Archive for February, 2011

The Washington Examiner: Riders with Disabilities Worried about MetroAccess Fare Hike

ECNV Peer Mentor Ed McEntee and MetroAccessWashington Examiner featuring Ed McEntee, ECNV Peer Mentor!

By Kytja Weir
Examiner Staff Writer
February 26, 2011; 8:05 PM

MetroAccess users will start paying higher fares beginning Sunday, in the latest step aimed at reining in costs and curtailing use of Metro’s paratransit service. But the increase isn’t sitting well with the disabled riders who rely on the shared ride service to get to their jobs and doctor’s appointments.

“It’s going to be catastrophic for people who are on public benefits,” said Ed McEntee, a counselor at the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia who relies on the service.

The fares will jump to twice the rate of a comparable Metrorail or bus trip to a maximum of $7, up from the base fare of $2.50 charged as recently as June. That’s on top of up to $7 more in surcharges if riders travel outside the system’s new boundaries.

For McEntee, that means his daily trip to work from Fairfax County to Arlington will double from $3 to about $6, making his monthly transit cost about $240. The 67-year-old contracted polio as a child and uses a motorized wheelchair.

“I can suck it up in my situation,” he said, but noted that those making some $674 per month in Social Security benefits may not be able to take the hit.

“It is basically a 100 percent increase,” he said. “I don’t think that the average public would stand for an 100 percent increase. But they are within the law. They have been trying to weed out people who are using the system.”

Metro has been grappling with increasing demand for the federally mandated service, with ridership growing some 20 percent per year and costs nearly doubling in just four years to $103.7 million in the current budget. The average trip costs the agency about $40 to deliver.

The agency has taken several steps to change the equation. It boosted fares by a smaller amount in July and changed the travel boundaries for the trips, charging a premium if users go outside the bounds.

The agency credits the changes with stifling some of MetroAccess’ growth. Ridership grew just 3 percent in the first six months since the changes, instead of the 12 percent the agency had expected.

“We understand fare adjustments are never easy for any of our customers,” spokeswoman Angela Gates said. “We have a fully accessible bus and rail system… We hope they could use that as an alternative.”

Raynette Anderson said that wheelchair users like her may be forced to ride in the streets, unable to afford what could be $14 round trips on MetroAccess. “They’ve got to get to the drug store, that’s what they’re going to do,” she said. “When they’ve got to go to the grocery store, guess what they’re going to do.”

Changes to MetroAccess

  • First fare increase: The agency bumped the base fare up to $3 from $2.50 this summer.
  • Limited area: In July, it limited the rides to within three-quarters of a mile of the existing rail and bus system for all new users. Riders are charged up to $7 per trip to go beyond those boundaries.
  • Certification: Metro has toughened its certification process for those allowed to use the service. It is pushing people to ride Metrorail and Metrobus instead, giving them free or reduced-price rides. In the past six months, Metro has trained more than 3,700 people with disabilities how to use the system, Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said, and given nearly 8 million free or reduced-price rides.
  • Second fare hike: The rest of the fare hikes begin on Sunday with fares double the rate of a comparable Metrorail or bus trip, up to $7 per one-way trip

Credit to the Washington Examiner

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February 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

Why many deaf and hard of hearing individuals were not independent back then?

Doreen SolarThere were no technology devices provided for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the past. It was not easy functioning in everyday life for deaf and hard of hearing individuals because they could not call their friends; they could only correspond by writing letters back and forth. They often asked their hearing parents or siblings to make important phone calls.

When I was growing up, I had seen many evolutions over the time. I remembered my parents depended on my sister to make important phone calls for them. My sister had no choice but to  help, however she also had control of what she wanted to say on the phone which led to many family arguments. Also, my deaf friends’ mothers called my sister to make plans with me and she did not share the whole conversation with me. She only identified who was calling and often made decisions regarding whether or not I could see my friends. Of course, this led to fights.

When I was in 20s, my parents got a big, heavy, metal, model 28 teletype by Western Electric. It was ugly and made a lot of noise when we hit the keys! However, we three were so thrilled because we finally gained some independence. It was funny because my sister complained to my dad that I was on the line too long when she needed to make a call. My dad laughed so hard because she lost her privilege with the phone. I started to call the relay operators to make some calls to hearing people because I did not want my sister to interfere with my personal business. And, my parents started to depend on me because of their language barriers, but I did not mind it at all. I felt obligated to help them, but at same time, I taught them how to type and how to talk to their friends.   Strangely, it was odd that my sister was jealous of my independence. I thought she would be happy for me.

I often see other deaf and hard of hearing adults who depend on hearing individuals for assistance with making calls. I never interfere, because I also assisted my deaf parents to make calls, even though, I am deaf myself.

As time went on, we finally got video phones for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. It was so exciting because many of us have a difficult time expressing what we want to say on a TTY and we can not see the other party’s facial expressions or tones. And, the relay operators often misunderstood us and delivered the wrong messages to the receivers. You can imagine that the communication was breaking down.

When the video phone technology for deaf and hard of hearing individuals existed, we all were overwhelmed with joy because we know that we finally got more independence. We have the video interpreters to make voice calls for us and when we misunderstand each other, we can make corrections during the calls. We also can call our families and friends who also have video phones.

My girlfriend with whom I grew up, still depends on her 90-year-old mother to make phone calls for her. I finally decided to tell her that her mother would not be around much longer and she needs to make calls herself. She stared at me and said that she is afraid. I then encouraged her, simply by saying, “You can do it”. She took my words and made an important call and it went well with the video interpreter. She video phoned me a few days later thanking me for my encouragement and positive attitude. I smiled and told her that we finally have our independence.

By ECNV Deaf Peer Mentor Doreen Solar

February 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm 2 comments

Tax Tips: W-2 Missing?

February 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm 1 comment

Can See Birds Fly…

Doreen SolarI would like to share this poem with my readers. It was written by my friend Holly’s mother when she was very young. It really represents for all deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Enjoy reading and please write your comments. It is nice for the readers to see the different meanings, perspectives and opinions you express in your own words.

By ECNV Deaf Peer Mentor Doreen Solar

I know you hear no song of birds,
But you can see them soar
and you enjoy the ocean’s surf,
although you do not hear its roar.

It’s true there’s lots in life you miss;
there’s much you cannot hear-
the siren’s wail, a baby’s cry-
but you can see the tears.

You love the change of seasons;
you revel in the snow.
You hear no rumbling thunder,
But you see the star lights glow.

It’s true you do not have to hear
to laugh, to cry, to play,
to find something of wonder
in each and every day.

And so my dear, when at your prayer,
Say not, “Dear Lord, why me?”
Instead remember to give thanks
to God, that you can see.

Written by Alice N. Moos Lakeland

February 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm Leave a comment

White House Monthly Disability Call

In order to help keep you more informed, we are hosting monthly calls to update you on various disability issues as well as to introduce you to persons who work on disability issues in the federal government.

This month’s topic will be on the President’s budget as it relates to people with disabilities.

This call is off the record and not for press purposes.

We strongly urge and ask that you distribute this email broadly to your networks and list serves so that anyone who wants to participate and learn about the President’s budget can do so.

Our next call will be Tuesday, February 15 at 1:00 PM Eastern.

The conference call information is below.

Dial in for listeners: United States: (800) 288-8974

Title: White House Disability Call (use instead of code)

Date of Call: 02/15/2011

Start Time: 1:00 PM Eastern

For live captioning, at time of call, log onto:

http://www.fedrcc.us//Enter.aspx?EventID=1710748&CustomerID=321

If you received this email as a forward but would like to be added to the White House Disability Group email distribution list, please email sfeuerstein@who.eop.gov and provide your name, email address, city, state and organization if applicable.

Again, please distribute widely.

Credit to White House Disability Group

February 10, 2011 at 6:06 pm Leave a comment

Virginia Association of Centers for Independent Living at the General Assembly in Richmond

I spent the entire day at the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond last Wednesday to advocate for preventing budget cuts in Medicaid Waivers and independent living services. During the several meetings with delegates, senators and their aids who represent the Northern Virginia area, I stressed how important it is for deaf and hard of hearing people and other disabilities to live in the community. Most of them understood our concerns and committed to support our budget amendments.

During our lunch break, I met with the Executive Director of the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA), the Director of the Independent Living Unit at the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) and few other well recognized people who work for the state of Virginia.

I asked if they were able to give me some information and resources for the Legal Center here at ECNV that I am planning to set up so that we can advocate for deaf and hard of hearing consumers when they have legal issues with the court systems, and also be able to train the judges and lawyers how to work with deaf and hard of hearing consumers with a good understanding of Deaf Culture.

They thought this is a great plan, and they were willing to assist me with the Legal Center as much as they are able. I’m looking forward to communicating with them soon.

I will have more exciting news to share with you later.

By Doreen Solar, ECNV Deaf & HoH Peer Mentor

February 9, 2011 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

IL Day 2011

Del. Kaye Kory and ECNV StaffOn Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011, staff, participants, and friends of the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia (ECNV) joined the Virginia Association of Centers for Independent Living (VACIL), many staff members of different Centers for Independent Living (CILs) from around Virginia, and other advocates at the General Assembly in Richmond to advocate for amending the FY 2011 budget to protect services that are essential to many people with disabilities. 

VACIL had laid out a list of priorities and they were: 

  • Reduce waiting lists for the Medicaid Developmental Disabilities Waiver and Intellectual Disabilities Waivers. 
  • Restore funding to continue Medicaid assistive technology and environmental services. 
  • Restore funding for Medicaid respite services to maintain respite at 720 hours. 
  • Restore funding for Medicaid Waiver provider rates to avoid a 5% reduction in rates. 
  • Restore funding for independent living services to avoid a 10% cut to peer mentoring, independent living skills training, information and referral and advocacy services provided by Centers for Independent Living. 
  • Fund Department of Rehabilitative Services Personal Assistance Services for 23 adults with disabilities who are working people and on the waiting list for services. 
  • Restore funding for the Consumer Services Fund to provide for technology needed by people with disabilities that is not available through other funding sources.

We spent the day going around to the offices of Senators and Delegates from our region and letting them know about VACIL’s priorities and telling personal stories about the need for these services.

Most of the members and/or legislative aides seemed to be supportive of and interested in the things we had to say.  At this point it is too early to say what will be the outcome of our advocacy.  However, on Sunday, February 6, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee recommended to the full House and Senate budgets that can be summarized as below: 

  • DD Waiver Slots
    • Budget Approved by 2010 General Assembly – No new DD Waiver slots
    • Governor’s Introduced Budget – No new DD Waiver slots
    • House Committee Recommends – 270 new DD Waiver slots
    • Senate Committee Recommends – 100 new DD Waiver slots
  •  ID Waiver Slots
    • Budget Approved by 2010 General Assembly – 250 new ID Waiver slots (already assigned)
    • Governor’s Introduced Budget – 275 new ID Waiver slots
    • House Committee Recommends – 275 new ID Waiver slots, in addition to the 275 new ID Waiver slots in the Governor’s budget
    • Senate Committee Recommends – Of the slots in the Governor’s budget: Cut 100 new ID Waiver slots; Keep 175 new ID Waiver slots 
  • Assistive Technology and Environmental Modifications
    • Budget Approved by 2010 General Assembly – Cut to $3,000 annually for each service, effective with July 2011 budget
    • Governor’s Introduced Budget – Maintain cut to $3,000 annually for each service
    • House Committee Recommends – Maintain cut to $3,000 annually for each service
    • Senate Committee Recommends – Restore each service to $5,000 annually 
  • Personal Care
    • Budget Approved by 2010 General Assembly – No cut to hours
    • Governor’s Introduced Budget – No cut to hours
    • House Committee Recommends – Cut to 40 hours a week
    • Senate Committee Recommends – No cut to hours 
  • Respite
    • Budget Approved by 2010 General Assembly – Cut to 240 hours a year, effective with July 2011 budget
    • Governor’s Introduced Budget – Maintain cut to 240 hours a year
    • House Committee Recommends – Maintain cut to 240 hours a year
    • Senate Committee Recommends – Restore 720 hours a year 
  • Waiver Provider Rates
    • Budget Approved by 2010 General Assembly – 5% cut, effective with July 2011 budget
    • Governor’s Introduced Budget – Maintain 5% cut
    • House Committee Recommends – Maintain 5% cut
    • Senate Committee Recommends – Restore 4% of the 5% cut, (results in a 1% cut) 

So it doesn’t seem that all of VACIL’s priorities will be addressed but as noted earlier, it is too early to tell for sure.  We encourage you to contact your Senator and Delegate now and let them know how these budget amendments would impact you.  Contact information for legislators is at http://legis.virginia.gov/1_cit_guide/contacting_my.html

February 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm 1 comment

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