida, she visited the area and hired a real estate agent. During her visit, she looked at eight residences. However, none these residences met her needs. When she returned home, the agent sent Rachel information about a condominium on Miami Beach at Abbot House Condominum, and it was perfect – one of the largest homes that she ever lived in.

She entered in to the lease with the owner of the condominium, and was told that a condition of moving in was physically meeting with the condominium association board screening committee and receiving written approval.  This was only supposed to be a formality.  So, Rachel spoke with the property manager, received permission to move her belongings in on May 21st, and packed and started the trek across the United States with her mother and a friend.

When Rachel came to Miami on May 20th, with her personal assistant, she did not get the reception that she was expecting.  The association manager met her and was shocked, he told her that she did not know that she had a “condition”.  She then went to a meeting with two of the board members of the Condominium.

Instead of speaking to Rachel, the board member started asking questions of Rachel’s assistant, as if Rachel could not speak for herself –

  • “Do you live with her?”
  • “Will you always be with her?”
  • “Do you sleep with her?”

“No, she can speak for herself,”  said the assistant.  Rachel continued, and attempted to explain her existence, she explained that she works forty hours per week and she schedules personal assistants around that work schedule.  Notwithstanding the humiliation at having to explain the fact that she lives and works like any other person, the screening committee than attempted to try to convince Rachel why she should not live at Abbot House.

  • The Board of Directors does not want to be held liable if something were to happen to you.
  • The building only has one elevator, how are you going to work if the elevator broke?
  • Fire fighters and paramedics do not want to climb stairs to rescue an elderly resident who was unable to evacuate due to a fire. The board did not have the funds to pay for modifications to make the building accessible.

Rachel told the Board that she would pay for any modifications to her own residence and the buildings elements are accessible to her and she did not need any modifications.  When they could not dissuade her, the association requested that she sign a waiver, releasing the condominium from all liability from any injuries.  To live in her home, she agreed, and then was provided the keys to the public areas, including the exterior door with the wheelchair ramp.

But before she could move in, the property manager told her that, the board that approved her tenancy to her face, now decided to decline her rental request, and followed up with an email:

This is to inform you that Ms. Rachel D. Siler, as a prospective tenant of Unit 4A, was denied by the Board of Abbott House Condo under the powers and duties of the Bylaws of the Association (See two (2) pages of the attachment).

By the understanding of the Board of Directors of ABBOTT HOUSE, INC. A CONDOMINIUM, the building has not the appropriate accessibility for people with disabilities conditions for the following reasons:

– The access to the building and other common areas as accessible route are not appropriate. We have not physical access like route, curb ramps, entrances and loading areas,

– There is not an appropriate parking space for a disable people. All of them are narrows,

– There is not a restroom and bathroom accommodation, etc.

All of the above are part of the main considerations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, the Association cannot be responsible for any future claim requested by Ms. Siler and any other officer of the Miami-Dade County

Stranded in Miami Beach, with no home, Rachel Siler, an independent living specialist, was in a nightmare that she would usually be the person who these issues would be reported to.  But in a new city, she did not dawn at south beachknow where to turn.  She reached out to Disability Independence Group.

On Monday, May 23, Rachel Siler, with the assistance of her family and her personal assistant, decided to move into her condominium in spite of Abbot House refusal to approve her lease in spite of their denial.  Until a lawsuit was filed, Rachel and her service animal were harassed and attempts were made to block her and her personal assistant from the property.

It is unlawful to deny a person housing based upon insurance liability concerns. Historically, people with disabilities have been stereotyped in many different ways. Some of the stereotypes used to label people with disabilities as incapable of living independently, having a job, having a social and sex life and enjoying their life to the fullest.

The most common barriers to persons with disabilities are not physical barriers, but the attitudinal barriers that lead to this type of discrimination.  The Fair Housing Act does not allow for exclusion of individuals based upon fear, speculation, or stereotype about a particular disability or persons with disabilities in general. This prohibition is both in housing, under the Fair Housing Act and with other accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  As discussed in the comments Americans with Disabilities Act, one “cannot refuse to serve a person with a disability because its insurance company conditions coverage or rates on the absence of persons with disabilities. This is a frequent basis of exclusion from a variety of community activities and is prohibited by this part.” See 28 C.F.R. § 36.202.

Turns out that the least of Abbot House Condominium’s worries should have been whether Rachel Siler would not be able to get around in her wheelchair and would injure herself. Maybe instead of assuming she was an invalid who sleeps with her personal assistant, the Condominium Board should have started with the premise that she had a job, a life, and a passion for helping others.  The real liability was the failure to acknowledge Rachel Siler as the die-hard disability advocate who works to help others destroy attitudinal barriers and harmful stereotypes.


Benefits from SSA for People with Disabilities

The author of the article smiling


The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

Social Security Disability Insurance or Title II, Disability Benefits SSDI: pays benefits to people with disabilities and certain members of your family if the beneficiary is “insured,” meaning that he/she worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Supplemental Security Income SSI pays benefits to people with disabilities based on financial need.

Comparison of SSI and Title II Disability Benefits


  • Welfare program funded by federal tax dollars, not SSA trust fund
  • Limits on earned income, unearned income & resources
  • Comes with Medicaid

Title II Disability or SSDI

  • Entitlement program based upon insured status funded by SSA trust fund (SSDI, CDB, DWB)
  • No limits on unearned income or resources – just earned income
  • Comes with Medicare


Types of Benefits

Retired worker and auxiliary beneficiaries: Payment for these benefits is made from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund.

  • Retired worker—beneficiary who worked in covered employment long enough to be insured and who is at least 62 years old (benefits equal to the “primary insurance amount” are payable at the normal retirement age; maximum benefits are payable at age 70)
  • Spouse of retired worker—must either (1) have a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care, or (2) be at least 62 years old; applies also to divorced spouse if the marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • Child of retired worker—see 3 types of child benefits below

Survivor beneficiaries Payment for these benefits is also made from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund.

  • Child of deceased worker—see 3 types of child benefits below
  • Aged widow(er)—must be at least 60 years old
  • Young widow(er)—must have a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care
  • Disabled widow(er) DWB—must be disabled and be at least 50 years old (converted to aged widow(er) upon attainment of age 65)
  • Parent of deceased worker—must have been dependent on worker and be at least 62 years old

Disabled worker and auxiliary beneficiaries:  Benefits are paid from the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

  • Disabled worker—beneficiary who worked in covered employment long enough to be insured and who had been working recently in covered employment prior to disability onset
  • Spouse of disabled worker—must either (1) have a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care, or (2) be at least 62 years old; applies also to divorced spouse if the marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • Child of disabled worker—see 3 types of child benefits below

  Types of children:

  • Minor child (under age 18)
  • Adult disabled before the age of 22
  • High school student under age 19




Work Incentives Protecting Health Coverage for People with Disabilities

The author of the article smiling

by Lesley Lopez                      

Many SSA beneficiaries are afraid of losing their health insurance coverage because of employment, however, SSA provides protections to SSA beneficiaries to be able to work and keep their Medicare or Medicaid.

Extended Medicare Coverage for Working People with Disabilities. Beneficiaries receiving SSDI

As long as your disabling condition still meets our rules, you can keep your Medicare coverage for at least 8 ½ years after you return to work. (The 8 ½ years includes your nine month trial work Period)

Your Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) coverage is premium-free. Your Medicare medical insurance (Part B) coverage will also continue. You or a third party (if applicable) will continue to pay for Part B. If your Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits stop due to your work, you or a third party (if applicable) will be billed every 3 months for your medical insurance premiums. If you are receiving cash benefits, your medical insurance premiums will be deducted monthly from your check.

Continued Medicaid Eligibility (Section 1619(B))

For beneficiaries receiving SSI

One of the biggest concerns SSI beneficiaries have about going to work is the possibility of losing Medicaid coverage. Section 1619(b) of the Social Security Act provides some protection for these beneficiaries. To qualify for continuing Medicaid coverage, a person must:

  • Have been eligible for an SSI cash payment for at least 1 month;
  • Still meet the disability requirement; and
  • Still meet all other non-disability SSI requirements; and
  • Need Medicaid benefits to continue to work; and
  • Have gross earnings that are insufficient to replace SSI, Medicaid and publicly funded attendant care services.

This means that SSI beneficiaries who have earnings too high for a SSI cash payment may be eligible for Medicaid if they meet the above requirements. SSA uses a threshold amount to measure whether a person’s earnings are high enough to replace his/her SSI and Medicaid benefits. This threshold is based on the:

  • amount of earnings which would cause SSI cash payments to stop in the person’s State; and
  • Average Medicaid expenses in that State.

If an SSI beneficiary has gross earnings higher than the threshold amount for his/her State, SSA can figure an individual threshold amount if that person has:

The state of Florida 2016 annual threshold amounts for disabled and blind beneficiaries is $30,566

Other health care options:

Market Place or Affordable Care Act

A service that helps people shop for and enroll in affordable health insurance. The federal government operates the Marketplace, available at, for most states. Some states run their own Marketplaces.

The Health Insurance Marketplace (also known as the “Marketplace” or “exchange”) provides health plan shopping and enrollment services through websites, call centers, and in-person help.

When you apply for individual and family coverage through the Marketplace, you’ll provide income and household information. You’ll find out if you qualify for:

  • Premium tax credits and other savings that make insurance more affordable
  • Coverage through the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in your state

On, you may be asked to select your state or enter your ZIP code. If you live in a state that runs its own Marketplace, we’ll send you to your state’s Marketplace website.

 Medicaid Share of Cost or Medically Needy

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) determines eligibility for the Medically Needy Program. It may also be referred to as the “Share of Cost” program. The Medically Needy Program assists individuals who would qualify for Medicaid except for having income that is too high. Individuals enrolled in Medically Needy may have a monthly “share of cost,” which is similar to an insurance deductible. The share of cost is determined by household size and gross monthly income. When there are changes to the household size and income, the share of cost amount may change.

Some examples of medical expenses that can be used to meet the “share of cost”

  • Unpaid medical bills owed that have not been used to meet the share of cost before.
  • Medical bills the individual paid within the last three months.
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Medical bills that will not be paid by health insurance or any other source.
  • Co-pays for medical bills.
  • Medical services prescribed by a doctor.
  • Transportation by ambulance, bus or taxi to get medical care.

For more information about the Medicaid share of cost please visit

 Community Health clinics (CHI)

Community Health of South Florida Inc. is a non-profit health care organization providing affordable quality primary and behavioral health care services to the residents of rapidly growing South Florida. CHI operates 11 state-of-the-art primary care centers and 31 school-based programs. All centers offer quality comprehensive primary and behavioral health care services. Our physicians are board certified or board eligible. Additionally, CHI is accredited by the Joint Commission and is accredited as a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). CHI offers a “one-stop-shop” model where the organization and delivery of quality services are seamless, affordable, accessible and culturally sensitive.

For more information visit the website

If you are a SSI or SSDI beneficiary and needs an individualized analysis of your situation please contact the Community Work Incentives Coordinator or benefits Planner in your area.  Please check the SSA Website for more details: