The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.
The ADA’s goal is to provide individuals with disabilities opportunities to live their lives like individuals without disabilities, and to be integrated into all aspects of American society.
DRM is committed to enforcing the ADA and the Maine Human Rights Act. Every day, DRM fights to address the unequal treatment of people with disabilities in employment, housing, and access to services across settings.
DRM's Recent Work
For millions across the country and world, Maine is a bastion of natural beauty. Consider Acadia National Park alone, which had an estimated 4 million visitors in 2021. Maine State Parks were not far behind with 3.3 million visitors in 2021. Yet for many people with disabilities, both Mainers and tourists alike, reaching outdoor recreational sites is often difficult.
Over the summer of 2022, DRM staff visited 12 of Maine’s State Parks. Our team followed advocate Keenan Weischedel’s lead as he navigated his manual wheelchair around each site. We photographed and took videos as we navigated trails, reached viewpoints, and experienced barriers at each park we visited.
Some of these barriers included:
Uneven trails with loose rocks and bumps that impede travel for individuals in a mobility device;
Limited number of universally accessible trails;
Facilities that were marked as accessible, but were not;
Lack of sensory or tactile materials;
Limited availability of accessible water entry points at lakes and beaches; and
Lack of public transportation available to reach State Parks.
DRM is pleased to share our video, Accessible Outdoors, as a follow-up to our visits. We are grateful to the contributions of Sarah Trites and Lorje Salamonski, who participated in this video and added additional perspectives of why outdoor access is so important for people with disabilities. We also thank Carlos Cuellar of Catama Productions who produced this video.
DRM Intervention Ensures Equal Access for the Deaf at Maine Dental Practice
As a result of a legal intervention by Disability Rights Maine, a Maine dental practice which discriminated against a Deaf woman instituted a new ADA policy to ensure equal access for the Deaf, underwent ADA training for all staff regarding rights of the Deaf, and underwent monitoring by the Maine Human Rights Commission to ensure that discrimination does not happen again, in addition to individual relief provided to the woman.
A Deaf woman contacted Disability Rights Maine after a dental practice refused to provide her with effective communication, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, to be present for her minor son’s dental appointments. The woman attempted to bring her child to the dentist and requested an interpreter so that she could understand what care her child needed. The practice refused her request, based on their policy of not providing ASL interpreters.
DRM attorney Kristin Aiello, who represented the woman, stated, “In a previous appointment with her child, our client attempted to communicate with the practice in writing, which proved to be ineffective. For her child’s next appointment, she attempted to work out the problem by providing the practice with resources for hiring an interpreter for her next appointment. The practice ignored this request.”
The Maine Human Rights Commission concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe discrimination occurred. “The finding in this case was that the failure to provide an ASL interpreter in these circumstances is illegal under state law,” a DRM attorney Kristin Aiello said. “The law is clear that health care providers must consult with the person about what auxiliary aid or service will provide effective communication. This did not happen. Instead, the practice made a unilateral decision without consulting with our client. As a result, our client was denied effective communication.”
After reasonable grounds were found, DRM attorney Aiello represented the client through the conciliation process at the Maine Human Rights Commission where she successfully negotiated a settlement which included policy revision, training, and reporting and monitoring over two years to ensure compliance with its nondiscrimination policy.
Due to DRM Intervention, Maine DHHS Offers VRI
As a result of systemic litigation led by Disability Rights Maine Attorney Kristin Aiello, every Office of Family Independence, Department of Health and Human Services across the State of Maine is equipped with Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) to help ensure effective communication with the Deaf. Prior to legal action by DRM, the Office of Family Independence lacked the capacity to provide Deaf clients with effective and equal communication. After attempting to address this matter by settlement, Disability Rights Maine filed a lawsuit to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief from the federal court to address the deprivation of civil rights of Deaf individuals. In the lawsuit, DRM asserted that the State of Maine discriminated against a Deaf woman by failing to provide her with an interpreter and failing to afford her an opportunity to participate in services that was equal to others, and that while the State of Maine provided hearing individuals with limited English proficiency with instant interpreting services, the State failed to provide equal service to Deaf individuals through VRI. The case resolved in 2014.
"I Don't Get the Care I Need": Equitable Access to Health Care for Mainers with Disabilities
Which US Campuses are the Most Disability-Friendly?
From the Website:
"We have studied top university lists concerning their campuses infrastructure and the amount disability students among the total number of students. We based our decisions on reviews of students with disabilities - including our own sources and those from Niche - concerning the campuses, the commodities provided to students with disabilities by specific universities, and the accessibility of campuses to disabled students. We’ve build our own complex rating system (24.7% - disability infrastructure; 48.1% - students’ reviews on their disability experience; 27.1% - particular disability services and universities reputation in the disability sphere), but to stay objective we decided to provide it not like a chart of top campuses, but just a list of the most comfortable places to live while studying with disabilities."
Does your child participate in after school activities? Are they interested in joining a program but you're not sure what their - and your - rights are? Download our latest fact sheet to learn how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects your child - and you!
This manual is intended to provide a simple yet informative overview of how to be a self-advocate. This manual is not a substitute for legal advice. If you have specific questions or need assistance with a particular issue, please contact Disability Rights Maine.