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Time to Pause, Reflect, and Recognize…

On behalf of Disability Rights Maryland, a sincere thanks to all of you who continue to serve our communities selflessly, whose needs are overwhelming, and where the emerging challenges caused by the pandemic are so enormous.

This is the time to pause, reflect, and recognize the uniquely intense and traumatic experiences of our fellow Black colleagues, family, friends, and clients as they bear witness to the horrific violence perpetrated against them in the midst of a national health crisis which is disproportionately affecting their communities.

This is the time to demonstrate our unequivocal support for people of color and stand together in the struggle for inclusion, full civil rights, and real justice.

Disability Rights Maryland reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that our work addresses the inequities of institutional and structural racism against communities of color. Our vision and mission is to forge an inclusive and just society for people with disabilities of all races, nationalities, sexual orientations, religions, or incomes.

With deep appreciation,

Robin

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Governor Hogan Vetoed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Bill

The Blueprint ensures every child in Maryland gets the education they deserve


We are writing to share a disappointing, but hopefully temporary, setback: Governor Hogan has decided to veto the bipartisan Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. This historic piece of legislation passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House of Delegates (96-38) and the Senate (37-9) and had responsible safeguards put in place to protect our budget against downturns in the economy.

Now more than ever, students, families, and communities need the support and investment offered by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill. The Blueprint implements a series of important reforms that benefit our children’s education, health and well-being, and the state’s economy. Some of the benefits of the legislation include:

  • Investing in early childhood education by expanding full-day Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.
  • Transforming teaching into a high-status profession with increased preparation and benchmark salaries.
  • Expanding college and career pathways including career and technical education opportunities.
  • Fixing our regressive funding formula by providing extra support for students living in poverty and interventions for struggling students, including students with disabilities, before achievement gaps grow.
  • Adding a new accountability board to ensure the reforms are carried out with fidelity.

The state of Maryland must remain committed to the goal of eliminating inequities and building an education system that works for all kids, families, and educators over the long term. This virus magnified the extreme disparities that exist in Maryland, including in our schools. The Blueprint was designed to close these disparities and eliminate the achievement gap. We can’t let this veto send a message that our kids’ future is not a priority for the state of Maryland.

Legislators wisely built in a pause button into the Blueprint in the event of an extreme economic downturn. This pause button would slow implementation allowing the economy to recover before further funding ramps up. The Blueprint takes a measured, cautious fiscal approach while implementing the supports that we know all of our students need.

Now is the time for our leaders to ensure that Maryland will build the system we need not only to recover from this virus but to provide enhanced opportunities for all students, eliminate racial achievement gaps, and rebuild a strong economy for all Marylanders.

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Rights to receive reasonable accommodations in the workplace and live in integrated community

DRM recently joined Rooted in Rights and other P&A agencies around the country to produce short videos explaining the rights of people with disabilities to receive reasonable accommodations in the workplace, and the rights to live in integrated community settings instead of segregated institutions.

Reasonable accommodations in the workplace

Rights to live in integrated community settings

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MTA Mobility Crisis

 

Crisis Facing Riders of MTA Mobility Service

May 31, 2019 Disability Rights Maryland (DRM), the Congressional mandated protection and advocacy system for the state, as well as Consumers for Accessible Ride Services (CARS), a self-advocacy group, are demanding an emergency response from Governor Hogan to the crisis facing disabled riders of MTA’s Mobility Service. These riders have no other forms of transportation. DRM is requesting an emergency plan to be put in place to address the harms caused by MTA’s failing service, as it is endangering the lives of the riders it is supposed to serve. Individuals with disabilities, such as Will Fields, had to wait for as long as four hours for his ride, outdoors and exposed to the elements while in an electric wheelchair. Other riders, such as Anitra Swann, was left stranded at work and forced to wait for hours, in an insecure location.  She finally had to pay for a taxicab when her ride never showed, and was unable to take her motorized wheelchair with her.

Riders have been stranded at dialysis appointments for as much as four hours, and have even had to miss full treatments or portions of treatments due to MTA’s Mobility service failure. This has put them at risk for removal from the kidney transplant list. Once picked up, some riders are on MTA Mobility vehicles for hours due to system shortages of drivers and vehicles. During these long rides, people have been unable to eat or take medications, and are unable to use the facilities–exacerbating their disabilities. Some riders have just come from dialysis treatments and may be weak and ill due to not eating.

Other individuals rely on personal care aides to support them in activities of daily living, such as transferring from a wheelchair, preparing a meal, bathing, etc. Others need vital assistance such as oxygen treatments and suctioning. However, by the time they get home after delays in para transit service, their aides have left due to their shifts ending. Riders have reported missing work, job loss or risk of financial loss, missing religious events, and countless other hardships due to significant delays and no-shows by MTA Mobility.

At times, when attempting to call about their late rides, riders experience busy signals, are disconnected or must wait on hold for periods of time beyond that permitted under law. Riders also report that when they get a response to their late line call, they are frequently told that a ride is coming at a specific time, but it does not show.

Two years ago, Disability Rights Maryland, along with the AARP Foundation Litigation, settled a lawsuit against MTA for egregiously long telephone hold times and a flawed eligibility process resulting in denials of service to qualified individuals with disabilities. Significant issues with the service are once again apparent.

Among the action items DRM is calling for in an emergency action plan are for MTA to:

  • Contract with taxi companies to provide immediate service and offer relief to those para transit riders who can use taxi services
  • Obtain small accessible vehicles for use on a temporary or emergency basis while the system develops sufficient capacity
  • Establish a relationship with 311 and 911 so that those dispatch services can have an emergency contact within MTA Mobility for responding to emergencies such as no-shows, stranded in dangerous conditions, being disconnected from the late line and not getting through, etc.
  • Immediately remove the limit (
  • two trips per day) on trips for individuals who can use Call A Ride, a supplemental system to para transit using local taxi companies
  • Retain services of an independent para transit expert to assist MTA in providing service compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Provide additional resources to the para transit system
  • Use voice mail message system for ride cancellations and halt suspension of riders for “no-shows” while the service stabilizes
  • Install technology that is comparable to that used on the fixed route bus system where riders can use a phone app to identify the location of their ride
  • Ensure that solicitation for para transit drivers, and training, includes a stronger focus on the human resource component of the job
  • Consider having Medicaid provide more non- emergency medical transportation trips for para transit  riders on Medicaid
  • Improve scheduling of trips, which create significant inefficiencies
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