September 2014 E-Newsletter

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IN THIS EDITION:

DRA Expects, Employs, Empowers, and Expands!

Gobble, Gobble . . . Tickets Coming Soon!

Expand Your Reach And Join DRA’s Growing Legal Team!

New Board Member Spotlights

DRA Impact Report: Learn About Our Most Recent Updates!

DRA Expects, Employs, Empowers, and Expands!

Dear Friends,

Fall is here, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is: Expect, Employ, Empower! DRA has a long commitment to increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and in this fall e-news you’ll see opportunities to join DRA’s team of talented attorneys, fellows and paralegals.  In addition to growing our staff, we are expanding our Board of Directors and are happy to introduce our four newest, accomplished Directors to you.

DRA expects that all cities and companies across the nation protect and empower citizens with disabilities.  In that vein we’re proud to have reached a ground-breaking settlement with Redbox that will improve California’s self-service kiosks for blind users. We’ve also filed suit against Scribd, to ensure their digital subscription reading services are accessible for blind readers, and against Uber to compel their drivers to accommodate people with disabilities and service animals.

DRA recognizes that transportation and safety are critical to employment and quality of life.  In late July, DRA filed suit against New York City to fix their broken sidewalks and empower people with vision and mobility disabilities to navigate independently. On September 9th, DRA continued our national disaster preparedness initiative: filing suit against our nation’s capital, Washington DC, for failing to accommodate residents and visitors with disabilities in their emergency response plans.

We’re looking forward to celebrating those who do expect, employ, and empower people with disabilities at this year’s Eagle and Turkey Awards luncheon on November 19th and I’d like to extend a special thanks to our growing list of event sponsors.  Invitations will arrive this month and we look forward to your joining us for this unique, holiday themed luncheon.

With gratitude,

Larry Paradis

Larry Paradis
Executive Director & Co-Director of Litigation

Gobble, Gobble . . .  Tickets Coming Soon!

 

Eagle

 November 19, 2014

11:30 AM—1:30 PM

Contemporary Jewish Museum

San Francisco, CA

 

Turkey

Our November 19th luncheon celebration of 2014’s disability heroes will be here before you know it! Thank you to our generous and growing list of 2014 Eagle and Turkey Awards sponsors.

Our sponsor print deadline and deadline for Eagle and Turkey nominations is September 15th.

Don’t miss this chance to have your sponsorship recognized in the event invitation or to nominate a disability Eagle or Turkey today. Visit our event page for details on how to sponsor and nominate.  Individual tickets for this unique holiday-themed event at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco go on sale soon!

Stay tuned, mark your calendars and we look forward to celebrating with you in November.

Expand Your Reach And Join
DRA’s Growing Legal Team!

DRA is a great place to work and we are hiring attorneys, paralegals, and fellows for our New York and California offices. If you’re passionate about civil rights and want unparalleled litigation experience working for a non-profit legal center that makes a true difference in the lives of millions of people with disabilities, visit our website and submit your application today.

Former DRA Fellow, Julia Pinover-Kupiec, now a Senior Staff Attorney in DRA’s New York office.

Former DRA Fellow, Julia Pinover-Kupiec, now a Senior Staff Attorney in DRA’s New York office.

New Board Member Spotlights

DRA is thrilled to welcome four new Directors to our Board.  Ed, Katina, Natalie, and Sarah each bring a passion for DRA’s mission and a wealth of diverse skills and experience.  Read about them and why they’re excited to join DRA’s Board:

 

Edward Gildea
Partner
Fisher Broyles, LLP

“I was sold on joining the board after learning that DRA changes the world for the better for people with disabilities.  I was impressed then and continue to be impressed by the work of DRA and I am proud to play a small part in that effort. DRA’s work opens the world and makes the world available to a constituency that might otherwise be forgotten.  It is important because it provides a means by which many, who are denied access, can gain what is rightfully theirs, the opportunity to participate in what life has to offer.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Edward’s diverse career in law and business.

Katina Thornock
Director, Corporate Counsel Litigation
Starbucks Coffee Company

“The work DRA has and continues to do on behalf of persons with disabilities is innovative and groundbreaking.  DRA is an organization comprised of brilliant minds who lead with their hearts and lend a voice for change that may not otherwise be heard.  I have witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by friends and family members as they have struggled to navigate through a world that is not always sensitive to their needs and desires.  The opportunity to partner with an organization (DRA) that continually strives to effect the change necessary to meet those needs and desires and, therefore, make us all the better for it, is
exhilarating.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Katina’s corporate and private sector experience.

Natalie Aliga
Senior Community Relations Representative
CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer

“I first learned about Disability Rights Advocates in 2005 when I joined the Corporate Affairs team at AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah. DRA was a long-time partner and friend who helped the company enhance our emergency roadside service response, especially for AAA members with accessibility and mobility needs. DRA operates with the guiding values of equal rights, accessibility, and quality of life for all, and this really resonated with me. On a personal note, my mother Caroline is a polio survivor and was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome in 2006. Having a disabled parent not only opened my eyes to the triumphs that have occurred in society, but also to the inequities and challenges that still exist today. She instilled in me a very deep desire to help others and create a world that is more diverse and inclusive for everyone. Serving on the DRA board empowers me to be a part of meaningful change, and I want to dedicate my board service in honor of my mother.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Natalie and her longstanding commitment to philanthropy, diversity, and inclusion.

Sarah Zimmerman
Adjunct Professor
Marquette University Law School

“As a former litigator, I’m excited to be a part of an organization that so effectively uses litigation and advocacy to serve the public interest. With a high success rate and solid financial model, DRA has an impressive history of accomplishing reform.  People with disabilities experience discrimination in ways that are often invisible to others. Just as we each wish for equal rights and opportunities for our friends and family members with disabilities, so should we insist that those rights be extended to all. DRA’s work is bringing us closer to that goal.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Sarah and her accomplished legal career.

DRA Impact Report

Emergency Preparedness Planning
for Our Nation’s Capital

On September 9th DRA continued our national emergency preparedness planning initiative and, with a coalition of disability rights advocates, filed a federal class action lawsuit in the United States District Court of Columbia.  The suit challenges the District of Columbia’s poor emergency planning for persons with disabilities including failure to plan for emergency communications to persons who are deaf and blind, failure to put accessible evacuation options in place, and failure to plan for supply chain disruptions for medication and replacement durable medical equipment.

Click here to read the press release and learn more about the lawsuit.

Making Uber Guide-Dog Friendly

On September 9th, DRA, on behalf of the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) and a guide dog user, filed suit against Uber Technologies to challenge discrimination against blind guide dog users in the provision of Uber’s UberX taxi service.  UberX drivers have refused to transport many blind guide dog users, including members of NFB of California and has charged some blind riders with service animals cancellation fees.

Click here to read the recent press release and complaint.

Fixing New York’s Broken Sidewalks

In late July, DRA and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton on behalf of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY) filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that New York City violates Federal disability laws by failing to make its sidewalks and pedestrian routes accessible to people who use wheelchairs or are blind.  Dangers include corners at pedestrian crossings without curb ramps for wheelchair users or corners with hazardous curb ramps that are broken or too steep, which often end up forcing persons using wheelchairs to modify travel plans, avoid whole areas with inaccessible streetscapes, or roll over curb ramps with barriers that threaten to topple a wheelchair.

Click here to read the New York times article written about the lawsuit and here to read the press release and complaint.

Making Scribd Accessible for Blind Users

DRA, on behalf of The National Federation of the Blind and a blind parent filed suit against Scribd, Inc—an internet-based “personal digital library” that allows sighted subscribers to access a collection of over 40 million titles through it’s website, apps, and other services.  The lawsuit asks Scribd, Inc. to make their services available to blind users who regularly use computers, smartphones, and tablets equipped with special software that allows the contents of websites, mobile applications, and documents to be read aloud or displayed in Braille on a connected Braille device.

Click here to read the article on this case and DRA’s attorney Haben Girma in Business insider and here to read the press release and complaint.

Redbox – Breakthrough for Self-service Kiosks

“This landmark agreement demonstrates that companies utilizing the internet and self-service kiosks can and should do so while providing full access for all potential customers—including blind people,” said Lighthouse CEO Bryan Bashin, “We hope that this agreement will lead to continued expansion of access opportunities for customers with disabilities as self-service technologies evolve.”

After over two years of litigation and extensive negotiations Disability Rights Advocates, the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually-Impaired, and the Law Offices of Jay Koslofsky, have entered into a precedent-setting settlement agreement with Redbox, the nation’s largest operator of DVD rental machines.   Under the settlement agreement, Redbox will modify its self-service DVD rental machines so that they will allow for accessible, independent usage by the blind.  The settlement will also compensate hundreds or thousands of blind Californians for the inaccessibility of these machines in recent years.

Redbox offers the nation’s most popular video-rental service for DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and video games and operates thousands of video rental kiosks in California.  The settlement ensures that Redbox’s self-service kiosks will deploy nonvisual accessibility features including:  headphone jacks, tactile keypads, and text-to-speech services so that blind customers can independently use, browse, select, pay for, pickup, and return Redbox entertainment media.  Additional improvements will be made to Redbox’s website, redbox.com, to ensure that blind customers using screen-reading technology can browse and reserve movies for pick-up and register for Redbox services independently.

DRA’s press release and information about the settlement agreement can be found on DRA’s website.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage of the settlement.