White House Ignores Americans With Disabilities Act Complaint Request

September 5, 2014

Tanya Tyler
White House Office of Public Engagement
Disability Policy Advisor The White House

Dear Ms. Tyler,
This is an email sent almost a year ago, to the former White House Disability Policy Advisor, Claudia Gordon. I would like for my concerns to be brought to the attention of President Obama so that a policy response can be made to me.

October 24, 2013

Dear Ms. Gordon,

Thank you for your commitment, and that of President Obama, in respecting the civil rights of people with disabilities and for working diligently to enforce and to improve respect for our rights.

As a citizen with disabilities, I am asking that the President’s staff with assistance from the US Dept. of Justice, the National Council on Disability (NCD), all Federal Department Inspectors General, and Committees of the US House and Senate, to resole a question : “If a citizen with disabilities wishes to file an administrative disability civil rights complaint against an agency of a federal department, to which federal authority is that complaint to be addressed ?”

The advice I have received from both the US DOJ and the NCD is that the Inspector General of the department of the agency is that authority. However, the Inspectors General of both the Dept. of Education and HUD have declined my request to accept such a disability civil rights complaint, and Mr. Galanter of the U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Civil Rights also seems to reject the advice given me. It is important that our federal government have a consistent and fair policy so that the civil rights of all can be better respected and thus improve the quality of our government. Although the Inspector General of the Dept. of Education has asked Mr. Galanter to review my cases for fraud and corruption, that review does seem to have been adequately addressed by Mr. Galanter.

Additionally, as you are aware, I have other concerns as to why the Dept. of Education OCR has not found that my disability civil rights were violated when : 1) My state rehab services agency denied me accessibility to an agreed upon mediation, 2) my state rehab agency promised my CAP agency as well as Texas HHSC Civil Rights Office investigators that a specialist in TBI rehab would be provided for me, though that promise was quickly broken, and 3) the attorney for my state rehab service agency named my long time counselor at my CAP agency as a witness and had the counselor removed from an Administrative Appeals Hearing, over the objections of my attorney since my counselor was both assisting my recently appointed attorney and was representing me in person since I was attending the hearing telephonically. My counselor was never called as a witness and this tactic by the state’s attorney seems to have been used to deprive me of representation.

There are quite a few other complaints which I have about my state agency, in one instance their actions threatened by life, health, and well being, though I will not elaborate on those since the three actions cited are viewed as easily discernible disability civil rights violations by the vast majority of the disability rights legal community. Attached to this emai is a pdf containing a similar request for clarification made to the NCD, and as well the thread of email correspondence between Mr. Galanter and myself regarding these matters which have been copied to you and Mr. Carter-Long at the NCD. It is my view that denying a person with TBI a counselor trained in TBI rehab is equal in violation to a person who is deaf being denied a counselor trained in ASL, that giving false or misleading information to investigators is a crime, and that depriving me of the representation of my counselor at a legal hearing is both an ADA violation and violates basic due legal process.

Thank you for your concerns regarding such matters, and I hope that the result will be that improvements are made in the process of protecting and respecting the rights of all citizens with disabilities in our government and in society as a whole. Most disability activists feel that equality for people with disabilities is still a generation away, and that much work must be done yet to insure that day arrives.

Respectfully,

Jake Billingslely

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MILD BRAIN INJURY: IMPLICATIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE

In July we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, yet equality for people with disabilities is in reality still a generation away in the future, especially for those of us with brain injury and other cognitive disabilities such as developmental and mental disabilities, and autism. I hope this article will continue to broaden public awareness and to give validation to those struggling to live life with brain injury.

Llanojake

This article from therapist Luann Jacobs is the most concise and comprehensive description of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury that I have read, as a MTBI survivor. MTBI can be caused by strokes, wounds to the brain, tumors, diseases, concussions (whether from explosions, contact sports such as hockey and football, auto accidents, or falls), and anything which compromises the circulatory or neurological functions of the brain. 

At the onset of my brain injury due to a stroke, now 14 years ago, I had to learn to walk again, read again, use the telephone again, and do almost all the daily and other tasks of life too.

It is impossible to imagine, no matter how intelligent and creative one might be, just how overwhelming this challenge is. It is impossible to know the constant fatigue, exhaustion, frustration, and pain which must be endured daily still. It is impossible to know of all…

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50th Anniversary Of The ” I Have A Dream ” Speech By Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

mlk

August 28, 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the immortal speech by Dr. King.

To read the text of the ” I Have A Dream ” speech.

http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf

To watch a video of Dr. King’s speech

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs

To listen to an audio of Dr. King’s address

http://ia331417.us.archive.org/3/items/MLKDream/MLKDream_64kb.mp3

Also highly recommended is ” A Letter From A Birmingham City Jail ”  This is one of the greatest works of literature ever, containing such lines as “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, and much more.

 

 

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Public Comment Made To The National Council On Disability – January 2013

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,
 
Jake Billingsley
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MILD BRAIN INJURY: IMPLICATIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE

This article from therapist Luann Jacobs is the most concise and comprehensive description of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury that I have read, as a MTBI survivor. MTBI can be caused by strokes, wounds to the brain, tumors, diseases, concussions (whether from explosions, contact sports such as hockey and football, auto accidents, or falls), and anything which compromises the circulatory or neurological functions of the brain. 

At the onset of my brain injury due to a stroke, now 14 years ago, I had to learn to walk again, read again, use the telephone again, and do almost all the daily and other tasks of life too.

It is impossible to imagine, no matter how intelligent and creative one might be, just how overwhelming this challenge is. It is impossible to know the constant fatigue, exhaustion, frustration, and pain which must be endured daily still. It is impossible to know of all the obstacles thrown into the path of recovery, the meanness, the isolation and marginalization which far too many impose.

This article by Luann Jacobs is one of the best descriptions of trying to live a life with brain injury that I have read. Its only short coming is not conveying the mean adversity faced by most survivors and the sheer trauma of having a life which no longer fits together or works as it once did.

“MILD BRAIN INJURY: IMPLICATIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE”

Luann Jacobs, MA-CCC/SLP RMT

Mild brain injury is a real misnomer, as it conveys the idea that nothing much is a problem when quite the opposite is more often true. It is called “mild” because, in fact, the mildly brain injured can walk, talk, eat and dress independently, often times drive a car, shop cook, go to school, or even work.

What the term fails to account for is the inherent limits of how often, for how long (endurance), and the all-important, how consistently (e.g., every day, once a week) these activities can be performed. Even more elusive is the concept of how many of these daily activities can be done sequentially in a given day as is normal in the lives of people who are not brain injured.

The mildly brain injured cannot put back-to-back the normal activities of everyday living (dressing, eating, shopping, cooking), work (engaging in gainful employment by meeting deadlines, delivering a product for money, being present a requisite number of hours) and social life (eating with family or friends, participating in parties or holidays, going to movies, etc.). They cannot do all of this on any one day or in any one week. Many mildly brain injured have poorer hygiene than they did prior to injury because if they bathe and wash their hair, that may be all they can accomplish in a given day. So they often must trade off activities. Bathe on alternate days. Cook two days a week. If they engage in work, then someone else must be performing many or all of the other activities.

The mildly brain injured who live alone, but attend family and social functions, are often seen either as lazy (they don’t help out much before in the planning or after in the clean up), or if they do pull it together when in the company of others, they pay for it with severe fatigue, crashing for hours or days afterward. They fatigue they feel defies description, going far beyond and far deeper than anything a non-brain-injured person would consider profound exhaustion.

It is extremely common for the mildly brain injured to become overwhelmed in the attempt to organize a normal or routine life. Normal life is filled with unanticipated changes to the schedule. A routine life is never just so; it is filled with the need to do simultaneous functions, to operate on automatic while engaging the conscious mind in decision-making, planning ahead, responding to changes, and improvising with more than one person’s schedule in mind. The mildly brain injured go into meltdown when faced with normal and routine living. In fact, even when they can engage in a seemingly normal pace, it is frequently because they have not judged carefully enough how much energy they have in store, and the mildly brain injured with overload, crash and burn.

I have worked with clients with mild brain injury for many years. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is simply to say “it’s time to take a break now,” when a client has been doing well, but starts for no particular reason to express meltdown. Meltdown is frequently not recognized until too late, not only by others, but also by the person experiencing it. Meltdown can be recognized by a shift or change in the outward behavior of the person’s seemingly normal responses. One client’s speech rate increases as she starts not to process those who are speaking to her. Another client breaks into tears for no apparent reason and can’t recall how to do simple mental functions he may have been doing (or organizing) just a moment before. Meltdowns frequently trigger the very real feelings of isolation and loss that come with brain injury that can, in turn, trigger depression.

Mildly brain injured clients who are fortunate enough to live with family or friends can be helped a great deal by timely cueing to conserve their energy. If many of the daily independence functions. which are serious energy eaters for the mildly brain injured, can be handled by others, then they can use their energy to really expand their social and work worlds. When energy does not have to be used just to stay afloat, then it can be used for other creative and productive work. However, in the mildly brain injured, the supply of energy is extremely reduced from whatever the individual was capable of prior to the injury.

Mild brain injury often is accompanied by pain. Frequently the pain and fatigue go hand in hand. But often they do not, further confounding the understanding of what system is working here—what is cause and what is effect? The pain is often felt or expressed as flu-like. Muscle and joint aches. Frequently the pain wanders between two or three loci (head, neck and lower back, for instance). Weather and pressure systems also seem to interact and cause difficulty. Pain and fatigue are often the baseline of what is felt as normal to the mildly brain injured. This is where the day starts—awakening with flu-like symptoms, and having the day go down from there with the press of many activities to do and so little time and energy to do them.

Additionally, rehabilitation and cognitive work help the mildly brain injured to stay focused on what they can do and how to organize and apportion their time and efforts. Psychological therapy helps them deal with the emotional devastation of losing the self they were prior to brain injury. Neurological help in the form of good diagnostic work-ups and supportive treatments can help to control the multiple physical symptoms: blood pressure problems, fatigue, pain, and sleep deprivation, to name a few common sequelae of brain injury. Alternative therapies such a chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, Reiki, meditation, and yoga can be very valuable in treating symptoms and providing self-help and self-healing tools.

……Luann Jacobs

Note that the author has given her permission to share this article attributed to her as a means to raising awareness and understanding of this invisible crippler of people who are the walking wounded.

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