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.
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
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
ACTING MAYOR JACK YOUNG TO SIGN LAW FURTHERING EQUAL TREATMENT FOR RENTERS
Housing Advocates Applaud City Government for Taking First Step in Combatting Source of Income Discrimination in Baltimore City
Baltimore, MD, April 12, 2019 – Baltimore City housing advocates are pleased to announce that Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young will be signing CB 18-0308 “Community Relations – Housing Discrimination – Source of Income” into law today at 10:30AM. CB 18-0308 prohibits discrimination in housing based on Source of Income (SOI) with exceptions as described below. Through the excellent work of the bill Sponsor Council member Dorsey, the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP, a myriad of Baltimore City housing advocacy groups and the support of Council members Burnette, Clarke, Cohen and Sneed, Baltimore is now joining the over 75 jurisdictions from across the country that have enacted laws protecting tenants from SOI discrimination. The bill’s passage is a strong first step in combating SOI discrimination in Baltimore City and places renewed pressure on neighboring jurisdictions and the state government to enact SOI protections of their own.
Although landlords and property managers of some developments are already prohibited from discriminating against prospective tenants based on their SOI under Baltimore’s 2007 Inclusionary Housing law, CB 18-0308, expands such protections to a greater number of renters across the city. “Source of Income”, as defined in the bill, constitute any lawful source of income from employment, government or private assistance, as well as alimony, child support, inheritance or gifts. Under the new law, landlords may still deny housing to an individual based on other non-discriminatory factors such as rental history or criminal record, but a prospective tenant can no longer be turned away because of the type of income they are using to pay rent. An exception is for individuals utilizing the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. Refusing to accept tenants using a HCV is the most common and pervasive forms of SOI discrimination. Under the bill’s language, a landlord would still be able to discriminate against a HCV holder where 20% of a property’s units are already rented to voucher holders. This 20% rule would lapse after four years should the City Council not act to extend it.
SOI discrimination predominately affects some of our city’s most vulnerable residents by locking them out of areas with better employment opportunities and quality of life. As Tisha Guthrie, a fitness professional and social worker who experienced SOI discrimination first hand wrote earlier this year in a Baltimore Sun op-ed: “This form of discrimination is insidious. It hurts veterans, severely rent-burdened families trying to get on their feet, persons with disabilities and elderly people. It also contributes to and exacerbates homelessness.” Doing away with such a practice is one of the first steps in addressing the legacy of redlining red lining and housing discrimination that shaped our city in the last one hundred years.
Baltimore advocates applaud Acting Mayor Young’s decision to quickly sign CB 18-0308 into law and eagerly look forward to working with him and the entire Baltimore City government to ensure that these new protections are enforced strongly and equitably and to prevent any erosion of the underlying protections the bill puts in place.
The following Organizations Supported the Passage of CB 18-0308:
ACLU of MD
Baltimore City Branch, NAACP
Baltimore Housing Roundtable
Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership
Citizens Planning & Housing Assoc. of Baltimore
Community Development Network of MD
Disability Rights Maryland
Healthcare for the Homeless
Homeless Persons Representation Project
Housing Our Neighbors
Jews United for Justice
Public Justice Center
DRM Paralegal, Teri Sparks, served on the Governor’s Commission for the Effective Community Inclusion of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The Commission brought together law enforcement, advocates, state agencies, family members, including the family of Ethan Saylor, and self-advocates to develop recommendations for the training of law enforcement that would provide awareness about intellectual and developmental disabilities and would lead to safe interactions.
Self-advocates made clear their wish to feel safe, understood and included. DRM served on the subcommittee to draft training objectives that were adopted by the Maryland Police Training Commission, for cadets and veterans of law enforcement. In 2015, Maryland passed legislation creating the Ethan Saylor Alliance for Self-Advocates as Educators.
Subsequently, the Maryland Department of Disabilities established the Ethan Saylor Alliance Steering Committee, staffed by Department of Disabilities staff Jennifer Eastman and co-chaired by Teri Sparks from DRM and Erica Wheeler, Self-Advocate & Trainer. The steering committee works to insure that appropriate training and supports are in place for self-advocates to participate in meaningful ways as trainers of law enforcement. In 2018, the steering committee awarded funds to two organizations, including Loyola University, to develop and implement curricula to prepare self-advocates to participate in meaningful ways as trainers of law enforcement. You can learn more about the Ethan Saylor Alliance by visiting: http://mdod.maryland.gov/about/Pages/Saylor-Alliance.aspx
CBS Baltimore shared coverage of a police training session at Loyola University. Actors with intellectual and developmental disabilities perform reality-based training scenarios to improve police encounters with people with disabilities:
On January 17, 2019, Ethan Saylor’s mother, Patti Saylor, was featured on WYPR’s “On the Record” discussing the officer training sessions.
Disability Rights Maryland hosted a Press Conference at our offices today to announce the release of our report, “Segregation and Suicide: Confinement at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women“ (PDF). The report was completed by DRM and Munib Lohrasbi, a community fellow with the Open Society Institute of Baltimore (OSI).
The report discloses the extreme isolation and harm, or risk of harm, to numerous women with significant disabilities housed in the segregation, infirmary, and mental health units at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW). Conditions in the units varied, but DRM observed problems with access to outdoor and indoor recreation; natural light; mattresses or bedding; insufficient treatment plans; and a lack of confidentiality for health care services. The harm caused by segregation practices is pointedly evidenced by the suicide of a young woman with mental health issues who was incarcerated for a non-violent offense and who took her life while in segregation.
DRM’s investigation, set forth in the Report, finds that MCIW failed to exercise reasonable standards of care during the time period surrounding her suicide. The Report offers recommendations for less harmful and safer correctional practices that conform to professional standards and comply with federal and Constitutional requirements.
DRM’s Director of Litigation, Lauren Young remarked, “The use of segregation in prison – the extreme isolation, the lack of physical and social engagement, sometimes combined with a lack of bedding, clothing, natural light or exercise, are conditions which Maryland has been shamefully slow to reject, especially as applied to individuals with serious disabilities; and compared with other states. We share this information because it is indispensable to the reforms that must come, but which will not succeed if conditions are kept from public consciousness.”
View a recording of the press conference on our Facebook page (embedded below).
DRM assists individuals who are eligible for Medical Assistance, reside in nursing facilities, and wish to obtain the services they need to live healthy, safe, active lives in the community (including nursing and personal care, behavioral and personal supports) or those working on their behalf, by providing information; advice; training; and in limited cases that raise systemic issues, full legal representation.