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Friday, July 31, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 23

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Resources

*Advocacy in Action, a Toolkit for the Rolling Revolution, a comprehensive guide to getting involved and using your voice for change from United Spinal Association.
* Find the Center for Independent Living in your area: ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-and-association-directory

* The US DOJ website on ADA Titles II (state and local government) and III (public accommodations, aka private businesses): ADA.gov 
*Accessibility Services, a program of United Spinal Association, assists property owners and designers as they navigate the myriad accessibility requirements that apply to a facility at the state and federal levels: accessibility-services.com/about-accessibility-services.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 22

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Unfortunately, many architects, planners and city officials are either not aware of ADA compliance rules for adaptive re-use, or they are lax in enforcing them. 

That’s why it’s important to forge and maintain good contacts — so previously inaccessible buildings become accessible via renovation.

“Many people with disabilities develop a relationship with their Department of Buildings to ensure that accessibility is emphasized in new and existing projects and to discuss ongoing projects,” Marinelli advises.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 21

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Since the early 2000s, building codes throughout the country have mirrored the accessibility requirements of the ADA for both newly constructed and existing buildings, Marinelli explains.

New construction regs require that buildings provide accessible parking and paths from that parking to accessible entrances. Interior building features must include corridors and doors that provide adequate clear width, lowered counters, tables with knee space, drinking fountains with lowered spouts and bathrooms with accessible fixtures.

Existing buildings are required to dedicate 20% of alteration costs to providing an accessible path of travel to renovated spaces within the building. 

If an existing building changes use, such as a historic warehouse being converted to apartments, the building must comply with new construction requirements.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

30th Anniversary of the ADA

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 20

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
United Spinal Association’s Accessibility Services program provides consulting services devoted to making the built environment accessible to people with disabilities. 

Vice President Dominic Marinelli has worked as a certified accessibility specialist for over 30 years and knows a thing or two about how to effect change.

“A great example of working directly with City Hall is to establish a relationship with the local code enforcement office,” he says. 

“While building officials and inspectors are not responsible for enforcing the barrier removal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines — for buildings designed for first occupancy after Jan. 26, 1993 — they are required to enforce the accessibility requirements of the local building code and existing building code.”

Monday, July 27, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 19

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
“We write a generic follow-up letter before we have a meeting, so it is ready to go right after the event. 

We say, ‘Here’s our number, reach out to us any time.’ 

It’s important to show that we appreciate their taking the time to get informed about our issue,” says Harrison.

A concise, positive, embracing note can break that harmful myth that people with disabilities are only complainers. 

And the next time you have an issue, your key city contacts will think of you as an active citizen with valuable insights into universal design.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

THE ADA AT 30

The Americans with Disabilities Act turns 30 today (July 26)
I hope America celebrates the anniversary by digging deeper to understand what gains have been made and what challenges remain.

For the record, as the spouse of a person who uses a wheelchair for mobility, there are countless remaining challenges before People With Disabilities (PWD) gain anything remotely resembling equity.

Groundbreaking federal Civil Rights legislation -- that recognizes the legal need/appropriateness for people with a wide range of disabilities to be accommodated in their daily lives – is something positive for everyone.

Anyone can join the disability community. The CDC reports that one in four people will experience disability in their lifetime.

Every PWD (and their extended community of companions, friends, co-workers, caregivers, health professionals, personal care attendants, etc) could write a book about trials, triumphs and lingering frustrations.

I hope mainstream America can take a moment away from the very valid priorities of COVID response and protesting police brutality and inequality for people of color – to explore the ADA and its impact.

For PWD, it’s time to challenge the status quo and double down on upholding rights gained over the past three decades (they are in danger from the right wing).

PWD and everyone should be pushing the public and private sectors to create more equity in the next 10 years than has been achieved in the past 30.



Saturday, July 25, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 18

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
You can fight City Hall, but not with fighting words. 

No matter how long your issue has been neglected, nor how much your frustration has built up, you will not influence decision makers by shaming, scolding or cursing them.

When your accessibility issue is resolved, don’t forget to praise all those involved with addressing your issue. 

Formal, written thank you notes may be rare as VCRs these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few moments to send an email thanking all those involved. 

A brief email of praise to a city manager, department head or city commissioner goes a long way.


Friday, July 24, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 17

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Lewkowicz says a few wheelchair users drove around, showing bike coalition members how the design impeded lift-equipped vans. 

She is still searching for common ground and working to get the city’s bike-pedestrian point person to create a design solution.

Tamley points to a similar battle in her city to show that persistence can pay off. 

In Chicago, Tamley says the input of the disability community ensured the city heavily regulated micromobility (dockless rental bikes and scooters) in a pilot program. 

While many cities have suffered from discarded scooters dangerously blocking sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks, bus stops and more, Chicago minimized the impact to wheelchair users and pedestrians by tightening rules on locations of use and corralling the devices.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 16

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
“The bike coalition is very strong,” Lewkowicz says of her hometown, Berkeley. 

“A lot of street redesigns have been improving the situation for cyclists but at the same time taking away access for people with disabilities.”

Previously, cars and vans parked next to the curb, where a ramp-equipped van could safely deploy onto the sidewalk. 

To protect cyclists from traffic, the new design moves the parking spaces away from the curb and paints a bike lane between the sidewalk and on-street parking.

This means that a van ramp deploys perilously into the pathway of fast-moving bicycles. 

Also, because the ramp is at street level instead of curb level, wheelchair users have no way of directly accessing the sidewalk and must roll many car lengths — hoping there are no obstructions — to make it to an intersection where the curb ramps are.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 15

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
“Pick your battles. It will have a higher impact,” says Bonnie Lewkowicz, the manager of Access Northern California, a nonprofit that advocates for access to nature and outdoor recreation.

She recommends a cool-headed, focused approach.

“I could write 20 letters a day, but I’m not going to. 

I’m going to focus on parks and outdoor entities and do trainings and awareness so staff can better serve their patrons with disabilities.”

Lewkowicz says her style is to be direct and not overly confrontational, even when a progressive city is building projects that are negatively impacting access.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 14

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Stay gentle, firm, professional and positive in your communications. 

If you truly are getting stonewalled, consider going to the media.

Have documentation of your problem and all your communications with your city. 

Social media is another way to get your message out. 

Tweet at the city, its officials and your council member. 

Make a factual, not an emotional, Facebook post. 

Share photos of the barrier in your way on Instagram. 

Do a blog post on why cities must be inclusive and how ignoring an accessibility issue is discriminatory.

Monday, July 20, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 13

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Later, Schuh worked with the Phoenix Police Department to address disability parking abuse.

“We did a video to train police on why they must issue citations,” she says, noting that many cops are reluctant to ticket.

“We launched a whole campaign about the problems that people with disabilities face.”

Schuh’s experiences reinforce that city employees often have not had a personal experience with disability, so they are ignorant of needs and uncomfortable asking about them.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

2021 CITY, COUNTY AND STATE BUDGETS MUST BOOST FUNDING OF ADA DEPARTMENTS AND SERVICES

COVID-19 HAS IMPACTED REVENUE, BUT IT WOULD BE 
DEADLY AND DANGEROUS TO CUT FUNDING FOR 
THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC
The 30th anniversary of the ADA will be observed July 26.

While America has come a long way in the past three decades, people with disabilities still face many barriers that prevent them from having equal access to education, jobs, housing, transportation, recreation, health care and more.

The pandemic has only underscored the glaring gaps in what should be and what the reality is in terms of a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities.

Many cities, counties and states once had fairly robust amounts of staff members and budgets to serve the one in five Americans that experience some kind of disability.

The 2008-2009 financial crisis reduced a lot of expert staff and slashed budgets. 

While virtually every department hired back staff and swelled budgets over the ensuing decade, those upholding the ADA were sometimes neglected.
In many cities, in South Florida and far beyond, the ADA coordinator is a part time position, or even worse: it’s added to the duties to a person whose primary job is as a city engineer, attorney, project manager, etc.

Basically, a person is “punished” by having ADA added to their long list of job duties.

How can we expect that person to become an expert or an advocate for constituents who very much need both?

People with disabilities deserve proactive, not reactive or reluctant ADA point persons representing their interests at the state, county and city levels.

Because COVID has greatly reduced tax revenues, while greatly increasing expenditures on everything from health screenings to emergency rent grants, there will be budget cuts.

There will be a great (yet totally wrong) temptation to look at ADA services as a luxury rather than a necessity. That could mean expert staff members could be fired for no reason.

Already strained, threadbare budgets could be slashed to the bone and beyond.

This would be a violation of the civil rights of every American. Disability touches virtually every family. 
Along with reacting to the pandemic, the biggest concern of every decent American this year has been equality and inclusion. 

The push to end systemic discrimination and police brutality, often victimizing people of color, is a noble and worthy pursuit that I back wholeheartedly.

But in our race to level the playing field, to commit to equality, to remove barriers – we must include people with disabilities in this discussion.

They are the most underemployed and unemployed of any minority group in America.

Government – at the city, county and state level – has the responsibility to set the standard when it comes to facilities, programs and policies that break barriers and end centuries of disability discrimination.

This is a call to action. 

Please contact mayors, commissioners, council members, city managers and other leaders.

Tell them that disabled lives have worth.

Tell them to have the strength of character needed to not only resist budget cuts to ADA departments, but to find ways – grants, foundation dollars, partnerships – to increase ADA staff and budgets.

It’s simply the right thing to do.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 12

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Arizona advocate Gina Schuh has found success by tailoring her approach and whom she targets. 

“A few years ago, I was so sick of access aisle abuse, I asked the legislators in Arizona to make it illegal to park in an access aisle whether you have a permit or not,” she says. 

“I hosted an event for people to meet with their legislators. 

The law was approved and we worked with cities to amend their parking and traffic codes to comply. 

Getting involved is how we get change.”

Friday, July 17, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 11

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Harrison is quick to point out that while this built awareness, it did not give the officials the true experience of navigating endless barriers while using a wheelchair for mobility. 

“We said if you get stuck, you can get up and move around — we can’t. 

One guy got so tired of getting stuck that he got out and started pushing his wheelchair. 

`Get back in,’ we said, `we don’t have that option and you need to experience this.’”

Local and state transportation officials are holding a meeting to follow up with a plan, budget and timeline for fixing sidewalks.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Springs-Accessible Apartments Available

Every community in the U.S. needs 10 buildings where all units are accessible and 10% or more are completely barrier-free.

The Springs-Accessible Apartments Available
#ZeroSteps
#ADA30
#LiveBarrierFree 
#InclusiveDesign
#HousingForAll
#Access4All

The Springs-Accessible Apartments Available


A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 10

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Kim Harrison has learned the value of a narrow and focused ask in her years advocating for disability rights in Georgia. 

Harrison, who has transverse myelitis, focused her energy on broken, obstructed sidewalks and curb ramps. She built a coalition that held a “Roll a Mile in our Wheels” event.

“We got rental wheelchairs and got city officials to go a mile on both sides of a street. 

They were embarrassed by the conditions,” she says.  

“They were scared because they were so close to traffic without any buffer or protection for pedestrians. 

They saw how little it took for a wheel to get stuck in a sidewalk crack or a bumpy/poorly constructed curb cut.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 9

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Craft a complaint that gets results. 

Accuracy, brevity and conciseness matters. 

Yes, maybe there are thousands of curb ramps that need repair in your city — but address the high impact ones first. 

State what your issue is and what result you’re seeking. 

If you are vague, unclear and angry, you will not be setting the stage for allowing officials to help you.

State that you will be checking back on progress toward resolving your issue.

Resist the temptation to copy every city official under the sun. 

Doing that is likely to get you dismissed as a crack pot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 8

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Ghenis, a quad, has served on a city board that is influencing changes in the building code to increase accessibility, such as requiring wide doorways, units with roll-in showers and two elevators instead of one in the basic requirements for new housing.

“Sitting on an advisory board is more effective, in a lot of ways, than doing protests. It can be proactive instead of reactive,” he says.

“Getting involved can be the key to drafting good policies.

Because you are appointed to the board by a commissioner or mayor, you have more access to staff — to get things done.”

Monday, July 13, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 7

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
“People don’t understand disability basics. 

A board or committee can educate city officials by having outside professionals come in and give presentations,” says Alex Ghenis, formerly a policy and research specialist at the World Institute on Disability.

“If more people engage, it helps amplify the disability voice.”

Some progressive cities, such as Seattle, strive to have a person with a disability on every board. 

If your city has never had a wheelchair user on any boards, it probably has never thought in terms of universal design, inclusive mobility and the budgeting to make those things happen.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

THIS BLOG ABOUT DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION HAS 245,000 READERS

THANKS TO THE NEARLY QUARTER OF A MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS
The name of the blog is Urban Travel, Sustainability and Accessibility.
Certainly, its 2,700 published posts have covered urban design, world travel, resiliency strategies and the fight for more universal design and inclusive mobility for people with disabilities.
But the title could just as easily be: 100+ words of daily thoughts on inclusion and diversity.
In our world, people of all colors and physical abilities are at the center of the table.
We believe the best art, science and community is created by diverse representation of backgrounds, belief systems and faiths (and/or the right to practice no organized religion.)
We travel the globe to learn more about the people who walk it.
The images here are from Alexandria, Egypt.



Saturday, July 11, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 6

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Tamley strongly encourages interested advocates to find time to attend public hearings and town halls. 

Be persistent, but polite.

Build up a rapport.

“I’m amazed at how many people don’t show up to a city budget meeting or a transit authority board meeting,” she says.

“You have a captive audience and you have all the staff that can resolve your problem or support your policy initiative right there — be a part of it.”

If you want to take your involvement to the next level, getting on a board or committee can lead to even more dramatic results. 

The more active you become with local government, the more influence you will have over creating positive change.

Friday, July 10, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 5

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Once you’ve done your basic research, it’s time to hit the ground rolling: meet your representatives, get on committees, get involved. 

Tamley says nothing beats connecting personally with the elected representative for your part of the city. 

“They know your neighborhood, so they know who to contact,” she says. 

“We work with aldermen all the time — their staff contacts the proper city office and works to solve a problem that their constituent is having.”

Call your representative or councilperson’s office and make an appointment. 

Don’t be surprised if after a brief meet-and-greet with the elected official, you are handed off to a staff member. 

This is not a bad thing. 

That staffer is the one who will contact city employees on your behalf. 

Also, they know what part of the city budget can be used to fix your problem or fund your initiative.

Constituent services is their job — they will keep the pressure on the city manager or department head to ensure your issue progresses toward resolution.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 4

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Although Karen Tamley is now the president and CEO of Access Living, until recently she was the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Chicago. 

She says it pays to know how to interface with your local government.

“Know what’s available to you. Many cities have 311, a line you can call to state your issue.

You get a case number so you can track it,’’ says Tamley, a wheelchair user. Many cities have a smart phone app that you can use to capture your issue in pictures and send it in to be addressed.

It’s easy to document things with a camera phone.

Take a picture and caption it to precisely explain the issue you are addressing. 

This will help city inspectors and repair workers to pinpoint the location and impress elected and appointed officials that you meet with.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 3

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
“Unlike any other civil rights laws, the ADA not only requires that an entity not treat people differently because of their disability,” says Matthew W. Dietz. 

“It also requires these entities to affirmatively modify their premises or policies and procedures to ensure that the person with a disability has an equal opportunity to get the same benefit as a nondisabled person.” 

Dietz is a founding member and litigation director of Disability Independence Group, a Miami-based nonprofit that promotes recruitment, education and employment of people with disabilities.

“When a complaint or request for accommodation is received, then it will go to a person who hopefully has knowledge of the ADA,” says Dietz.

 “If the person with a disability disagrees with the finding, then they will have a procedure to go through.”

An Interview with Andy Imparato, DRC’s new Executive Director by Debra Ruh



#ADA30 #ThanksToTheADA #BecauseOfTheADA #WeMatter #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs #Equity #Equality #CripTheVote #DisabilityPrideMonth #disabledNews

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A SQUEAKY WHEEL GUIDE 2

TO LOCAL ADVOCACY
Knowledge is power, and it’s easier than ever to power up. 

Most local governments have a place on their websites where you can type in your address and find out who represents you. 

While visiting your municipality’s website, check out how the city is organized — is it run by a strong mayor or a city manager? 

Who are the key department heads?

A municipal government’s transition and barrier removal plans spell out its goals for accessibility.
These documents are public record — meaning you have a right to see and review them. 

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted, the Department of Justice required public entities that employ more than 50 people to have an ADA coordinator, an ADA policy and a grievance policy. 

While too few cities have full-time coordinators plus appropriate staff, most at least identify an employee acting in that capacity.