House approves controversial changes to the ADA

Disability rights activists are very concerned after the U.S. House approved legislation that makes a major modification to the Americans with Disabilities Act. House Bill 620 would require people facing accessibility barriers at public businesses to provide written notice of their concerns. The publication Disability Scoop says concerns could include a lack of wheelchair ramps, special parking or bathroom facilities. Businesses would have up to 60 days to respond and then an additional 60 days to begin improvements.

Supporters of the legislation say they are trying to address frivolous lawsuits around ADA compliance.

But advocates for people with disabilities say businesses could ignore accessibility issues unless there is a complaint. That would be akin to erasing gains achieved in the 27 years since the ADA was written into law.

The Amalgamated Transit Union, in a letter to Congress, said “the legislation would subject people with disabilities, and only people with disabilities, to a burdensome bureaucratic procedure to gain access to certain public accommodations.

“Human dignity and civil rights do not allow us to single out and subject people with disabilities to waiting periods and red tape to gain entrance to stores, restaurants, schools, theaters, night clubs, hospitals and offices that are open and accessible to all others without delay or hindrance.”

Welcome back to the neighborhood

I asked on the air recently, “Who was the nicest person ever?” It was my lead in to the story about the upcoming biopic about Mr. Rogers that will star Tom Hanks.

The story revolves around a cynical reporter who agrees to write a profile about Fred Rogers. The reporter winds up having his perspective on life changed.

Timing for a study of Fred Rogers could not be more timely.  USA Today quoted Marielle Heller, who will direct the film, reminding us”of the transformative power of kindness and respect to heal and to unite.”

November is Hire a Veteran Month

Helping veterans with disabilities get or retain employment is important to OOD. The agency’s vocational rehabilitation counselors work with veterans who have disabilities to develop an individualized plan for employment that matches skills and interest with a career goal. OOD offers job training, vocational counseling, assistive technology, vehicle modifications and a network of community rehabilitation partners. If you are a veteran with a disability and want to work, you can apply for services at OODworks.com. Here is a link to OOD’s new postcard for veterans with disabilities – Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Veterans

Last year Ohio had over 4100 fatal overdoses. This year, that number is expected to be even higher.

A day does not go by that I do not report on statistics. Numbers that tell stories. Today, the story we tell with numbers is sad, frightening, and a real call for action. There were 4,149 fatal overdoses in Ohio last year.  That is a 36% increase over the previous year. Coroners in the state, surveyed by the Columbus Dispatch, lay the blame on heroin and other powerful opioids.

How did we get here? Perhaps if we understand that, we can take greater steps in addressing the issue.

Many who are studying the problem say it’s too difficult for patients to wean themselves from opioid pain killers and have become helplessly addicted.

Can we point the finger at doctors who scribble prescriptions for narcotic painkillers by the millions? Not necessarily. Doctors might argue they were responding to state medical boards encouraged to make under treatment of pain a punishable offense.

But weren’t we smart enough to recognize the dangers of addiction?

Doctors were worried. But, let’s remember the manufacturers of Oxycodin argued that the potential for addiction was small. That was a huge fib, and they knew it, resulting in a fine of $630 million, but by then we were in the midst of a growing epidemic.

Alarmed, doctors wrote fewer prescriptions. So, without access to the medications, those addicted turned to the streets, where heroin was easy to get. Dealers started mixing in an even stronger opioid, Fentanyl.

So, here is where we are — Ohio stands as the nation’s overdose capital. I don’t know about you, but it scares the hell out of me. We cannot hide from this issue. It must be part of our ongoing conversations, on the front burner all the time.

Commissioners acknowledge 50 years supporting individuals with developmental disabilities

It was an honor for me to represent the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities during the presentation of a proclamation from the Lucas County Commissioners acknowledging the Board’s 50th anniversary.

In the Proclamation the Commissioners recognized the tireless efforts of the Board  to break down attitudinal barriers so individuals with disabilities will have greater access to housing, employment, and social activities.

After nearly two decades of lobbying for education and employment programs for their children with developmental disabilities, in 1967 the state legislature acquiesced.  Today, upwards of 5,000 individuals are touched by the Board whose Mission is to improve LIFE so that individuals with developmental disabilities reach their full potential.