Center for Disability Rights: In the News

Center for Disability Rights: In the News

i Jun 17th 1 Comment by

When the Americans with Disabilities Act became a law in 1990, the landscape of the civil rights movement broadly unfolded. Disability rights organizations steadily gathered momentum across the country. Local advocacy groups, comprised of both able-bodied and disabled volunteers, united to prescribe the essence of ADA legislation throughout their own communities. These groups supported improved conditions for independent living, enhanced access to medical and social services, and equal protection from violations of civil liberty. The Center for Disability Rights, a non-profit organization based in Rochester, NY, has been aggressively campaigning on behalf of the disabled community even before the ink was dry on the pages of the ADA. On August 16, I took the opportunity to attend an ADA compliance training session for small businesses held at the CDR facilities.

For 60 minutes, law fellow Stephanie Woodward and chief operating officer Chris Hilderbrant persuasively articulated the common ADA pitfalls that unwary businesses often fail to recognize. In accordance with the CDR’s customary diplomacy, Ms. Woodward and Mr. Hillderbrant thanked the members of the audience for their attention, and lightheartedly guaranteed impunity from pending legal action. They emphasized critical ADA guidelines for HR personnel, fundamental disability etiquette (punctuated with amusing and instructive real-life anecdotes), and extensive resources for further information on provisional compliance.

I learned a great deal about how businesses must distinguish the “essential functions” of a particular job, forestalling any potential accusations of discrimination. Additionally, the presenters elaborated on providing “reasonable accomodations” and the corresponding tax credits and deductions available as incentives to small business proprietors, including the Disabled Access Credit, Barrier Removal Tax Deduction, and Work Opportunity Credit. Ms. Woodward and Mr. Hilderbrant patiently answered every question alongside a sign-language interpreter. I am grateful to the staff of the CDR for facilitating an important discussion about ADA compliance, and I thank them for extending the invitation to participate.

For more information on the Center for Disability Rights, please visit their website at

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Beautiful, Comfortable, Accessible

Living comfortably, what is accessible for all…

Universal design (def) Universal design represents an evolution toward the understanding that we must not view individuals with disabilities as separate and different, but as an inherent part of our extraordinary diversity. Universal design is an approach to the development of “products and environments that can be used effectively by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (North Carolina State University, 1997). It is an inclusive process aimed at enabling all of us to experience the full benefits of the products and environments around us regardless of our ages, sizes or abilities.(Universal Design New York, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities)

I have been in the design industry for over 25 years. I’ve seen the frivolousness of high-end style, I’ve worked in warehouse debris, and everything in between in premier properties in NYC . I’ve lived through hard times and confusing times. I love my work as an interior design contractor. I always knew somehow, someway, I could help make this world a more beautiful place to live, for all of us to live. You see I do believe we are one – all of us – capable of all things, in different ways.

What can I contribute, in my way, with my capabilities? I do want to make a difference. Yet at times I struggle to get sure footed… I have consulted with disability experts, and they have made their recommendations.

Join me in my journey as we identify what is available and identify what we need through “Universal Design.”

I caught the warmth of the sun today. It was for just a moment, and then it turned gray. I looked up and the clouds were a lovely white. Have you noticed warmth of the sun? This is something we can all share; on your own, with each other. Feel the warmth, see the vastness of the universe; know it does exist. Let us begin here…




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Beauty, Culture, and Accessible

The principle of universal design addresses the attention of the diverse needs of all people. This will lead to well-designed buildings that seamlessly integrate thoughtful solutions and appropriate materials for those not specifically for but including the special needs community. By designing for a diverse population, universal designers integrate usability by everyone into their work on a routine basis. This approach leads to greater inclusion for many groups often neglected in the design process, (e.g., children, the elderly, people of small stature, frail people, etc. (Universal Design New York, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities)

I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City with a couple of dear friends. It was such a special day. As an interior design contractor, I found it to be an inspiring and enchanting venue of tremendous beauty. It is a place for all to enjoy. The facility is accessible and features exhibits that touch the heart, expand the mind, and enrich the soul. I highly recommend it. Let us view this as an example of what is available for all to enjoy. What programs, for visitors with learning and developmental disabilities, can you think of to bring to your community (big or small) that is fully accessible?

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art: Armor for Man and Horse

Metropolitan Museum of Art Discoveries-Power and Protection: A Look at Armor

The Metropolitan Museum of Art invites you to Discoveries, a Sunday program for adults and children with developmental and/or learning disabilities, together with friends and family members. Each Discoveries workshop focuses on a theme and includes a gallery tour followed by a related art activity in the studio. (Free, but reservations are required)
Camille Gallo

The Dignity of Risk: Special Needs Lifeline Question of the Week

Once again, the summer Olympics is captivating audiences around the world. And once, again the quadrennial competition is entangled in controversy. We are all familiar with the routine failed drug tests, and accusations of corruption at the judges table. This year, however, we have witnessed a dispute unlike any other- the participation of Oscar Pistorious.

Oscar Pistorious was born with fibular hemimelia, the absence of the long leg bones. Before turning one, both of his legs were amputated below the knee. Yet in spite of the debilitating surgery, nobody could ever categorize Pistorious as disabled. He refused to be labeled, and he refused to be caught.

Oscar Pistorious is universally recognized as “the fastest man on no legs.”

In 2008, Pistorious tried unsuccessfully to represent South Africa (his home country) in the individual 400 meter race. A mere 0.7 seconds thwarted his attempt to qualify, and to subsequently become the first amputee to compete in the history of games. Correspondingly, Pistorious set multiple world records in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China.

Pistorious wears carbon-fiber prosthetics called “Cheetah Flex-Feet” Oscar’s desire to compete on the international stage prompted several rule changes, and compelled numerous experiments to determine if the artificial limbs imposed an unfair advantage over able-bodied sprinters. Every test indicated that Pistorious raced without any competitive edge, and he qualified on his own merit for the official 2012 games in London.

People with disabilities are often denied “the dignity of risk.” This signifies an attempt to discourage, albeit with the best of intentions, people with disabilities from striving to accomplish seemingly unrealistic goals. To never know if you could have succeeded because you were deprived of a chance to fail- that is the moral compromise personified by the dignity of risk.

Gold medals cannot adequately measure the extent of Pistorious’ accomplishments. His journey of self-discovery advances at every starting line. He has exercised his dignity of risk.

Question of the Week: What does “dignity of risk” mean to you? Can you think of other examples that demonstrate dignity of risk? Would it make sense to characterize Oscar Pistorious as disabled?

We encourage you to reply to the question of the week. Please be respectful of the opinions of our fellow community members. There is no right or wrong answer. Reflecting on challenging questions will help keep us informed.

Some Good News: Special Needs Lifeline Question of the Week

Back in February, in a post entitled The Power of Nurturing, I mentioned how easily disability rights advocates can sink into pessimistic quicksand. Full-scale change does not materialize overnight; and gradual, incremental victories might not feel like victories at all. Until we take a deep breath, take a step back, and witness for ourselves the awe-inspiring transformation developing before our very eyes.

I want to share some good news with you. Follow me across the span of the United States from New York to California. I will introduce you to a little league superstar and the extraordinary mother of a quadriplegic son. Then we will journey over 7,000 miles to Kenya to meet a beneficent man raising funds and awareness for spinal cord injuries.

Evan Sussmann has participated in his local Brewster, NY little league for the past four years. He has fostered close friendships with his teammates, and he has earnestly attended every game. The fact that Evan has cerebral palsy is irrelevant to his baseball team. Unfortunately, league officials had considered that Evan would be a liability from his regular spot in the dugout, and they prohibited his appearance for a regional playoff game. Parents, coaches, and players quickly organized around Evan and explained the circumstances to league administrators. Consequently, Evan was there to support his team, prepared with a slew of high-fives and moral support.

Fourteen years ago, Patty Lance answered a phone call every parent dreads- her son had suffered a terrible accident and she needed to fly to California immediately. Geoff, Patty’s son, was knocked unconscious while he was surfing. He withstood severe cognitive brain damage, paralysis, and full cardiac arrest. From that moment forward, Patty accelerated on the road to her son’s recovery. She researched the foremost medical treatments and therapies. She committed herself to providing the optimal care for son, without abandoning her own identity while she continued her real-estate business. As Geoff grew stronger with each excruciating day, both physically and mentally, Patty’s resolve grew alongside him. Today, Geoff continues a prosperous, independent life. Patty and her son tightly embrace their faith- the belief that any obstacle can be overcome.

According to the website Disabled World, an estimated 60-80 million Africans (10% of the total population) live with a disability and approximately 20% of impoverished Africans are disabled. Those frightening statistics are no match for Zackary Kimotho, who has initiated an awareness raising 2,500 mile campaign from Nairobi to Cape Town. In a wheelchair. Zackary was the victim of an attempted carjacking in 2004, resulting in his becoming a paraplegic. His promising career as a veterinarian was abridged, and $3,000 were squandered on a witch doctor who promised Zack he would regain the ability to walk. In spite of the alternative remedy falling short, Zackary discovered a renewed purpose in life. Now, he is considered a hero by the residents of every village he arrives at en route to Cape Town.

Question of the Week: Help us spread some good news. Tell us about someone or something inspiring in your life. What instills good inside of you, and how do you try to instill that good in others?

We encourage you to reply to the question of the week. Please be respectful of the opinions of our fellow community members. There is no right or wrong answer. Reflecting on challenging questions will help keep us informed.


Dolan, J. (2012, July 26). Boy with cerebral palsy allowed to join baseball team in dugout.

Brenoff, A. (2012, July 4). Patty Lance: Realtor Turns Tragedy into Success. The Huffington Post.

Gettleman, J. (2012, June 29). On the Road, Cheers for a Kenyan and His Cause. The New York Times.