(#DIW Podcast) People with #Disabilities and Accessibility of the New SF #BART Rail Cars

Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast.  People with #Disabilities and #Accessibility of the New SF #BART Rail Cars

Audio file: http://dayinwashington.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Bart.mp3

Photo of New Bart Car

Photo of New BART Rail Car showing central pole with colored decals, the painted floor with the wheelchair symbol, and color coded seats.


Recently, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART revealed the new design for their rail cars. Considering that BART has probably the oldest fleet currently in use, many feel it is “long past time.” The new car design includes improved air conditioning, new announcement systems, LCD screens showing track and train information, color coded seating to better identify senior and disabled seats, bike racks, a third door for better people-movement in and out of cars…some great improvements.

However, one new innovation has raised concerns among the Bay Area’s people with disabilities… a pole located in the central open area in front of the doors and near the wheelchair area. Their specific concern is that this would potentially decrease wheelchair accessibility.  Especially during high traffic periods.  People would tend to “stake out” the center pole, crowding the pathways making it difficult for people in wheelchairs to move on to and off of the new cars.

Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco had this to say:

I really believe that people with disabilities have the right to move freely, particularly on public transportation. But this new design, particularly the pole in the entry area, is going to cause people with disabilities to often times not be able to board crowded trains, and when we are able to board, we are going to do it having to apologize, doing it with less dignity than the previous model.

In response to concerns, the transit agency said they moved the pole six inches away from the wheelchair access space, increasing the width of the path to 49 inches and has raised the point where three tripod branches meet the pole by 3 to 4 inches to eliminate “pinch points” for wheelchair users. In addition, they have changed the floor design to embed a wheelchair symbol in the floor to remind customers to yield that area to people in wheelchairs and added colored decals on the poles to increase contrast and make them more visible for visually impaired riders. They are also planning to test removal of poles in some locations.

That sounds like some good faith changes. In particular, I like the colored decals on the poles.  Have rammed myself into the poles on Washington DC’s Metro a few times, those would be a nice addition.

BART also stated on its website that, “We also plan to actively remind customers to step aside to make room for wheelchair users to more easily enter and exit the train, especially when conditions are crowded.”

Okay, having been on DC’s Metro during rush hour I know exactly how useless that is and can personally attest to having to wait for 3 and 4 trains to pass before I can get on with my dog. I can squish my dog into some pretty tight places, I can’t quite picture a power wheelchair as something particularly squishable.

I can’t say that I believe announcements alone will address that particular concern. But it sounds like BART is listening.

Of course, it would have been better if the design hadn’t already gotten to this final stage before accessibility concerns were raised. An interesting point that Lorenz brings up in an article is that although BART claims to have sought out and received community input from both seniors and people with disabilities, she can find no local organization that was a part of any public process regarding feedback to the design of the new cars. In addition, several members of the BART Accessibility Task Force stated that they were never asked to vote on anything surrounding the new cars.  Just something to ponder.

So….in the grand scheme of things, what does this mean? When people think of policy, they usually think of Federal legislation or regulations, judicial decisions, state budgets.  However, policy is also in everyday issues relating to “design” and often, these can have far reaching implications.  New York City’s choice in the design of their taxi cabs, not choosing an accessible model.  Which would have a significant disparate impact on people with disabilities and of course, lead to a federal lawsuit. BART’s choice in rail car design, considering that their current fleet includes cars that are almost 40 years old, will impact people with disabilities, and all riders for a long time to come.

As always, I encourage you to read and come to your own opinion. Links are available in the comments. This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.


Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright.  Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty Twelve Records.



Jessie Lorenz Audio Clip from Liam Gleeson’s “Bay Area Views” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4znV0jW_Qks

New BART car design prompts concern from disabled community – http://www.dailycal.org/2014/04/29/new-bart-car-design-prompts-concern-disabled-community/

BART unwraps future of transbay travel – http://sfbay.ca/2014/04/18/bart-unwraps-future-of-transbay-travel/

New Train Car Project – http://www.bart.gov/about/projects/cars

ILRCSF’s Executive Director Jessie Lorenz Continues Advocacy to Address Access Barriers with New BART Cars of the Future – http://www.ilrcsf.org/blog/2014/05/ilrcsf-advocacy-access-bart/

Judge approves city’s push for wheelchair-accessible cabs and 30-cent surcharge – http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/judge-approves-push-wheelchair-accessible-cabs-30-cent-surcharge-article-1.1941591

(#DIW Podcast) People with #Disabilities in the #Military

Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast.  People with Disabilities and Military – New happenings in 2014.

Audio file: http://dayinwashington.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/14-8-26-PWDs-in-Military.mp3


Hello and welcome to Day in Washington, your disability policy podcast. Together, we will explore and analyze issues of interest to the community. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed. Today’s topic is people with disabilities in the military.

I wrote about this some last year. You see, around June of last year, Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, lifted the ban on women in combat. Women would be allowed equal opportunity to participate in combat operations. There have been a variety of responses from the public, but I think that in general most people are generally in favor of the change. And to be fully honest, it wasn’t like this was not happening already. There are women medics, women Military Police (MPs)), women helicopter pilots and women in other positions who, while not officially part of combat units are “attached” to such units or operating under the same or similar conditions. To ignore that reality is to denigrate their risks and their sacrifices.

That discussion lead to the question of “If we are allowing women in to combat, when will we allow people with disabilities to serve?” It would seem that the question has become more than an academic exercise.

Senator Tom Harkin spoke about this with Leon Panetta just this year <audio from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3StRu10qjIQ (0:40 sec to 1:15)>

The idea may sound laughable to some in the general public but the call to serve is just as strong among people with disabilities as any other community.

Keith Nolan, a young man who is deaf who also happened to be a top performer in the California State University ROTC program as a part of a TED Talk said, “All I really want to do is join the Army. I want to do my duty, serve my country and experience that camaraderie, and I can’t, owed to the fact that I’m deaf.” And he isn’t alone. There’s even a Facebook Page for people with disabilities who want to join the military.

Corporal Garrett S. Jones, an amputee who was injured in 2007 by an insurgent’s bomb during his unit’s deployment to Iraq, shows his prosthetic leg. Jones is a 23-year-old Newberg, Ore., native. (Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ray Lewis)

The Army’s Continue on Active Duty (COAD) program is putting military men with clear, visible disabilities back into combat, and retaining and retraining others for other forms of active duty. As of June last year, sixty-nine amputees have returned to active duty. Also of note, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a 100-year old, 47,000-man (and woman) garrison is now commanded by Colonel Gregory D. Gadson. Colonel Gadson is a double-amputee. Perhaps even more impressive is Marine Corporal Garret S. Jones’ recovery and redeployment to a combat zone after losing a leg.

With those preliminary programs already in place and courageous soldiers continuing on in their chosen duty, it was perhaps not surprising to hear Secretary Panetta’s response. <audio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3StRu10qjIQ (1:29 to 1:55)>

On July 30th of this year, Representative Mark Takano filed H.R.5296 a bill to require a demonstration program on the accession as Air Force officers of candidates with auditory impairments. It mirrors a December 2013 bill from Senator Harkin.

A promising project. If an individual with a disability is qualified and capable of meeting the responsibilities and selective criteria that may be necessary for certain jobs and positions, then why not? However, I doubt the issue is quite so simple. I say this because all one has to do is do an internet search to find the discussion on military forums and the response is much more negative.

A previous “test” project used hearing military staff wearing headphones and was less than successful. In addition, several military personnel pointed to Project 100,000 as an example that proves how people with disabilities are unsuitable for the Armed Forces. Project 100,000 was a 1960s program by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to recruit soldiers that would previously have been below military mental or medical standards. Done in part as a response to the escalating conflict in Vietnam and part response to Johnson’s War on Poverty, it would give training and opportunity to “the uneducated and the poor.” These “New Standards Men” still went through the same training and had to achieve the same performance standards. Project 100,000 has received significant criticism over the years and reports and studies have shown higher mortality rates, higher transfers, arrests, and death for those soldiers (some articles even referring to them as “cannon fodder,”) and also significantly poorer outcomes for them as returning veterans.

Even considering all of that, the reality is, just as the case with women, we already have people with disabilities in the military, and some even in war zones. Some are individuals with learning disabilities, some with mental health conditions, or attention deficit disorder, or autism; as well as several amputees. I even know of a naval officer, recently retired, with cerebral palsy and 20 years of service. And this isn’t just an American phenomenon. In 2011, the Israeli Defense Forces were creating an official policy of integrating people who are disabled prior to military service into the armed forces.

People with disabilities, given the examples above, are “already there.” They are already serving in the offices and on the ships; in the medical tents and out in the trenches. The Army (and indeed the other branches) want to keep their investment in these soldiers; the disability isn’t a barrier, at least not compared to the skills and value these individuals bring. Imagine what additional skills and talents would be available to the United States Armed Forces if they had access to the 50 million Americans with disabilities.

No doubt there will be many people watching this legislation very carefully. As always I urge you to read it for yourself. Links are in the comments. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed hoping that you continue to be well and be informed.


Text of H.R. 5296 – To require a demonstration program on the accession as Air Force officers of candidates with auditory impairments: https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/5296/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22h.r.+5296%22%5D%7D

YouTube Video of Senator Harkin and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3StRu10qjIQ

Women operating under the same or similar conditions as men: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57373592/combat-rules-dont-keep-women-off-battlefield/

Army’s Continue on Active Duty (COAD) Program: http://www.armyg1.army.mil/docs/COAR_COAD_Brief_(9%20APR%2009).pdf

2/7 Marine amputee rejoins battalion; returns to combat after near death experience: http://www.bouhammer.com/2008/10/27-marine-amputee-rejoins-battalion-returns-to-combat-after-near-death-experience/

Keith Nolan and being Deaf in the Military: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/08/ap-army-deaf-man-fighting-for-chance-to-join-082111/ Lawmaker wants trial program for deaf to serve in Air Force: http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20140802/NEWS/308020038/Lawmaker-wants-trial-program-deaf-serve-Air-Force


#DIW Episode 2 – The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act

Day in Washington Episode 2 – The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The DIW Disability Policy Video Podcast explores and discusses subjects of interest to the disability community. This episode highlights the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, through its changes to the Internal Revenue Code, its impact on Social Security and Medicaid asset limits and what that means for people with disabilities.

H.R.647 (Identical to S. 313) – The ABLE Act of 2013 – https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/647

U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight Hearing:
Saving for an Uncertain Future: How the ABLE Act can Help People with Disabilities and their Families
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 – http://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=838dfbc2-5056-a032-52d6-5cff32022993

Special thanks to the National Down Syndrome Society for some great resources:

Confluence of Poverty and Disability: http://housingforall.org/rop0304%20poverty%20and%20disability.pdf

Don’t forget to comment and subscribe to see new videos and disability news!


(#DIW Podcast) I Dream of Missouri – A #Disability Response to the Events of #Ferguson

Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast.  I Dream of Missouri – A Disability Response to the Events of Ferguson.

Audio File: http://dayinwashington.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/I-dream-of-missouri.mp3

Transcript: Hello and welcome to Day in Washington. Day in Washington is your Disability Policy Podcast exploring and discussing issues of interest to the disability community. Today, I want to deviate a little from my usual legislative and regulatory analysis and talk to you about whats going on out there, in the real world beyond the papered Capitol Hill offices of Washington DC. I want to talk to you about Ferguson, Missouri.

I dream of Missouri. Having spent more than ten years of my life there, having family still living there…in many ways, even though I’ve now spent nine years in the Washington DC metro area, I still think of Missouri as my home state. But the Missouri I dreamt of last night wasn’t of Midwestern hospitality, family values, and strong communities. It is a Missouri where the streets burn with tear gas and its citizens cower in their homes fearful from their own government. It is where peaceful protesters are treated as deadly threats and where media and both traditional and non-traditional are corralled and controlled.

When a young man dies it is a tragedy. When a community speaks out and is forcefully silenced, it is a tragedy. When the nation responds not with immediate anger at the injustice or calls for action, but instead with platitudes and calls for calm, it is a tragedy.

Teargas, and less-leathal weapons, because none are truly non-lethal, no-fly zones and martial law. Detaining press, preventing people from assembling peacefully…This is not the America that many of us know – the land of the free and home of the brave. The land where a rag tag group of rebels overthrew the great British empire. Where abolitionists took the nation to war to ensure freedom. Where civil rights was a movement that helped a nation grow up and truly envision that promised equality. We glorify our rebels and protestors of history and yet today, we call them potential threats to safety and dangerous. We criminalize and dehumanize them.

No, it isn’t the Missouri I knew. But in truth, it is the Missouri that was likely always there. It was always there and most of us…most of us choose to pretend that the inequities in our communities and neighborhoods don’t exist.

To the President, to Governor Jay Nixon, to legislators and policymakers I say:

This isn’t a politically expedient issue. It was the issue of “expediency” that in part caused the tangled ugly events of this week. Matters of race and disparity and inequality and injustice aren’t expedient and they deserve more than recognition of it as the “heartbreak” of a single family.

This is more than the initial incident, the death of Michael Brown. But to speak of it only as a single “heartbreak” is to invalidate the feelings of fear and anger of an entire community. Their response tells us about the heartbreak of a community. It tells us about the feelings of helplessness in the face of perceived injustice and of the oppression protest.

This is a community who didn’t trust and didn’t have faith in the system. This is a community that saw no other way.

Mr. President, Governor Jay Nixon, legislators and policymakers, this is about responsibility and accountability. This is a failure of the system YOU represent.

The system failed. It failed Michael Brown.

It failed Eric Garner, 43, who had asthma, was pulled to the sidewalk onto his chest and restrained in a chokehold by an officer, a chokehold that killed him.

It failed Ethan Saylor, 26, who had Down syndrome, went to see a movie and when he refused to leave was wrestled to the floor by deputies, held down, and handcuffed with such force that he suffered a fracture in his throat cartilage, that killed him.

It failed Keith Vidal, 18, who had schizophrenia, was tasered, then shot, and killed when his family called law enforcement for help calming their son down.

In many ways, the disability community has much in common with the African American community and it is, in part, why I did this podcast. This is more than disability, or race, or even law enforcement responses. It is the disenfranchisement of communities who are seen as “other.” It is the harsh line of not being seen as a member of the community being being seen as a danger to the community based on who and what you are, and that perception is on our televisions, in our governmental offices, and in our own biased responses when faced with events such as those that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri.

I am thankful to see so many people at vigils tonight around the country. I am thankful for a more peaceful night in Missouri. I am thankful for those journalists and citizen journalists on the ground who did not flinch in telling their story. I am thankful for those who reached out seeking a peaceful dialogue. And I am thankful for those who are angry and are demanding change.

My beloved Missouri is hurting not just because a young man was killed, but because we “othered” our own people, dehumanized them, took away their voice, took away their feeling of security in their own country, treated them as something other than what they are – citizens. It is perfectly valid to be angry. And make no mistake, I am angry. And like my brothers and sisters across the country, over the days and weeks and months ahead, I hope to use that anger to call for change, to call for accountability, to call for respect, and to call for an end to the deaths of Americans for nothing more than who they are. We are only just beginning.

And tonight, tonight I hope to dream of a better Missouri.

This is Day Al-Mohamed with Day in Washington hoping that you will be well, be safe, and be informed.

#DIW Episode 1 – #IDEA Requirements and Results-Driven Accountability

Day in Washington Episode 1 – IDEA Requirements and Results-Driven Accountability. This Disability Policy Video-cast will explore and discuss subjects of interest to the disability community. Each episode will cover a specific issue within disability, spotlight specific bills or regulations and/or a disability-related news article.

This episode highlights the U.S. Department of Education’s change in IDEA requirements from a compliance focus to an emphasis on outcomes referred to as Results-Driven Accountability. Please comment and subscribe to see new videos and disability news!

The main video is posted as a part of the Lead On Update but I hope to repost here and include my original text/transcript in the comments. Thanks for watching!