In 2016 DIG Builds Partnerships at the INTERSECTION of Domestic Violence and Disability
In 2016, one of DIG’s greatest accomplishments was becoming part of the solution for the serious problem of access to domestic violence and sexual assault services for persons with disabilities. We did this by spending the year building partnerships with three organizations that are the pillars in our community for serving victims of abuse. They are MUJER ( Mujeres Unidas en Justicia,Educacion,y Reforma, inc.) CVAC ( Coordinated Victim assistance Center of Miami Dade County), and Dade Legal Aid.
With a grant from the Office of Violence Against Women, US Dept. Of Justice (only 6 awarded in the country) we spent this year creating a Charter that will direct our work together for the next two years.
One organization can never offer all the services victims/survivors with disabilities need when experiencing violence and abuse. With funding so scarce, it is almost impossible for one organization to serve everyone and offer all services. That is why the only solution is creative and meaningful collaborations. The Miami Inclusion Alliance (MIA)’ that we formed this year, is such a collaboration. The four of us have come together to forge a partnership that will lead to a safer, more accessible system of care for victims who are persons with disabilities. This partnership will allow each of us to expand our understanding of victims/survivors’ needs and combine our resources to create a system of services that is more complete and integrated.
What Can Be Achieved when you build the right Collaboration? NEW and CREATIVE SOLUTIONS
The deaf and hard of hearing world is unique because of the difficulty in communicating with others. The world of the victim of domestic violence is also one of isolation and lack of access to the outside world. A batterer typically isolates their victim to instill dependency. When you combine both realities, it is easy to understand why a deaf victim takes up to seven times longer to leave his or her abuser than it would for a hearing victim.
Deaf victims must also struggle with the decision to use the systems and services that even hearing victims find almost im
possible to navigate. There are so many questions that must be addressed: where will I live if I seek a restraining order? What will happen if I go to a shelter? Will someone be able to communicate with me? What will happen to my children? Will I be treated equally if my abuser is a hearing person? Because most folks are unfamiliar with the deaf culture,the victim sometimes has to spend
his or her time educating the providers on the communication and cultural differences of the deaf community rather than being
the recipient of support and services.
The National Association for the Deaf published an article in 2007 titled “Domestic Violence: we can’t ignore it anymore.” It explored why deaf women suffer a greater risk of domestic violence. They
(who?) found that while there has been a lot powerful advocacy work on other issues, the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault have largely been overlooked or misunderstood in the deaf
community. Deaf survivors are unable to seek help from either the hearing or the deaf community. This is largely caused by misconceptions, putting blame on the survivor and the code of silence that still exists in the deaf community.
Now that I have raised the issue… What do we do? We need a two-
prong approach that addresses both outreach and education. We have begun that effort with a committed group of folks who are creating a training for deaf high schoolers in Dade public schools,
and we have begun a dialogue with the provider community and the courts. We will keep you posted on our efforts. If you are
interested in the effort email me…firstname.lastname@example.org
On April 7-9, 2014, I had the privilege to attend the 2014 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. and participate in advocacy efforts to make an impact on disability policy. The Disability Policy Seminar is an event that brings together advocates for individuals with disabilities with public policy experts and focuses on major federal issues and pending legislation that affect the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. The seminar provided me the opportunity to network with other advocates from around the country and share experiences about barriers that people with disabilities are facing throughout the country, as well as collaborate on ideas for solutions. Through the in-depth sessions, I learned about the federal policies, provisions, and pending legislation important to people with disabilities, including proposals related to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and SSI that may have effects on federal disability funding, housing, community living, education and employment, and services for individuals with disabilities. (click here to read more)
Florida is one of the few states that has developed a process specifically designed to meet the needs of persons with DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES—in Florida that process is GUARDIAN ADVOCATE. There are a few differences between GUARDIAN ADVOCATE and GUARDIANSHIP as I described in last month’s newsletter. First, Guardian Advocacy is limited to persons with at least one of five developmental disabilities as defined in Chapter 303, Florida Statutes.
They are out of the statute exactly, “retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, or Prader-Willi syndrome that manifests before the age of 18 and that constitutes a substantial handicap that can be reasonably be expected to continue indefinitely”. Another important component is the person’s ability to make decisions. The standard is “an individual in need of guardian advocacy must lack SOME BUT NOT ALL the decision making ability to complete some or all of the tasks necessary to care for themselves, their property and or estate”. These distinguish this option from a standard Guardianship. There are advantages to a Guardian Advocacy if you meet the requirements. The law does not require a determination of incapacity. This is one of the main reasons that this is a less restrictive option for some folks. Also there is no requirement that the guardian advocate be represented by an attorney unless for a special reason the Court requires it or if the advocate is delegated any rights as to property other than being the representative payee for governmental benefits. For those reasons this is usually a less expensive, less intrusive option than guardianship. If you have any questions please call us at DIG (305) 669-2822 or email Sharon at Sharon@justdigit.org
On March 2, 2014, Sharon Langer was one of eight recipients to receive the 2014 Women of Impact Award. This award is presented by the Women’s History Coalition of Miami-Dade County. Sharon was given a beautiful sculpture in the image of Julia Tuttle, the founder of the City of Miami. For more information on this organization, please visit their website at: http://womenshistorycoalitionmiamidade.org/.
Sharon was nominated by Debbie Korge of Casa Valentina for her, “unwavering devotion to legal advocacy and particular contributions to minorities, women and children.” Sharon is a founding member of Casa Valentina, which is an organization that provides housing and life skills training for young adults aging out of Foster Care.
I’m often asked what it’s like to be disabled. At first, what appeared to be a very complex question is actually quite simple. Asking me what it’s like to live in a chair is no different than asking me what it’s like to live period. It’s easy; it’s difficult. It’s happy; it’s sad. It’s loving; it’s hateful. Being in a chair does not preclude me from the same quality of life of those who are not.
A disability is not unto itself. For example, I’m not disabled only because I can’t walk. Rather, I’m disabled because I can’t walk in a walking world. Therefore, is it not better to say that a disability is one’s ability in relation to the world around them? Imagine a world where everybody is born with wings and only a handful are born without. How different would the world look if the majority could fly hundreds of feet in the air and up to a hundred miles per hour, and a minority could not? The differences would be unfathomable. There would be no steps and certainly no elevators. However, those born without wings could walk, talk, and think equally to those born with wings. Would these people be disabled and appear different to the world around them? Please understand it is not my intent to blame my challenges on the world around me; rather, it is to the contrary.
During segregation, African Americans were not limited by their potential. Rather, they were limited by their environment. It wasn’t until the civil rights movement when laws started to change. These laws opened doors to equal opportunities. In turn, equal opportunity led to equality. Therefore, a disability is not only defined by one’s ability in relation to one’s environment. It’s defined by one’s reaction to it. Without advocacy for change African Americans would continue to be disabled by segregation. Hence, we can really say that they are less disabled now then before civil rights.
Based on this, we can then broaden the scope of how disability is defined. It is not necessarily physical; it’s not always mental; it’s almost never static; and it’s certainly not always obvious. However, it’s pretty safe to surmise that it’s always connected to the way we’re viewed by everyone around us. We live in a very dynamic world. Ideas and opinions are always changing. Some we can change some we cannot. Therefore, it’s not one’s ability or disability that defines quality of life. Quality of life is really defined by how one chooses to live.
“Why?” is the most common question asked when I said that I was going to change my practice into a non-profit disability rights advocacy center. My reasons are each and every person with a disability that I have represented over the past eighteen years. With every single person, the issue was not about money, but about the dignity of being a human being, and having the same ability to enjoy life as any other person. Even when I was not successful, I was always able to give my clients the power and dignity to fight for their equality and humanity.
This is a new era where people with disabilities eschew labels and demand their rights. Those who are Deaf or who have vision impairments demand equal access to information, those with depression and anxiety demand emotional support animals, those with disabilities demand the right to have their own families
and make their own decisions regarding independent living, and those with learning disabilities demand testing and course accommodations. Disability Independence Group or DIG is an invitation for persons with disabilities to declare their independence from antiquated notions of a second class existence.
Disability Independence Group will be a center where people with disabilities can learn how to enforce their rights and a training center for future lawyers to learn how to enforce the rights of persons with disabilities. It will advocate for a definition of diversity and integration that includes persons with disabilities. DIG will be a hub for the growing internationalization of disability
rights in Central and South America. We have a big job and big dreams.