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Notice of Settlement of Class Action Law Suit: Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. City of New York

Docket No. 11-CV-6690-JMF

United States District Court
Southern District of New York

ATTENTION: All people with disabilities who are within the City of New York and the jurisdiction served by the City’s emergency preparedness programs and services. This notice concerns a settlement that may affect your rights. Please read it carefully.

THE CLASS ACTION

This notice is to inform you of the settlement regarding a remedy in a class action lawsuit, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. City of New York, No. 11-cv-6690-JMF (S.D.N.Y.) brought on behalf of people with disabilities who are within the City of New York and the jurisdiction served by the City’s emergency preparedness programs and services. In November 2013, the Court found the City liable for failing to provide meaningful access to people with disabilities to its emergency preparedness programs and services. A copy of the Court’s November 7, 2013 Opinion and Order can be found at www.dralegal.org, www.nyc.gov/mopd, and www.nyc.gov/oem.

The parties have reached a settlement regarding a remedial plan to improve the City’s emergency preparedness program. The City has agreed to begin implementing the terms of the settlement, which remains subject to modification by the Court after considering objections, if any, by class members. As set forth below, you have the right to submit to the Court, in writing, any objection you may have to the settlement.  Following the close of the objection period, the Court will hold a public hearing to consider whether the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If the Court determines that it is, you and all other class members will be bound by the terms of the settlement.

SUMMARY OF THE SETTLEMENT

As part of the settlement, a complete version of which can be found at www.dralegal.org, www.nyc.gov/mopd, and www.nyc.gov/oem, the City will be taking a number of steps to address the needs of people with disabilities in its emergency plans:

Disability and Access and Functional Needs (DAFN) Coordinator and Community Panel

The City will hire a Disability and Access and Functional Needs (DAFN) Coordinator, who will be the lead City employee responsible for seeing that the City’s emergency plans meet the needs of people with disabilities and comply with state and federal law. The City will also create DAFN Coordinator positions at key City agencies that are involved in emergency response.

A Disability Community Advisory Panel will be established so that the City can gather expertise and feedback from the disability community regarding the City’s current and future emergency plans. The City will hold an annual forum for the public on issues relating to emergency planning for people with disabilities.

Canvassing

By August 2017, the City will create a Post-Emergency Canvassing Operation (PECO) plan designed to rapidly survey households after a disaster to assess and identify the critical needs of people with disabilities. During a canvassing operation, canvassers will go door-to-door carrying a mobile survey tool to input resource requests and refer those requests to appropriate partners for resolution.. Resource requests include but are not limited to food, water, electricity, medical care, and durable medical equipment.

Transportation

By August 2017, the City will estimate the demand for City-provided accessible evacuation and transportation services and will enter into agreements and work collaboratively with appropriate transportation providers to develop the City’s accessible transportation plans for pre-storm or forewarned evacuations. The City will also develop plans for the effective deployment of accessible vehicles during notice and no-notice events. The City will develop plans to relocate people with disabilities in frozen zones who have not evacuated and work with partner agencies to resume accessible transportation services as soon as possible after an emergency.

Sheltering

By the end of September 2017, the City will have a minimum of 60 accessible emergency shelters (separate from the 8 Special Medical Needs Facilities currently maintained by the City).  The minimum of 60 accessible facilities will be distributed throughout all five boroughs and will have the capacity to shelter approximately 120,000 people with disabilities in the event of an emergency.

Every accessible shelter will have accessible signage, provide for backup power, refrigeration, power strips, and a way-finding kit to assist people with disabilities in utilizing the shelter. The City’s reserve supplies will include sufficient numbers of raised toilet seats, accessible cots, mobility aids (canes, crutches, manual wheelchairs), basic medical suppliers, and extension cords. CART or ASL interpretation services will be provided at every accessible facility.

High Rise Evacuation

A NYC/ADA High Rise Building Evacuation Task Force will be assembled to address the gaps in the City’s planning for the high rise evacuation of people with disabilities from high rise buildings. The Task Force will consist of a committee of representatives from City agencies, subject matter experts, and disability community representatives. At the end of one year, the Task Force will develop recommendations to address high rise evacuation for people with disabilities, which will be implemented as part of a three year Work Plan.

The City will also upgrade the 311 system to include a new natural language IVR system where 311 callers seeking evacuation assistance can speak a combination of designated words to be connected to a dedicated pool of trained specialists who will be able to provide information about high rise evacuation.

Attorneys’ Fees

Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP (“Class Counsel”). Class Counsel is still negotiating with the City regarding the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs that the City will pay them for their work on this case. If such negotiations do not result in a mutually agreeable amount, Class Counsel will apply to the District Court for legal fees and costs of the litigation of no more than $6.2 million. The actual amounts awarded will be determined by the District Court to ensure that the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs awarded are reasonable.

The settlement does not provide for any monetary relief to be paid to any plaintiffs or members of the class.

OBJECTIONS

You have the right to object to the terms of this settlement by filing a written, signed objection with the Court no later than December 29, 2014. You also have the right to appear at a hearing, which will address the fairness of the settlement agreement to the class. That hearing is scheduled for February 13, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Honorable Jesse M. Furman, United States District Judge, Courtroom 1105 of the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse, 40 Centre Street, New York, NY 10007. The time and date of the fairness hearing are subject to change by the Court through written order to be docketed publicly on ECF.

Please note that, while the Court will read and consider your written objection whether or not you are present at the fairness hearing, if you wish to speak at the hearing, you must include a sentence in your written objection informing the Court that you wish to speak at the hearing. Written objections must be filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York at the following address:

Clerk of the United States District Court
Southern District of New York
Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse
40 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007
Specifying: Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. City of New York, Civil Action No. 11-cv-6690-JMF

Objections may be filed in person or may be mailed to the Court at the above address but must be actually received by the Court by the deadline set forth above to be considered.  Copies of objections must also be mailed or delivered to counsel for the parties:

Christine Chuang
Disability Rights Advocates
40 Worth Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10013
(Counsel for Named Plaintiffs & Settlement Class)

Mark Toews
Senior Counsel
General Litigation Division
New York City Law Department
100 Church Street, Rm. 2-106
New York, NY 10007
Tel: (212) 356-0871
(Counsel for Defendants)

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California’s Youth Organizing (YO!) Disabled and Proud Celebrates 4th Annual Disability History Week

The village above is built from names of women who have and are shaping the Disability Rights Movement! Celebrate Disability History by sharing more names of women, and be a part of building a larger village of recognition of women's leadership by visiting yodisabledproud.org/disabilitywomen

The village above is built from names of women who have and are shaping the Disability Rights Movement! Celebrate Disability History by sharing more names of women, and be a part of building a larger village of recognition of women’s leadership by visiting yodisabledproud.org/disabilitywomen

Source: Youth Organizing (YO!) Disabled and Proud

California’s Youth Organizing (YO!) Disabled and Proud celebrates its 4th annual Disability History week, October 13 – 17, 2014. This year’s disability history theme is centered around the contributions that hundreds of women with disabilities have made to our movement, “It Takes Women to Raise a Movement.”

Each year we develop a new poster that highlights our disability history theme. Our poster this year includes names of the many women with disabilities who have contributed to our movement in a variety of ways, but we know that it doesn’t include everyone and that’s where you come in. We invite you to tell us who we’re missing by coming to our site and emailing us. You are also welcome to share your favorite disability history story with us, tweet, Facebook and Instagram with our hashtag #DHW2014 and last, but not least support YO! Disabled and Proud by ordering a poster. Find out more at the YO! website.

An Update from the NCIL Women’s Caucus: When Women Succeed, America Succeeds – Needs Must Include Concerns of Women with Disabilities

The NCIL Women’s Caucus determined that the 2014 women’s economic agenda and President Obama’s plan to expand opportunity for every American needs to include more clearly issues and concerns of women living with disabilities. For that reason, it is important that women with disabilities tell Congress about the important issues they would like to see highlighted / enhanced / added. During the Pre-Conference at NCIL’s 2014 Annual Conference on Independent Living, many women and some men shared their ideas on:

  • Womens Caucus Logo: Power with a CauseAccess to education for women living with disabilities
  • Access to education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for future employment as a women living with disabilities
  • Access to child care as a woman living with disabilities
  • Access to employment as a woman living with disabilities

All of these statements are being edited, captioned, and shared for review with the Women’s Caucus. Next, they will be shared with Congress as our statement from the NCIL Women’s Caucus!

The Women’s Caucus extends our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who contributed to this taping!

Remember, the NCIL Women’s Caucus meets monthly to provide mentoring opportunities for women’s leadership in NCIL and the IL Movement, as well as to address issues / mitigate barriers specific to women living with disabilities. For more information, please contact NCIL Women’s Caucus Co-Chairwomen Mary Margaret Moore (mmmoore@ilcnsca.org) or Sarah Launderville (slaunderville@vcil.org) to become a member of the Caucus.

New ACA Employer Mandate Survey Activated: Call for Responses Goes Out Nationwide

Source: National Association for Homecare & Hospice

Take the survey

The employer mandate responsibilities In the Affordable Care Act are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015. Employers of 100 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) will be required to either offer a qualified health plan to all their full-time employees or face a potential financial penalty. For purposes of this law, a “full-time employee” is an individual who works 30 hours or more per week. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has determined that the requirement will be applied on a monthly basis using 130 hours per month as the standard for full-time.

For employers of 50-99 FTEs, the mandate takes effect on January 1, 2016.

The employer mandate involves a fairly complex formula for determining whether and how it applies to businesses. Each business should be individually evaluated to determine if and how the requirements apply to it. The cost of a qualified health insurance can be quite high. Likewise, the penalty cost can be as well, with the penalties set at $2000 each for all full-time employee (after the first 30 are exempted) when the employer does not offer a qualified plan so long as one of the full-time employees qualifies for a receive a federal subsidy. The penalty is set at $3000 for each full-time employee that qualifies for a federal subsidy through the insurance exchange when the employer does offer a qualified health insurance.  [Read more...]

What Will You Do on November 4th?

by Kathy Hoell, Chair, NCIL Voting Rights Task Force

A lot is at stake in this election. As leaders in the Independent Living Movement, you of course will vote! But just voting is not enough. As leaders, you have a responsibility to engage your consumers, friends, and family members in the election. As an employee of a Center for Independent Living, you can develop and conduct nonpartisan voter education activities. These can include registering people to vote, educating people about our concerns and issues, or conducting phone banks. It is predicted that this off-year election will have a low turnout compared to a presidential election. Many people with disabilities who voted in 2012 will not vote this year unless they are asked to. Paraquad, Inc. the CIL of St. Louis, MO has done phone banking for years. It is the most-effective tool for increasing the disability vote.

An effective phone bank is made up of two steps. The first is to call and speak to all consumers, friends, and allies (leaving a voicemail message is not effective). When you reach the person, ask if they plan to vote on November 4th. Make sure they know where to vote and if they know what time of the day they plan on voting. The second step begins the night before and throughout Election Day: call everyone who said they would vote and remind them.

Another option for advocates is to volunteer for the candidate of your choice. Volunteering in an election campaign is an important way to build a relationship with those elected officials whose decisions affect our lives. It may impact their decisions in the future if they know people with disabilities. Some ways in which you can effectively volunteer are: going to candidate events and cheering the candidate on, putting a bumper sticker on your wheelchair or car if you have one, putting a yard sign on your lawn or in your window, working at a candidate phone bank, or canvassing for a candidate door-to-door. Your candidate will probably have many other opportunities – ask how you can help.

Some of us take Election Day off and volunteer on that day when candidates need the greatest number of volunteers. Being near a polling place and encouraging people to vote for your candidate, or holding up your candidate’s signs on busy street corners are just a few of the many jobs campaigns have for volunteers on election day. Remember – you cannot conduct partisan activities while working, but as an American citizen and a leader, you can volunteer for the candidates of your choice.

Lastly, you should be thinking about the next election and either running for office yourself or encouraging a colleague in your community to run for office.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month when schools, organizations and communities come together to raise awareness and show support for those who have been bullied. NCIL is partnering with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center in support of this campaign, which was launched by PACER in 2006 and it has become an international movement supported by schools, organizations, students, corporations and celebrities.

“Bullying is a serious issue that impacts students and families across the country,” said Kelly Buckland, NCIL. “Every child deserves to feel safe at school, in the community, and online and we believe it is important to help spread the bullying prevention message.”

One in three American children will be bullied this year, more than 13 million students in all. Research shows that children who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders, and the lasting effects can be heartbreaking. “October is a time when educators, students, parents and community members can unite to share an important message – that bullying is not acceptable behavior in their school and community,” said Julie Hertzog, executive director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

Students and organizations are planning events and activities across the country including celebrations of Unity Day on Wednesday, Oct. 22. A simple way for individuals and organizations to support Unity Day is by wearing orange and using social media to spread the word. PACER has additional ideas to mark Unity Day and offers helpful resources for students, families and educators at PACER.org/bullying.

“Everyone can play a role in bullying intervention and prevention,” said Buckland “We are doing our part and we hope that others will join us in support of National Bullying Prevention Month.”

NCIL Denounces DOL Non-Enforcement Policy for FLSA Changes

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has responded to the disability community’s request that it delay implementation of new rules on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) companionship exemption. Rather than delay implementation, DOL has chosen to adopt a non-enforcement policy: DOL will not enforce the companionship changes until June 30, 2015. Additionally, for a period of six months following June 30, DOL will have “prosecutorial discretion” to delay enforcement against states and other providers on a case-by-case basis. During this period, DOL will be providing “extensive” outreach and technical assistance on the companionship changes.

This decision will have serious consequences for people with disabilities and attendants. Without funding in place to pay for the FLSA changes, states and provider agencies will simply cap the number of hours attendants can work to avoid any overtime costs and liability. This will undercut the ability of people with disabilities and seniors to live in the community, undermine the ability of seniors and people with disabilities to decide who comes into our homes, and hurt attendants by reducing their income.

To avoid these unintended consequences, disability rights advocates asked DOL to delay the implementation of these rule changes by 18 months to give time to secure state funding to pay for the new requirements.

Rather than implement a solution that prevents the detrimental impact of these changes, DOL has chosen an incomplete and inadequate solution.

DOL has told disability rights advocates the risk of litigation is minimal. However, providers will not risk legal action or being put out of business. This means people with significant disabilities will lose long-time attendants and may be forced into nursing facilities or other institutions.

Disability rights advocates are angry because DOL rejected a straight-forward solution that would prevent unwanted institutionalization and hardship on attendants – the very people these changes were intended to help.

Although the Department of Labor has said that it won’t enforce the law, nothing prevents individuals from suing to enforce it.

The following advocacy documents were jointly developed by a number of national advocacy organizations (including NCIL) who are concerned about the affect these rules will have on consumer directed programs.

Please see:

NCIL thanks ADAPT for their significant contributions to this article and extensive reporting and direct action on this issue.

NCIL Proudly Presents: Information on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act!

October 14, 2014; 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Register online

The House and Senate have passed, and the President has signed, tNCIL logo - National Council on Independent Livinghe bipartisan and bicameral Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. WIOA is nNCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingNCIL logo - National Council on Independent Livingow the law of the land!

NCIL will present information about what the law says about Independent Living, changes required by the law, and what is not changing.

This event is free for NCIL members and only $75.00 for non-members. To become a NCIL member, visit: www.ncil.org/ncil-membership.

Please join us on Tuesday October 14th at 4:00 Eastern to learn what WIOA says about:

  • The establishment of the Independent Living Administration in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Transition as a fifth core service
  • How SILC activities will be improved and include resource development
  • SPIL sign-off and how CIL Directors are now included
  • How States will choose their ‘designated state entity’ (formerly known as the DSU)

This webinar will be presented by Shannon Jones and Vicki Haws, NCIL Rehab Act Co-Chairs, and Kelly Buckland, NCIL Executive Director.

The ADA Legacy Tour Is Heading Across the Midwest!

The ADA Legacy Tour continues to crisscross the country raising awareness and building excitement around ADA25 – the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Keep Freedom Rolling!ADA Legacy Trailer decorated with chalk - Thank You Center for Accessible Living, Louisville, KY - Follow us #ADAlegacytour

Step up and help “Keep Freedom Rolling” by buying a tank of gas as the bus rolls through your service area.

On October 2, 2014, The ADA Legacy Tour left Memphis, Tennessee. It will cross the Mississippi River, then head towards Albuquerque, New Mexico over the next several days.

If you are along this route and would like to buy a tank of gas, feed the Tour Team, make a donation, or otherwise support the Tour, please contact Tim Wheat at 256-886-8661 or tim@adalegacy.com.

Thanks to those Centers for Independent Living and other organizations that have already provided support:

  • Road to Freedom Bus - photo by the Ability Center of Greater ToledoAbility Center of Greater Toledo – Toledo, OH
  • Boston Center for Independent Living – Boston, MA
  • Center for Accessible Living – Louisville, KY
  • Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living – Allentown, PA
  • Mission Hill K-8 School – Boston, MA
  • Southeast Kansas IL Resource Center – Satellite Parsons, KS
  • Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living – Washington, PA

For more about the “Keep Freedom Rolling” Challenge:

Thanks for your support!

Sincerely,

Mark Johnson, Chair
The ADA Legacy Project