News

2015

DRM Awarded State Grant from the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making!

Posted on June 25, 2015

Supported Decision-Making (SDM) is a formal method of decision-making in which a person can designate trusted individuals who can help them process information and work through decisions. SDM offers an alternative to guardianship, which would otherwise completely usurp the person’s autonomy and civil rights.

DRM's grant from the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making is to fund a yearlong outreach project, with the possibility of an extension in year two, to educate individuals and provide resources to the community on Supported Decision-Making as an alternative to guardianship. DRM, alongside 9 other community leaders will be developing materials and providing training to individuals, families, service providers, and court officials on Supported Decision-Making. In the coming months, DRM will launch Maine’s Supported Decision-Making Coalition’s website, which will offer recorded webinars, current laws and policies on alternatives to guardianship, as well as stories from individuals who have experiences with guardianship and Supported Decision-Making

The National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making (NRC-SDM) builds on and extends the work of Quality Trust's Jenny Hatch Justice Project by bringing together vast and varied partners to ensure that input is obtained from all relevant stakeholder groups including older adults, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), family members, advocates, professionals and providers.

The NRC-SDM partners bring nationally recognized expertise and leadership on SDM, representing the interests of and receiving input from thousands of older adults and people with I/DD.

They have applied SDM in groundbreaking legal cases, developed evidence-based outcome measures, successfully advocated for changes in law, policy and practice to increase self-determination and demonstrated SDM to be a valid, less-restrictive alternative to guardianship." For more information, visit http://supporteddecisionmaking.org/.

Maine Bill Would Phase Out Lower Wages for Disabled

Posted on April 07, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine - Republican state Sen. Roger Katz, of Augusta, has introduced legislation to phase out a state law that allows employers to pay disabled workers a wage lower than the state minimum wage. He says the law, which he describes as paying people "pennies on the dollar," just isn't fair.

"This is really a vestige going back to, really, before the Second World War," Katz says. "The idea was to try to get disabled people - physically or mentally disabled folks - employed primarily in sheltered workshops, and it was a good idea at the time. But we have come a long way since then."

Katz says the bill would allow existing pay agreements sanctioned by the Department of Labor to stay in effect until November of 2018; but after that date, disabled workers would have to be paid at least the state minimum wage.

Monmouth Woman Denied Interpreter Prevails in Discrimination Case

Posted on April 01, 2015

AUGUSTA — When June Ellis of Monmouth, who’s deaf, requested an interpreter so that she could fully participate in a Living Well for Better Health course offered by Spectrum Generations, she was told there was no money available in the budget.

Instead, the Augusta-based agency on aging bought a speech recognition software program and instructed workshop facilitators to use easels to write comments and seat Ellis where she would be able to lip read.

It wasn’t enough, according to the Maine Human Rights Commission. On Monday, commissioners voted 4-0 to find reasonable grounds to believe Ellis, now 71, was a victim of disability discrimination in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act.

The vote overturned a recommendation by a commission investigator and followed oral presentations by two attorneys at the hearing. Commission findings are not law, but may become grounds for lawsuits.

Ellis, who watched Monday’s proceedings as they were translated by two American Sign Language interpreters, raised her clenched fists in victory after the vote.

She repeated that gesture outside the hearing room.

“I’m proud of that (victory),” she said. “I’m glad.” Ellis said she needed an interpreter to fully participate in the September 2011 workshop series.

“I can’t follow if there are people around a table,” she said. “I don’t focus on what they are talking about, and I want to focus.”

Ellis said she asks for interpreters when she wants to attend such things, but that other people she knows who are deaf are reluctant to insist on it.

“I’ve seen others take a back seat and take no for an answer,” she said.

Ellis was represented in the case by Kristin Aiello, an attorney with the Disability Rights Center of Maine. Aiello argued on Monday that Ellis was denied “full and equal enjoyment” of the workshop series.

She said that the overall organization has $6 million in assets and should have fulfilled Ellis’s request.

“The law requires that organizations plan for these types of expenses and prioritize them,” Aiello said. “Can you imagine trying to lip-read in a group setting?”

Attorney Erik Peters, who represented Spectrum Generations, said the agency couldn’t afford the accommodation at the time because it was running at a $65,000 deficit.

He said the interpreter cost was estimated at $2,000-$2,700. He added that as the state’s aging population expands, “The agency faces tough choices.”

Peters said the agency consulted people at the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf to come up with reasonable alternatives to in-person interpretive services for Ellis.

Commission investigator Angela Tizon said she found that the cost of the interpreter — which Aiello estimated at $1,300 if the agency contracted directly with an interpreter presented an unreasonable burden for the agency and that the workshop was fully funded by grants which did not include money for interpreters.

After the hearing, Peters said he had no comment on the vote.

The case now moves into a conciliation phase.

Take Part in the "Maine Access Mapathon"!

Posted on July 28, 2015

This year marks an important anniversary - the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To commemorate the passage of this landmark civil rights law, Disability Rights Maine and the ADA Coalition of Maine are embarking on a "Maine Access Mapathon" project to map the accessibility of our cities and towns.

As we engage in a year of activities aimed at enforcement, education, and coalition building, this Mapathon is part of our outreach to communities to highlight access issues locally. By partnering with individuals throughout Maine, we hope to start conversations and spark change in how our cities and towns view access and inclusion.

Participation is easy: simply create a profile at www.axsmap.com on your phone or computer. Then, join our "Maine Access Mapathon" event. Once you are registered, simply search for a business and add your review! You may also choose to fill out the enclosed paper review form and mail it back to us. We’ll add your review to the map.

Equal access to buildings and programs means access to people, relationships, education, employment and opportunities. We all deserve that. Please join our efforts by contributing reviews from your community!

For more information, please contact Riley Albair at 207.626.2774 orralbair@drme.org.

How to tap the potential of employees with disabilities

Posted on August 25, 2015

Rick Langley, Deputy Director, shares his thoughts on the employment of people with disabilities and how Maine seems to be moving in the right direction.

"It's exciting to talk about diversity in the workplace, because it feels like there is a movement happening in Maine," says Langley. "There seems to be an increasing investment — by chambers of commerce, local business groups and businesses themselves — to develop workplaces that reflect the best of Maine."

To read the full article, available on mainebiz.biz, click the link below.

2016

Watch DRM's ADA Anniversary Videos!

Posted on January 11, 2016

To celebrate this milestone, DRM worked with Fieldstone Media to produce two videos that commemorated this landmark legislation and its positive impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities in Maine. 

DRM is pleased to be able to share the videos with you, and we hope you enjoy watching and listening to these stories!






Click Here to Subscribe to DRM's YouTube Channel!



The Air Carrier Access Act Turns 30

Posted on May 25, 2016

Paralyzed Veterans of America wants to hear from YOU!

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) was passed by Congress and signed into law on October 2, 1986. This law guarantees that people with disabilities receive consistent and nondiscriminatory treatment during air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities.

In preparation for the 30th Anniversary of the ACAA, we are seeking your help in showing the progress that has been made as well as highlighting the work that still needs to be done to accomplish the spirit of the ACAA.

Please use our submission form to share your stories, photos, videos, and graphics about your air travel experiences as a passenger with a disability.

Thank you in advance for your participation!

Share your story: http://www.airaccess30.org/

SNAPSHOT: Maine's Mental Health System - Survey

Posted on June 03, 2016

Take a moment to share your thoughts on mental health services in Maine.  We want to hear about your experiences ~ your input is important!

Read: Making Hard Time Harder

Posted on June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016

More than 600,000 inmates with disabilities in prisons across the country spend more time in prison, under harsher conditions, than inmates without disabilities, according to research. Today, Amplifying Voices of Prisoners with Disabilities (AVID), a project of Disability Rights Washington, released Making Hard Time Harder: Programmatic Accommodations for Inmates with Disabilities Under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The report outlines lack of accommodations for inmates with disabilities.

“People are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment,” says Mark Stroh, Executive Director of Disability Rights Washington. “In drafting this report, we have found that inmates with disabilities are often neglected and excluded from programs, rehabilitation, and basic medical care, subjecting them to additional forms of punishment solely due to their disability.”

Report findings include case examples submitted by protection and advocacy agencies (P&As) engaged in prison work in 21 states. Colorado, Washington, and South Carolina all reported cases in which essential mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and walkers, were taken from inmates. One case resulted in an inmate’s inability to access showers or outside yard for almost two years. Idaho and Illinois reported systemic litigation seeking the provision of video phone services for inmates who are deaf or hard of hearing. Alabama reported inmates with intellectual disabilities could not access medical care in a written request, and were therefore unable to receive needed medical attention, prompting federal litigation.

Disability Rights Maine, the P&A for the state and a contributor to the report, tells the story of its representation of an inmate with limited mobility in a lawsuit claiming violations of the Rehab Act for the prison’s failure to provide the inmate with reasonable access to a legal research class. Specifically, the prison failed to give him access to the class in a manner that reduced the amount of walking required to get to class. Following a three day trial, a jury found in favor of the inmate.

From individual assistance to large scale federal litigation, these case summaries demonstrate the breadth and depth of work by P&As in prisons, and demonstrate that despite the passage of the ADA over two decades ago, much state prison work remains to be done.

Report recommendations to address this crisis in our nation’s prisons include:

  1. Creation of independent corrections ombuds offices at the state level in order to address inmate concerns before they rise to the level of litigation.
  2. Systemic accessibility reviews by state departments of corrections to identify both physical and programmatic barriers for inmates with disabilities.
  3. Increased federal funding to the protection and advocacy network for corrections based monitoring and advocacy.
  4. Increased training for prison ADA coordinators and collaboration between these staff members and the local P&As to address inmate concerns.

The report is available at AVIDprisonproject.org, where original interviews with inmates with disabilities, their family members, and experts on disability issues in correctional settings, can be accessed.

About the AVID Prison Project

AVID is a prison advocacy initiative that focuses on the needs of current and former prisoners with disabilities. The project was developed by Disability Rights Washington and is a collaboration between the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) and Protection and Advocacy agencies (P&As) in Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, with communication assistance from the P&As in Louisiana and Texas.

Read Making Hard Time Harder: Programmatic Accommodations for Inmates with Disabilities Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (PDF)

Read: Locked Up and Locked Down

Posted on September 08, 2016

WASHINGTON – Between 80,000 and 100,000 inmates are currently segregated in prison cells nationwide for 22-24 hours per day, for days, months, years, and in some cases decades at a time. Segregation disproportionately affects inmates with mental illness and research shows that individuals may acquire symptoms of mental illness, or experience exacerbated symptoms of mental illness, as a result of the conditions in segregation. Today, the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Prison Project, in partnership with the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) and the federally mandated protection and advocacy (P&A) agencies in over 20 states across the country, released Locked Up and Locked Down: Segregation of Inmates with Mental Illness. The report outlines the advocacy efforts undertaken on behalf of inmates with mental illness in segregation by the P&A network, and calls for greater national prison reform measures.

“Segregation is harmful for all inmates, but it’s particularly harmful for inmates with mental illness who have unique therapeutic needs that are generally unavailable in prisons,” says Anna Guy, AVID attorney and author of the report. “In drafting this report, we found that inmates with mental illness from all over the country are routinely placed in the most restrictive forms of segregated housing where they receive even less mental health care and are treated even more harshly than other inmates in segregation for serious rules violations, resulting in increased punishment solely on the basis of their disability.”

The report contains examples of both litigation and non-litigation advocacy cases from 21 P&As, and illustrates the sensory deprivation, psychiatric decompensation, and behaviors relating to self-harm and suicide experienced by inmates with mental illness in segregation across the country. According to the report, segregation means that inmates with mental illness are repeatedly excluded from mental health treatment, programming, and services that support rehabilitation and re-entry. Report findings include limited access to mental health treatment, punishment for disability-related behaviors with increased segregation and restraint, the worsening of inmates’ psychiatric symptoms, and death related to the conditions in segregation. 

 “People with disabilities are disproportionately placed in solitary confinement. Communities across the nation are struggling with the negative consequences of isolating prisoners in this way,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network. “This report demonstrates the critical need to increase federal funding for P&As to conduct more monitoring and advocacy in prisons so that when individuals return to their communities they are prepared to be successful.”

The report includes the following recommendations to address this crisis in our nation’s prisons:

1)  Increased federal funding to the P&A network for corrections-based monitoring and advocacy;
2)  Creation of independent corrections ombuds offices at the state level in order to address inmate concerns before they rise to the level of litigation;
3)  Increased data collection by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics regarding the prevalence of people with mental illness in U.S. prisons and jails;
4)  Increased monitoring and outreach in prisons by P&As across the country;
5)  Fostering of collaborative relationships between state prison systems and P&As.

The report is available at AVIDprisonproject.org, where both the text of the report, and extensive original interviews with inmates with mental illness and corrections experts can be accessed.

###

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

About the AVID Prison Project

The AVID Prison Project is an advocacy initiative focused on the needs of current and former inmates with disabilities.  The project was developed by Disability Rights Washington and this report is a collaboration among NDRN, the P&As in Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, with communication assistance from the P&As in Louisiana and Texas, and additional input from Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont. 

Download and Read Locked Up and Locked Down - Available in both PDF and Word

Survey Participation Request

Posted on October 25, 2016

From the Americans with Disabilities Act Participatory Action Research Consortium (ADA-PARC):

"We would like to invite you to participate in a national survey titled, Transportation Access and Experiences, which is designed to improve understanding of accessibility of public transportation for people with disabilities. This survey is being conducted by the ADA Participation Action Research Consortium (ADA-PARC), a collaborative research project of ADA Regional Centers (PIs: Lex Frieden and Joy Hammel). This project focuses on community living, community participation & work/economic participation disparities of people with disabilities (For more information, visit the website: www.adaparc.org). We would like to improve our understanding on transportation access of people with disabilities and use this information to make improvements at regional and national levels. We are very interested in receiving as many responses as possible from people with disabilities based on their personal experiences with public transportation. The results will serve as crucial evidence to support improvements to accessible transportation. Please use the link below to access and complete the survey. The online survey can be completed in English or Spanish. This is the second round of data collection for this survey, so if you have already completed it, please do not complete the survey again.

Survey Linkhttps://unco.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_00wcGeTOzGL2lQ9

If you would like to complete the survey by phone in English, please contact the research team at 312-996-9655. If you would like to complete the survey by phone in Spanish, please contact Ancel Montenelli at 312-413-1439. Please mention that you are calling about the ADA transportation survey. If you have any questions or comments regarding this survey, please contact Jill Bezyak from the Rocky Mountain ADA Center at jill.bezyak@unco.edu."

Maine Voters with Disabilities: We want to hear your stories!

Posted on November 15, 2016

Voters with disabilities have the right to vote independently and privately, just like all other citizens. Disability Rights Maine wants to hear your stories about problems you might have had when voting or trying to vote in the recent election. Some common problems include:

  • Accessing polling facilities (i.e. parking spaces, ramps, doorways)
  • Getting assistance with voting at the polls or town offices
  • Completing forms for registration, absentee ballots

 

If you have experienced any issues related to being a voter with a disability during the recent election, Disability Rights Maine would like to talk to you now.  To tell us your story, please contact us at 1-800-452-1948 or via email at rlangley@drme.org.

PROTECTION & ADVOCACY for VOTING ACCESS

www.drme.org

Flyer - Download & Share!

Save the Date!

Posted on November 30, 2016

2017 HOPE Conference

“Strive to Thrive; Not Just Survive”

May 31, 2017
8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Augusta Civic Center
76 Community Drive
Augusta, Maine 04330

For information on partial scholarships please call Paula at 430.8300.

For information on volunteering please call Alicia at 622.5736.

Download Save the Date Flyer (PDF)

Coming in March: Conference Facebook page and electronic brochures to be available on CCSM website and MAPSRC Facebook page.

2017

Caged In: The Devastating Harms of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners with Physical Disabilities

Posted on January 20, 2017

From ACLU.org: 

"This report provides a first-ever national ACLU account of the suffering prisoners with physical disabilities experience in solitary confinement. It spotlights the dangers for blind people, Deaf people, people who are unable to walk without assistance, and people with other physical disabilities who are being held in small cells for 22 hours a day or longer, for days, months, and even years. Solitary confinement is a punishing environment that endangers the well-being of people with physical disabilities and often violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The report’s revelations about the particular harms of solitary on people with physical disabilities shows the urgent need for far better accounting of the problems they face and the development of solutions to those problems."

Download Report (PDF)

Download Report (ADA Accessible)

Visit the report's web page to view additional resources.

Lewiston School Department Fails To Adequately Serve Students of Color and Students with Disabilities, Say Rights Groups

Posted on February 07, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 7, 2017 

CONTACT:

Rachel Healy, ACLU of Maine, 774-5444 x2 or 409-5509
Atlee Reilly, Disability Rights Maine, 626-2774 x220
Courtney Beer, Kids Legal at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, 400-3269

Lewiston –The Lewiston School Department has failed to adequately serve students of color and students with disabilities, according to the ACLU of Maine, Disability Rights Maine and Kids Legal at Pine Tree Legal Assistance. In a letter to the superintendent of the Department, the groups shared the results of a two-year-long investigation into race and disability accommodations in the Lewiston schools. According to the letter, the Department is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The letter outlines several concerns and violations of federal law, including:

  • Discipline disparities for students of color and students with disabilities compared to their white and non-disabled counterparts;
  • Failure to identify students of color as having disabilities, resulting in a failure to provide necessary services and supports to enable them to access the general education curriculum and protect them from discrimination;
  • English Language Learners (ELL) are retained in non-credit and elective ELL classes without an opportunity to enroll in the required classes necessary for graduation;
  • Lack of accommodations for non-English speaking parents to communicate with anyone in the Department (according to the letter, very few staff know how to use the interpreter phone service); and
  • An absolute lack of black teachers.

According to data provided by the Department to the federal Department of Education, black students were nearly three times as likely to receive an in-school suspension as their white classmates, and nearly twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension. Students with disabilities were more than three times as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension as students who do not have disabilities. Black students with disabilities were suspended at the highest rate, over 26 percent, compared to the lowest rate of three percent for white students without disabilities.

“Denying a student access to an education harms the child and the entire school community,” said Courtney Beer, Kids Legal at Pine Tree Legal Assistance. “Lewiston’s approach to school discipline is contrary to research and education best practices.”

Approximately one-quarter of Lewiston’s students are identified as ELL. Yet multiple sources reported that the District lacks adequate instruments to use for screening students with limited English proficiency for disabilities. Further, none of the people responsible for disability screening in the district speak any language other than English.  

“Disabilities are blind to race, religion and ethnic origin. Yet the Department continues to identify ELL students with disabilities at a much lower rate than the rest of the school population,” said Atlee Reilly. “Adequate procedures to identify and evaluate students with disabilities are a necessary first step in ensuring that students with disabilities are protected from discrimination and provided with the services and supports they need to access the general education curriculum.”

Further, the groups report hearing from several students that they have never had – or even seen – a black teacher. It is unclear if there are any black teachers currently employed by the Department. The Department’s failure to hire staff that reflect the diversity in the community was also a concern repeatedly expressed by parents and community members.

“Having teachers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds would benefit everyone. Black students would have teachers and role models who look like them, and white students would be better prepared to enter our diverse society,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine. “Lewiston would better serve all of the students there by recruiting a more diverse staff.”

The letter recommends immediate steps the Department should take in order to begin rectifying the current situation, including aggressively recruiting teachers and staff of color, ensuring the availability of interpreters and training staff to use the interpreter phone service; improving procedures for identifying and evaluating students with disabilities to ensure practices do not discriminate against ELL students; upgrading the ELL program so students have a clear path into core for-credit classes; and developing a concrete set of strategies, objectives and timelines to eliminate race and disability disparities in school discipline.

Click here to read the letter.