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Public Policy Advocacy: Good News and Bad News

LivAbility Magazine

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Illustration, a red chain is cut in half by an arm that comes up in between it, and the fingers are scissors.

Public Policy Advocacy:
Good News/Bad News

The bad news is that being an advocate will break your heart.
The good news is you’re never out of a job!

By Amina Donna Kruck

Fast Facts
1.Disability advocates defeated a bill to restrict van accessible parking spaces to wheelchair users only.

2. Unfortunately, another bill passed giving businesses an extra 30 days to correct ADA violations before they can be sued.


Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.

3.A similar bill was proposed at the federal level. Disability advocates need to fight it.

4.The Arizona ADA does not require websites to meet any accessibility requirements.

5.Join the Arizona Disability Coalition to get involved.

This year’s legislative session was very active for advocates as we tried to stop some terrible legislation that would have limited our civil rights and access. Many people used the legislative “Request to Speak” system to testify opposing these detrimental bills. Thank you advocates!

It seems there are always parking bills! We were able to defeat HB2408 that would have restricted certain “van accessible” parking spaces to wheelchair users only. Once the legislators understood the complexity of various disabilities, mobility devices and vehicles used by Arizonans with disabilities they let the bill die in committee. Another bill, SB1239, passed. SB1239 makes it a violation to park in the access aisle next to an accessible parking space. The intention of this bill is to preserve the access isle so people with disabilities can enter and exit their vehicles with mobility devices and vehicle ramps without hindrance. However, now a person with a disability placard or license plate can be found in violation if their tire is on or over that access aisle, so people will need to park carefully.

We had two rallies at the Capitol this year and numerous advocacy email alerts about another bill, SB1198 – public accommodations, that was authored to protect businesses from “frivolous” ADA lawsuits by unscrupulous lawyers. With outstanding advocacy on the part of disability organizations, including Ability360, we defeated the bill in the House. However, it was revived as a “strike-all” bill, SB1406, in the House Appropriations Committee. Disability advocates drafted a compromise bill, but that bill was amended to exclude website accessibility under the ADA which we vigorously opposed. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, East Valley Chamber and Phoenix Chamber all came out in strong support of the bill . We didn’t have a chance! The legislators gave no credit to the fact that the ADA passed 26 years ago, giving businesses plenty of time to comply with the law. The bill was signed by the Governor within a day of its passing.

The final bill modifies the litigation process when a business is violating the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA) and gives businesses a “cure period” of 30 days to correct the violation and additional time if a building permit is required. Ability360 will post on our website all the provisions of the law and we plan to work with Arizona Center for Disability Law to provide community education to help people know their rights.

One outrageous provision is that websites are exempt under the Arizona ADA. An inaccessible website to a person who is blind is like stairs to a wheelchair user. Websites are used to locate resources, apply for jobs and other products and services. I don’t see how this can be a legal exemption under the federal ADA. It makes my blood boil. How about you?

I have asked myself over and over how this happened. The best answer I can come up with is that money talks. Businesses often contribute to political campaigns. I am not so sure that people with disabilities do, but we can still vote with our ballots if not our wallets. There will be another election in 2018 and I hope the disability community shows up for it.

But wait, there is more! A very similar bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress, H.R. 620, The ADA Education and Reform Act. It also has a “cure period” required for people wanting to sue for ADA violations. We are in trouble folks. Last issue I wrote about showing up. Now is the time to let our Congressional Representatives know we vote for candidates that support our civil rights. Do any of you remember what our community was like before the ADA? We do not want to go backward. The fight for civil rights is ongoing. The one thing that speaks louder than money is votes!

Advocacy can be lonely and frustrating. We are much stronger together. Activists advocated for the ADA for years before it passed. It is up to us to protect it. We can expect a big fight to protect disability program funding. Please join me and become a member of the Arizona Disability Coalition (ADC). We want this coalition to be comprised of a broad range of Arizonans that support civil rights for Arizonans with disabilities and are willing to show up and advocate for such. ADC will provide education, alerts and strategy sessions to help you get involved. We have monthly meetings and teleconferences. We need more members. Go to AzDisabilityCoalition.org and apply for membershiptoday. We are stronger together!


Portrait: Amina Donna Kruck

Amina Donna Kruck
Writer

Amina Kruck is Vice President of Advocacy programs at Ability360. Kruck is a state Professional Licensed Counselor with a master’s of Counseling from ASU. She empowers individuals with disabilities and their families through advocacy related workshops, one-on-one mentoring, facilitating wellness groups, providing technical assistance for the development of consumer-driven initiatives, and developing community partnerships to address barriers to consumer choice, equal rights and self-determination. Kruck also provides workshops on the legislative process, disability oppression and self-advocacy skills.