Blind Federation Condemns Disabilities Celebration Barricades and Arrest

Source: National Federation of the Blind of Michigan

LANSING – A Michigan State Capitol celebration featuring Lt. Gov. Brian Calley as speaker was marked by protest and the arrest of a blind citizen when demonstrators from the disabilities community were barricaded from the capitol grounds ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) 25th anniversary celebration presentation area.  Demonstrators were protesting the payment of subminimum wages of $2 per hour or less to persons with disabilities by organizers and sponsors of the celebration event. 

Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan believe they were particularly targeted by event organizers and sponsors. Federation members were approached by a state police sergeant  before even entering the state Capitol grounds.  They were told by the sergeant that they were to remain east of and not to pass beyond a statue on the sidewalk leading to the capitol and event area.  Protesters were angered when they learned barricades had been placed across the sidewalk. A line of eight state police officers met and stopped the protesters from entering the event area.  One blind man was arrested when he attempted to pass around the barricades.

“I believe our goals are aligned so we need to find a way to work together to make sure that every single child, every single adult with a disability has access to community but also is included truly included in community life”, said Lt. Gov Brian Calley, addressing the event participants, adding he understood the anger of the protesters, but believes everyone must work together to achieve both side’s goals.

Responding to Calley’s statement, Larry Posont, president of the NFB of Michigan stated, “Given 25 years of the ADA, this goes way beyond the immoral and demeaning practice of paying persons with disabilities subminimum wages, as both Michigan Republican and Democrat  administrations alike have miserably failed persons with disabilities, and blind citizens in particular, in the implementation of the ADA, and efforts and opportunities so that blind persons are ‘included truly included in community life’, as touted by the Lt. Governor.”

“We as blind persons don’t have signage of Braille and raised-characters in most state owned and leased buildings, including the Peoples’ house—the State Capitol building, the site of the ADA celebration, despite two major Capitol improvement projects since the ADA took effect, including $371,000 spend in 2013 and a current ongoing $6.5 million expenditure, and this does not include millions spent in the early 1990s,” said Posont.

“In addition, Governor Snyder made an executive directive in 2014 to executive branch departments to increase state employment of persons with disabilities, however, the state job application website is not fully accessible to blind persons utilizing screen reader software programs, and many state jobs require a driver’s license to do work at a desk, thus screening out and eliminating well-qualified persons with disabilities who cannot drive, from state employment opportunities,” added Posont.  “In addition, blind clients of the state Bureau for Services to Blind Persons cannot get printed materials in a non-print alternative format like Braille or computer CD, a provision of the ADA as access to state programs and services to blind persons,” says Posont.

According to David Robinson, a blind retired state employee and ADA event protester, Sharon Ellis, ADA compliance officer for the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, recently reported that the state’s websites were accessible.  “Obviously Ellis did not consult with anyone among blind citizens who have to use state department websites,” says Robinson.  “State websites routinely post image-based documents in PDF format that are not accessible to blind persons, and online services are totally inaccessible to blind individuals doing business with state departments,” continued Robinson.

“If Lt. Gov. Calley truly believes our goals are aligned and we need to find a way to work together the Lt. Governor must put his words into relentless positive action, if we are to work together to achieve our aligned goals,” says Terry Eagle, spokesperson for the NFB of Michigan.  “The 2012 abolishment of the consumer-driven Commission for the Blind, the disbandment of a non-consumer advisory commission on services to the blind, a state rehabilitation council made up of vocational rehabilitation service providers, and the targeting of blind persons and other persons with disabilities, for exclusion from an ADA anniversary event with barricades and police line, surely doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to work together by his administration.  What is needed is a consumer-centered, consumer-driven approach to programs and services to persons with disabilities by the State of Michigan,” adds Eagle.

“The NFB of Michigan is evaluating its options with regard to the targeting and denial of access to blind persons to the  ADA public event by state organizers and sponsors,” stated Eagle.

About the National Federation of the Blind

With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest And most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence.  It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation’s blind.

The National Federation of the Blind of Michigan is a proud affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind.  Originally founded in 1941 the NFBM has been a leader in advocacy and has worked tirelessly to change what it means to be blind in Michigan.  Among our accomplishments are Newsline for the Blind, Creation of the Michigan Commission for the Blind, White cane legislation, Braille literacy for blind children legislation and much more.

Contact:  Terry Eagle (517) 372-7552, Larry Posont, President (313) 727-3546

1 thought on “Blind Federation Condemns Disabilities Celebration Barricades and Arrest

  1. Pingback: A Step Forward: Michigan SILC Agrees to End MARO Membership; Urge Our CILs to Follow Suit! | Peer Action Alliance

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