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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Housing & Transportation

TNCs are Great, Unless You’re in a Wheelchair

Scott M. Crawford, Ph.D., Accessible Transportation Advocate

While watching the evening news, I couldn’t help but notice a highly polished advertisement from UBER’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called “Moving Forward”. In the sixty-second piece, Mr. Khosrowshahi says that his “…priority has been to listen to you, to cities and communities, and to my own employees.” He goes on to say that he’s focusing on changing the “culture” of the corporation and that “One of our core values as a company is to always do the right thing, and if there are times when we fall short, we commit to being open, taking responsibility for the problem, and fixing it.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingReally?

As a person living with multiple sclerosis in Jackson, Mississippi, and needing a power wheelchair for mobility, I can attest that UBER is not listening to me or my colleagues needing accessible vehicles. Historically, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, or Ride-Hailing Services) pay lip-service to the notion by having an option like UBER WAV, but it is available in only a small number of cities and does not provide anything like the reliable service our able-bodied peers enjoy. It isn’t available at all here in Jackson.

Worse, in many states, TNCs have preempted local authority to enforce equal service. In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature passed just such a law with only the vague assurance that they must “…comply with all the applicable laws regarding nondiscrimination…”. There is nothing explicitly calling for wheelchair-accessible service that is at all equivalent to that provided to everyone else (§37.105).  [Read more…]

TSA Releases 2018 Summer Travel Tips

Source: Office of Civil Rights & Liberties, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

On behalf of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), I am writing to share some important tips to help you better prepare for security screening and to help TSA keep wait times to a minimum at our Nation’s airport screening checkpoints for the 2018 summer travel season.  Here are a few things you can do:

  • Arrive early to get through security screening—two hours early for domestic and three hours early for international flights. Check with your airline and airport to determine wait times during peak periods. The MyTSA App is also a great resource to help figure out when you should get to the airport.
  • Consider checking your bag: more people and more bags may lead to longer wait times.
  • For your carry-on bag – make sure it’s well organized. It takes time for TSA officers to make sure a cluttered or overstuffed bag is safe.
  • Examples of personal electronic items that would be scanned separately include laptops and electronics larger than a cell phone.  This includes tablets, e-readers, and cameras. Additionally, TSA may provide instructions to remove items from your bag such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct X-ray images.
  • Know the 3-1-1 rule: TSA’s 3-1-1 is shorthand for the liquids rule. Basically, limit your liquids, gels, aerosols and pastes to no more than 3.4 ounces, or 100 milliliters, in 1 bag that’s no bigger than 1 quart. Medically-necessary liquids may exceed this limit, but must be declared prior to commencement of screening. All liquids, including liquids declared as medically-necessary, must be screened.
  • If you must travel with it, know how to safely pack your gun in checked baggage—and NEVER bring it to the TSA checkpoint: Transporting Firearms.
  • Get through the line faster with TSA Precheck, which lets you leave your shoes, belt, and light jacket on while you go through security. You can also leave your laptop and your liquids in your bag. It costs $85 for five years.
  • TSA Cares is a helpline for travelers who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying. TSA Cares is toll free at 1-855-787-2227 or Federal Relay 711. Travelers may also request the assistance of a Passenger Support Specialist for security screening at TSA Cares.
  • The TSA Disability Notification Card can be used to discreetly notify TSA Officers at security screening of a disability or medical condition and request an accommodation.
  • For general inquiries and questions, visit TSA.gov  or contact us through the TSA Contact Center (TCC) at TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov, or by phone at 866-289-9673 or Federal Relay 711. For additional travel tips, read TSA’s 5 Essential Summer Travel Tips  and follow @AskTSA and @TSA on Twitter and Facebook.

[Read more…]

Share Your Experiences with Accessible Transportation!

The National Council on Independent Living is currently conducting research on our members’ experiences with transportation, and we are seeking information from individuals who have struggled to gain access to accessible transportation. We are looking for several compelling stories to help us mobilize around issues of vehicle accessibility and autonomous vehicles.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingWhile we will be advocating for a comprehensive approach to accessibility, right now we are looking specifically for stories related to the following:

  • Buying and modifying a vehicle for wheelchair access.
  • Arranging accessible ridesharing (Uber and Lyft).
  • Interface access and needs for blind and D/deaf individuals.
  • How wheelchair users manage public transportation (fixed route, paratransit and other modes). Specifically: What your thoughts are about the service? How does it affect your ability to get out in the community?

If you have experienced barriers with any of the above topics, please share your story.

The survey is also available in Word and plaint text and can be emailed back to lindsay@ncil.org. Please share your story and help with this important effort!

Hot Topics – Old Dogs and New Tricks in Peril: Barriers to Mobility and Transportation

An Update from the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee

For people with disabilities to live independently, getting where they need and want to go is vital. Having accessible, affordable transportation services is essential. There are many barriers to transportation that people with disabilities face daily.

With the passage and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Air Carriers Access Act, progress has been made, but some of those gains are now in peril. Autonomous Vehicles (AVs or self-driving cars) offer great potential as a way to remove some of the barriers to transportation, as well as making travel safer for everyone. Some states already have driverless cars on the road, but none of them are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

Over 75 years ago, Guide Dogs for the Blind was started to provide greater independence for people who are blind. More recently, Service Animals have been trained to assist Deaf people, those with epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and other disabilities. These service animals have expanded travel opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities. Support Animals (also called therapy or emotional support animals) are also used by people with a wide variety of disabilities to enable them to be more independent and a part of community life.  [Read more…]

Potential Changes to HUD Mission Statement Causes Concern

Advocate Holds Fair Housing Symbol at 2011 My Medicaid Matters Rally

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee

Many housing advocates were shocked, speechless, and upset when word came out that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson was planning to update HUD’s mission statement and remove language relating to housing discrimination and inclusion. This would be a very public statement that HUD no longer considered combating fair housing discrimination against protected classes, including persons with disabilities, a priority. This generated numerous articles, letters, and calls to HUD. NCIL signed on to a letter from the National Fair Housing Alliance (PDF), along with 573 other organizations (164 national organizations; 409 state or local groups; and individuals).

Secretary Carson felt the need to send out a press release and an open letter to HUD employees in an attempt to reassure people that HUD would not abandon combating housing discrimination and fighting for inclusion. He pointed to the idea of fairness, “The ideals of that law, and our continuing work to support them, are really quite simple—fair is fair.”

Unfortunately, different people can have very different idea on what exactly is “fair,” which is why NCIL and other organizations will continue to monitor HUD’s work on updating its mission statement and, more importantly, HUD’s continued effectiveness in combating housing discrimination.

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee

By Brian Peters & Darrel Christenson, Co-Chairs

Quite a few things have been happening on the housing front in the New Year. On the positive side, Congress passed an $89.3 billion disaster relief package that will provide funding to areas impacted by Hurricane Maria, with money set aside for rebuilding the electrical grids in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. Congress also passed a budget deal that lifted the Budget Control Act cap, enabling many programs to avoid cuts.

equal housing opportunity symbolHowever, on the negative side, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Carson delayed the implementation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing until 2025, effectively delaying efforts to combat segregation. President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposes dramatic cuts of $8.8 billion (18.3% cut compared to 2017 levels) to housing programs!

With the two-year budget deal, “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018”, the Appropriations Committee will need to complete the FY 2018 funding bill before their deadline of March 23. Advocates should call Congress to insist on increased funding for housing.

President Trump also proposed getting rid of the National Housing Trust Fund, which is targeted mostly at extremely low-income households that rent. Many households with a person with a disability are considered extremely low income. There is also a push in Congress to reform housing finance (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) which funds the National Housing Trust Fund. It is very possible that the Fund could lose its source of revenue.  [Read more…]

Publication of Waymo Safety Report on Self-Driving Cars

A Message from Waymo

Waymo (formerly the Google Self-Driving Car Project) published its first Safety Report for our fully self-driving technology. Safety is at the core of Waymo’s mission and we believe our technology could save thousands of American lives now lost to traffic crashes every year.

Waymo LogoIn the Report, we detail Waymo’s work on ― and our commitment to ― safety. This overview of our safety program reflects the important lessons learned through the 3.5 million miles Waymo’s vehicles have self-driven on public roads, and billions of miles of simulated driving, over the last eight years. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued updated federal guidance for autonomous vehicles, Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety, and the Waymo Safety Report also contains information responsive to DOT’s guidance.

While there is a lot of promotion of self-driving cars these days, there is less discussion about the work that goes into making them capable, reliable, and safe. As the first company to put a fully self-driving car on the road without a driver, in 2015, Waymo has had to write its own playbook. That is why we use a safety-by-design approach ― discussed at greater length in the Report ― that informs everything Waymo does and affects every part of our cars, every step of the way.  [Read more…]

Online Survey: Accessible Sleeper for Passenger Rail Design

An Oregon State University research team is developing designs of an accessible sleeper compartment for the next generation of bi-level long-distance passenger rail cars. The team is interested in learning your opinions about your needs or experiences during long-distance rail travel by passengers who are older or may have disabilities.  The information you provide will help the research team inform the passenger rail industry, federal regulatory and policy agencies to make changes that will make long distance rail travel more accessible for everyone.

[Read more…]

AirAccess30 Seeks Air Travel Experiences from Target States

Source: PVA

Individuals with disabilities now have a platform for sharing their stories, photos, videos and graphics about their air travel experiences.

AirAccess30.org, launched in January 2016 by Paralyzed Veterans of America, enables passengers with disabilities who utilize air travel to share positive and negative stories about their experiences. AirAccess30 is seeking to collect stories from all 50 states and DC.

The following locations are not currently represented: Colorado; District of Columbia; Hawaii; Idaho; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Michigan; North Carolina; North Dakota; Nebraska; New Jersey; New Mexico; Nevada; Utah; Vermont; and Wyoming.

AirAccess30 is seeking additional stories from: Florida; Missouri; Mississippi; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Washington; and Wisconsin.

NCIL Launches Revamped Visitability Website

Many advocates have grown accustomed to using the Concrete Change website over the years for news, information, and other resources on visitability.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingIn 2016, NCIL learned from Eleanor Smith, founder of Concrete Change, that their website would soon be removed from the internet.  We worked with Eleanor Smith to preserve the decades of visitability resources she and Concrete Change developed.  NCIL revamped www.visitability.org and transferred to it to NCIL’s servers to preserve these important resources.

The website is a work in progress, so please email eleanor@ncil.org if you have any suggestions for content or other improvements. We are particularly seeking copyright-free high resolution photos of visitable homes of all types to add to the site.  We also would appreciate links to news articles regarding visitability to share on the website.

Special thanks to Eleanor Smith for her dedication to visitability and her work to make it a reality in our communities; Mary Johnson for gifting us the domain and framework; Pat Puckett for her support; and the NCIL Housing Subcommittee for taking on this project.