April 17th 2007, the Indiana SILC (ICOIL) questioned whether or not they actually had to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide an accommodation which has been repeatedly requested for over a year.
I knew that the Indiana Statewide Independent Living council (Made up largely of Center Directors) had no problems with pretending like it did one thing on paper, while doing another thing all together. I knew that the council operates not to empower with disabilities in Indiana, but rather it is used as a tool to keep 'us', people with disabilities suppressed, and ensure that there is no real change that would give us the protections and services we need in order to stay out of nursing homes and live our own lives. I after all began my journey just last May through the Empowerment Hell known as ICOIL. See http://www.onecandream.com/writings/EmpowermentHell.htm and the Secretary's Chronicles http://www.onecandream.com/ICOIL
But I never dreamed I would witness what I witnessed yesterday when I attended an illegally scheduled April council meeting that the council actively tried to keep secret from the public. Yesterday before the 'meeting' could even begin a member of the council requested an audio-loop they had been requesting for at least a year. Everyone in the room was aware of this, and that in August $3000 dollars had been allocated to purchase the loop in response to an official ADA complaint.
Dee Ann Hart the 'chair' of the council tried to blow off the request stating that while the ADA might require such an accommodation, the open door did not and she honestly seemed to believe that her obligations for providing an accommodation for a member of the council to be able to participate in the meeting was fulfilled by offered sign-language interpreters. Even though she knew the person making the request could not sign. Dee Ann Hart was not even going to check and see if she could get the needed speaker system. She preferred instead to try and make the person who made the request look like she was being unreasonable. It is no wonder that Teresa Torres got upset.
One way they tried to solve the problem (and make Teresa look unreasonable) was the council offered Teresa and FM amplification system with no speakers....that is just as bad as offering the interpreter for a language you don't speak.
It would be like someone holding a meeting on the second floor of a building where there were only stairs and trying to accommodate me by carrying me to the second floor...but then saying when I get to the second floor they aren't going to let me have my wheelchair and further there are a few steps to get into the meeting room so I can't actually go to the meeting ...but I am welcome to crawl over close to the door and because they almost actually accommodated me (though I still can't participate) I might be able to hear more then you could have from the first floor. Who would not get angry if they were repeatedly treated like that?
If it was not for members of the public and one brave council member who noted that the request was absolutely valid, and stated that if the council was not going to provide the requested audio-loop accommodation that there needed to not be a meeting...the council would not have even tried to find the equipment they needed.
A speaker system was brought in and a couple of people worked on getting that set up. While that was going on, and everyone including Teresa Torres waited patiently to see the outcome...and Dee Ann Hart and the council called the police.
After the police had arrived, Dee Ann came back into the room and announced to the public that the meeting was cancelled. At this point I requested again to be kept informed of all public meetings by e-mail. Dee Ann Hart specifically stated that she was not going to honor direct requests from the public that they be kept informed of any meetings (or apparently any meeting changes that are inconsistent with the schedule the council officially voted on). She announced that she would not send announcements to the public through the e-mail list, and that it was not her job as chair to keep the public informed.
Then when Teresa asked why the meeting was being cancelled she was told immediately that it was being cancelled for her 'behavior' when really the reason was because the of the councils lack of an audio-loop that should have been bought last year and automatically set up before every meeting.
I understand that Dee Ann Hart does not like Teresa, and that Dee Ann thinks that Teresa is faking her hearing loss (see http://seriouslyil.blogspot.com/2006/12/dee-ann-hart-is-concerned.html). But Teresa Torres is not faking her hearing loss, and if Dee Ann did not wish to take on the responsibilities of being a chair, then she should not have been so eager to accept the position without at least attending more then one council meeting. She should have gotten all the facts about what was going on before she jumped in with a crowd willing to slander people without even allowing those individuals to respond to any accusations.
Dee Ann was so eager to have the title of 'chair' because she thinks it gives her power and makes her important, that she neglected to consider the responsibilities involved. She forgets that she is supposed to be representing the people, and that the council should be going out of their way to accommodate people with disabilities of all types not just the types she is personally comfortable with...
I would not have believed it if I was not there, but the council which claims to be a leader in the Independent Living Movement in Indiana, decided that they did not have to provide accommodations because only the ADA requires it and not the open door law...and only one council member, aside from the one making the request, objected.
You know if that is the direction our leaders are going to take us, then it is time we stopped following them. If the Independent Living Movement is really going in that direction then something needs to change....and if it doesn't I'm scared, because I really don't want to end up in a nursing home.
Please help me stay out of a nursing home and get involved. Join the onecandream Empowerment campaign http://www.onecandream.com/empowerment_campaign.html