Posts Tagged ‘disability rights’

Equality for ALL takes one step forward, one step back

Posted on December 10th, 2012 by

Last week, we received some promising news, and some bad news, from the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

First, what is promising. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 (Prop 8) in its 2013 session. Both the federal DOMA and California’s Prop 8 serve as barriers to marriage equality in the United States by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Should the Supreme Court rule Prop 8 and/or DOMA unconstitutional, it would be a significant victory for the gay rights movement and for all those who stand on the side of equality. If Prop 8 is overturned, California would become the 10th and largest state to allow same-sex marriage licenses to be issued. Should DOMA be ruled unconstitutional, same sex couples who are legally married in their state would be entitled to the same federal benefits as opposite sex married couples.   Regardless of how the cases are decided, the Court’s analysis will be highly influential in the marriage equality debate, and LGBT rights generally, for years to come.

Now the bad news. Last Tuesday, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the Convention with a vote of 61 to 38. As a nation boasting the most comprehensive national protections for individuals with disabilities, this failed opportunity prevents the U.S. from showing true leadership on protecting even the most basic civil rights for persons with disabilities across the globe.

The 2006 treaty has seen bipartisan support from lawmakers since its inception, including endorsements from former President George H. W. Bush and former Senator Bob Dole, but several conservative lawmakers refused to endorse a UN treaty. The Convention has already been approved by 125 countries, many of which do not have legal protections akin to the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the U.N., about 10 percent of the global population has a disability, making the disability community the world’s largest minority. The Senate’s rejection of the Convention is an embarrassment  to the advocates and nations working to make the global community a better place for those with disabilities.

The Senate’s vote, coupled with the Supreme Court’s action, accurately reflect the movement for equality. For every step forward, there is a defeat that serves to remind us that there is still so much work to be done in ensuring civil rights for all individuals.



Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, LBGT Rights
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America’s disabled community not left behind during recession

Posted on December 3rd, 2012 by

By Leah Danville, ERC Intern

Man in wheelchair at home with familyNow that the election dust has settled, Americans are anxious to hear from President Obama and Congress about their plans to address one of the nation’s biggest issues: unemployment.   Unemployment rates over the past few years have ranged from a high of 10 percent in October 2009 down to 7.8 percent this past September.  While views on how to address the problem varies, everyone agrees that even at its lowest rate unemployment remains too high.

One overlooked employment policy of Obama’s first term is a 2010 executive order charging federal agencies with developing and implementing policies to encourage the retention and hire if workers with disabilities.  This ordinance increased the employment rate in the federal sector of individuals with disabilities—people living with disabilities. Could other equality initiatives further help solve our unemployment crisis?

People with disabilities are entitled to equal employment opportunity, but often experience discrimination in the job market and have shockingly disparate employment rates.  After the executive order was passed in July 2010, during the 2011 fiscal year the federal government hired approximately 18,000 workers with disabilities, a nine percent increase from the previous year. This growth in employment allowed thousands of people who were previously unable to secure employment, perhaps due to their disability, to work and provide for themselves and their families. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Disability Rights, Fair Employment
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Misguided: Housing Discrimination Against Individuals Using Guide Dogs

Posted on November 12th, 2012 by

Blind rental reportThis week, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) released a report detailing the treatment of blind or visually impaired renters seeking a reasonable accommodation for a service animal in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area rental housing market. “Misguided: Housing Discrimination Against Individuals Using Guide Dogsfound that housing providers failed to individuals who used service animals equal housing opportunity thirty-one percent of the time, despite federal, state and local protections requiring such accommodations.   

Guide dogs and other assistive animals serve an important function and are not pets.  Nonetheless, many rental properties employ a “no pets” policy or have strict guidelines, including the type of animal allowed and size of the animal. Recognizing the adverse effect these policies may have, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as state and local laws, provide protections to people with disabilities in housing-related transactions, including the right to obtain a reasonable accommodation for the use of a service animal.

Despite these protections, the ERC and its affiliates continue to receive reports of discrimination.   To test these claims, the ERC conducted 100 tests of rental properties throughout the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area [for further information on testing and methodology, read the full report here]. In 31 percent of the tests, a blind individual who called a rental property to inquire about housing was unable to ensure that a guide dog would be permitted without any additional fee or cost. The treatment ranged from increased fees, to a lack of knowledge on property policies involving service animals, to outright refusals to accommodate a guide dog.

Service and other assistive provide essential services to many in the disability community. From a blind individual who uses a guide dog to walk down the street, to a person diagnosed with epilepsy who works with a dog trained to detect seizures, assistive animals are invaluable resources and companions. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Disability Rights, Fair Housing
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Housing Providers Leaving Deaf and Hard of Hearing Disconnected

Posted on August 8th, 2012 by

report front coverHousing providers continue to discriminate against individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Despite living in an era of digital communications, many of the more than 9 million individuals who identify as Deaf or hard of hearing rely on relay services to conduct daily activities necessary by telephone.  Acknowledging the importance of this means of communication, federal laws prohibit discrimination against relay service users in housing-related transactions.

Yet, in a recent investigation by the Equal Rights Center, 45% of telecommunications relay service users who sought rental housing in the greater Washington, D.C. area experienced discriminatory treatment while seeking housing. The scope of discrimination documented ranged from an outright hang up and subsequent refusal to answer calls, to misrepresentation of availability of apartments, higher rents, differing requirements, and no follow up.

The ability to have a one-on-one, real-time conversation is crucial in a number of human interactions, including the process of choosing a home. Two-way conversations can provide individuals with much more knowledge than a question and answer session over email.  Potential renters may have a diverse set of questions for housing providers that require this level of real-time direct interaction. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, Fair Employment, Fair Housing
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Happy Anniversary ADA!

Posted on July 25th, 2012 by

Businessman in a wheelchairToday, July 26, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 22nd anniversary. After passing with bipartisan support, the ADA was signed by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA recognizes that full equality requires access and protections for people with disabilities, and the law includes regulations to make this equality a reality, with the teeth to enforce these values.

The work of the ERC’s Disability Rights Program would not be possible without the ADA, and using the ADA we have had major victories, improving access for the disability community. Our work with corporate giants such as CVS, Eye Care Centers of America, and Panera Bread have made their stores more accessible to patrons with disabilities. The ERC has also helped ensure that the government agencies of the District of Columbia comply with the law and provide residents with disabilities with the accommodations needed to take advantage of the available government services.

The Equal Rights Center (ERC) has been advocating for disability rights for more than two decades and we have much to show for it! (more…)

Categorized as Disability Rights
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Weekly News Round-up

Posted on July 20th, 2012 by

students carrying books and smiling It has been yet another busy and exciting week at the Equal Rights Center!

First, the ERC has launched its “5,000 Strong” summer membership campaign. The ERC hopes to reach its goal of 5,000 members this summer. It’s free to join, however, new and existing members that donate $50 or more will receive an ERC “swag bag” full of ERC materials! Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the campaign.

In addition, the ERC will be participating in the 3rd Annual D.C. Africa Festival this Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Banneker Community Center. Staff from the ERC’s Immigrant Rights and Disability Rights Programs will be handing out brochures and information to help individuals protect themselves from discrimination.

Finally, the ERC is looking for Fall interns! Do you want to make a difference in people’s lives while advancing civil rights for all? Apply for the Fall 2012 Civil Rights Internships and Communications Internship. For more information, please visit our website.

Enjoy the weekend and thank you for help in advancing civil rights for all!

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, Immigrant Rights
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Weekly News Round-Up

Posted on July 13th, 2012 by

It has been an exciting week at the Equal RightsCenter!Grandfather posing with grandchildren

First, the ERC received news that we have been appointed to the Access Board’s Advisory Committee.  Disability Rights Program Manager Kat Taylor will represent the ERC on this committee, which advises the Board on how to improve its proposed Standards for Medical Diagnostic Equipment. These standards supply medical service providers and advocates with essential guidance to ensure the accessibility of health care services.

In addition, the ERC and a group of McDonald’s franchisees announced new efforts to make several restaurants in Washington, D.C. more accessible.  These franchisees will make certain architectural modifications at their restaurants or will remodel or rebuild the restaurants.

Finally, the ERC’s Multifamily Housing Resource Program (MHRP) was recently featured in the June edition of units Magazine, a trade publication of the National Apartment Association that features news and newsmakers in the multifamily housing industry.  “Collaborative Compliance” was written to feature the MHRP’s work in promoting accessibility compliance in multifamily buildings.

And in case you missed it, the ERC released its Summer 2012 Edition of “The Point,” our quarterly newsletter.  If you’d like to receive our newsletter via email, you can sign up at this link!


Categorized as Advocacy
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Fair Housing 101: Reasonable Accommodations and Reasonable Modifications

Posted on July 3rd, 2012 by

By Nathanael Hill, Fair Housing Program Coordinator

Under the Fair Housing Act, individuals with disabilities are able to exercise two important tools in the quest for accessibility: reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications.  In order to understand the role and scope of these tools, it is important to first have a basic understanding of what they encompass.

A reasonable accommodation is a “change, exception or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces” (Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice: Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act).  A property may have certain rules or policies that appear neutral on their face, but have a “disparate impact” by having  greater negative effect on an individual with a disability, even if applied to all residents. Reasonable accommodations to these rules provide the individual the opportunity to alter these rules and rectify potential barriers in order to allow full use and enjoyment of the residence.  (more…)

Categorized as Disability Rights, Fair Housing
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ERC Launches PSA Campaign on Emerging Housing Issue of “Visitability”

Posted on April 16th, 2012 by

Visitability PSA posterThe ERC and the D.C. Office of Human Rights (DCOHR), an agency of the District of Columbia government that seeks to eradicate discrimination, have launched a multi-faceted campaign about “visitability.” This campaign builds on the 2011 “what is WRONG with these pictures?” campaign.

Visitability is a movement to design new single family homes to include three accessible features that will help ensure all visitors can enter homes, move about the ground floor, and have access to a bathroom. These features allow individuals with disabilities to visit friends, family, and others in their place of residence, and are much cheaper to implement originally than to retrofit later. Although federal law requires some accessibility features in the construction of apartments, condominiums, and places of public accommodation, it does not yet require accessibility standards in single-family homes. The visitability movement seeks to address this significant segment of available housing. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Disability Rights, Fair Housing
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Spreading the Word

Posted on April 3rd, 2012 by

By Nicole Nagler, ERC Intern

boy with down syndrome looking at cameraThe “Spread the Word to End the Word” Campaign seeks to eliminate the derogatory use of the word “retard(ed)” from everyday speech and to “promote the acceptance, and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.” More than 290,000 individuals have taken the pledge to stop using the “r-word” inappropriately, and to recognize this as a form of hate speech.

Seven years ago, I became a member of the Best Buddies Organization, a non-profit organization that “creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Best Buddies members meet individually or in a group setting, and do anything from playing sports, to watching movies, to cooking dinner together. In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to meet many individuals with disabilities and form friendships with pretty incredible people. As I have gotten to know members of the disability community, and I have been inspired to advocate for this cause. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Disability Rights
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