Tag Archives: accessibility

Webinar: Disabled Texans Can Vote Safely and Easily, If You’re Prepared, Advocates Say

(See the links at end of article.) In this election year affected by the pandemic, disabled Texans have a number of easy and safe options to cast their votes: curbside voting, requesting assistants to help, going to front of the line, and emergency late voting where they appoint a representative to take in their registration and return with a ballot, in addition to voting by mail. The options were outlined by Christina Adkins of the Texas Secretary of State’s office in a webinar on Thursday called “Voting Accommodations in Texas – The Laws and the Options!” The panel was moderated by Grace Chimene, President of the League of Women Voters of Texas.

Voting by mail is a hot topic now, and the participants urged turning in their applications as soon as possible. This allows time to work through any kind of follow-ups or difficulties that need to be addressed. Among the ways to qualify are being away from your home county, being sick or disabled, or being incarcerated. Can you claim fears of COVID-19 infection as a reason? If you have a pre-existing condition or are otherwise at-risk, yes.

Jeffery Miller of the Disability Rights Texas said that you are the best judge. If you feel you are disabled, then mark it so on the vote-by-mail application. He recommended trying to keep your signature consistent between documents. If you have questions or problems, contact your county elections office.

Adkins said you must follow up your online application with a signed copy within five days. Also you will eventually receive a receipt after you apply. If the receipt does not come, or if you have any other questions, contact your county elections office.

She said that election sites will have health protections like PPE. She said be sure to wear a mask.

Check your county’s website first. Vote early, they said. Those with questions may contact the Secretary of State’s office or Disabled Rights Texas at the end of this article.

“There is an army of support out there” to help you vote, Adkins said. She said to be prepared: “have a plan” to vote.

This July 13-17 will be National Disability Voter Registration Week, to raise awareness of these issues.

The message emphasized by all three was to be your own advocate, to speak up – ask!

Voters with disabilities – https://my.lwv.org/texas/voters-disabilities-0

Disabilities Rights Texas – https://www.disabilityrightstx.org/en/home/
Voting Resources for people with disabilities – https://www.disabilityrightstx.org/en/category/voting/

Texas Secretary of State – votetexas.org
Voters with Special Needs – https://www.votetexas.gov/voters-with-special-needs/
Health Protocols For Texas Election Officials And Voters – https://www.sos.texas.gov/elections/forms/health-protocols-for-voters.pdf
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Voting and Election Procedures – https://www.sos.texas.gov/elections/laws/advisory2020-14.shtml

League of Women Voters of Texas
How to be a Texas voter! – https://my.lwv.org/texas/how-be-texas-voter
What is on the ballot? – https://my.lwv.org/texas/voting-elections/what-ballot

Election Protection
For any concerns or problems voting contact texasvoterprotection.org
Please submit any questions to: info@lwvtexas.org

BLMing From Home

Ways to support

It’s frustrating to watch history from the sidelines. Now is the third time I’ve felt the world shifting off of its moorings: the fall of the Soviet empire in 1989; September 11, 2001; and what’s sweeping the country today. Tiananmen Square felt the same way but turned out horribly. Who knows where we’ll be next week, or next year?

Uncertainty is one thing, but simply watching is what feels terrible. I feel the need to participate and give my support. I don’t spend time bemoaning my fate or anything, but there are certainly times, sitting in this chair, that I feel the times passing me by. I also feel sub-100 degree heat indexes every day here that are smacking me down. With MS, heat is my kryptonite. I can’t even count the summer days when I’ve been all right I’m all right I’m all right I’m i n c a p a c i t a t e d. Not to mention the need to social distance by those who are at-risk.

Fortunately Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project steps into the breach.

She put together a list of ways for us to support Black Lives Matter, blacks with disabilities, and the movement on the streets of America. It includes black writers, articles, podcasts, documentaries and other resources to keep plugged into what’s going on.

More support and reading resources are here: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2020/06/06/26-ways-to-be-in-the-struggle-beyond-the-streets-june-2020-update/

Finally, here’s a List of Bail Funds for Protestors across the Country,
updated regularly with help from the National Bail Fund Network.

Get Off Your Duff: Political Volunteering With a Disability

The 24-hour cable news stations won’t stop babbling about it. Your Facebook friends won’t stop raging about it. And idiot pols won’t stop tweeting about it. These days, there’s no escaping it — and you know exactly what it is: politics.

Tired of feeling frustrated, I wanted to get involved. There’s big stuff going on — 24 candidates and more each time I edit this article — and I didn’t want it all to pass me by. I began poking around my rural area 70 miles north of Houston, looking for ideas how someone with MS could participate from a wheelchair. The folks at my local ADAPT know how to get things done in the accessibility and medical spaces, but I wondered about other opportunities in addition. Maybe my journey will give you ideas in your area.

My article in New Mobility.

Get Off Your Duff: Political Volunteering With a Disability

Get Offa Your Platform: Sign petition for hotel standards to aid disabled travelers

Please sign this petition to set hotel standards for bed height and clearance under the bed (for a patient lift). Almost 30 years after the ADA, lots of people still check into hotel rooms to find they cannot use them.

Many disabled travelers use a Hoyer lift, which rolls underneath a bed. Most hotel beds are either too high or they sit atop a box platform, so that the lift cannot work. I think the platforms stop guests from forgetting things underneath the beds and take away the need for cleaning there. But most hotel staff and even managers seem to have no idea about the platforms at all, so there’s a lot of misinformation given as reservations are made. Even when we ask point-blank about platforms, we usually get a wrong answer. Happens to me all the time. Kind of puts a damper on your vacation, to say the least. This is why we’ve slept in the car for years. Safe, huh? And if we’re doing it, others are too. Let’s change this.


inaccessibility stories: it’s not a step, it’s a stoop

We drove downtown to see a play with two other couples. One of our party, John, knew the playwright. I made reservations at a restaurant nearby, and of course like all wheelchair users, phoned first.

Completely accessible to wheelchairs, said the man on the phone, no steps – and he answered with such confidence, even my follow-up questions, that I had a really good feeling afterwards. The place was popular for its fare, but on Sunday afternoons things usually work nice.

When we showed up for our reservation, right in the front there was a step. Then another up into the door. That makes two. My friends went in to get whoever was in charge.

It’s only a stoop, he says. Once you get inside, everything’s flat. You can go everywhere. Wheelchair-accessible.

He was not contrite, and I don’t remember all the ways we told him he was an ass. We didn’t have a lot of time to waste on him so we went on our way, and it being Chicago there was a quiet Italian place down the block. Most areas don’t have that option, just as most owners are not such asses. The ADA had been the law of the land then for about 12 years.

Please share your own inaccessibility story – we’ve all got ’em. There is a movement to take apart the ADA, which could very well happen unless we speak out. When I tell people an inaccessibility story, their mouths drop: “In this day and age?” They have no idea. Well, let’s give them an idea!

Accessibility Review: Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, Tinley Park, IL

Hollywood Casino Amphitheater (19100 Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park, IL, http://www.tinleyparkamphitheater.com/) has been around some 28 years, and the cracked parking lot shows it. But once you thread your way between the parked cars to reach the end of the parking lot, the rest of your evening will be smooth sailing. After attending a couple of shows this summer, I still don’t know if there are actually disability parking area or not. I mean, there’s a disability parking lot entrance, but you’ll find an awful lot of people parking there, rows and rows of them, many in wheelchairs and many not. We ended up parking several rows back. There weren’t any pedestrian aisles that I saw, and the space between cars you have to navigate through is tight.

It’s about 100 yards to the gate. There’s a disability entrance that takes you past the lines, very nice. Once inside, you’ll find a smooth concrete mall area with food and alcohol stands as well as restrooms. Everything is spread out and clean, and there are several choices of different food stands and booze. It’s all pretty laid-back atmosphere to get set for the show. We talked to several people, including this sweet gal who worked at the Ford plant on Torrance. Sounds like good days over there, which made for good days for us because she was feeling generous and lubricated enough to spring for our drinks and a couple of shots. (She definitely had a head start.) It would have been an even crazier evening hanging out with this one and her boyfriend. This way lies danger. Dodged that bullet!

It’s another 100 yards to the courtesy table where you exchange your tickets. I think we exchanged lawn seats for disability seating. It took about 10 minutes. At Lynyrd Skynyrd / 38 Special / Marshall Tucker Band, it all went pretty smooth. For Def Leppard / Poison / Tesla, things were closer to a madhouse. We had the same woman handling our tickets at both shows. At the first one she was relaxed, all in order. At Def Leppard, her face was all veins and stress, people coming at her and her staff from all directions. Everyone demanding, bargaining, carping, wheedling for better, different, closer, now now now tickets. Watching it all, I started feeling like I was in a Bosch painting: People are scammers, aren’t they, scammers everywhere, busy as rats, turning out of the woodwork. It was funny watching them connive – but not for the woman! Get me hence.
Next they lead you along the wide main aisle that stretches the width of the pavilion from one side to the other. The whole thing is sheltered underneath the pavilion and about two-thirds of the way back toward the lawn. Disability seating is the first row behind this main aisle. For the Def Leppard show our section was on the closer side of the pavilion, at the most 30 yards from the courtesy table. For Skynyrd we were on the far side of the pavilion, maybe 70 yards from the courtesy table. (I probably sound like Rainman with all of these distances, but I’m trying to give a good picture to those who could use it, right?)

Now I could be wrong, but it seems like the farther disability section was higher up and roomier. Sitting in the section that was closer to the courtesy table, I was more wedged in to a tight space, with people trying to squeeze behind me. (There were a lot more people at that Def Leppard show. The place was pretty much swamped.) But even more important, people’s heads were blocking my view of the stage as they walked the aisle in front of me. And there were a lot of walking heads! In fact, based on this, I gave a pass to Paul McCartney, who is on my rock ‘n roll Mount Rushmore and was playing at Hollywood a couple weeks later, because I could only imagine the madhouse that would be: even more walking heads! Definitely disappointing. And definitely a mistake, because going to Skynyrd, when the turnout was still strong (it was supposed to be their farewell tour), I sat in the accessible section that was farther away and everything was so much better. We had much more room, and we seem to be sitting higher. Same distance from the stage, same busy aisle of people in front of me, but no walking heads. This time I had a perfect view and a fun evening. So the next time I go, this is the section where I want to be.

At Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, if you get there early you’ll have a better time. You’ll get a closer space in an older lot, with fewer cars to squeeze through. You’ll probably spend less time waiting at the courtesy table (and the drinky lines). Then you can ask the woman, with fewer stress lines on her face, to seat you in the accessibility section on the far side of the pavilion. Rock on, dude.

So come back, Walrus, come back.

From Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre’s website: Accessible seating can be purchased online. Please inform the representative that you require accessible seating at time of purchase.

Accessibility Review: Huntington Bank at Northerly Island – a smooth, perfect night on the lake

This is a small outdoor concert arena. There is lawn seating which I didn’t even notice because we hurried in as the show was starting. The whole setup is very easy access. Part of that is because it’s a lot smaller, more intimate scale than Tinley Park (I’ll date myself by including the old Poplar Creek) or maybe it helps that we were seeing an older act attracting not quite capacity crowd. At any rate, I recommend heading straight to VIP parking just outside the venue. It is $35 and you are right there, rather than saving $5 for Soldier Field parking (checked online) several blocks away with traffic swirling all about. You can purchase VIP parking on-site or online.

In VIP there weren’t rows of handicapped spaces, but we had no problem finding one. That could be because it wasn’t a capacity crowd. The beauty part is that it was not even 100 yards to our seats. Everything is flat, from lot to check-in to seating. No turnstiles or threshold bumps to navigate. All smooth. Inside, it was only a short jog to the actual arena. The place was so relaxed then we could have stayed right where we entered to watch the whole concert with a perfect view. But right there was a big, roomy platform reserved for nothing but wheelchair seating, and it was empty. I don’t know if we had the right tickets, but we helped ourselves since nobody else was. They were beautiful seats, high up and only 30-40 yards from the stage. The sound was great, but judging by reviews, that may have to do with whatever act you are seeing.

Besides the easy access to make you happy, this has to be one of the most beautiful places anywhere to see an outdoor concert. It is the former Meig’s Field, the old private airport on a small peninsula on the lake. Your stage background is the Chicago skyline, the big shoulders of the City of Big Shoulders. The lights of the Prudential towers winking at you. The antennas of the Sears Tower changing colors, red, white and blue, and Jupiter joining the party overhead. The summer night on the lake was perfect, and onstage was Styx, favorite sons in front of a large and enthusiastic hometown crowd. The guys come from my old neighborhood of Roseland, and it was great to see founding member Chuck Panozzo slinging the bass on the biggest, rowdiest numbers. It was a night I won’t forget.

Ask and ye shall receive

HEB store in Huntsville, TX:

Hats off to manager Jay for that bottom sign, something I haven’t seen before. You can find them throughout the parking lot. Some people were willing to speak up, and Jay was willing to help. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference. It’s what can happen when we advocate for ourselves.

ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW: Chisos Mountain Lodge, Big Bend National Park

Chisos Mountains Lodge, 1 Basin Rural Station, Big Bend National Park, TX, 432-477-2291

Chisos Mountain Lodge’s handicap room was clean, updated, and pretty roomy for a lodge accommodation in a national park. (I am thinking of Yellowstone Inn, which is an amazing place to stay, but I don’t think that I could make it there now in that room we were lucky enough to get 20 years ago.) Anthony, who took my reservation several weeks ago, had assured me that there was no platform under the bed, even when I gave him the third degree (because we have heard these assurances before: see a few nights later in our trip, in Terlingua and Alpine), and he was right. The Hoyer lift rolled right under the double bed, not a problem. Dude, you rock!

The toilet is freestanding and accessible. There is a bathtub with shower bench. The sink is accessible for the wheelchair user, with room on one side for an attendant, if necessary.

No Internet or TV in the rooms, but both are available in the gift shop and cafe area. I read that you can rent a TV and movie player The area is under severe drought and it’s recommended to bring your own drinking water into the park. There are no restrictions, but they ask that you conserve water use in the room. The restaurant offers good food with vegan options, but pricey: Hey, it’s a remote place. You can also order a sack lunch the night before, and believe me, it is plenty of food. Gasoline is available at Panther Junction.

The view from the room is wonderful. Photo doesn’t do it justice.

And outside of our balcony to greet us, this little guy.

Much more on the lodge and the restaurant here.

Solving travel with the Hoyer lift

Traveling with a Hoyer patient lift is a big pain in the arsch. Most hotels now place their beds on platforms, which prevents the lift from sliding under the bed like it needs to. So call ahead, right? The trouble is that a lot of front desk staff seem to have no idea what you’re talking about. Describe the situation to them and they’re usually cool about checking it out. But even so, you’ll have no idea if they understand you right or if their answer is accurate until you roll into town. We’ve discovered as many misleading answers as good ones. Even hotel managers have misled us over the phone, and then the scene starts. Especially after a long drive, the drama is simply not worth it. So it is that for years now we’ve opted instead for the undesirable alternative of sleeping in truck stops.

Well, there’s nothing new under the sun. The folks at CareCure forum discussed traveling with the Hoyer and have experience with a workaround. Bring along four blocks of wood. Lift the bed off of the platform and set it down on the blocks. This still requires calling in advance: Will your staff help us with the bed? Will you remove the platform from the room? But people have success traveling with this option.

We will be leaving in a few days for Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande River in west Texas. My wife purchased an eight-foot 4″x4″ and had the store cut it into 12-inch lengths. She glued two lengths on top of each other, so that they measured 4″x12″x8″. (First, a piece of sandpaper smoothed the rough edges and prepared the surfaces for gluing.) She did this three more times, and now has four blocks. We will place the pieces diagonally under the corners of the bed. The 8 inches of height will clear the base of the lift.

Let’s see how this works.