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Massachusetts to probe Uber, Lyft on disability access

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Reposted from a story online By Jessica Mendoza
July 20, 2015
Uber and Lyft may be heading back to court, this time in Massachusetts.

The state attorney general’s office is looking into how the two ride-sharing companies ensure equal access for people with disabilities, a spokeswoman for the attorney general told Reuters Monday.

Disabilities rights activists have previously questioned how drivers for Lyft and Uber Technologies, Inc. handle passengers in wheelchairs and the blind. The Massachusetts inquiry, however, marks the first examination from an attorney general, opening a new area of scrutiny for the two companies and adding to a growing list of business issues facing them both.

The civil rights division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office reached out to the companies this week to discuss issues related to equal access, spokeswoman Jillian Fennimore said, though the office has yet to take any formal actions.

Uber, a San Francisco-based company valued at $40 billion, and Lyft, valued at $2.5 billion, have both fought court battles worldwide around issues that range from from driver’s wages and contracts, to sexual harassment, to competition with local taxi drivers.

In early July, Uber suspended its French operations after cabbies in Paris “wreaked havoc on roads … and two Uber executives were charged with running an illegal taxi service,” Colette Davidson and Sara Miller Llana reported for The Christian Science Monitor.

Uber may also be on the verge of being banned in its home state after administrative law judge Karen V. Clopton of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled last week that the ride-sharing service should be suspended from California and fined $7.3 million for failing to provide the CPUC with data required by the 2013 state law that legalized ride-hailing firms, according to the Monitor’s Gretel Kauffman.

Both companies have also faced disabilities rights battles in court. In July 2014, a coalition of disability advocates in Texas sued the two companies, accusing them of denying service to disabled Texans, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Recommended: With big growth for the sharing economy, has it become selfish?

“Uber and Lyft are up and coming in terms of transportation companies, and they don’t really have any means to provide wheelchair accessibility,” plaintiff David Wittie told the Chronicle. “They are socially irresponsible and not accessible and equivalent for people with disabilities.”

In September, the National Federation of the Blind of California also filed a suit against Uber, citing more than 30 instances nationwide of blind customers and their service animals being refused rides, the Los Angeles Times reported. A San Francisco judge has said the case can proceed.

A Lyft representative could not be immediately be reached for comment, according to Reuters, but Uber has said it regularly communicates with advocates and policymakers about accessibility for riders and drivers with disabilities.

“We have teams dedicated to continuing to expand that access further for the disabled community in Massachusetts and nationwide,” the company said in a statement.

“The Uber app was built to expand access to accountable, reliable transportation options for all, including riders with visual impairments and other disabilities,” according to a blog post on the Uber site in early July. “We are committed to continuing to build solutions that support everyone’s ability to easily move around their communities.… [and] we are dedicated to seeking feedback from the blind and visually impaired communit

Woman with spina bifida faces $10K driving roadblock Assessment fee, modifications drive up costs for people with disabilities

Reposted from a stroy already online by CBC News Posted: Jul 20, 2015

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Sarah Mercer, seen here holding up her driver’s licence in her Ottawa apartment, says getting it has been a long process with financial barriers. (Andrew Foote/CBC News)

An Ottawa woman wants to make it easier and more affordable for people with disabilities to get their driver’s licence after continuing to face her own challenges.

Sarah Mercer has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. The Algonquin College student says she has spent the last five years trying to get her own vehicle cleared for driving, but financial barriers keep her from getting behind the wheel.

“I wanted to get the word out,” she said. “Nobody thinks about this unless they know someone.”

Mercer has set up a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a process she said able-bodied Canadians don’t have to face once they get their driver’s licence.

“When you pass your written test, there you have the right to start driving at that moment,” she said. “But I don’t.”

First, Mercer said she will need $850 for an expert to assess what she needs to modify in her van to allow her to drive, such as hand controls instead of foot pedals, extensions for turning signals and a lift to get her chair into the van.

Then, she’ll need approximately $8,000 to do the modifications and an additional $900 for driving lessons in a modified vehicle.

Insurance doesn’t cover costs

Mercer hopes to raise $10,000 to cover the costs, which she said her Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) insurance doesn’t cover. If Mercer doesn’t use all the money, she said she will pass the remaining funds on to other people in the area who need similar modifications, she said.

Mercer said the most frustrating part of her experience is the $850 assessment fee.

“I have to pay to have the exact same right as the person beside me,” she said. “I think that it should be covered under OHIP to make everything equal opportunity for everyone.”

“When the money became an issue, I felt really defeated,” Mercer added. “It kind of brings down your spirit, because I was really excited when I passed [my test].”

“People who are disabled, it takes them so much longer to get something so simple,” she added. “The government says, well, you did the test but this group over here, you’re different, so [pay] $850. It’s just a lot of money for people who just want to get their licence. People save up for their cars, for insurance, but I have to save up for assessments and modifications.”

In an email, a spokesperson from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation said all driver’s licence fees are the responsibility of the applicant and the ministry doesn’t fund special assessments or modifications.

She Questioned Our Use of a Handicapped Parking Spot. I Wish I Asked Her This.

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Reposted from a story online By Kathy McClelland Jul 20, 2015

It’s a lot of work to take a little kid to the beach. It’s even more work to take a kid with special needs to the beach. Their added physical, sensory, behavioral and emotional challenges make a beach excursion no small feat. In situations like these — as well as grocery runs and routine doctor appointments — handicapped parking spots make the experience a whole lot more manageable for brave, worn-out parents.

Since becoming a special needs mom two years ago, I’ve heard my fair share of handicapped parking war stories. Still, I wasn’t prepared for my own confrontation.

We were vacationing along the beautiful Carolina shores and opted to use our parking privileges to make our trek through the sand. We wanted to make carrying our 2-year-old with hypotonia a little bit easier. He’s little and still looks like a baby, but his uncoordinated body is challenging to hold for any length of time. We didn’t have his gait trainer or any other special equipment that would very obviously communicate why we were allowed to park in that spot (his gait trainer wouldn’t roll in the sand anyway). The handicapped tag was hanging in the front window.

My husband and I stepped out of the vehicle before the kids. Right away, an older lady, who was probably a nearby resident, walked by and said, “Are you handicapped?”

Now to her credit, she was probably policing the spot for her elderly friends who also had handicapped stickers. And our plates were out-of-state. Handicapped signs are displayed differently depending on which state issued the license.

On the flip side, it’s not OK to assume that just because you’re young and appear able-bodied that you have the right to judge someone’s physical limitations. Also, there were three other available spots.

“No, I’m not handicapped. My son has multiple disabilities.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

My writing doesn’t capture the tone of either of us, but I remember her being confrontational, yet sincerely saying “sorry,” and then jumping back to defending her right to ask the question in the first place. She said, “Well, I don’t see a sticker!”

“It’s in the window!” I said, defensively.

The whole interaction left me feeling like I was a little kid in trouble. I felt unworthy of the parking spot. I even started second guessing if we were abusing our handicapped sign. On a deeper level, it was like feeling the effects of diagnosis day all over again.

My sister later told me, “You should have said, ‘Yes, my son is disabled. Would you like to meet him?’” Not in a mean way, but in a sincere way. I wish this were my knee jerk response to people in situations like this. Imagine if I had softly said:

Would you like to meet him? He isn’t walking, but he wants to.

Would you like to meet him? He isn’t eating, but he wants to.

Would you like to meet him? He isn’t talking, but he wants to.

Would you like to meet him? He isn’t exactly easy to take to the beach, but he wants to be here so much. Just watch him giggle as the waves roll over his feet.

The handicapped parking policing experience made my heart feel just a little bit of shame for my son all over again. Like I should try to hide his differences, make do without the exceptions of a parking spot and muscle my way through carrying him even though my back was killing me. And it made me angry, which my husband later pointed out I was taking out on him.

Instead, I could have diffused the anger of our opposing positions. I could have used the opportunity to be proud of my son. I could have given that stranger a chance to meet him up close. I could have better defended his rights as a person. I could have built the bridge between the disabled and the able-bodied.

I wish I could have a do-over. I wish that when she asked me if we were handicapped, I would have said, “Yes. Would you like to meet my son?”

I didn’t that time but next time I will

Read more: http://themighty.com/2015/07/4what-i-wish-id-asked-the-woman-who-questioned-our-use-of-a-handicapped-parking-spot/#ixzz3gXMFltw0

Wheelchair Fencer Inspires

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Reposted from a stroy already online
She has been in the sports arena since she was a young girl. Though her life was turned around after she was paralyzed, her love for sports did not waver. And today, she is one wheelchair fencer that inspires everyone across the globe.
Anri Sakurai, a 26-year-old athlete, has been actively participating in sports since her primary school days. She even landed fifth place in the Kyoto Prefecture qualifying round of the All-Japan High School Ekiden Championship. Since then, Anri continued in her athletic career and enjoyed everything in the sports arena.
However, when Anri was 20 years old and studying at a vocational school, something unexpected happened. She woke up one morning realizing she could not move both of her legs. Her parents rushed her to the hospital to figure why.
After assessing her condition and looking at her test results, doctors confirmed that it was a hernia of a lumbar disc. She was then advised to undergo surgical procedure. But even after the successful operation, Anri remained paralyzed from the waist down.
Anri was greatly saddened of the outcome but her family and friends did not give up on her. They all helped her and supported through her daily therapies and rehabilitation sessions.
Touched by their compassion, Anri realized she should not give up. She even asked herself what she can do to live for the people who love her and support her. And that’s when her love for sports came back.
Anri was first exposed to wheelchair fencing when she was an employee at a sporting goods manufacturer in Kyoto. One fateful day, the secretary general of Japan Wheelchair Fencing Association based in Japan, Kanoko Harada, came into the store. He then met Anri and had a meaningful conversation with the young girl. Seeing her love for sports, Harada invited Anri to try wheelchair fencing.
It was Anri’s first time to learn about wheelchair fencing. She had no knowledge about the rules and how such sport is played but while watching the athletes practice, she fell in love with the sport. And soon after that, she picked a sword for the first time and began her training.
Today, the 26-year-old Anri is already known in this field. She is even set to debut at the IWAS (International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation) Wheelchair Fencing World Cup that will be held in Poland.
Anri, who showed her motivation, determination and perseverance, stated that her disability should not hinder her. Instead, she should be living her life by doing the things she loves. She is indeed an inspiration to all

NHS hospital to carry out ‘automatic’ tests for HIV when you get a blood test invasion of privacy or good thing?

Reposted from a story in pink news by Nick Duffy 21st July 2015, 11:36 AM

A hospital will carry out automatic HIV screening in blood tests
A&E patients at a London hospital will automatically get tested for HIV when they have blood tests – in a bid to help diagnose people who are unaware of their status.
St Thomas’ Hospital will become the first in the UK to take the proactive new approach – which means that standard practice will be to test emergency patients for HIV, as part of routine blood tests.
Every patient over the age of 16 who is already having their blood tested will be tested for HIV at the same time, unless they choose to opt out.
It is hoped that including HIV tests in routine blood screening will help to identify the large number of people with HIV who are unaware of their status, who would not otherwise be tested.

It is thought that around 107,800 people are living with HIV in the UK and of these 24% are undiagnosed.
Clinical lead for HIV at Guy’s and St Thomas’, Dr Nick Larbalestier, said: “Normalising HIV testing will undoubtedly save lives. Just as we use blood tests to check for other medical conditions such as diabetes, we know that routine testing for HIV will identify undiagnosed cases.
“People with HIV are able to live long and healthy lives, but this depends on them being diagnosed promptly and receiving the specialist treatment they need.
“This is why it’s so important to increase detection rates.”
As part of the procedure, all patients will be given a leaflet explaining why the routine testing takes place – and results will be available within 48 hours.
Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, says: “It’s great to hear that Guy’s and St Thomas’ are starting routine HIV testing in their A&E department.
“Rates of undiagnosed HIV and late diagnosis remain unacceptably high in the UK and continue to contribute to preventable illness, death and onward transmission.
“I am sure this will only have a positive impact, especially in an area of such high HIV prevalence, and I hope that other hospitals will soon follow their lead

Girl with prosthetic leg denied access to water slides at Frontier City

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RePOSTED from a story online on JULY 20, 2015, BY SARAH STEWART,

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma family says they were discriminated against at Frontier City because of their daughter’s prosthetic leg.

Averie Mitchell, 8, was born with a condition that caused her right leg to have to be amputated below the knee.

But she doesn’t let her prosthetic leg slow her down one bit; she’s on a competitive gymnastics team.

“I can do a cartwheel on the balance beam. Right now I’m working on back walk overs,” Averie said.

She does everything a kid with two legs does, and more. That’s why she and her family were so shocked on Saturday at Frontier City’s Wild West Water Works.

“We were getting ready to go down the slide and the attendant stepped in front of the slide and told Averie, ‘you can’t go down,’” her mom, Kim Mitchell, said.

Averie and her mom walked all the way back down to speak with the lead attendant, who told them the prosthetic could scratch their slides.

“I was angry, I was upset. My child was crying. She thought she had done something wrong,” said Kim Mitchell.

“I was kind of mad and sad,” said Averie.

“I think they absolutely discriminated against her, given the reason that it could scratch their slide. People wear bracelets, watches, rings,” said Averie’s dad, John Mitchell.

And even though management claimed it was part of their policy, the Mitchells say it is not on any sign, nor in the online regulations.

“We go to a lot of different places and never have we been treated like this,” said John Mitchell.

The family says they were humiliated as they were escorted to the front of the park by security so they could speak to a manager.

They say the policy needs to be more clear.

“Put it out there so other kids, or whoever you know, they’re not on top of the slide getting ready to start their day of fun at the water park when they’re told ‘sorry, you’ve got to leave,’” said John Mitchell.

Frontier City management sent us this statement about the incident.

“Our goal at Frontier City is to create family fun and fond memories for each of our guests while placing a priority on guest safety. Our Ride Admission Policy has been developed in consultation with industry professionals, based on the recommendations of the ride manufacturer, past experiences, and evaluations of each ride using knowledge of the ride in all operating conditions.

Like many water parks across the United States, regulations regarding loose articles and medical assistance devices are enforced to ensure the safety of each guest. Unfortunately, we can’t allow loose articles, swimwear with exposed metal ornamentation, casts, certain limb braces, or prosthetic devices on certain slides at Wild West Water Works.

We never want to refuse our guests the opportunity to enjoy our attractions, but we must also always follow guidelines that have been set by our industry to insure the safety of all guests. To avoid any confusion or heartache in the future, we will strive to make sure this is communicated better in advance by adding the restrictions to our website and ride signage. We deeply regret any disappointment caused to our guests due to our Ride Admission Policies. Again, our first priority is guest safety
and our mission is to provide the best experience possible for all of our guests.”

Late Monday afternoon, Frontier City management told us the specific restrictions had already been added to their website and that they were in the process of adding it to the attraction’s signage.

The family did receive a full refund of the money they spent on the park tickets on Saturday.

It seems the public can’t read so: service dogs are allowed under federal law anywhere a human can go and they don’t need papers to get in!

There was a story yesterday on NBC about three separate people at a concert in New Jersey turned away because they were not carrying paper work and vaccination certificates for their service animals!
So here we go again Plebeians
Service animals are not required to have paperwork unless travelling internationally, all that is allowed under law by security or business owners is to ask the following
1/ you can ask “is that a service dog
2/ what service does it provide
Service dogs are not allowed to bite just like any other animal so don’t stop me and say “what if it bites” read above its federal law.

When Zeus and I travelled overseas he had to have a “health passport” that is a document showing within ten days of travel he had blood drawn showing he was rabies and parvo free” that is the only paper work.
If an animal is registered in a city or town as all service dogs must be they will be wearing a current tag on their collars showing vaccination. Below is the link to the relevant section of the ADA
http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf

I have tested this myself many times and won, in NYC the police know the ADA and back me every time, evidently the idiots in jersey found a redneck trooper who was as ignorant as they were but if any of this had gone to court it would have been dismissed.
Surely folks in the 25th year of the ADA existing we can finally get it right? It’s not rocket science it’s even online for those who can’t read real paperwork.
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Obama calls on companies, governments to hire more Americans with disabilities

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President Obama is scheduled to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention in Pittsburgh amid reports that veterans’ wait times for doctors’ appointments have increased in the past year, and with the VA revealing a nearly $3 billion budget … more >
By Ben Wolfgang – The Washington Times – Monday, July 20, 2015
President Obama said Monday the country has made incredible progress in the 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, but he said physical and mental disabilities still keep too many men and women out of the workforce.

In brief remarks at a White House ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the law, the president said the government and private industry must work harder to ensure all disabled Americans who want a job can find one.

Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities. Mr. Obama in 2010 signed an executive order directing federal agencies to hire more disabled Americans.

Since then, the administration says, more than 57,000 workers with disabilities have been hired and more disabled Americans are working for the federal government than ever before.

“We’re building a stronger foundation, and thanks to generations of Americans … who demanded better treatment, who, just by being good and decent people and effective workers and treating others with respect and asking for the same in return, folks have overcome ignorance and indifference and made our country better,” the president said.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/20/obama-calls-companies-governments-hire-more-americ/#ixzz3gU8jkHAR
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Service dogs denied entry to Warped Tour

July 20, 2015 9:02 PM

These two service dogs, along their their owners, were denied entry to the Vans Warped Tour at PNC Arts Center. (9:01 PM)
HOLMDEL – Three people who bought tickets to the Vans Warped Tour music festival at PNC Arts Center in Holmdel say they were denied entry into the venue because they had service dogs.
Heather Masch and her friend Mindy Morley each have service dogs; Masch for post-traumatic stress disorder and Morley for a genetic disorder.
Both women tried to attend the concert on Sunday. They went through security with their dogs, but were stopped before their tickets were scanned by two PNC security officers and a New Jersey state trooper. They were asked for vaccination records and service dog certification and were denied access inside when they did not provide the information.
READ MORE: New Jersey Top Stories
“It was really embarrassing,” says Masch. “I was never denied access into any place ever with my dog.”
Another person, retired Army veteran Mark Brimmit, was also denied access. Cellphone video sent to News 12 New Jersey shows Brimmit, who was injured in Afghanistan, arguing with PNC personnel about his dog. He too was asked to provide vaccination records, but refused to turn them over because he says it’s illegal for them to ask for it.
A spokesperson for Live Nation, the company that runs PNC Arts Center, confirms the incidents did occur. In a statement provided to News 12 New Jersey, the spokesperson says “We have found that proof of vaccination may not be required in certain circumstances…We regret the error.”
“Everyone is equal,” says Masch. “Just because I have an invisible disability doesn’t mean I should just sit out in the parking lot.”
Live Nation plans to reach out to all the individuals involved to make things right. Staff at all of its venues will also be further educated on service dog policy

Three adaptive athletes roll into a bar and raise it because we always do!

In case you didn’t read I went surfing this week, and between sets I sat around the beach shooting the breeze with other surfers. There was a police officer on active duty on long island new York, there was a sports photographer who goes around the world for major magazines, there was a pediatrician a university professor with two PhD’s a research scientist a free climber and a member of parachute display team for ex-service men and three retired marines!
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Wow you say cool people and they all surfed outstanding! and by the way there were paraplegics quadriplegics people with cerebral palsy spina bifida people without limbs people with closed head injury. “oh poor things” you say wait a minute folks I’m sorry you see the bottom group was the top group? yep wheels under our ass stops nothing, NOT A DAMN thing.
Once we get over the bad news and we get over the pity party with the bad catering we get back to life and shit gets real. We make a list of everything we used to do, everything we intended to do, and we simply find a new way to do it yes we “adapt” Jesse billauer didn’t call us “adaptive sports people” he called us all athletes from the oldest to the three year old in the wheelchair because we are.
The picture below shows me sitting with a cop a professor and a sky diver a soldier and a doctor can you tell who’s who?
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Just like we don’t roll around with our diagnosis tattooed on our forehead for your convenience, neither is our occupation. Were not “brave” were not “inspiring” were just us just like every other mother father son daughter in the world has shit that needs to be done without fanfare so do we, we just have wheels under our ass?
Don’t run up and start pushing us because “it’s your Christian duty” don’t ask to pray over us or lay on hands you might not like the hands we lay on you!
And even though you asked so pathetically nice , no I won’t tell you why I’m in a chair it’s none of your business do I roll up and say “excuse me love if you don’t mind me asking when was the last time you had a yeast infection?”
We have obstacles so we climb them,
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we have mountains we go over them,
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we want to see the other side of the mountain so we roll out of perfectly good planes
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We want to be free so we surf ( below see christiaan otter bailey the world class adaptive surfer)
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You can do it too, we don’t disccriminate against the able bodied(I know right what a concept!) If you’re scared ask a wheelie we’ll be happy to teach you, and we won’t lay hands and pray over you because you don’t have wheels I promise

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