Members of the National Council on Disabilities,
Both the US Dept. of Education and HUD have seriously disregarded my rights as a person with disabilities and I want to share my concerns with you.
My Independent Plan for Self Employment IPE has been poorly administered by the Texas Dept. of Disability and Assistive Services DARS, the head of the National Job Accommodation Network has called their treatment of me “abusive”, and the head of the Texas Agri-Ability Program to keep people with disabilities in agriculture was shocked that DARS had not provided the specialist in writing business plans for people with brain injury which it had promised Advocacy Inc. my CAP or PNE Agency, and which DARS had told investigators for the Texas HHSC Com. OCR that DARS would provide for me.
In pursuing an Administrative Appeal of this and other DARS failures, both the State and I agreed to mediation, yet I was refused my request to have mediation in a place accessible to me and refused to attend telephonically.
During the Administrative Appeal hearing, the State called my long time counselor from Advocacy Inc. as a witness and the Hearings Officer had her removed from my counsel table and the room. thus depriving my newly appointed attorney of her knowledge of this case and other disability matters concerning me. The DARS attorney never called her as a witness. This was an abuse of the procedure by DARS and it deprived me of adequate counsel.
It has taken three years for the US Dept. of Education OCR to process my complaint and subsequently my appeal and they have denied that any of these actions violate my rights as a person with disabilities, being congenitally blind in one eye and having MTBI from a stroke.
I have filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Dept. of Education and asked Secretary Duncan whether he agreed with and supports these decisions by his OCR.
As for HUD, when my IPE was failing, I tried to get a reverse mortgage or HECM so that I could remain in my home. When I asked for assistance in navigating the process as a person with disabilities, Ms. Pratt, head of the Fair Housing Office said that HUD does not provide that kind of accommodation. I was concerned that my insurance policy had been changed without my consent to benefit a lender who actually rejected me. I could get no clarification about whether this was per HUD standards.
I asked for ADA Accommodations from the lender who rejected me and they never even responded to my letter, which they did receive. HUD sent my Fair Housing Complaint on this to the Texas Workforce Commission OCR which did not determine whether my ADA rights had been respected and did not follow guidelines set out by the US Ninth Circuit Court that a non-response to an ADA request places the burden of proof on the respondent to prove that not only were the accommodations I requested not possible, but that there were no other possible accommodations which could be provided. The Texas WFC OCR ruled against me even thought the lender had violated HUD guidelines in denying me the HECM, they could not rule on whether HUD rules had been followed or not.
A subsequent lender refused me a HECM because my IPE was a commercial activity prohibited for reverse mortgages. A person is not prohibited from working when acquiring a HECM and if the only place I can work from is home due to my disabilities, then my very small self employment plan should not be considered a prohibitive commercial enterprise.
Much time was wasted off the HECM time clock over disability issues and my request of the HUD Regional Counsel and the Director of the HUD Denver Processing Office to put more time on the clock was refused when both indicated that HUD did not have to honor ADA / Rehab Act accommodations requests. HUD had even told my Congressman’s office that they would grant waivers and then refused.
These are just two of the many injustices which I have faced in the past twelve years since my disabling stroke. I feel very frustrated that when I try to stand I am repeatedly knee capped. As a person with brain injury, such prolonged abuse only makes my disability worse. Trying to get legal representation as a person with disabilities is impossible.
Our system for people with disabilities is cruelly dysfunctional. I believe that consolidating or coordinating all disability matters for people with disabilities should be done through a single department or agency. All programs whether federal, state, local, or ngo could be dealt with in one place with one set of counselors and social workers. If a person with disabilities needed accommodations, that office could ask for the person rather than making people with disabilities endure numerous stressful accommodation requests.
Short of that , every federal department should have an office of disabilities. It is curious that HUD has no such office and that half of the homeless are people with disabilities.
Thank you for considering these matters, I will be glad to share more of these issues with you in detail. I hope too that this comment is heard or viewed at your meeting tomorrow, Jan. 29.
Thanks again and always my best,