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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Housing & Transportation

Hot Topics – Old Dogs and New Tricks in Peril: Barriers to Mobility and Transportation

An Update from the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee

For people with disabilities to live independently, getting where they need and want to go is vital. Having accessible, affordable transportation services is essential. There are many barriers to transportation that people with disabilities face daily.

With the passage and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Air Carriers Access Act, progress has been made, but some of those gains are now in peril. Autonomous Vehicles (AVs or self-driving cars) offer great potential as a way to remove some of the barriers to transportation, as well as making travel safer for everyone. Some states already have driverless cars on the road, but none of them are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

Over 75 years ago, Guide Dogs for the Blind was started to provide greater independence for people who are blind. More recently, Service Animals have been trained to assist Deaf people, those with epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and other disabilities. These service animals have expanded travel opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities. Support Animals (also called therapy or emotional support animals) are also used by people with a wide variety of disabilities to enable them to be more independent and a part of community life.  [Read more…]

Potential Changes to HUD Mission Statement Causes Concern

Advocate Holds Fair Housing Symbol at 2011 My Medicaid Matters Rally

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee

Many housing advocates were shocked, speechless, and upset when word came out that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson was planning to update HUD’s mission statement and remove language relating to housing discrimination and inclusion. This would be a very public statement that HUD no longer considered combating fair housing discrimination against protected classes, including persons with disabilities, a priority. This generated numerous articles, letters, and calls to HUD. NCIL signed on to a letter from the National Fair Housing Alliance (PDF), along with 573 other organizations (164 national organizations; 409 state or local groups; and individuals).

Secretary Carson felt the need to send out a press release and an open letter to HUD employees in an attempt to reassure people that HUD would not abandon combating housing discrimination and fighting for inclusion. He pointed to the idea of fairness, “The ideals of that law, and our continuing work to support them, are really quite simple—fair is fair.”

Unfortunately, different people can have very different idea on what exactly is “fair,” which is why NCIL and other organizations will continue to monitor HUD’s work on updating its mission statement and, more importantly, HUD’s continued effectiveness in combating housing discrimination.

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee

By Brian Peters & Darrel Christenson, Co-Chairs

Quite a few things have been happening on the housing front in the New Year. On the positive side, Congress passed an $89.3 billion disaster relief package that will provide funding to areas impacted by Hurricane Maria, with money set aside for rebuilding the electrical grids in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. Congress also passed a budget deal that lifted the Budget Control Act cap, enabling many programs to avoid cuts.

equal housing opportunity symbolHowever, on the negative side, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Carson delayed the implementation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing until 2025, effectively delaying efforts to combat segregation. President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposes dramatic cuts of $8.8 billion (18.3% cut compared to 2017 levels) to housing programs!

With the two-year budget deal, “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018”, the Appropriations Committee will need to complete the FY 2018 funding bill before their deadline of March 23. Advocates should call Congress to insist on increased funding for housing.

President Trump also proposed getting rid of the National Housing Trust Fund, which is targeted mostly at extremely low-income households that rent. Many households with a person with a disability are considered extremely low income. There is also a push in Congress to reform housing finance (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) which funds the National Housing Trust Fund. It is very possible that the Fund could lose its source of revenue.  [Read more…]

Publication of Waymo Safety Report on Self-Driving Cars

A Message from Waymo

Waymo (formerly the Google Self-Driving Car Project) published its first Safety Report for our fully self-driving technology. Safety is at the core of Waymo’s mission and we believe our technology could save thousands of American lives now lost to traffic crashes every year.

Waymo LogoIn the Report, we detail Waymo’s work on ― and our commitment to ― safety. This overview of our safety program reflects the important lessons learned through the 3.5 million miles Waymo’s vehicles have self-driven on public roads, and billions of miles of simulated driving, over the last eight years. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued updated federal guidance for autonomous vehicles, Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety, and the Waymo Safety Report also contains information responsive to DOT’s guidance.

While there is a lot of promotion of self-driving cars these days, there is less discussion about the work that goes into making them capable, reliable, and safe. As the first company to put a fully self-driving car on the road without a driver, in 2015, Waymo has had to write its own playbook. That is why we use a safety-by-design approach ― discussed at greater length in the Report ― that informs everything Waymo does and affects every part of our cars, every step of the way.  [Read more…]

Online Survey: Accessible Sleeper for Passenger Rail Design

An Oregon State University research team is developing designs of an accessible sleeper compartment for the next generation of bi-level long-distance passenger rail cars. The team is interested in learning your opinions about your needs or experiences during long-distance rail travel by passengers who are older or may have disabilities.  The information you provide will help the research team inform the passenger rail industry, federal regulatory and policy agencies to make changes that will make long distance rail travel more accessible for everyone.

[Read more…]

AirAccess30 Seeks Air Travel Experiences from Target States

Source: PVA

Individuals with disabilities now have a platform for sharing their stories, photos, videos and graphics about their air travel experiences., launched in January 2016 by Paralyzed Veterans of America, enables passengers with disabilities who utilize air travel to share positive and negative stories about their experiences. AirAccess30 is seeking to collect stories from all 50 states and DC.

The following locations are not currently represented: Colorado; District of Columbia; Hawaii; Idaho; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Michigan; North Carolina; North Dakota; Nebraska; New Jersey; New Mexico; Nevada; Utah; Vermont; and Wyoming.

AirAccess30 is seeking additional stories from: Florida; Missouri; Mississippi; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Washington; and Wisconsin.

NCIL Launches Revamped Visitability Website

Many advocates have grown accustomed to using the Concrete Change website over the years for news, information, and other resources on visitability.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingIn 2016, NCIL learned from Eleanor Smith, founder of Concrete Change, that their website would soon be removed from the internet.  We worked with Eleanor Smith to preserve the decades of visitability resources she and Concrete Change developed.  NCIL revamped and transferred to it to NCIL’s servers to preserve these important resources.

The website is a work in progress, so please email [email protected] if you have any suggestions for content or other improvements. We are particularly seeking copyright-free high resolution photos of visitable homes of all types to add to the site.  We also would appreciate links to news articles regarding visitability to share on the website.

Special thanks to Eleanor Smith for her dedication to visitability and her work to make it a reality in our communities; Mary Johnson for gifting us the domain and framework; Pat Puckett for her support; and the NCIL Housing Subcommittee for taking on this project.

An Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee

The NCIL Housing Subcommittee has been hard at work developing letters on two different issues to be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We have been keeping track of bills in Congress and the budget / appropriations process. As always, we’ve been on the lookout for new members. If you are interested, please contact Brian Peters at [email protected].

equal housing opportunity symbolMany people do not appreciate the connection between housing and health. It works both ways: housing leads to better health outcomes (such as housing for people who are homeless), and better health coverage can result in more stable housing options as people don’t lose their housing due to medical issues. This is why it is very important for you to contact your Senator TODAY to protest the attempt to “reform” healthcare by overturning the Affordable Care Act and cutting Medicaid. The loss of Medicaid is a very serious threat to housing stability for many people. With the cuts over time, institutionalization will become the only option in many states due to a lack of funding for “optional” services (whereas nursing institutions is a mandatory service).

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces Legislation to Protect Rights of Disabled Airplane Passengers

Source: Senator Tammy Baldwin

Over 30,000 airplane passengers, including many disabled veterans, filed disability related complaints with airlines last year

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today was joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act. The legislation would protect the rights of disabled airplane passengers and close service gaps that passengers with disabilities frequently encounter in air travel. Last year over 30,000 airplane passengers, including many disabled veterans, filed disability related complaints with airlines.

“In order to keep America’s promise of full equality for all, we must work to break down the barriers that individuals with disabilities and our veterans face when they travel,” said Senator Baldwin. “Equal access to air travel ensures individuals with disabilities are able to participate in today’s economy and enjoy their travel opportunities.”  [Read more…]

Rural Transportation: A Vermont Perspective

By Peter Johnke, NCIL Transportation Subcommittee Co-Chair

If you live in a rural area and don’t own a car or are unable to drive, getting from one place to another may be a challenge (at best) or impossible (at worst), if public transit doesn’t exist where you live or work. People with disabilities face many barriers to transportation and in rural areas, it can be particularly difficult.

In Vermont, there are ten different transit providers, each with their own system of routes and fares. Only the most populated area has ADA Complimentary Paratransit. Other regions use Deviated Fixed Routes and Demand Response Routes to meet the needs of people who need accessible transportation. If transit exists in your area, traveling locally may not be too difficult. But it becomes much more challenging when traveling from one region to another. Except for a few commuter routes and some intrastate routes, it’s very difficult to get from one region of the state to another. Yet, this is often necessary for employment, medical appointments, and even shopping. In Vermont, crossing county lines is routine. Accessible transportation is problematic for evenings, weekends, and holidays though.  [Read more…]