Sunday, February 1, 2009

President Obama's Disability Policy

Have you all wondered what, specificly, President Obama has to say about policies regarding people with varying disabilities? Read this article from THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, published January 20. It follows:
> Obama must address needs of blind, disabled
> January 20, 2009
> While President Obama will have to grapple with one of the worst
> economic slumps in the past 50 years, two raging wars in the Mideast,
> and a host of other pressing problems, we strongly urge him not to
> forget the critical needs of a large but often overlooked community,
> people who are blind or have other severe disabilities.
> Already this group is coping with an unacceptably high unemployment rate
> of 70 percent. In addition, the aging of the nation's massive baby boom
> generation in the years ahead will mean a virtual explosion in the
> numbers of Americans facing vision loss. This will place even greater
> demands on our national health care delivery system.
> To help ease this situation and better anticipate the needs of the
> future, the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually
> Impaired proposes the following Blindness/Disability Agenda for
> President Obama and the new Congress:
> Strengthen federal initiatives such as the Ability One and
> Randolph-Sheppard programs, which help people with disabilities become
> employed, providing products for the federal government and operating
> vending facilities on federal property, respectively. Capitol Hill,
> incidentally, can become a model Randolph-Sheppard location through the
> setting up of vending facilities in House and Senate office buildings
> and other facilities in the nation's capital.
> Increase funding and accountability for rehabilitation programs, which
> help people with disabilities become employed.
> The new president needs to be committed to funding enforcement of such
> far-reaching laws as the Americans for Disabilities Act and Section 504
> of the Rehabilitation Act by the Equal Employment Opportunity
> Commission, the Department of Justice and others.
> A huge barrier to employment for people with disabilities is
> transportation. Therefore, we recommend the enhancement of such programs
> as the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom Initiative
> to encourage communities to create and expand transportation services
> for people with disabilities.
> If we're going to "talk the talk" about employing people with
> disabilities, then agencies should "walk the walk." Agencies receiving
> federal funds must make a concerted effort to hire and retain employees
> with disabilities.
> Go beyond the traditional, 9-5 type jobs when helping people with
> disabilities find employment. Look at programs which can help people
> start their own businesses and work at home.
> The federal courts have ordered the United States Department of the
> Treasury to make our nation's paper currency independently identifiable
> by people who are blind. President Obama's treasury secretary must be
> committed to carrying out this court order as expeditiously as possible.
> In 1973, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
> (IDEA). This act has been amended several times since then. When IDEA
> was passed, it stated that the federal government would provide 40
> percent of the funding needed to provide a free, appropriate public
> education to students with disabilities. President Obama must make it a
> priority to raise the level of federal funding for IDEA up to 40 percent
> from the current around 18 percent within four years. Among other
> things, this funding would help increase Braille literacy among children
> who are blind or visually impaired.
> Technology is advancing faster than any of us can fathom. Yet people
> with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or visually
> impaired, are being left behind because much of the technology is not
> accessible. President Obama must work for federal policies that will
> ensure that people with disabilities are able to take advantage of all
> that new technology has to offer, at the same time as everyone else.
> Along these lines, the new chief executive can commit to working with
> Congress to reintroduce H.R. 6320, "The 21st Century Telecommunications
> and Video Accessibility Act." Pedestrians who are blind or visually
> impaired are being put at great risk due to the popularity of hybrid
> (quiet) cars which when operating at speeds under 25 MPH, make virtually
> no noise. Because of this, pedestrians who are blind or visually
> impaired cannot hear these cars when they are stopped or when they are
> operating at slow speeds. President Obama needs to be committed to
> finding a solution so these cars can be heard by pedestrians who are
> blind or visually impaired. He can show this commitment by asking his
> secretary of transportation to research this issue and come up with
> solutions.
> Championing these measures will greatly enhance the quality of life for
> millions of disabled Americans. We hope that our new president will
> strongly support them!
> --Janet P. Szlyk, Ph.D.
> Executive Director
> The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
> Copyright (c) 2009, Chicago Tribune <
> Dominic Calabrese
> Public Relations Director
> The Chicago Lighthouse
> 312-997-3662

Do you want some tax breaks with the State? Here's some upcoming possibilities?

"MO Disability Policy/Law Listserv"
HB 323 - Home Access Tax Credit
by Rep. Sutherland
HB 323 has been introduced in the House. This bill is similar to SB146 that
Senator Dempsey
is sponsoring with some differences. Senator Dempsey’s SB146 preserves the
credit as "refundable" (meaning that even a very low-income person who doesn’t pay
state taxes can still get the credit if
the person has out-of-pocket home access expenses).
HB323 would remove the "refundable" status of the credit. Instead persons could claim
the credit only up to the amount of state taxes they owed that year. If their expenses
amounted to more than the taxes owed, they could carry the credit forward up to five
tax years. But again, persons who don’t earn enough to pay state taxes would no longer
be able to benefit.
does remove the $100,000 statewide cap on the credit, so this provision would allow
many more Missourians to claim the credit
as does SB146
It would also add modifying kitchens and adding another room to accommodate a family
member with a disability as eligible home access costs
for which the credit could be claimed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January's Blind Outreach Meal of the Month

Come, everyone, to Holy Cross Lutheran Church on January 31, 2009 from 12:00-2:00 PM. Join your friends, acquaintances and unmet neighbors for lunch!

Our speaker this month is going to be Peggy from Audio Reader. She also does audio description for live plays around town.

Her most recent speaking engagements with the blindness community include a presentation to First Steps for the Bli, another grassroots blindness support network in Kansas City.

Our menu will include chili and sandwiches along with cookies for dessert.

Hey, yo may even get to ask a pastor any question that's been on your mind about the Bible. You might see someone you haven't seen in years. You will have a great time!

Do You Write Or Do you want to?

You have, perhaps, published an article or story. You may have wanted to get yourself better acquainted with writing. Perhaps, you wanted to improve your own style. You've got the idea, but you don't know where to run with it or who would read it.

Never fear! Here's an opportunity to form a critique group so we in Progressive and elsewhere in the blindness community can help each other write. I've talked to Mark Littleton, the director of the Heartland Association of Christian Writers' Network. He has said he would work with us to start a blind community critique group for those who would like to participate.

If interested, call me, David Rosenkoetter, at (816) 805-7333. You can email me at:

Whether you have an article for THE MISSOURI CHRONICLE, a legislative idea, a pem, or story idea--you can bring it be improved and published!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Transportation: KCATA Contact

Here is the, or should i say, a contact we have with KCATA. He was at the meeting on January 13 and is in charge of each month's public meeting.
Demus Holmes816 346 0314His e mail address

Announcement: Legislative Days

Missouri Council for the Blind will be holding its annual legislative days this year on February 17-18. If you are interested in going, you will need to get your train ticket arranged. Speak with Mary about how to get expenses reembursed.

We will be staying overnight, which will also be covered. The days will include meetings with our State senators, planning sessions, and meals at the motel and at the Capitol.

Be keeping your ears open on Saturday for more information and at next month's meeting when we will be sharing the results and follow-up to legislative days.

Blind Pension Back Pay--More Possibly Coming

This article speaks to the fact that millions of dollars in back Blind Pension pay are laying somewhere out there. Read and see how I think this is only the beginning of this case.
KSDK -- The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Misosuri Family Support Division illegally calculated theBlind Pension benefit for thousands of people.Read a copy of the rulingThe Missouri Council of the Blind joined with seven blind Missourians to bring alawsuit challenging the method used by the state to calculate the pension. The plaintiffswere represented by the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy and theSaint Louis University Legal Clinic.The case will now go to the Circuit Court of Cole County to be consider conducting an accounting with regard to back benefits blind Missouriansare owed. The estimated amount could be between $14 and $40 million.Approximately 3,000 Missourians collect the pension.

Let's Get the Pay Right!

This article wdiscusses the possible passage of a bill which may insure that people with disabilities get the same pay at work as anyone else. I urge all of us to call our Congress folks and urge them to vote for this!
Here's the article and where it is from.
> ADA Watch/NCDR>>>>> In partnership with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:>> Tell Senators to Restore the Rights of Workers to Sue for Pay Discrimination>> Take Action Now:> Call your senators today at 202-224-3121 and urge their support for the Lilly LedbetterFair Pay Act (S.181).>> As early as this Thursday, January 15, the Senate could consider the Lilly LedbetterFair Pay Act (S.181). Last year, the bill was filibustered by a handful of senators,thereby preventing a full vote in that chamber. As the bill will likely come to theSenate floor this week, now is the time to call senators and urge them to pass S.181so that all American workers who suffer from pay discrimination get their day incourt.>> The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is an important legislative "fix" to a May 2007U.S. Supreme Court decision (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.) which severely limits the ability of workers who suffer from pay discriminationto sue and recover damages under Title VII of theCivil Rights Act of 1964. Without this "fix," the impact of the Court's decision will be widespread, affectingpay discrimination cases involving women and racial and ethnic minorities, as wellas cases under theAge Discrimination in Employment Act and under the Americans with Disabilities Act.>> Call you senators today at 202-224-3121. Tell them to support S.181 and reaffirmthat pay discrimination has legally enforceable remedies.>> Learn more about the <>Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.>>> To unsubscribe/change profile: <>click here.> To subscribe: <>click here.>> National Coalition for Disability Rights> 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 300> Washington, District of Columbia 20006


Okay, now, the following article is going ot make you think. I'm sure we all are in agreement that the slumping economy needs fixed. Is this solution, however, part of the best way to fix it? Does it really help or or simply placate the blindness community who get SSI payments? See this article:

Possible OneTime SSI Payment as Part ofStimulusPackage>> Obama Increase likely for> low-income elderly>> By ANDREW TAYLOR - 16 hours ago>> WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 7> million poor people who are> elderly,> blind or disabled and receive> cash benefits averaging $477 a> month> could get an extra monthly> payment as part of> President-elect Barack>> Obama's $800 billion economic> recovery plan.> Democratic congressional aides> said the idea of an extra> Supplemental> Security Income payment is> gaining traction on Capitol Hill> as> lawmakers and staff aides hold> daily meetings to work out> details of> the upcoming stimulus bill. The> aides spoke on condition of> anonymity> to discuss the closed-door> negotiations.>> Democratic lawmakers hope to> have an economic stimulus bill> ready for> Obama's signature by> mid-February, although officials> indicated Monday> night that numerous provisions> are unsettled.>> Several said the emerging> legislation likely will provide> at least $70> billion over the next two years> to help states meet the demand> for> Medicaid, which provides health> care for low income people, and> another $25 billion more to help> individuals who cannot afford to> pay> for private, post-employment> health benefits.>> An estimated $35 billion is> tentatively ticketed for> additional> unemployment benefits.>> The tax provisions remain in> flux, with Obama's call for a> break for> companies that create new jobs> described by Democratic> officials as> all but dead. Several Democrats> prefer to use the funds to make> sure> upper middle class families are> not ensnared by the alternative> minimum tax.>> Democrats are more favorably> inclined toward Obama's proposal> for a> tax break for lower-paid> individuals and couples, of up> to $500 and> $1,000.>> The officials who described the> provisions did so on condition> of> anonymity, saying they were not> authorized to discuss the> details.>> The idea of a one-time,> additional SSI payment this year> would cost> about $4 billion, which would go> to more than 7 million poor> people> enrolled in the program. Most of> them are disabled, though about> 2> million poor seniors would also> benefit.>> The relatively low cost of the> idea seems to help its chances,> though> it's not a sure bet to be> included in the final economic> recovery> package, which will blend tax> cuts for individuals and> businesses with> huge spending initiatives such> as aid to state governments, an> increase in local school aid,> and infrastructure projects such> as road> and bridge construction and> repair.>> "It's in the package as of now,"> said an aide to a top House> leader.>> The idea meets one of Obama's> key criterion for the stimulus> bill,> which is to speed money into the> hands of people who are likely> to> spend it. One criticism of last> year's $600-1,200 tax rebate> checks to> individuals and couples was that> many people simply saved the> money or> paid down debt instead of> injecting it into the economy> through spending.>> Even with their monthly checks,> SSI recipients remain in> poverty, and> they're more likely to spend the> money quickly.>> "These people are extremely> poor," said Bob Greenstein,> founder of the> liberal Center on Budget and> Policy Priorities. "I certainly> think,> and I think the Obama people> have thought that this is a very> sound> stimulus idea. It would have one> of the highest bangs for the> buck.">> Obama transition spokesman Nick> Shapiro would not confirm that> Obama> supports the idea. The> transition has been tightlipped> about many> elements of the economic> recovery package as it is being> negotiated.>> Supplemental Security Income> delivers payments of up to $637> per month> to individuals and $956 to> couples. About one-fourth of> recipients are> 65 or older.>> Associated Press writer David> Espo contributed to this story.>

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Paratransit Meeting Held Today

Kansis City, MO--The Kansas City Area Transit Authority (KCATA) hosted a meeting for everyone involved with Veolia/Share A Fare's services. After Mr. Rick Levitt Mr. Mark Huffer, and Ms. Sharon Bryant, et al presented the accommodations and a accomplishments Share A Fare has made with its new technology, we the riders had our chance to ask many questions.

AReas covered included drive etiquette, poor customer service on the phone, missed and late rides, and poor scheduling. For more information as to the actual discussion and quotations spoken, please see me, David Rosenkoetter, when I have a chance to make and edit a complete, printed transcript of the meeting.

From virtually the back of the room, I heard everything that both sides presented. I am thankful for the cordial conversations which I have had with KCATA and Veolia personnel and hope to have with them in the future. However, no one can overlook the manner in which those same administrators put up their teflon shields. Without a doubt, they had read and conferenced about the concerns which I, along with other Progressive members, sent them in the previous few days

In my humble estimation Share A Fare/Veolia played dodge ball today with regard to the serious concerns we presented.

It is unexcusable how a driver did not let one of our members ride because he had a guide dog. Given the opportunity to view the camera shots of that incident, I can guarantee that driver was simply uncomfortable with dogs and let her panic take priority over common sense and guide dog access laws. Yet, in no way, should we approach this incident as a "one-time occurrence" as Mr. Brad Wittle so called it in our meeting today.

In addition, we cannot just let the KCATA tell us an email address will come available for us to use when ordering trips. It may help a bit, clearing up a few phone lines. However, the email address sounds to me like a practice of covering up what otherwise is Share A Fare's undeniable ilpreparedness as of January 1, 2009.

The mission of ACB was clearly in our words and passion this morning. We were there to improve our independence, quality of life, and equality of opportunity. We pointed out time and again how late or neglected rides make us stand out. We declared how incidences such as happened at Union Station and at the Herndon residence hurt, not help, our image in the public. We are not victims. W do not simply want handouts. Our desire is for respect and to be treated eqully and to have the same benefits of life as do our sighted counterparts.

I guess, normalcy--as it is--has no definition on paper. No paratransit manual can codify our desire for eye-to-eye interactions with society on mutual terms. The issues we face in regard to Share A Fare Veolia will not go away by virtue of the system improving. Better training for drivers with regard to guide dog awareness, courtesy, adaptibility and timeliness will need to take place for drivers.

As members of Progressive Council for the Blind, we have the responsiblity, along with PAWS--the Paratransit Advocacy Watchdog Service, to keep an eye on KCATA's activity. Not that we want to suspect everything around each corner, but we do realize the challenge that paratransit inequities have dished out to us who simply desire real independence in mainstream society.