Summer Fun and Discrimination against Kids (with or without disabilities)!

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By: Matthew Dietz

A graphic with a white background and black text that reads keep calm and no kids allowed with a crown above it

Unless the housing facility is a qualified 55 and over housing development, a housing provider cannot have rules that treat children differently, and less favorably than adults. When the US Congress amended the Fair Housing Act in 1988, it prohibited housing practices that discriminate on the basis of familial status.When it amended the Act, Congress recognized that “families with children are refused housing despite their ability to pay for it.” In addition, Congress cited a HUD survey that found 25% of all rental units exclude children and that 50% of all rental units have policies that restrict families with children in some way. The HUD survey also revealed that almost 20% of families with children were forced to live in less desirable housing because of restrictive policies. Congress recognized these problems and sought to remedy them by amending the Fair Housing Act to make families with children a protected class. So any rules, that do not have a legitimate safety justification, cannot indicate a “preference, limitation, or discrimination” against children under the age of 18. This includes rules that prohibit children from common areas in the facility with or without supervision, or limit the facilities of the housing development to adults. All rules must apply to children and adults equally, and cannot solely target children’s behavior.

If rules have a legitimate safety rationale, then such rules may be legitimate. But, again rules such as all children under sixteen must be supervised by an adult does not have a safety rationale, but a discriminatory basis against loud teenagers. On the other hand, a fifteen year old at a gym may injure him or herself on free weights without having supervision.

Summer camp must be inclusive

Over the past fifteen years, I have had several cases involving children who were not permitted to go to the summer camp of their choice, or were segregated in the summer camp because of the child’s disabilities. A summer camp, like any other public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, must provide reasonable accommodations for campers with disabilities, and must not segregate them from othJordan4er students. Camps operated by governmental entities or colleges have a broader duty to accommodate campers with disabilities than some private entities that do
not have the same resources as a governmental entity. Examples of situations which I have encountered over the years are as follows:

  • Children who are Deaf – Deaf kids have the right to a qualified sign language interpreter for all programs and services of a camp that involve communication that is long, complex, or important. Examples of this would be instructions on how to play a complicated game, story time, puppet shows, and educational instruction. If there are games that involve communication, then an interpreter would be appropriate so the Deaf child is included.
  • Autistic kids – If a child who lives with autism has a one-on-one aide at school, for the same reasons, that child may need a one-on-one aide at a camp. Further, if a child needs further instruction in a game, or assistance with social interactions, that would be an accommodation that must be provided.
  • Kids who have a medical condition such as Diabetes – If a child has a medical condition, or needs assistance with a medical condition, such as diabetes or HIV, then the question is whether the child poses a direct threat to his or her own health or the safety of others. If a child needs minor assistance with a medical condition, or can manage his or her own medical needs and monitoring, a camp cannot discrimiJordan2nate against these children.
  • Kids with mobility impairments or other physical disabilities – Camps, like any other public accommodations, must have their facility accessible to children with disabilities. Older camps must do modifications that are readily achievable, easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense, and those camps altered or built after 1991 must be constructed accessibly. The camp is also responsible for making reasonable accommodations for campers with disabilities, which may involve some personal services, such as assistance in dressing, if similar services are available for able bodied campers.
  • Kids with allergies – Kids who have allergies cannot be excluded from camps, and camps must be prepared to exclude certain allergens to accommodate a camper, and be trained in the event a camper has an allergic reaction. It would not be unreasonable to expect camp counselors to learn how to administer epinephrine auto-injector (“Epi-pen”) shots and dispense asthma medication, assist in administering Diastat for seizures in emergencies or otherwise teach camp counselors in basic first aid or CPR.

Parents can choose to send their child to a segregated camp, because some camps may provide special skills or advantages for children with disabilities, but the choice of going to a specialized camp is a choice, such as camps where all children are deaf.
However, all children may not be able to go to integrated camps. For example, there may be children with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities who would not be able to care for themselves at a sleep-away camp, and it would be a fundamental alteration of the camp’s programs to develop a program for one child’s disability. Further, if a child is dependent on mechanical supports, a camp would not be required to hire medical personnel to accommodate medically complex children. For these kids specialized camps are a phenomenal way to get out and enjoy the community. For example, Nicklaus Children’s hospital operates the VACC camp for technologically dependent children which includes swimming, field trips to local attractions,campsite entertainment, structured games, “free play”, to promote family growth and development while enhancing these kids’ self-esteem and social skills.

It’s so damn hot – my kid has asthma and needs an air conditioner

Last year, we represented a mother who had a child who lived in HUD-subsidized low-income housing. Asthma is often triggered by inhalation of air particles that contain allergens such as pollen, mold spores, dust mite droppings and animal dander. Air conditioners contain filters that collect and store these particles, keeping intake to minimum. Air conditioning also helps eliminate humidity on hot Florida nights which enables mold and algae to grow much more rapidly than it could if it were living in dry air. Some children and adults suffer from asthma to the degree that not having air conditioning may result in serious harm and hospitalization. Requesting to install an air conditioner unit in a home or apartment would be a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.

According to the Fair Housing Act, a tenant with a disability can request a reasonable modification. According to HUD Guidance, “A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas.” Under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider must permit the modification, the tenant is responsible for paying the cost of the modification. If the housing provider is a public housing authority or a housing provider that receives federal financial assistance, the modification must be paid for by the housing provider unless providing the modification would be an undue financial and administrative burden.
Another example modifications can be a pool lift!

Discrimination in Pool Rules

  • No inflatable flotation devices.
  • Water wings, swimmies, floats, bathing suits rings, and other inflatable devices are not permitted in the pools.
  • Absolutely no dogs allowed in pool area

Also, under the Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities can ask for “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford … person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” So when a person is required to use water wings, floats, special swimming devices, they can do so. In order to request an accommodation, the person needing an accommodation should ask the housing provider, and if the disability is not obvious, then the person may need to obtain verification from a doctor, therapist, or any other provider verifying the disability and need for the accommodation.

In addition, “no dogs allowed” rules do not apply to service or emotional support animals, where their presence is necessary for the person with a disability equal use and enjoyment of the premises. The Fair Housing Act and the ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swimming pools. However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where others are allowed to go.

Pet-Friendly Hurricane Evacuation Centers in Miami

dogs in raincoats
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By: Monica Sabates


Hurricane season in Miami-Dade County is a force to be reckoned with. The season’s span between June 1st and November 30th leaves a considerable amount of time for a hurricane to strike suddenly and swiftly in one’s vicinity. Being mindful and prepared for what may come is the first step to ensuring one’s safety and the safety of one’s pet or service animal. One option for an individual living in an evacuation area, unsafe structure, or mobile home in Miami-Dade is to pre-register for a Pet-Friendly Hurricane Evacuation Center (PFHEC) before a hurricane announces its arrival.


In order to apply for occupation in a Pet-Friendly Hurricane Evacuation Center, the individual must contact the Miami Dade Answer Center to receive the application by mail. Some of the requirements for participants include residing in one of the mandatory evacuation zones and ensuring their pets’ or service animals’ vaccinations are up to date. The kinds of animals allowed in the evacuation center include: dogs, cats, birds, and other small mammals such as guinea pigs and mice. The application that the individual receives consists of four main criteria: registration for the adult in charge of the pet, the pet’s description, the pet’s medications, and crate/cage specification.

Upon completing the first part of the application, the individual will receive a temporary acceptance letter. Once the mandatory evacuation order is issued, the individual and their maximum of three pets must go to the PFHEC with food, water, and other essentials for both the owner and pet. Admittance into the shelter will be determined by a veterinarian, who upon inspection will deem whether the pet is a health risk to other animals or humans.
Currently, there are two locations that provide the service of a Pet-Friendly Hurricane Evacuation Center (PFHEC) during a hurricane emergency:


E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion
10901 SW 24th St.
Miami, FL 33165


Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High
1410 County Line Road
Miami, FL 33179


For more information and tips on how to keep you and your pet safe during hurricane season, visit Miami Dade County Animal Services online at: http://www.miamidade.gov/animals/disaster-preparedness.asp

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 District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine CavaCommissioner Levine Cava, Debbie Dietz, Sharon Langer, and Maria Elena pose for a picture

Debbie and Sharon went to meet Commissioner Levine Cava and her team to discuss our work with individuals with disabilities and to discuss The Wallet Card Project and Animal Partners.

 
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Like our animal partners Facebook page at:

Animal Partners Logo

https://www.facebook.com/animalpartners 

The Miami Foundation is having their 3rd annual Give Miami Day on November 20, 2014.  The event starts at midnight on November 20th and lasts for 24 hours. Disability Independence group will be a part of this amazing event.  Support DIG and join the movement.  http://givemiamiday.org/#npo/disability-independence-group-inc

Animal Partners– A need not a want

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Disability Independence Group hosted a wonderful committee of animal advocates for a brainstorming session on how to work together with the GOAL of creating programs, support systems and strategies that will allow the elderly, disabled and those in nursing homes or ALF’s to keep their pets or have the comfort of a pet. Some of the questions raised were: When folks have become elderly, ill, or need to go to a hospital or an ALF/nursing home, what happens to their pets? What if they are still in their home but can’t afford animal care and pet food? What safety nets exist to assist someone in those circumstances? What can we do to create those services when they don’t exist? How do we, as a community of people who care, begin a dialogue that promotes and recognizes the importance of one’s pet to his or her health and well-being?  

(click here to read more) 

 

Philadthropy

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This month, Disability Independence Group was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in the University of Miami’s PhilADthropy event. Run through the School of Communication, PhilADthropy is a 25 hour event where undergraduate students work together in groups under the direction of a team leader from the community in order to provide 16 local nonprofit organizations with free advertising and creative services. As one of the chosen nonprofits, DIG was able to present our team with information and material about our new Animal Partners project which caters to persons with disabilities requiring assistance animals.
Our team, which consisted of eight undergraduate students and their group leader Manny from Sapient Nitro worked tirelessly from the time we briefed them on Friday afternoon until Saturday when they presented us with their finished products. In only a short period of time our team conducted a photo shoot, designed a logo, created a Facebook and twitter page, as well as helped to design a page to be added to our website, all of which will be instrumental in kicking off our Animal Partners project.
We would like to give a special thanks to the University of Miami for choosing us to participate in this truly amazing event as well as our team members, Liying, Erika, Holly, Brooke, Viviana, Alek, Sean, Alex, and Manny for all of their hard and incredible work!

Introducing Animal Partners –

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A core individual freedom is a one’s natural right to make decisions affecting his or her health or body. This freedom is an integral part of the dignity and control for persons with disabilities as well. One of the major goals of the Disability Rights movement is that each person with a disability has the right to self-determination – free from the patriarchal attitudes of the “able-bodied”. This right to make medical decisions extends not only to traditional forms of medicine, but also to alternative treatments that assists a person with daily life activities — whether these activities are physical, sensory, psychological or social. More and more people with disabilities are using animal companionship and assistance to help them with their daily lives. DIG is creating a new project to address the needs of people with disabilities who would like to use service animals or emotional support animals. The project is called “Animal Partners”.

If you go to justdigit.org, and read our newsletter or look at our blog at justdigitlaw.wordpress.com, you will meet Deborah Fischer, who uses a service dog, Sorenson, to assist her due to her multiple sclerosis. You will also meet Anthony Merchante, a six year old boy, who uses a seizure alert and protect dog, Stevie. Last month’s newsletter contained the fight of U.S. Air Force veteran, Ajit Bhogaita, to keep his dog, Kane, at his home to assist him in coping with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Using animals as a component of therapy has long been recognize to cause significant improvements in cognition, social interaction and physical skills for persons with disabilities. Not only may an animal assist in physical activity, it also builds an emotional connection between a person and an animal promotes release of the neurohormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is responsible for inducing feelings of love and trust and is strongly implicated in pair bonding. For the past few years, more and more people with disabilities have chosen to enhance their lives and their condition by using animals as components of their care and lifestyle. This ranges from the elderly person that has depression or Alzheimer’s, a veteran that suffers from PTSD, an autistic child that needs a companion animal to become socially interactive, to an epileptic person that needs a seizure alert dog.

The law may allow people to have their service or emotional support animals in many public and private areas, however, many employers, or housing providers do not understand the law and they just automatically deny people with disabilities the right to have their animals. On the other hand, people with disabilities often do not know what is required to have a service dog, and the limitations of having an emotional support dog or a service dog. “Animal Partners” will attempt to present the law and requirements in a user-friendly manner so people will understand the rights and responsibilities relating to assistance animals. “Animal Partners” has a two pronged mission.

  • First, to legitimize a person with a disability’s choice to have an assistance animal and to provide information of value and tools so that a person with a disability can by empowered to make an informed choice.
  • Second, to make our community to be a kind and civilized place where it is acceptable for people with disabilities to feel comfortable and welcome with their assistance animals.

We hope you friend our “Animal Partners” Facebook site, visit the webpage at justdigit.org, and sign up!