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

Housing & Transportation

Help NCIL’s Housing Subcommittee Introduce the Topic of Accessible, Affordable Housing Into Electoral Races!

By NCIL Housing Subcommittee

equal housing opportunity symbolAt a recent meeting of the NCIL Housing Subcommittee, we were discussing the lack of coverage of housing issues in the electoral races at all levels. We felt that access to affordable, accessible, healthy / nontoxic, decent, safe and integrated housing is such an important issue for not just people with disabilities, but for almost everyone.

As campaign races heat up at all levels around the country, we want YOU to contact your legislators, to attend debates, public meetings, and forums, and ask them this important question:

What is your plan to address the need for affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities, seniors, and low income families?

The more people that we ask this question, the more this will become an issue in races. So go ahead, and ask away! For federal races (House, Senate, and President), please e-mail any response you get to NCIL Housing Subcommittee Chair Brian Peters at bpeters@independencefirst.org.

Letter Requesting Strong THUD 302b Allocation: Add Your Organization As A Signatory by February 19!

Groups concerned about transportation, housing, community development, and homelessness are once again working together to urge Congress to provide the highest possible funding level for the one appropriations subcommittee that funds all of these program areas, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Subcommittee. Congress will soon decide how to divide its available spending for the next fiscal year, FY2017, among the 12 appropriations subcommittees. These subcommittee allocations are referred to as the “302b allocations.”

Please sign your organization on today! Together, we hope to urge Congress to provide the highest possible amount for the THUD Subcommittee.

Please share this sign-on letter with your networks! The deadline to be included on the letter sent to Congress is the close of business February 19, 2016.

AirAccess30.org Offers People with Disabilities Forum to Share Air Travel Experiences

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.

The new website, launched in advance of the 30th anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), seeks the help of passengers with disabilities in showing the progress that has been made as well as the work that remains to accomplish the true spirit of the ACAA.

“It’s not just people who use wheelchairs who have problems,” said Heather Ansley, associate general counsel for corporate and government relations for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “There are a lot of different nuances, and we want to show the importance of air travel for the independence of people with disabilities – from business trips to vacations to travel associated with medical needs.”

AirAccess30.org offers a simple submission form in which air passengers with disabilities can submit their story, an image as well as additional images or videos relevant to describing their air travel experience. The site will also highlight some of the stories received by displaying them for others to review. [Read more at pva.org…]

Demonstration Funding Announcement: The Transit Planning for All Project

The Transit Planning for All project announces the availability of funding for community-based demonstration programs. The purpose of this funding opportunity is to encourage development of an inclusive coordinated transportation system in which people with disabilities and older adults actively participate in both advisory and decision-making capacities. While the intention is first and foremost the development of inclusionary processes and plans, the secondary expectation is that inclusion will result in identifiable and measurable changes in the transportation system that respond to the needs and preferences of older adults and people with disabilities.

Logo - Transit Planning 4 AllTo take advantage of this funding opportunity, communities should download both the request for proposals and the grant application form. All requirements stated in the application form must be met in order for an application to be considered. Applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM eastern time on Friday, March 18. There will be a conference call to answer questions on the demonstration grants on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time Zone. Call toll-free: 866-906-9888; Passcode 2724141.  [Read more…]

New Article: Barriers for Parents with Disabilities Traveling with Children on ADA Complementary Paratransit

Through the Looking Glass (TLG) staff Jean Jacob, Megan Kirshbaum and Paul Preston’s article “Barriers for Parents with Disabilities Traveling with Children on ADA Complementary Paratransit” has just been published in the Journal of Public Transportation, 18 (3): 124-142.  The article summarizes findings from a TLG research project which surveyed 92 transit agencies from across the U.S.  Results indicate that certain policies make it difficult for parents to use paratransit. These policies include limiting the number of children who can accompany a parent, lack of access to chain rides (i.e., no scheduled waits), lack of driver assistance with car seats, not providing car seats, not allowing storage of car seats on vehicles, and fares for adults and children that make regular use of paratransit cost prohibitive, particularly for parents on a fixed income. These policies have serious consequences for parents to obtain and maintain employment, meet their children’s educational, childcare, and medical needs, and, in some cases, even retain custody of their children. Contained in the article are recommendations to make paratransit systems more accessible to parents with disabilities.

Rideshares, TNCs, and Accessibility

Madonna Long, Member of NCIL Transportation Subcommittee 

TNCs – Transportation Network Companies – are also known as Ridesharing. You may have heard of a few of them, such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. Are they considered a public transportation company? TNCs say ‘no’. They respond that they are simply providing technology (via smart phone or other device) that connects people with a ride for a fare. But, isn’t that providing public transportation or an accommodation?

In the disability community, many say they are providing transportation just like taxi companies do. Many believe that these companies are sidestepping the importance of providing an accessible option for transportation to all citizens.

So who is a TNC Driver? A TNC driver is someone who has a personal vehicle and contracts with a TNC. They sign up on the TNC’s app to drive to make money by providing transportation to the public. TNCs so far are only permitted to get customers via an app, and not by other methods (phone, email, transportation stops, hailing) as taxis do.

TNCs are regulated mainly through state public utility commissions. Only a few states have passed legislation governing TNCs. Most regulation and legislation has had little or no protection for people with disabilities. Some local governments have also developed TNC policies, although many do not address accessibility for people who use power wheelchairs and scooters.  [Read more…]

September 15 & 16: National Call-In Days Urging Congress to Raise Harmful Spending Caps

Those who attended NCIL’s 2015 Annual Conference may remember Housing Subcommittee Chair Brian Peters asking advocates to talk to legislators about Sequestration. He talked about how it has hurt many programs that people with disabilities rely on, including housing, and how the effect will be cumulative with more and more cuts until 2021.

A man hold up a Fair Housing Sign at the My Medicaid Matters RallyNCIL is sharing the Action Alert for National Call-in Days to raise the spending caps. Please see below for details.

On September 15 and16, between 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern, people from across the country will call their members of Congress and deliver a simple, unified message: raise the sequester caps and fully fund housing programs. Please join this effort to support critical housing programs by marking your calendar and following the instructions below on the designated days.

Background

The Budget Control Act of 2011’s spending caps have led to devastating cuts to critical housing programs. Additional “sequester” caps for fiscal year 2016 would bring more deep cuts for HUD and Rural Housing Services programs. These call-in days are being coordinated by Caps Hurt Communities, an advocacy campaign to build a movement of individuals and organizations committed to bringing an end to federal sequester caps. To learn more about the impact of the sequester caps on housing programs, please visit: nlihc.org/issues/budget.

Take Action

On September 15 and 16, between 9am-5pm (ET), please take a few moments to call your members of Congress. To do so, dial the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351 and ask to speak with your legislator. Ideally, you can make three calls – one to each of your Senators, and one to your Representative. Tell the receptionist in your legislator’s office how important affordable housing is to your community and leave this simple message:

“It’s time to pass a housing budget that works for our communities. Please raise the sequester caps and fully fund housing programs.”

Contact your elected officials

Thank You for Your Support!

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee: Representative Schakowsky Introduces the Inclusive Home Design Act!

On July 28, 2015, during the Rally at the Capitol during NCIL’s 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living, Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky announced that she would be introducing the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act that very day. The Inclusive Home Design Act is a bill that would have federally funded single-family homes incorporate Visitability.

equal housing opportunity symbolIf you are not familiar with the concept of Visitability, it is the idea, pioneered by Eleanor Smith of Concrete Change in Atlanta, that people with disabilities should be able to visit their neighbors, families, and friends. It has minimum requirements for single-family homes that, as colorfully described by someone, would allow a guest to “get in and pee”. The zero-step entrance and wide interior doors also provide the basics for a person with a disability to reside in, not just visit, a home.

The bill uses the new voluntary Visitability standard in the International Codes Commission/American National Standards Institute 117.1 1005 Type C unit. This would require at least one accessible entrance, an accessible interior circulation path, and a usable bathroom. It also would require a usable food prep area, and accessible lighting controls and outlets. This bill has been called the “federal Visitability bill.”

Representative Schakowsky followed through on her announcement, the bill was introduced in the House as H.R. 3260, and it currently has five co-sponsors: Representatives Clay (MO), Ellision (MN), Moore (WI), Holmes (DC), and Rangel (NY). It was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services, which is chaired by Rep. Hensarling (TX).

There is no Senate version at this time, although last year Senator Harkin introduced the Universal Home Design Act which would require Universal Design features in federally funded single family homes and townhomes.

New Mobility Magazine has a nice interview with Eleanor Smith about the Inclusive Home Design Act.

The NCIL Housing Subcommittee, along with other organizations such as ADAPT, will be advocating for H.R. 3260. We are asking you to reach out to your Representative to sign on to support this bill. Please provide feedback to Brian Peters at bpeters@independencefirst.org.

NCIL Applauds Supreme Court Fair Housing Decision

NCIL applauds the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act regarding housing discrimination. The concept of disparate impact (that policies can be discriminatory even if they don’t seem to be on paper) was upheld for fair housing cases. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. decision recognized that claims of housing discrimination do not need a “smoking gun” show of intent.

The Supreme Court upheld the precedent that statistics and other evidence can be used to support a claim of a pattern of housing discrimination. Although this tool was not explicitly written into the Fair Housing Act as it was with, for example, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, multiple court decisions have long recognized that this is a valid approach to show discrimination and permissible for Fair Housing cases.

This case was very worrisome for many advocates because the Supreme Court previously attempted to hear two similar cases. This indicated that some on the court were eager to take on this issue despite it apparently being long-established in many courts. The two earlier cases were settled to avoid the risk of an unfavorable Supreme Court decision. This 5-4 decision indicates that it was a very close decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy surprised many by being the swing vote.

Although this case looked at racial discrimination, upholding the use means it could be used to show disability-related discrimination. It also means that efforts to desegregate racially (for example, more family housing in white suburbs) will benefit people with disabilities who will then have more options on where to live. The SCOTUS Blog has a good summary for people interested in the implications of the decision.

An Update from the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee

By Fred Hess, Subcommittee Member

Hi fellow transportation fixer uppers. My name is Fred Hess. I am an Advocacy Coordinator in Western Pennsylvania (PA) and work for Disability Options Network (DON), the CIL located in New Castle, PA. I am on 3 different transportation committees: NCIL’s Transportation Subcommittee, the PA Transportation Alliance and a regional transportation committee called Alliance for Transportation Working in Communities (ATWIC) in SW PA. I was proud to be a member of ATWIC’s steering committee and we came up a large report on the problems with transportation for people with disabilities.

I recently attended a presentation at the Lawrence County Commissioner’s board from the Southwestern PA Transportation Commission (SPC) where they were using disability information that I shared from the various groups I participate in as a guideline. So that just shows you that the work we do really does count. I stressed the need for 1000 pound lifts on transportation vehicles. I also made this point at the National Council on Disabilities (NCD) Forum in Pittsburgh on May 4 that several of our colleagues attended. That was a very interesting meeting, as we had some important people from the disability community all in one spot. If you’re going to get your issues out into the public, there was no better place to do it. We discussed transportation systems throughout the state and nation and how they affect people with disabilities. The largest problem from what I gathered is the train access. This isn’t limited to Amtrak. It seems that a lot of other inner city trains are badly in need of accessible stations and passenger cars.

We work to achieve our goal of no longer needing community advocacy anymore because the whole world will be accessible. It’s good to keep in mind that to get there we need to take little steps and you and I are taking them every day. Keep up the good work and one day one day the world will be our oyster.

For more information, contact Fred Hess at 724-652-5144 or fhess@disabilityoptionsnetwork.org.