By: Lesly Lopez
Extended Medicare Coverage
For Working People with Disabilities
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 an 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:
- Impairment-related work expenses; or
- Blind work expenses; or
- A plan to achieve self-support; or
- A personal attendant whose fees are publicly funded; or
- Medical expenses above the average state amount.
The state of Florida 2016 annual threshold amounts for disabled and blind beneficiaries is $30,566.
Other Health Insurance Options for People with Disabilities
Medicaid Share of Cost or medically needy from Department of Children and Families(DCF)
In Florida, the Medicaid Share of Cost program is a type of health insurance for the medically needy. These are people who make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid, but not enough money to pay for their healthcare needs. They meet all of the standard Medicaid eligibility requirements except the income requirement.
The day your healthcare expenses for the month exceed your share of cost, your Medicaid coverage begins. From that day until the end of the month, you have full Medicaid coverage. You don’t actually have to pay the healthcare expenses used to reach your share of cost. You just have to owe that much. When Medicaid coverage begins, not only does Medicaid pay for your healthcare expenses for the rest of that month, it also pays for the expenses used to meet your share of cost that month. If you choose to pay those expenses yourself, they’ll still count toward meeting your share of cost, but you won’t be reimbursed by Medicaid for what you’ve paid. To apply or for more information visit www.myflorida.com/accessflorida.
Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) through? the Market Place
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the law requires all Americans to obtain health care coverage through an employer, an individual health plan or programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program (Florida KidCare) unless they meet an exemption. Individuals who do not meet an exemption and fail to obtain coverage may be subject to a tax assessment.
On Oct. 1, 2013, the federal government opened the Marketplace where individuals can compare and shop for health care coverage. Each year an open enrollment period will take place for individuals who are seeking Marketplace coverage. Medicaid and Florida KidCare enrollment takes place year-round. If a person applies at the Marketplace and is found potentially eligible for Medicaid or Florida KidCare, their application will be sent to the appropriate agency for processing. The ACA also provides cost sharing and tax credits to assist low-income qualified individuals in purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace.
- Individuals seeking more information about services offered through the Marketplace may contact the Federal Call Center at 1-800-318-2596, Deaf and Hard of Hearing TTY 1-855-889-4325, or go to gov.
Community Health Centers like CHI (Community Health of South Florida Inc.)
CHI is a nonprofit 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 their website: http://www.chisouthfl.org/about-us/.
If you are an SSI or SSDI beneficiary and need 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: http://choosework.net.
By: Andrew Sagona
The Family Café is a free conference for Floridians of all ages with disabilities and their families to learn about the latest developments in the Florida disability community and to attend the annual Florida “Governor’s Summit on Disabilities.” I have been attending Family Café for over ten years, and I still feel the same sense of wonder and excitement now as I did at my first Café.
This is in part because the atmosphere is fun, warm, friendly, and inclusive. There is always something fun to do for everyone and there are new and interesting things to learn at the Café, whether it is information on disability advocacy, an invention that helps people with disabilities, or a law that fights discrimination.
However, the main reason for my wonder and excitement – my favorite part of attending Family Café – is getting to meet new friends and see old friends again. Many of the people at Café attend the conference every year, the result being that you begin to see familiar faces at each conference. For some, like myself, Family Café serves as an annual family reunion of sorts. After attending the conference even once, you make some very close friends – to the point that they become your second family. But because of time and distance restrictions, we are unable to see each other at any other time of the year. So when the three days of Family Café rolls around each year, there is a great deal of anticipation, happiness, and joy when you see your “family” again.
Ultimately, friendship is the defining trait of Family Café. It is the heart of Family Café because there is a sense of acceptance and belonging at the conference that doesn’t exist to the same extent outside of the conference. Many attendees spend all but three days of their year experiencing stares, strange questions, and even discrimination. However, for the three days each June that the conference is held, all of that goes away. For those three days, everyone is kind to each other and no one is viewed as “less than” anyone else. For those three days, everyone is welcomed.
This year marked the 18th Annual Family Café, and it was held from June 10–12 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Orlando, Florida. According to Family Café founder and organizer Lori Fahey, this year’s conference was the largest in history: approximately 10,000 people in attendance, over 160 training sessions, and more than 100 booths filled the exhibition hall. The Café also featured fun activities, including a Gatorland wildlife show, rock climbing wall, photo booth with Superman, and a fashion show. Each Family Café features three keynote speakers and two and a half days of workshops, which are informational presentations given by professionals, business owners, governmental agencies, and self-advocates covering diverse topics such as education, employment, starting a business, social security, Medicaid, technology, medicine, and advocacy. In addition, Family Café provides many activities for individuals with disabilities like paddle boarding, scuba diving, and sensory rooms.
The conference also has an exhibition hall filled with booths sponsored by vendors, businesses, and government agencies with the goal of letting attendees discover new products and services, or speak to agency representatives to help them with problems they are facing
This year’s “Governor’s Summit on Disabilities” featured information relating to the disability community. The biggest news announced at the summit was the introduction of the ABLE Trust, a savings account for people with disabilities that allows them to save money above the $2,000 limit set by Social Security, as well as the news that, as a result of increased funding, 5,000 individuals will come off the 20,000 people waiver waitlist this year. The summit was attended by Governor Rick Scott, members of the Florida Legislature such as Senate President Andy Gardiner, and heads of governmental agencies such as Barbara Palmer of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Pam Stewart of the Department of Education, and Florida Surgeon General Celeste Phillip.
The Family Café conference isn’t just about education and policy, though. It is also about having fun and making new friends–and the fun begins with the hotel. Each year, the hotel chosen for the conference has something for everyone: massive pools for kids to play in, restaurants for families to dine at, and much more. This year’s hotel was no exception. The Hyatt Regency had three pools to choose from, the largest of which featured a water slide and other amenities. The Regency also had numerous eateries, including bars for the adults, an up-scale restaurant, and a 50’s-style diner.
The fun continues with the conference itself. Throughout the three-day event, DJs pumped music throughout the convention hall, enticing children and adults alike to dance. Performance groups, such as bands, a choir, and a dance troupe, performed throughout the Café as well, and they entertained large crowds with their talents. And there were lots of giveaways, with prizes ranging from gift cards to PCs.
The culmination of the fun was a massive dance party that was held on Saturday night. For more than two hours, hundreds of attendees packed a large ballroom and danced the night away to all kinds of popular music. Children and adults “raised the roof,” breakdanced, and danced free style. There were organized dances as well, with songs like “YMCA” and the “Cha-Cha Slide” bringing everyone together to dance in unison. The sense of excitement and pure joy that filled the ballroom was infectious.
For more information on Family Café, visit www.familycafe.org.
By: Sharon Langer
Domestic violence myths and misconceptions abound. Nearly everyone will have some form of preconception on what domestic violence actually is; why abusers abuse and why victims are victimized.
In the same way as we tend to have a stereotypical picture of what domestic abuse is, we have similar pictures of what sort of person both the abused and the abuser are. We may assume the abused will have originated from a family where abuse took place, or may have been abused themselves during childhood. Some people believe the victim actually enjoys being abused in some masochistic way, or is encouraging it because they enjoy the attention of feeling victimized. Our perceptions tend to be distorted by domestic violence myths, perpetuated both by the media and by society in general, and are unrelated to the reality or the extent of Domestic Abuse. ANYBODY can become a victim of Domestic Abuse.
Following are some of the domestic violence myths and facts:
MYTH: Abuse only happens in certain “problem” families.
FACT :Abuse pervades every ethnic, social strata. White collar workers are just as likely to abuse their wives/partners as are blue-collar workers; financially independent people are just as likely to suffer abuse as are people on low incomes. It is not the social standing, the amount of stress lived under or the company kept which makes an abuser, but the internal need for power, the belief that they have the right to control someone else.
MYTH: Domestic Abuse is a family matter.
FACT: Abusing, battering, assaulting or raping another person is a criminal offence not a family matter. Domestic Abuse has far-reaching social implications for everyone, affecting the abused person’s ability to lead a productive life and encouraging children brought up in an abusive home to repeat the cycle themselves and having a detrimental impact on their emotional and sometimes physical well-being. A lot of doctors and hospital time and funds are needed to help those who have been victimized or beaten.
MYTH: Domestic Abuse is not such a big problem – very few women are actually badly hurt.
FACT: Domestic Abuse is a HUGE problem. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women live in abusive relationships, and within our lifetime half of us can expect to be the victim of domestic or intimate partner violence. Abuse can be lethal. More women are killed by their partner or ex-partner than by a stranger. And even where physical violence has not occurred, the emotional scars can often have a lifelong effect on the victim.
MYTH: Some women ask for it, provoke it, want it or even deserve it.
FACT: NOBODY deserves to be beaten or abused. Women often have to walk on eggshells and try their best to avoid another incident. The abuser WANTS to abuse. This domestic violence myth encourages the blame-shifting from the abuser to the abused and avoids the stark reality that only the abuser is responsible for his/her own actions.
MYTH: Domestic Abuse is caused by excessive alcohol or the use of drugs.
FACT: A lot of research is going into the link between drug or alcohol use and violence. However, although some abusers are more prone to being violent when drunk, many more abuse when completely sober. Alcohol and drugs may increase the violence, but they do not cause it. Alcohol and drug abuse are separate issues from abuse, though they may overlap. Once again, blaming chemical dependency for abuse is missing the point, the abuser is responsible for their actions.
MYTH: Domestic abuse is a one-time incident.
FACT: Very rarely is abuse a one-time incident. Most often it is part of an ongoing means of establishing and maintaining control over another person. Abuse tends to increase both in velocity and extent over a period of time.
MYTH: It can’t be that bad, or she/he would leave.
FACT: There are many emotional, social, spiritual and financial hurdles to overcome before someone being abused can leave. Very often, the constant undermining of the victims self-belief and self-esteem can leave him/her with very little confidence, socially isolated, and without the normal decision-making abilities. Leaving or trying to leave will also often increase the violence or abuse, and can put both the victim and her children in a position of fearing for their lives. Leaving is the ultimate threat to the abusers power and control, and he will often do anything rather than let her go.
MYTH: Abusers are always coarse, violent, and easily identified
FACT: Abusers are often charming, popular, generous people who can hold positions of social standing. and authority. Abuse is kept in the privacy of their own homes. This “Jekyll and Hyde” tendency of the abuser can further confuse and frighten the person being abused, as the person in private is so different from the person everyone else sees. It can also mean that when the person being abused finally does try to tell his/her friends, family or acquaintances of the abuse, he or she is not believed, because the person they are describing simply doesn’t fit the image portrayed in public.
Some children with autism, developmental or intellectual disabilities may wander off without any comprehension of possible danger. This might include running off from adults at school or in the community, leaving the classroom without permission, or leaving the house when the family is not looking. While most children are drawn to water, many autistic children seem even more fascinated by it — and they’re also fearless.
On April 29, 2012, Hannah Sackman, a seven year old Autistic little girl drowned when she eloped from a housing development at military housing in Fort Gordon. When Hannah’s mother was concerned with the size of the fens and the locking mechanism of the fence, she asked the management company if she could install additional locks on the doors that were higher up and out of Hannah’s reach. The house had three exterior doors and all of them had a locking mechanism on the knob and a dead-bolt – both of which could be unlocked from the inside with a simple twist and without using a key and Hannah’s mother was concerned she would figure out how to open them. In response to her request, the management said, “no, it was against policy” and would damage the doors. In 2013, Hannah’s parents sued the housing manager under the Fair Housing Act for the death of their daughter, and the case settled for an undisclosed amount in 2015.
What happened to Hannah Sackman is not unique, and the Fair Housing Act requires housing providers allow persons with disabilities or those associated with them to modify the premises if the modification is necessary for the person with a disability, and is done at the expense of the person with a disability. For residents of public housing or other housing that is federally funded, the modifications must be done at the expense of the housing provider. These modifications can be as simple as a lock on a front door, or grab bars in a shower; or as complicated or expensive, such as a pool lift, or installing ramps or sidewalks.
Kim Johnson came to Disability Independence Group because she was afraid to live in a home that would not be safe for her daughter. Kalia is a 10 year old girl who lives with Fabry disease, which is a rare genetic disorder. Along with a developmental disability, Kalia also suffers from episodes of pain, is legally blind, hard of hearing, and problems with her gastrointestinal system and a cecostomy. She requires twice daily flushing of her stoma which takes hours and hours of time. Kalia is a runner, and whenever she has a chance, she tries to escape. She knows how to unlock doors and turn handles.
In March of 2016, Kim was looking for a new rental home in Largo, Florida and found
perfect home. During the showing of the home and throughout the leasing process, Kim and Kim’s Mother, Donna, spoke with the leasing agent, and explained how urgent it was that they move and the needs of Kalia’s disability. Then, with the help of Donna, Kim entered a lease for the home. After signing the lease, the leasing agent, instructed Kim on the use of the front door lock. At that time, Kim said that she would need to install a chain lock on the door to keep Kalia inside since she has a tendency to elope. As with Hanna Sackman’s mother, Kim was concerned with the locking mechanism and wanted a mechanism that was higher up and out of Hannah’s reach.
The leasing agent refused. Kim explained that a that the chain lock was the most reasonable modification asserted her rights under the Fair Housing Act, in order for her daughter …”to be able to have an equal opportunity to have safe access to the majority of the home.” The leasing agent and owner refused to allow Kim to install a higher locking mechanism, as they believed that a chain on the door would damage the door. Then the lessor refused to return the money Kim spent on the home, and refused to allow her to find another home that would be suitable for Kim and her daughter.
Reasonable modification in housing is the law. A landlord cannot legally deny a reasonable modification to a home. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued joint guidance on the requirements relating to reasonable modifications under the Fair Housing Act.
Adding a chain lock to the front door is the most reasonable, most effective modification given K.J.’s disability. The chain-lock modification is the most reasonable modification because the chain lock would be out of K.J.’s reach and would successful prevent K.J. from eloping. Pursuant to HUD’s guidance, adding a chain-lock to the front door is necessary because the other suggested modifications will not be effective. By denying Kim and her daughter Kalia an accommodation, this landlord denied them a safe home, solely due to Kalia’s disability.
 Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice: Reasonable Modifications Under the Fair Housing Act (March 5, 2008), http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/reasonable_modifications_mar08.pdf (last visited May 10, 2016).
By: Matthew Dietz
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 other 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 discriminate 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.
If you are disabled and you are pursuing employment, you are not alone. You can find many agencies providing employment support that will help you reach your vocational goal.
Mr. Larry McDowell presented to our office for a consultation on the afternoon of Thursday, March 17, 2016. When Mr. McDowell arrived, he needed to be guided by holding on to someone in order to get places in the office; he will need to bring someone with him who can assist him in walking as it is a liability for the office staff to physically guide him themselves. Mr. McDowell will also need assistance in going over treatment, signing paperwork, and etc.
We Apologize for Any Inconvenience.
(Actual copy of letter)
When Larry McDowell went to Affordable Dentures in West Palm Beach, Florida, to have a dental procedure on March 17th, there was no reason that he could possibly believe that he wouldn’t be able to get the same services as anybody else. But once Mr. McDowell reached the front desk, he was directed to follow someone to the examination room. Mr. McDowell then said, “I’m blind, could you help to where I’m going?” The employee at the desk said nothing. Once a member of the office staff arrived, Mr. McDowell asked for assistance to the examination room – Mr. McDowell asked to hold her elbow.
She said, “No. We can’t help you unless you have someone to help you. We can’t treat you unless you bring someone to assist you.” Mr. McDowell then asked to speak to the dentist. When Mr. McDowell asked where the dentist was, the employee replied that he was in surgery and would be there for the next two hours. A patient who was watching the interaction told Mr. McDowell, “No he’s not. He’s standing right there.” After the patient’s remark, the employee said to Mr. McDowell, “The dentist doesn’t want to speak to you today.”
Mr. McDowell requested Affordable Dentures to email a copy of written reason to his sister, and they sent the above letter. It was then while Mr. McDowell was waiting in the office, an employee approached him and informed him he could not wait inside the office any longer and must leave, since the dentist would not be seeing him today—with the knowledge that Mr. McDowell had taken public transportation.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Larry McDowell’s needs were basic human needs, and the outright denial of such services based solely on his disability transforms him, in the eyes of this medical provider, into a human who is not worthy of basic services. Mr. McDowell is a man who has transformed his life to assist others. He is a member of the National Federation of the Blind and is currently the President of the Braille Club of Palm Beach County. The Braille Club of Palm Beach County organizes social activities and weekly meeting among the blind and visually impaired community in Palm Beach. In his free time, Mr. McDowell seeks to live an ordinary life filled with friends and outings.
“Aside from the public health issues that most racial/ethnic minorities face, minorities with disabilities experience additional disparities in health, prejudice, discrimination, economic barriers, and difficulties accessing care as a result of their disability—in effect, they face a “double burden.” “Disability-based discrimination in health care is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act and will not be tolerated,” said Eve L. Hill, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. “All types of health care providers – from hospitals to nursing homes, from surgeons to general practitioners – all across the country – need to provide equal access to people with disabilities, including people who are deaf…, the time for compliance is now.”
Notwithstanding the fact that the ADA is over 25 years old, it is common-place that medical professionals, who are dedicated to the health of their patients, are too often dismissive of their patient’s disability-related needs. Most discrimination against persons with disabilities are not so blatant and ignorant as what occurred with Mr. McDowell. Some of the issues which serve as barriers to persons with disabilities include inaccessible physical environments, and inflexible policies and procedures that, for example, assume that everyone must be able to independently fill out forms, undress unaided, transfer to high examination tables, and communicate in spoken English to receive standard health care services.
The failure to provide accommodations and an accessible environment will, at the least, lead to health care disparities, and at the worst, lead to injury and death.
The most common issue at Disability Independence Group is doctors and hospitals that refuse to provide sign language interpreters for people who are deaf. Instead these professionals choose to communicate in English by writing notes or using technology that fails to work accurately and timely. This leads to miscommunication and does not allow the deaf patient to have the full opportunity for medical choice as any hearing person would expect. This failure to communicate leads to misdiagnosis, failure to take the appropriate medicines, and continued illness. When it comes to psychiatric treatment, it often exacerbates the symptoms. Other issues that often arise are as follows:
- Medical professionals often ignore persons with disabilities and speak to their family member or caretaker, solely because of the assumption that the person with a disability cannot fully grasp the issues regarding their care and treatment.
- Doctor’s offices and hospitals do not always have medical equipment such as a wheelchair-accessible weight scale or a height-adjustable exam table. Due to barriers, individuals with disabilities are less likely to get routine preventative medical care than people without disabilities.
- Further, despite universal precautions, health care providers may still be hesitant to treat patients who are HIV positive or live with AIDS.
However, the main issue is the fact that because of the difficulties that persons with disabilities encounter, such persons are less likely to receive needed health care. According to a Disability Healthcare Access Brief published by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, 19% of people with disabilities reported that they did not receive medical care needed in the previous year, compared to 6% of non disabled persons.
People with disabilities tend to be in poorer health and to use health care at a significantly higher rate than people who do not have disabilities. Larry McDowell is not a statistic, but instead a blatant example of an issue which needs to be addressed. Equality in health care is not a benefit, but a basic right.
On November 19, 2015, Sharon Langer, Development Director of Disability Independence Group, and Alan Dimond of Greenberg Traurig were both recognized with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Miami Jurisprudence Award.
Sharon Langer’s remarks included the following
For the past 100 years, the Anti-Defamation League has stood up against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and other pernicious stereotypes in our country and around the world. Like Anti-Semitism or any other form of bigotry, the roots of disability discrimination stem from the belief that persons with disabilities do not have the same natural rights to be a member of our communities. From my 28 years at Legal Aid of Miami, I brought my lifetime of experience at Legal Aid to Disability Independence Group to join the fight for equality for persons with disabilities. ADL has been involved in this fight for one hundred years, and we are ready to join this fight to ensure equal treatment.
Persons with Disabilities make up more than 20% of the population in Florida. Children with Disabilities are subject to incarceration at much higher rates than other children; persons with disabilities are at greater risk of becoming victims of domestic violence and hate crimes; and most persons with disabilities are excluded from basic opportunities for integration in the community and basic opportunities for employment, housing, medical treatment, education, and religious and cultural life.
The Anti-Defamation League has been a national leader on hate crimes laws. Nine years before the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in 1981, ADL drafted a model hate crimes penalty enhancement statute, inclusive of disability. The vast majority of the 45 state hate crimes laws, including Florida’s, are based on this model. Furthermore, for 13 years, ADL lead the coalition that successfully advocated for the 2009 the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention, which includes disability.
This fight against hate extends to persons with disability in ways that must be addressed. Persons with disabilities are victimized at a rate three times higher than persons without disabilities. In 2012, 1.3 million violent crimes, that included rape and physical assault, occurred against persons with disabilities. PEOPLE With Disabilities are:
- 3 times more likely to experience violent victimization as adolescents
- 3 times more likely to experience rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault and robbery
- 3 times more likely to be sexually abused as children
Disability Independence Group has been awarded a Training and Enhanced Services to End Violence against Women by the Office of Violence Against Women. With our partners, M.U.J.E.R, a sexual assault and domestic violence center, Dade Legal Aid, that provides representation to victims and CVAC – Miami Dade County’s Victims Assistance Center we will spend the next three years working with experts from the federal government to create sustainable change within and between our organizations that will result in accessible, safe and effective services for victims who are persons with disabilities.
The ADL has long been involved in education and outreach to ensure that everyone is aware that persons with disabilities are entitled to equal rights and opportunity. The best way to reduce discrimination is to prevent stereotypes from being continued. At DIG, we identified an issue that persons with autism were subject to misunderstandings during police interactions as the officer would not have knowledge of Autism, and would interpret disability-related behavior as criminally suspicious behavior.
As a response to reduce assumptions and stereotypes about autism, DIG created the Wallet Card program to ensure that persons who live with Autism have a tool that they could use to self-identify their disability when they encounter law enforcement personnel and other first responders. The Wallet Card is a laminated card that a person with autism of a developmental disability carries with them that is individualized and notifies a first responder of the specific disability-related issues. Along with the Card, we have trainings both for persons with autism or other developmental disabilities, and for first responders. Thus far, we have produced almost 2,000 cards, and will be adopted by the Miami-Dade County Commission as a project for Miami-Dade police in December.
The Anti-Defamation League has also been instrumental in the fight to dismantle the School to Prison pipeline. The “School-to-Prison Pipeline” refers to the policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Students who qualify for special education too often receive inferior services in segregated settings and incur repeated disciplinary actions. According to the U.S. Department of Education, students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension (13 percent) than students without disabilities (6 percent). Students with disabilities represent 12 percent of the overall student population, yet make up 25 percent of all students involved in a school-related arrest. Many families reject special education because of the stigma attached to disability, or additional academic and behavioral supports are not provided to children who have been identified as a child with a disability. School-to-Prison Pipeline reform must include diversion from the juvenile justice system to provide the programs necessary for students with disabilities in the education system.
We are proud to have ADL as our ally in this fight, and look to their lead in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable, every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” As I look out into this audience, I see my friends in the steps towards justice, and those who have sacrifices and struggled for the future that we all work towards.
Did you know Step Up For Students helps administer TWO scholarships for Florida children?
The Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) helps families personalize educational plans for their children with certain special needs. Students age 3 through 12th grade may be eligible if they are diagnosed with one of the following: Autism Spectrum Disorder, including Asperger’s, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina Bifida, Williams Syndrome, or an Intellectual Disability (severe cognitive impairment). Students who are in kindergarten, deemed “high risk” due to developmental delays and, not older than 5 on Sept. 1, may be eligible for the year they apply. The PLSA allows parents to direct scholarship funds toward a combination of programs and approved providers including private schools, therapists, specialists, curriculum, and technology – even a college savings account.
Another option is the Income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC), a program that provides financial assistance to low-income families with K-12 students to help pay for private school tuition and fees, or for transportation costs to attend a public school in another county. If a family’s household income qualifies for the free or reduced-price school lunch program (185% of the federal poverty guidelines0, or if the family receives SNAP (food stamps), TANF, or FDPIR, the student may be eligible.
Children who are homeless, or in foster or out-of-home care, also may be eligible for either of these TWO scholarships.
Step Up For Students in a nonprofit approved by the state to help administer both programs. To learn more, visit http://www.stepupforstudents.org