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Settlement Reached on MTA Mobility Paratransit System

After two years of data collection, litigation, and negotiation, Disability Rights Maryland (DRM), AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) have signed a settlement agreement to address issues with the MTA Mobility paratransit system. The Agreement was submitted to federal court for approval on January 23, 2017. MTA Mobility is a public transit service for persons with disabilities who cannot use the ‘fixed-route’ system, which includes busses, trains, and other forms of public transit.
DRM attorney Katheryn Anderson stated, “This Agreement resolves numerous issues that limit access to MTA’s Mobility service, builds in a system for on-going communications between riders and MTA officials, and provides for a continued improvement process over the next three years.”

Key components of the Settlement Agreement include:

  • Expert consultants on telephone and eligibility issues will have access to MTA mobility’s program and data and will issue recommendations for improvement. Plaintiffs can negotiate implementation of recommendations and involve mediation or the court if Plaintiffs allege that failure to implement a recommendation means the system violates their federal rights;
  • MTA Mobility will implement a “Quality Assurance Process” for eligibility decisions and review all denials and temporary eligibility decisions;
  • Applications will include information on presumptive eligibility, which requires that new applicants who do not receive an eligibility decision within 21 days of their eligibility appointment be given access to the service until a final decision is made;
  • Applicants denied eligibility may submit additional information for a re-determination if done in a timely manner’
  • MTA will process applications within ten days of request from applicants, with limited exceptions;
  • MTA will provide assessments on the same day that applicants are called to MTA offices for an eligibility interview;
  • Appeal forms and notices were altered to conform to due process protections;
  • Mobility applicants may use non-lawyer advocates for assistance during appeals.

MTA’s new administration was interested in fixing problems, began working with Plaintiffs immediately, and agreed to implement changes prior to the Agreement being submitted to the Court. During settlement negotiations, MTA initiated staff changes and developed new training and job performance expectations.

DRM and the grassroots rider organization Consumers for Accessible Ride Services (CARS) began receiving an influx of complaints around 2013 regarding the MTA Mobility’s egregiously long telephone hold times and an eligibility process resulting in denials of service to individuals requiring transit service to travel to doctor appointments, school, work, pharmacies, grocery stores, and religious or social functions. DRM and AFL attorneys worked with CARS to gather more information on the experiences of riders, and filed a class action suit against MTA in 2015.

“This Settlement will open doors to people with disabilities to help ensure their transportation needs are met. This will help us get better access to jobs, education and doctors and improve quality of life in the community,” said Plaintiff Floyd Hartley, a Mobility rider of 17 years who joined the lawsuit after logging 11 hours of hold time during 32 calls made to Mobility’s reservation and late lines in 2014.

“We are grateful for the commitment of the Plaintiffs, CARS members and other riders who continue to inform us and advocate for improvements to Mobility. These individuals work tirelessly, at no gain to themselves, to ensure equality for others. The Plaintiffs spent countless hours, traveled in all kinds of weather, sometimes coming directly from treatments, to engage in long case negotiations. We are incredibly proud to represent these remarkable individuals.” said DRM’s Director of Litigation, Lauren Young.

MTA Settlement Press Release

Complaint

MTA Settlement Agreement

Phillip’s Story – YouTube

Media Coverage

The Daily Record

The Baltimore Sun

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U.S. Dept. of Education Releases New Guidance for Students with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education released three new sets of guidance to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities.

These documents clarify the rights of the students, and the responsibility of the education institution in ensuring all students have the opportunity to learn. DRM welcomes these new guidelines; our education unit frequently handles cases of seclusion and restraint. We look forward to seeing a decline in the use of dangerous and potentially harmful interventions on students throughout Maryland.

Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
-Defines and provides examples to illustrate key terms used in Section 504.
-Highlights requirements of Section 504 in regards to public elementary and secondary schools including provisions to identification, evaluation and placement of students with disabilities, and procedures for handling disputes or disagreements between parents and school districts.

Dear Colleague Letter & Fact Sheet
Both documents offer additional information about the legal limitations on use of restraint or seclusion to assist school districts in meeting their obligations to students with disabilities.
– Will help update educators, parents, students and other stakeholders to better understand the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools under Section 504 and IDEA.

Know Your Rights: Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools
– Designed to help parents, students, and the charter school community to better understand the rights of students with disabilities under Section 504 and IDEA.

 

U.S. Department of Education Press Release
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Website

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Early Voting Begins in MD 10/27

Same day voter registration is allowed with proof of residence. All Early Voting locations are accessible to people with disabilities. Voters can vote from today until Thursday Nov. 3. Polls are open 8AM to 8PM.

DRM provides resources to make the voting process simple and accessible for all voters:

Find Early Voting Locations
2016 General Election Voter Info

Visit our Voting Page for more resources!

Quick Tips!

  • It is a good idea to bring identification with you.
  • You may ask for assistance. Ask any election judge or bring someone you trust to help you.
  • You have the right to cast a ballot as long as you are in line when the polls close.
  • We need nondisabled voters to use also the ballot-marking machines to avoid a segregated ballot!
    Please request to do so when you check in, and report any access barriers to DRM’s Voting Hotline:
    Call: 443-692-2492
    Email: Voting@DisabilityRightsMD.org
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DRM Seeks Fair Housing Attorney

DRM is hiring a full-time staff attorney to work in our Housing Unit.

Please view the job description for more information; submit application by October 24th for priority consideration.

 

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DRM & Venable Reach Proposed Agreement with DHMH

Two years ago, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) was sued by Jane Doe, an individual who, while in the custody and care of two separate DHMH facilities, was sexually assaulted twice, by two different patients, resulting in severe trauma and emotional injuries.

Today, October 11, 2016, Disability Rights Maryland and Venable, LLP submitted a proposed settlement with DHMH for approval by the federal court. The proposed agreement alters responses to sexual abuse allegations in DHMH facilities by establishing new sexual assault prevention, reduction, reporting, and treatment protocols, including use of protection plans and external law enforcement investigations. In addition to the State awarding Ms. Doe the maximum damages allowed, DHMH has agreed to significant service commitments that will be available to Ms. Doe.

Disability Rights Maryland is providing the proposed Settlement Agreement and Complaint information for this case.

View the Press Release 

Media Coverage – The Baltimore Sun

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