Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Mad, Mad, Mad Disability World- A Thumbs Down to...

#1 The Dutch Dating Programme for the Visibly Disfigured

Reuters January 27, 2007

The Netherlands, the country that has pioneered reality shows like Big Brother, is planning a new first - a dating programme for the visibly disfigured. The broadcaster SBS 6 is seeking candidates for its Love at Second Sight show due to be launched on February 20. "Do you have a visible serious handicap and are you looking for a partner?" says an appeal on its website. "The programme is a platform for people with such problems to share experiences and feelings in a positive way with the rest of the Netherlands and to show that they are absolutely not pitiful," the broadcaster said.

"The main aim of the programme is to remove prejudice about these people, to create more acceptance and respect and, of course, to find the love of their lives." But the majority of Dutch viewers are turned off by the show that was initially set to be called Monster Love. A poll by the mass circulation De Telegraaf daily showed 85 per cent do not like the idea, with only 9 per cent in favour.

#2 DC/NYC bus driver Disallows Seeing Eye Dog

The Washington PostSunday, January 28, 2007

"No dog , no dog," shouted the driver and another worker when District resident Joe Orozco and his guide dog tried to board a Todays Bus fromWashington to New York. Orozco protested that the company is required by lawto accommodate service animals, but the workers continued to block his entryand laughed, he says, when he threatened to call police. Once he called police, the workers said he could ride if the dog was put in the bottom ofthe bus with the luggage. They relented after police came.When Orozco tried to board the return bus the next day, a Todays Bus employee in New York yanked his ticket away and tried to return his money,he says.The bus pulled away. After Orozco called police, workers said he could take the next bus but ordered him to sit in the back. He complied, but he is filing a complaint with the Justice Department, which enforces the AmericansWith Disabilities Act (ADA). Todays Bus did not respond to four telephone messages left for the manager and owner.

The ADA guarantees interstate service to disabled passengers; that includes providing access, with advance notice, to people in wheelchairs. But many ofthe companies that pick up passengers curbside -- the so-called "Chinatownbuses" -- simply ignore the law. In 2004, regulators checked 14 companiesthat operate between Washington and New York and cited 11 of them for violating the ADA. The Justice Department launched an investigation inOctober 2004."Wecontinue to work on it," spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson said last week.Gathering evidence seems quick and easy to CoGo, who recently called Todays to ask about wheelchair access. The man who answered refused to give hisname, but his answer was clear: "No wheelchair."To register a complaint, call the Justice Department, 800-514-0301.__.
#3 The US Treasury Department for Keeping Money Inaccessible to the Blind

Hartford Courant, ConnecticutWednesday, January 24, 2007
Why Keep The Blind In Dark About Money?By CYRUS HABIB

Blind Americans may soon find themselves able to use money just like anyone else. That is unless the Treasury Department is successful this month in its appeal of a recent federal court order that paper currency be made recognizable to the blind, who are currently unable to distinguish onedenomination from another.I, for example, rely on the generosity of cab drivers, baristas and storeclerks each time I make a purchase with cash. That I have rarely been ripped off is a testament to their honesty or my charm, but I cannot help butprotest the perpetual necessity for either. After all, there are 180 countries in which this is not the case, because their currency is designed to be distinguishable by all.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson asked the Treasury Department to determine the best means of making money distinguishable by the blind,citing the myriad solutions proposed by the organization that filed thelawsuit, the American Council of the Blind. These included using raised ink, modifying the size of certain bills and producing a tactile mark to indicatea bill's denomination. The Treasury Department has objected to all such solutions, claiming that the $75 million price tag is simply too high. Of course, Treasury's lawyers fail to mention that the cost would have beenfar lower had the department acted voluntarily when the $20 bill was redesigned in 1998 and the $10 bill was modified last year. Instead, it has decided to spend our tax money fighting the blind in court, appealing Judge Robertson's decision even before a final judgment on the nature of asolution could be reached.

Blind people in the United States suffer from a staggering 70 percent unemployment rate, and a disproportionately high percentage of those who are employed work in the low end of the service sector. There is no questionthat the catastrophic poverty of America's blind requires a solution. Why not begin by giving us access to money at the most atomic level? How canblind Americans become truly independent, achieving the success we deserveand leaving behind the stigma of federal and state aid, without being able to differentiate between a dollar bill and a fifty?

The Treasury Department suggests using debit and credit cards, disregarding the fact that the lives of many blind Americans hinge upon financial exchanges for which plastic is often useless, such as catching a crosstown bus, purchasing a cup of coffee or getting change for laundry. These basic day-to-day experiences may not constitute reality for Treasury SecretaryHenry Paulson and his team, but they certainly do for millions of blind andlow-vision Americans. Some have called the lawsuit frivolous, arguing that blind people havemanaged to survive for years by relying on others for help. Such reasoning does more than ignore the overwhelming poverty and hardship that plague the blind community; it dishonors the sacrifices millions of disabled Americans made to help bring about passage of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act.

Money is essential to a person's participation in society. Its accessibility to blind people should be considered as important as that ofwheelchair ramps or Braille in elevators.When it comes to accommodating disabilities such as blindness, let uscontinue to lead the world in practice as well as in principle. Moreimportant still, let us tell the world that we, too, believe that blindnessshould not be an obstacle to financial independence. In doing so, let usalso take a significant step toward ameliorating the living conditions of blind Americans, now and for years to come.The Treasury Department should obey Judge Robertson's order and show us themoney

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