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

Housing & Transportation

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.

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee

The NCIL Housing Subcommittee has been hard at work developing letters on two different issues to be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We have been keeping track of bills in Congress and the budget / appropriations process. As always, we’ve been on the lookout for new members. If you are interested, please contact Brian Peters at bpeters@independencefirst.org.

equal housing opportunity symbolMany people do not appreciate the connection between housing and health. It works both ways: housing leads to better health outcomes (such as housing for people who are homeless), and better health coverage can result in more stable housing options as people don’t lose their housing due to medical issues. This is why it is very important for you to contact your Senator TODAY to protest the attempt to “reform” healthcare by overturning the Affordable Care Act and cutting Medicaid. The loss of Medicaid is a very serious threat to housing stability for many people. With the cuts over time, institutionalization will become the only option in many states due to a lack of funding for “optional” services (whereas nursing institutions is a mandatory service).

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces Legislation to Protect Rights of Disabled Airplane Passengers

Source: Senator Tammy Baldwin

Over 30,000 airplane passengers, including many disabled veterans, filed disability related complaints with airlines last year

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today was joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act. The legislation would protect the rights of disabled airplane passengers and close service gaps that passengers with disabilities frequently encounter in air travel. Last year over 30,000 airplane passengers, including many disabled veterans, filed disability related complaints with airlines.

“In order to keep America’s promise of full equality for all, we must work to break down the barriers that individuals with disabilities and our veterans face when they travel,” said Senator Baldwin. “Equal access to air travel ensures individuals with disabilities are able to participate in today’s economy and enjoy their travel opportunities.”  [Read more…]

Rural Transportation: A Vermont Perspective

By Peter Johnke, NCIL Transportation Subcommittee Co-Chair

If you live in a rural area and don’t own a car or are unable to drive, getting from one place to another may be a challenge (at best) or impossible (at worst), if public transit doesn’t exist where you live or work. People with disabilities face many barriers to transportation and in rural areas, it can be particularly difficult.

In Vermont, there are ten different transit providers, each with their own system of routes and fares. Only the most populated area has ADA Complimentary Paratransit. Other regions use Deviated Fixed Routes and Demand Response Routes to meet the needs of people who need accessible transportation. If transit exists in your area, traveling locally may not be too difficult. But it becomes much more challenging when traveling from one region to another. Except for a few commuter routes and some intrastate routes, it’s very difficult to get from one region of the state to another. Yet, this is often necessary for employment, medical appointments, and even shopping. In Vermont, crossing county lines is routine. Accessible transportation is problematic for evenings, weekends, and holidays though.  [Read more…]

Action Alert: Urge Congress to Oppose Housing Cuts!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about President Trump’s budget, which cuts the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 13%, or 6.2 billion dollars. This is just a rough draft; there are no line items available yet, which should also show more changes.

The budget blueprint announced the White House’s intention to eliminate the following programs:

  • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  • HOME Partnership Program
  • Choice Neighborhoods (formerly HOPE VI)
  • NeighborWorks America
  • Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program
  • Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Program (which funds organizations like Local Initiatives Support Corp.)
  • U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

According to analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the other programs impacted are:

  • Housing Choice Vouchers (a loss of 200,000 vouchers projected)
  • Cuts to Section 202 (Supportive Housing for the Elderly) and Section 811 (Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities)
  • Cuts to public housing funding, meaning that more than $26 billion in repair needs probably won’t happen

Housing has had strong bipartisan support in the past, so it is unlikely that Congress will follow all of the proposed cuts or eliminations. Nonetheless, we still must pressure Congress to not accept ANY of them!

But the real danger is that there is another source of pressure for cuts to housing: The Budget Control Act of 2011. It was begun as an agreement to reduce the budget with automated spending caps applied equally to defense and to domestic programs. In 2018, under the Budget Control Act, $14 billion would be cut (Trump’s budget cuts another $54 billion) compared to 2017. However, some in Congress have been seeking to circumvent this agreement by having higher cuts in domestic programs to fund increased defense spending. This is where the real fight will be happening.

Take Action

Call your Representative and your Senators to ask them to oppose cuts to housing! Ask them to oppose all of President Trump’s proposed program eliminations, to increase funding for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, and to eliminate the public housing backlog on capital needs.

Federal Transportation 2017: What to Watch for and How to Take Action

For 2017, transportation advocates in the disability community will need to watch and take action as needed under the new Trump Administration on the following issues.

Comprehensive Transportation Funding Package: In December 2015, Congress passed and President Obama signed a five year reauthorization bill called the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Candidate Trump called for increased investment in transportation and infrastructure. While no one believes that President Trump will undo the FAST Act, what type of additional funding package will occur, particularly with the current makeup of Congress and a mixed economy?

First Federal Budget: This should come out shortly. Areas to watch include the T-HUD funds (Transportation and Housing), which include Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding where communities access significant dollars for curb cuts. Will this budget proposal include all modes, primary areas of interest to the disability community, and those who support them by providing additional funds for mass transit and/or paratransit, Amtrak and other venues?

Department Of Justice and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Enforcement: How does the perspective Attorney General Jeff Sessions (unconfirmed as of publication) view the ADA? What efforts will be made to enforce it? How aggressive will compliance efforts (fines, sanctions, required trainings, upgrades) be, and how will they impact accessibility of transit, Amtrak, taxis, Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs such as Uber and Lyft), airports, boats, private buses?  [Read more…]

State News: ODOT and Disability Rights Oregon Join Forces to Make Oregon’s Transportation System More Accessible to People with Disabilities

Source: ODOT / DRO Joint Press Release (PDF)

Salem, OR – In the largest commitment to an accessible transportation system in state history, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Disability Rights Oregon and the Association of Oregon Centers for Independent Living have reached a proposed agreement which will make the state highway system more accessible to those with disabilities. The agreement settles a February 2016 federal lawsuit against ODOT by the Association of Oregon Centers for Independent Living, and eight individuals with mobility and visual impairments throughout the State of Oregon that alleged noncompliance with Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

“ODOT is making an enhanced commitment to ensure that mobility and accessibility are key elements in its mission to provide a safe and efficient transportation system,” said Tammy Baney, chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission. “Providing adequate curb ramps and pedestrian signals for those with disabilities helps improve the livability of our communities,” said Baney and “honors their rights under federal disability laws.”  [Read more…]