The Accessible parking spots do not have access aisles. In case you missed it, the delivery truck is taking up all three of the access aisles.

On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teen, was shot and killed by a police officer. The disproportionate and militarized response by law enforcement in response to non-violent protests and peaceful assembly by residents of Ferguson gained attention from around the world including alarm from the United Nations. That same month, Kajime Powell and Ezell Ford, both unarmed African American men were fatally shot by police, raising additional concerns about the ways police officers respond to individuals with disabilities—particularly African American men with disabilities.

The National Council of Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress, and other federal agencies about policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities, joins the legion of civil rights and civic organizations to call for greater justice and accountability.

NCD recognizes that these tragic events are part of a larger social pattern involving racial profiling, police brutality, inequality, systemic racism, and segregation in addition to the marginalization and discrimination of people with disabilities and supports the Department of Justice investigation into the death of Michael Brown. The End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), currently under consideration by the United States House of Representatives, would prohibit the use of profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by law enforcement agencies.

As David Perry and NCD’s Lawrence Carter-Long detailed in an article for The Atlantic last May, “encounters with police have also taken an unnecessarily violent turn for people with disabilities that are not psychiatric or intellectual, including conditions that are physical or sensory” making disabled individuals at increased risk for incarceration, harassment, violence or death at the hands of law enforcement.

We recognize that potential solutions such as usage of body and dashboard cameras by police, better crisis intervention training, more diverse, improved mental health services and supports, reform of the criminal justice system and increased citizen oversight and accountability at the local level are solutions that address specific issues rather than societal attitudes toward race and/or disability. But concrete steps, even if incremental, must be taken.

NCD has written extensively over its 36-year history on the intersections of disability and the criminal justice system; dependency courts; crime victimization; child welfare, mental health systems; and education systems. In 2011, NCD hosted a regional policy forum in Portland, Oregon, during which we hosted panel discussions with leaders from state departments of corrections, mental health courts, and police departments on topics including law enforcement models and mental health courts; transitions back to the community following incarceration for people with psychiatric disabilities; and forging police/community advocacy relationships that assist in deescalating crisis moments and preventing tragedies. And in the wake of many of the recent mass shootings, NCD has offered advice to Congress, the Vice President, and the President as each has engaged related topics.

Our communities rely on law enforcement to address situations of varying complexity in an attempt to ensure public safety. In instances involving people with disabilities, it is essential that law enforcement develop cultural competence about disability in the same manner as a local police department would seek to develop cultural competence about an immigrant population with particular customs and language within its precinct.

As a starting point, NCD’s Executive Director Rebecca Cokley offered these recommendations to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Law Enforcement Responses to People with Disabilities in written testimony last April:

  • All law enforcement, criminal justice, and correctional personnel, including prison guards and probation officers, as well as people working in victim assistance programs, should submit to mandatory training that sensitizes these public servants to recognize certain disabilities; creates awareness of the unique needs of certain groups of people with disabilities; and informs about specific requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws that protect the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.
  • People with a variety of disabilities and community organizations representing them should be included in the development and facilitation of such trainings as well as in all policy and program development at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • People with disabilities, particularly those with psychiatric disabilities or ID/DD should also receive training to learn about their rights when in situations involving law enforcement, and Congress should increase funding for such peer-managed support and training programs.
  • Congress should allocate funds toward a spectrum of community-based mental health strategies across the lifespan, including peer-to-peer supports, which are being added to clinical services across the country.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) should invest in and award “system of care” expansion grants to improve the availability, quality, and affordability of community mental health services, mobile crisis services, housing, and peer supports for people with serious psychiatric disabilities, and to extend mental health preventative and maintenance care access and options for the general population.
  • Policymakers should look for ways to include the views of people with disabilities, particularly those with psychiatric and ID/DD, and their advocates when crafting new laws and regulations. Excluding their insights and viewpoints will likely perpetuate flaws or oversights in policies of the past.

It is inadvisable, if not impossible, to equate or compare the kinds of experiences that one community might have with police brutality with that of another. Still, in an increasingly interconnected world, any action that harms one community ultimately hurts us all. To paraphrase Rinku Sen, all people of color are ‘not in the same boat,’ and neither are all people with disabilities.

Justice for everyone is a fundamental commitment of NCD’s. We believe that demonstrable progress will come as a result of improved cultural competence through law enforcement trainings; greater investment in a spectrum of mental health; and involvement of and relationships with the disability community by law enforcement.

NCD stands ready to be of additional service to anyone working for the common good who shares the goals of equal participation, protection and due process for all.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. (John F Kennedy)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you express and live your life with gratitude.

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week.

Freedom Friday; Service dogs welcome?

Service Dogs Welcome?

Ann Chiapetta sits on a bench with her Black Labrador service dog, Verona, sitting in front of her
By Guest Blogger (Disability blog) Ann Chiappetta, M.S.
Ann Chiappetta, M.S. is a writer, advocate  and guide dog user living in New York State. Ann works as a trauma and family therapist for the Department of Veterans Affairs. To view Ann’s blog, please

There is trouble out there in service dog land. The nationwide publicity about pet owners passing off their dogs as service animals has become a current event. To be more specific, there is an epidemic of pet owners trying to pass their dogs off as working dogs. Did you know that, with just a minimum of information, you can go online and purchase a vest and fake ID for your pet stating it is an assistance animal?

Legitimate service and guide dog handlers are at risk of being turned away from public places because of this epidemic. As a guide dog handler, I know this problem firsthand. For example, businesses are caught in-between following the laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities and their service dogs, while also not having a clear way of identifying illegitimate service animals.

One organization that is spearheading a campaign to increase public awareness about this issue is Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI). As the nation’s leading consumer and advocacy organization of people with visual impairments working with guide dogs as their primary means of mobility, GDUI hopes to educate the general public about this problem.

As a dog guide user, I am concerned about how the growing number of pet owners who misrepresent their pet dogs as service animals in order to gain access to public places, or to avoid pet fees, will adversely affect me. Currently, business owners are faced with trying to identify pets posing as service animals, a problem which is only mounting.

These kind of clashes have increased exponentially, and dog guide teams feel it each time we are barred from legitimately entering a place that accommodates the public because of a pet owner who doesn’t want to leave their dog at home.

Likewise, many people do not understand that dogs and other types of domestic animals, known as Emotional Support Animals, are qualified service animals.The sole function of these animals is to provide comfort, emotional support or well-being, and therapeutic benefits or companionship. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), only service animals that perform physical tasks or work to mitigate a disability are given the right to accompany their partners with disabilities in all public places.

Moreover, GDUI supports businesses and transportation services that allow people with legitimate disabilities to be accompanied by guide dogs and other types of service animals. They also support pet owners who maintain good control over their dogs and obey applicable local, state and federal laws regarding access for people with disabilities who use service animals.

GDUI also supports state laws that penalize individuals who knowingly misrepresent a dog as a guide dog, or other type of service animal, in order to gain the same treatment or benefits as a person with disabilities.

As a result, GDUI and other service dog organizations are struggling to find positive ways to inform the public that posing as a person with a disability with a service dog is harmful to the people who depend on genuine service dogs to assist them, and that it constitutes a form of fraud.

The United States is the most accessible country in the world. The guide dog movement has been established for 50 years; many of those early years we spent fighting for our civil rights as people with disabilities who are blind. Our dogs are indeed the quiet, masterful companions we depend upon. If someone you know is passing off a pet as a service animal, we hope you will share this blog with them and let them know they are hurting other legitimate guide dog teams.

Freedom Resource Center note:  When Freedom Resource Center works with consumers who are in need of a service animal, we talk about rights and responsibilities.  Responsibilities doesn’t just include knowing your rights, but knowing how a service animal is supposed to behave when the service animal is out in the community providing services to consumer.


Freedom Resource Center has created a new position (Community Integration Specialist) that can help individuals with disabilities experience art, hobbies, recreation, and other community activities.  The ultimate goal is to provide leisure time experiences, and build confidence, so that individuals with disabilities can integrate into the arts, crafts, and recreational communities.

Disability is less a barrier to the arts than attitude is

(By Lee Lawrence, Correspondent. The Christian Science Monitor.  NOVEMBER 16, 2014)

Almost 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, assumptions are being challenged: The visual arts are not only of interest to people with sight, music can be appreciated by deaf people, and the older person with Alzheimer’s can benefit from a museum experience or arts workshop.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — “So how many of you all can drive?” Scott Thomas asks a packed theater in Lenox, Mass.

When the audience cheers assent, he deadpans: “Well, I don’t, but I have been a passenger in a car many times, and I’ve seen a lot of bumper stickers … One said ‘God is my co-pilot.’” He pauses. “I mean, if God’s in the car – let Him drive!” The audience howls, and Mr. Thomas, lips pressed and eyes lowered, waits a beat before diving into his next sequence.

This is Thomas’s stand-up debut. His reluctance to look directly at his audience points to an autism spectrum disorder, but he is connecting with the audience at the Community Access to the Arts annual gala.

CATA, based in Great Barrington, Mass., is one of a growing number of organizations across the country that enable people with disabilities to participate in the enrichment and cultural conversations that the arts offer.

Almost 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, “People with disabilities report that it’s attitudinal [rather than physical] barriers that are actually most challenging in their lives,” says Francesca Rosenberg, director of community and access programs at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Many assume, for example, that the visual arts are only of interest to people with sight, deaf people have no way to appreciate music, or an older person with Alzheimer’s can derive no benefit from a museum experience or an arts workshop. Yet the popularity of specialized tours and descriptive audio guides in museums or the use of performance interpreters to render in sign language the complexities of music show that it is not the disability that keeps people from participating. It is because nobody had thought they wanted or deserved access.

At CATA, which works primarily with people with developmental or cognitive disabilities, Dawn Lane loves that the program “messes with people’s definitions.” Whether attending a CATA art show or the performances at its yearly gala, she says, “people have to recalibrate who they think someone is and what they think they can do.”

At 36 years old, Thomas says he “can’t focus on certain things” and working in groups “was not really for me.” His job in the warehouse of a local retailer is solitary, but at CATA’s poetry and Shakespeare classes, he has found friends and mentors. They were his first audience, and their laughter encouraged him to delight – and surprise – an entire theater.

The path a person with a disability takes to enter and move through your business is called an “accessible route.” This route, which must be at least three feet wide, must remain accessible and not be blocked by items such as vending or ice machines, newspaper dispensers, furniture, filing cabinets, display racks, or potted plants.

Motivational Monday: Courage and dreams

All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. (Johnny Carson 1925-2005 Television Host, Comedian, Writer, Actor)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you develop the courage to pursue you dreams.

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week.

Experts say that part of the problem when it comes to criticizing someone’s mental health is a lack of empathy and knowledge about the ailments. Yet, despite the staggering evidence and rhetoric aimed at helping people understand, many people still don’t get that being diagnosed with a mental illness isn’t something that’s in their control — just like having the flu, or food poisoning, or cancer isn’t in their control.

The world lies in the hands of those who have the courage to dream and who take the risk of living out their dreams – each according to his own talent. (Paulo Coelho, Author)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you work at discovering your talents

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week.

Each accessible parking space should have a sign. The access aisle appears to be 8 feet wide, so this could be a van accessible space. If so, in ND the space for the vehicle is to be 11 feet wide with a 5 foot wide access aisle. While ADA does not specify which side of the vehicle the access aisle is on, preferably for vans the access aisle should be on the passenger side. The ramp to the door is much steeper than 1:12.