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DRM‘s Adrienne Mallinson Presents at the 2019 TASH Conference

On December 7, 2019, Adrienne Mallinson, a Managing Attorney for the Developmental Disabilities and Healthcare team at Disability Rights Maryland (DRM), presented at the 2019 TASH Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

TASH (The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps) is an international leader in disability advocacy. Founded in 1975, TASH works to advance inclusive communities through advocacy, research, professional development, policy, and information and resources for parents, families, and self-advocates. The inclusive practices TASH validates through research have been shown to improve outcomes for all people.

Ms. Mallinson summarized the contents of her white paper which describes the challenges facing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in accessing personal assistance and personal support services in Maryland. Her presentation described the current problems with Developmental Disabilities and Community First Choice (CFC) services in Maryland and outlines the legal and policy choices facing advocates around the State.

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First Time Disability Rights Addressed

During the Democratic presidential debate on December 19, 2019, Tom Steyer was asked what specific steps a president could take to integrate individuals with disabilities into the workforce and their local communities. This is one of the first times, this election cycle, that a Democratic presidential debate included a prominent question about how candidates planned to address the needs of individuals with disabilities. Mr. Steyer surmised that the issues facing individuals with disabilities could be solved through increased focus and funding.

The question was then posed to Andrew Yang. Mr. Yang discussed his experience as a father of an autistic child while reframing the issue. Candidate Yang posited that the crux of the issue is how American society conflates economic value with human value. Mr. Yang proposed a “freedom dividend” of $1,000 a month to help families and suggested that the issue of education should be a federal priority, not a local one. Disability advocates have discussed potential conflicts between the freedom dividend and existing federal benefits programs.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former special education teacher, requested time to answer the question and proposed fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). When Congress initially passed IDEA they promised to fund 40% of the additional cost of special education. Currently, the federal government only funds approximately 14% of the extra cost. DRM staff works to ensure students in Maryland receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, a right guaranteed by the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Senator Warren also discussed her housing plan which includes provisions related to increasing housing for people with disabilities that want to live independently. Finally, Senator Warren promised to address the pay disparity between individuals without disabilities and those with disabilities in federal contracts. DRM supported efforts to pass The Ken Capone Equal Employment Act (EEA) to abolish the payment of subminimum wage to people with disabilities in Maryland by 2020.

Disability Rights Maryland (DRM) was encouraged that the issue of disability rights was discussed during the Democratic presidential debate. These issues directly impact the 61 million Americans with a disability who make up approximately 23% of the electorate. DRM is committed to ensuring that the electoral process is fully accessible. During the 2018 election, Disability Rights Maryland surveyed candidates for statewide office and federal positions on issues related disabilities. DRM will be registering people to vote at a live stream of the Presidential Forum on Disability Issues an event Hosted by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and REV UP Texas.

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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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DRM Mobility Complaint Line Now Live

Call to tell us of your concerns!

1. Note the date and time of the problem

  • How long was your trip?
  • How long were you on hold?
  • Was your ride late on pick up or drop off?
  • Did you miss an appointment or work?
  • Was your aide gone when you got home from a late trip?

2. Keep a log of your trip issues.

3. Report the problem to DRM’s Mobility Complaint Line: (443) 692-2526

You may also report your complaint to MTA at: (410) 764-8181, option 8

TIP: Some rides may be easy to book or cancel through mobility pass web online: passweb.mta.maryland.gov

TIP: Remember to cancel your ride if you change your plans.

DRM has long been involved in fighting alongside clients for equity in public transit services. DRM has filed two systemic lawsuits against the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) for disability discrimination in paratransit mobility, resulting in substantial improvement. The current chaos in service clearly demonstrates the demand for further reform.

DRM is currently engaged in talks with numerous state officials about the lack of funding and the poor planning for Mobility services. DRM is proud of the work with Consumers for Accessible Ride Services (CARS), a rider advocate group that meets monthly and is dedicated to improving transit services for people with disabilities. You can also download a copy of our MTA Mobility Rider and Rights Advocacy Guide.

If you experience any issues with mobility services, call DRM’s rider hotline at: (443) 692-2526 and leave us a message. We will return the call. #TogetherForChange

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DRM Opposes Alternative School for Kindergarten to 2nd Grade Students

Charles County Moving Forward with Segregated, Alternative School for Districts’ Youngest Learners

On May 14, 2019, the Board of Charles County Commissioners approved Charles County Public Schools’ (CCPS) FY 2020 Budget. This budget includes $452,200 in funding for a new alternative elementary school – Fresh Start Academy. Fresh Start Academy (FSA) would set up a segregated school for students in kindergarten through second grade, who are removed from their regular classrooms for disruptive behavior. The removal of our youngest learners to this alternative school would constitute a suspension under state law and would violate the state ban on the suspension and expulsion of students in pre-K to second grade.

The FSA program ignores the spirit and intent of the PreK-2nd Suspension Ban law. It also raises serious concerns about CCPS’ obligations under federal civil rights laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), to evaluate students with disabilities and provide services and accommodations in the most integrated setting.

Disability Rights Maryland and its partners are urging CCPS to reconsider the FSA program and the ways in which they provide services to our youngest learners. For more information about the disability-related concerns related to this program, please read DRM’s letter to President Collins of the Board of Charles County Commissioners, and listen to DRM Attorney Amanda White’s testimony before the Charles County Board of Education at a May 14 public hearing.

#NoWayFSA #CCPSKidsBelongTogether

DRM Opposition Letter sent to the President of the Board of Charles County Commissioners – April 9, 2019

CCPS Press Release

Video Clip: Amanda White’s Testimony at Charles County Public Forum

Full Recording: Charles County Public Forum with Board of Education

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